The Vation Ventures Glossary

Process Variant: Definition, Explanation, and Use Cases

In the realm of process mining, the term 'Process Variant' holds a significant place. It is a concept that is integral to understanding and interpreting the complex dynamics of business processes. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the term 'Process Variant', its definition, explanation, and various use cases in the field of process mining.

Process mining is a method of analyzing business processes based on event logs. It is a bridge between data mining and business process management that provides insights into the actual processes occurring within an organization. In this context, the concept of 'Process Variant' becomes crucial as it helps in identifying the different ways a process can occur or has occurred in the past.

Definition of Process Variant

A 'Process Variant' is a unique sequence of activities that represents a specific way of executing a process. In other words, it is a particular path taken in a process from start to end, distinguished from other paths by the sequence and combination of activities involved.

Process variants emerge due to the inherent flexibility of business processes. They accommodate different situations, exceptions, or decisions that may arise during the execution of a process. Each process variant is associated with a subset of cases in the event log, where a case represents a single instance of the process.

Components of a Process Variant

A process variant is composed of two main components: the sequence of activities and the cases associated with it. The sequence of activities is the specific order in which tasks are performed in a process variant. It is this sequence that differentiates one process variant from another.

The cases associated with a process variant are the individual instances of the process that follow the same sequence of activities. Each case is represented by a unique identifier in the event log, and all cases with the same sequence of activities belong to the same process variant.

Explanation of Process Variant

Understanding process variants requires an appreciation of the dynamic nature of business processes. In an ideal world, every instance of a process would follow the same sequence of activities. However, in reality, various factors such as decision points, exceptions, and context-specific requirements lead to variations in the way a process is executed.

These variations are captured in the event log and represented as different process variants. By analyzing these variants, one can gain insights into the flexibility of the process, identify common and rare paths, and detect deviations from the expected process model.

Role of Process Variants in Process Mining

Process variants play a crucial role in process mining. They provide a granular view of the process, highlighting the different ways in which it can be executed. This information can be used to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and potential areas for improvement.

Furthermore, process variants can also help in compliance checking. By comparing the actual process variants with the expected process model, one can detect deviations and non-compliant behavior. This can be particularly useful in industries with strict regulatory requirements.

Use Cases of Process Variant

Process variants have a wide range of use cases in process mining. They can be used for process discovery, conformance checking, performance analysis, and more. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into these use cases and explore how process variants contribute to each one.

It's important to note that the use cases of process variants are not limited to the ones discussed here. The versatility of process variants allows them to be applied in various other contexts, depending on the specific needs and objectives of the organization.

Process Discovery

One of the primary use cases of process variants is in process discovery. Process discovery is the task of deriving a process model from an event log. By analyzing the different process variants, one can identify the various paths that exist in the process and incorporate them into the process model.

Process variants can also help in discovering the most common or frequent paths in the process. These paths often represent the 'happy path' or the ideal way of executing the process. Identifying these paths can provide valuable insights into the process and guide process improvement efforts.

Conformance Checking

Process variants can also be used for conformance checking. Conformance checking is the task of comparing the actual process (as represented by the event log) with the expected process (as represented by the process model) to detect deviations.

By comparing the process variants with the process model, one can identify the variants that do not conform to the model. These non-conforming variants represent deviations from the expected process and can indicate potential issues or non-compliant behavior.

Performance Analysis

Another important use case of process variants is in performance analysis. Performance analysis involves evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of a process. Process variants can provide valuable insights into the performance of different paths in the process.

For example, by analyzing the time taken for each process variant, one can identify the variants that are taking longer than expected. Similarly, by looking at the frequency of each variant, one can identify the paths that are used most often and those that are rarely used. This information can be used to optimize the process and improve its performance.


In conclusion, process variants are a crucial concept in process mining. They represent the different ways in which a process can be executed, providing a granular view of the process. By analyzing process variants, one can gain valuable insights into the process, identify areas for improvement, and ensure compliance with expected process models.

Whether it's process discovery, conformance checking, or performance analysis, process variants have a wide range of use cases in process mining. Their versatility and applicability make them an indispensable tool for any organization looking to leverage the power of process mining.