A reference process is a process that represents a desired ideal state. The process therefore represents how the process should run. However, this “target sequence” can deviate from the actual process. In Process Mining, the actual process is therefore often compared with the reference process. This target/actual comparison is also called conformance checking.
How can the reference process deviate from the actual process?
Since the reference process is often created as part of the process documentation and is not continuously adapted, it is possible that the process may change in reality. If the existing process model is not updated as well, both processes may differ from each other. The deviations can affect the process structure or the performance of the process.
Deviations in the process structure affect the documented process flow. For example, process steps can be skipped or executed repeatedly. It is also conceivable that process loops occur in the actual process that are not documented in the reference process model.
Whether you can determine deviations in performance depends on whether the process performance is also recorded in the process documentation. If this is the case, these values can be compared and examined for deviations. Deviations in process performance can occur in the processing times, waiting times, or the entire cycle time. If there are deviations in the processing or waiting time, the total cycle time also deviates, since the cycle time is the sum of the different partial times (processing time, idle time, transport time, waiting time).
In addition, it is also conceivable that the individual process steps are executed by other employees or in non-documented departments. This also results in structural process deviations. Whether these deviations can be determined depends on the documented processes, as with the performance deviations. In Process Mining, the deviations depend on the available data.