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Automation Platforms and Process Mining: A Powerful Combination

Windows

When you need to replace a legacy system by a modern IT system, process mining can help you to capture the full process with all its requirements to ensure a successful transition.1 However, once you have moved the process to the new system, you can continue to use process mining to identify process improvement opportunities.

This is exactly what Zig Websoftware has been doing. Zig creates digital solutions for housing associations. But once their automation platform is running, it also collects data about the executed processes. Based on this data, process mining can be used to analyze the process and substantiate the gut feeling of the process managers with hard data. The beauty of the application of process mining in an automation platform environment is that the insights can be immediately used to make further changes in the process.

Time is Money

One of the first customers for whom Zig has performed a process mining analysis is the Dutch housing association WoonFriesland. With approximately 20,500 rental apartments in the province of Friesland, WoonFriesland wants to offer its tenants good services in addition to good and affordable housing. An optimal and efficient allocation of housing is an important part of this service.

Every day that a rental property is vacant costs a housing association money. Through process mining Zig Websoftware zoomed in on the offering process of WoonFriesland. Some of the questions they wanted to answer were: How long does each step in the allocation process of a property take? What takes longer than necessary, and why? What can be more efficient so that the property can eventually be assigned and rented more quickly? In short, what can be improved and what could be faster. After all, time is money.

The Analysis: Bottlenecks

During the process mining analysis Zig found that much time was lost in the following three areas of the process:

1. The relisting of a property, see (1) in Figure 1
2. The time a house hunter gets to refuse, see (2) in Figure 1
3. The number of times an offer is refused, see (3) in Figure 1

Process Mining Analysis  (click to enlarge)
Figure 1: The time loss is visible in: the relisting of a property (1) the reaction time of a house hunter (2) and the number of times a property is refused (3).

The process map above shows that it takes an average of 16.4 hours to launch a new offer, which has occurred 1622 times. In addition, each offer takes an average of 6 days to be refused. In the meantime, nothing happens with the property and the corporation cannot continue either.

The Solution: Housing Distribution System

To address these problems, WoonFriesland chose to further automate the digital offering process in their system. When a property becomes available, a new offer is automatically launched. This reduces the waiting period from 16.4 hours to 64 minutes (see Figure 2). The ability to offer the property manually remains active, so that WoonFriesland can create new offerings both in the old and in the new way.

Before and after Process Mining Analysis - Bottleneck 2
Figure 2: The automatic offering shortens the waiting time from 16.4 hours to 64 minutes (click on the image to see a larger version).

In addition to the automatic offering, WoonFriesland has also chosen to provide house hunters the option to register their interest in a rental apartment through the website. Once an apartment is offered to a candidate, they can let the housing association know whether they want it or not within three days. This allows WoonFriesland to shorten each refusal by at least 3 days (see Figure 3). Furthermore, the website-based process saves WoonFriesland a lot of time because they do not need to call back every candidate to see if they are still interested.

Before and after Process Mining Analysis - Bottleneck 2  (click to enlarge)
Figure 3: In the old situation a refusal lasted an average of 6 days. Now a house hunter is required to indicate whether there is interest within 3 days (click on the image to see a larger version).

Overall, the new solution has ensured that — with less time and effort — WoonFriesland has a faster turnaround and assigns its properties on average 7 days faster than before. A great result!

This results in significant savings in vacancy costs:

The results of the use of automatic digital offering in the first half year were that, on average, the duration of the advertised 583 properties was approximately 7 days shorter. We are talking about a total of 4000 days. In addition, we have new insights in which areas we could improve the process even more.

— Steffen Feenstra, Information Specialist at WoonFriesland.

Conclusion

WoonFriesland knew there were aspects of the housing allocation process that could be done faster, but they could not precisely tell where the main problem was.

The process mining software Disco allowed Zig Websoftware to substantiate the gut feeling of WoonFriesland with facts and hard figures. The results of the process mining analysis justified the investment in the optimization and further automation of various processes in the apartment allocation of WoonFriesland. As a result, they could significantly reduce their vacancy rate, which allowed WoonFriesland to realize considerable cost savings.

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Download Case Study: Automation Platforms and Process Mining - A Powerful Combination

You can download this case study as a PDF here for easier printing or sharing with others.


  1. Read this interview about how Process mining helped to replace a legacy system at a large Australian government authority and this example based on AS/400 IBM systems.  
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Process Miner of the Year 2016! 1

The Process Miner of the Year Trophy Admired by Eindhoven's cows

Process Mining Camp on 10 June was amazing. More than 210 process mining practitioners from 165 different companies and 20 (!) countries came together to learn from each other. If you could not make it, sign up for the camp mailing list to receive the presentations and video recordings once they become available here.

At the end of the day, we had the pleasure to hand out the very first Process Miner of the Year award. There are now so many more applications of process mining than there were just a few years ago. With the Process Miner of the Year competition, we wanted to stimulate companies to showcase their greatest projects and get recognized for their success.

We received many outstanding submissions, and it was very difficult to choose a winner.

The Winner

Our goal with the Process Miner of the Year awards is to highlight process mining initiatives that are inspiring, captivating, and interesting. Projects that demonstrate the power of process mining, and the transformative impact it can have on the way organizations go about their work and get things done. We hope that learning about these great process mining projects will inspire all of you and show newcomers to the process mining field how powerful process mining can be.

In the end, we decided to give this year’s award to Veco’s Joris Keizers, who — together with five colleagues — had submitted their case. You can watch the video recording of the awards ceremony above.

The reasons why we chose Veco are:

  1. It is inspiring to see a manufacturing process analyzed with process mining — Most of the process mining projects today are performed for service processes,
  2. Their analysis had a huge impact — The lead time of their core production process was cut in half,
  3. The fact that they performed a Measurement System Analysis — Ensuring data validity is very important, and in the process mining space we can learn from the best practices in existing data analysis approaches and methodologies, and
  4. Most importantly, they demonstrated the power of leveraging human knowledge with process mining in a beautiful way in this case — Key people who work in the process but are not necessarily statically versed could be involved in the analysis to contribute.

You can read the full case study here and watch Joris’ presentation at last year’s Process Mining Camp here.

We congratulate Joris and the whole Veco team for their achievement!

The Award

The Process Miner of the Year 2016 Trophy

To signify the achievement of winning the Process Miner of the Year awards, we commissioned a unique, one-of-a-kind trophy. The Process Miner of the Year 2016 trophy is sculpted from two joined, solid blocks of plum and robinia wood, signifying the raw log data used for Process Mining. A horizontal copper inlay points to the value that Process Mining can extract from that log data, like a lode of ore embedded in the rocks of a mine.

It’s a unique piece of art that could not remind us in any better way of the wonderful possibilities that process mining opens up for all of us every day.

Joris received the Process Miner of the Year 2016 trophy on behalf of his team during the awards ceremony at camp.

Process Miner of the Year 2016 Award Ceremony

Submit your own project next year!

We would like to thank all the other process miners who submitted great work as well. And we hope that you will all submit your projects next year, because there will be a new Process Miner of the Year!

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Process Mining Does Not Remove Jobs — It Creates New Ones 6

Calculator

People who have witnessed process mining for the first time are sometimes threatened by the idea that their jobs will go away. They currently manually model and discover processes in workshops and interviews in the traditional way. So, if you can now automate that process discovery, then you don’t need the people anymore who are guiding those process discovery workshop sessions, right?

Wrong!

Process mining is much more than automatically constructing a process map. If you think that is all it does, then you have not understood process mining and how it works in practice.

From Human Computers to Calculators to Spreadsheets

Think back to the time before computers, when computers were actually humans (typically women) who undertook long and often tedious calculations as a team: The replacement of the human computers paved the way for the millions of programmers that we have today. Or think back to the calculator: The calculator was essentially a little computer that you could hold in your hand. Before spreadsheets were around, people had to calculate everything manually, with a calculator. But once they had access to spreadsheets, they were able to do much more than that. They were not just simply doing the same things they were doing before, but in an automated way. Instead, they could now run projections based on compound interest for 10 or 20 years in the future, which simply would not have been feasible by hand.1

The thing is that process mining allows you to look at your processes at a much more detailed level. In a workshop or interview-based setup, you typically get a good overview of the main process — the happy flow. But the big improvement potential typically lies in the 20% that do not go so well. Process mining allows you to get the complete picture and analyze the full process in much more detail. And once you have implemented a change in the process, you can simply re-run the analysis again to see how effective you improvement has actually been.

In many ways, process mining is as revolutionary for processes as spreadsheets were for numbers.

Process Mining Requires Skills

Process mining is not an automated, push-of-a-button exercise. Not at all. It requires a smart analyst who knows how to prepare the data, how to ensure data quality, and who can interpret the results — together with the business.

That’s why also the workshops with the business stakeholders are not going away. As a consultant or in-house analyst you will need their input, because they know the process much better than you do. And you want them to participate and build up ownership of whatever comes out of the project — they are the ones who have to implement the changes after all.

It is one of the most powerful aspects of the traditional workshops that people from different areas get together and realize that they have different and incomplete views of the process, and that they start building a shared understanding. Process mining can be used in exactly the same way. You can run an interactive workshop with the relevant stakeholders at the table and come out with improvement ideas in a very short time. You will just make a better use of their time: Rather than taking weeks to discover how the process works, you can focus on why things are being done the way they are done. And you can dig much deeper.

Process mining takes skills and is not an automated thing. All of you in the business of helping people to understand and improve their processes should start building those skills. Because you will deliver more value and you won’t be less busy at all.


  1. In fact, Dan Bricklin tells exactly such kind of a story in this Business Of Software talk. Back when he was working on VisiCalc, he came into his business school class with a case analysis that was unbelievably detailed and basically impossible to do manually. 
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Watch Wil van der Aalst at Process Mining Camp 2015

The preparations for this year’s Process Mining Camp are running at full speed! If you can’t attend but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, Willy van de Schoot from Atos International, Joris Keizers from Veco, Mieke Jans from Hasselt University, Bart van Acker from Radboudumc, Edmar Kok from DUO, and Anne Rozinat from Fluxicon.

The last event at Process Mining Camp 2015 was a Fireside chat interview with Prof. Wil van der Aalst from Eindhoven University of Technology. Anne and Wil discussed the success of the Process Mining MOOC on Coursera, why people are struggling with the case ID notion in process mining, how process mining fits into data science in general, and how the process mining field has evolved over time.

Do you want to see the “godfather” of process mining answer our, and the camp audience’s, questions? Watch Wil’s fireside chat now!

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Watch Anne Rozinat at Process Mining Camp 2015

Just next week Friday we will all see each other at this year’s Process Mining Camp! If you haven’t booked your ticket yet, get in touch with Anne or sign up for the waiting list here.

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, Willy van de Schoot from Atos International, Joris Keizers from Veco, Mieke Jans from Hasselt University, Bart van Acker from Radboudumc, and Edmar Kok from DUO.

The seventh speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Anne Rozinat from Fluxicon. Performance measurements are part of every process improvement project. Many people working with process mining are looking for quantifiable results that they can use to compare processes, and to evaluate the effectiveness of their improvements. So, what exactly can you measure with process mining?

Rather than giving you the one magic metric — which, I am sure you have guessed already, doesn’t exist — Anne gave us a deep-dive into the world of metrics: What constitutes a good metric? What are the pitfalls? Based on concrete examples, she showed how you can quantify your process mining results, and what you should pay attention to.

Do you want to learn which kind of questions you can answer with process mining? Watch Anne’s talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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Wil van der Aalst at This Year’s Camp + Edmar Kok at Process Mining Camp 2015

In less than two weeks we will all meet for this year’s Process Mining Camp. If you haven’t booked your ticket yet, get in touch with Anne or sign up for the waiting list here.

Today, we are excited to announce one additional speaker: Prof. Wil van der Aalst will be closing this year’s camp program with a keynote on responsible data science!

Wil van der Aalst — Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands

Wil van der Aalst

Events (often hidden in Big Data) are often described as “the new oil”. Techniques like process mining aim to transform these events into new forms of “energy”: Insights, diagnostics, models, predictions, and automated decisions. However, the process of transforming “new oil” (event data) into “new energy” (analytics) can negatively impact citizens, patients, customers, and employees.

Systematic discrimination based on data, invasion of privacy, non-transparent life-changing decisions, and inaccurate conclusions illustrate that data science techniques may lead to new forms of “pollution”. We use the term “Green Data Science” for technological solutions that enable individuals, organizations, and society to reap the benefits from the widespread availability of data while ensuring fairness, confidentiality, accuracy, and transparency.

Look forward to a fantastic camp program on 10 June!

Edmar Kok at Process Mining Camp 2015

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, Willy van de Schoot from Atos International, Joris Keizers from Veco, Mieke Jans from Hasselt University, and Bart van Acker from Radboudumc.

The sixth speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Edmar Kok, who worked for a project team at DUO, the study financing arm of the Dutch Ministry of Education. The team was responsible for setting up a new event-driven process environment. Unlike typical workflow or BPM systems, event-driven architectures are set up as loosely-coupled process steps. Each step can be either a human task or an automated step. All tasks are then combined in a flexible way. The new system was introduced with the goal to improve the speed of DUO’s student finance request handling processes and to save 25% of the costs.

At camp, Edmar walked us through the specific challenges that emerged from analyzing log data from that event-driven environment and the kind of choices that they had to make. He also discussed the key metrics DUO wanted to monitor from a business side.

Do you want to learn how process mining can be used to very quickly uncover technical errors and KPIs in the pilot phase of a new system? Watch Edmar’s talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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Watch Bart van Acker at Process Mining Camp 2015

The tickets for this year’s Process Mining Camp have now sold out. But we have a small contingent reserved for people who told us that they need more time, and we are currently checking whether it is possible to get into a bigger room. So, if you wanted to come and don’t have a ticket yet, get in touch with Anne or sign up for the waiting list here.

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, Willy van de Schoot from Atos International, Joris Keizers from Veco, and Mieke Jans from Hasselt University.

The fifth speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Bart van Acker from Radboudumc. There has been a lot of discussion about the challenges that our healthcare systems are facing, because of the aging population and increasing costs. Process improvement (while maintaining or improving quality of care) is therefore very important to keep pace with these developments.

At camp, Bart shared the challenges that he faces in process improvement projects at the hospital. He showed us how process mining can help to bridge the gap between process improvement professionals and the medical staff based on the example of the Intensive care unit and the Head and Neck Care chain at Radboudumc.

Do you want to know which benefits process mining brings to the improvement of healthcare processes? Watch Bart’s talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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Watch Mieke Jans at Process Mining Camp 2015

There are just about 10 tickets left for this year’s Process Mining Camp. So, if you want to come, don’t wait and register right now!

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, Willy van de Schoot from Atos International, and Joris Keizers from Veco.

The fourth speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Mieke Jans from Hasselt University. Mieke was working for Deloitte Belgium for many years before she became an Assistent Professor at Hasselt University. As a process mining consultant, she learned about the challenges of extracting good process mining data out of ERP systems like SAP and Oracle first-hand. Getting some data out of an ERP system is relatively easy. But how do you make sure you extract the right data in the right way?

In her research, Mieke still works on the topic of extracting process mining data out of relational databases. At camp, she walked us through a step-by-step approach for creating a good event log. The starting point is to define the questions that you want to answer using process mining, because they have a direct impact on the way that the data needs to be extracted. There are several decisions that need to be made, and every decision has implications on the way that the data can be analyzed and should be interpreted.

Do you want to know which steps to follow when extracting process mining data out of your ERP or legacy system? Watch Mieke’s talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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Watch Joris Keizers at Process Mining Camp 2015

This year’s Process Mining Camp is almost sold out. So, if you want to come, now is the time to get your ticket!

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed them before, check out the videos of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne and Willy van de Schoot from Atos International.

The third speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Joris Keizers from Veco. Joris presented their experience with process mining in a production process environment. With more than 15 years of experience in supply chain management, Joris is the operations manager and Six Sigma expert at Veco. He has used Minitab to statistically analyze the processes and drive improvements. When he discovered process mining, he found that process mining can leverage the human process knowledge in a powerful way that classical Six Sigma analyses can’t.

At camp, Joris showed us a side-by-side comparison based on a concrete example of a Six Sigma and a Process Mining analysis and explained the differences, benefits, and synergies.

Do you want to know how your Six Sigma projects can be enhanced by process mining? Watch Joris’ talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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Watch Willy van de Schoot at Process Mining Camp 2015

Have you already registered for this year’s Process Mining Camp? If not, you can take a look at the speakers and get your ticket here.

To get us all into the proper camp spirit, we have started to release the videos from last year’s camp. If you have missed the video of Léonard Studer from the City of Lausanne, you can watch it here.

The second speaker at Process Mining Camp 2015 was Willy van de Schoot from Atos International. Willy did not present a particular case study but focused on practical challenges like how to stay on top of your different analysis views. And once you need to present your results to an audience unfamiliar with process mining, how do you communicate your findings to keep everyone on board? In a hands-on segment, she showed the different perspectives she has taken, as well as some tricks of how to prepare the data in such a way that it provides optimal flexibility.

Do you want to know how to stay more organized in your own process mining analysis? Watch Willy’s talk now!

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If you can’t attend Process Mining Camp this year but would like to receive the presentations and video recordings afterwards, sign up for the Camp mailing list here.

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