Alberto Manuel from Process Sphere and I were invited for an interview on the PEX network in their Process Perspective Podcast Series.
The interview about Mining Processes to Understand What’s Really Happening in Your Business is 18 minutes long, and you can listen to it directly on the PEX website. For those of you who prefer to read the interview we have put up a transcript below.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
Transcript of the interview
Hello and welcome to Process Perspectives, a podcast series produced by the Process Excellence Network. PEX Network is an online and events community dedicated to Lean, Six Sigma and BPM professionals. I’m your host, Diana Davis, editor of PEX Network.com.
Coming up in today’s programme – understanding your “As Is” process faster. Process professionals can spend months mapping and trying to understand what’s really happening inside their organizations – just so that they can change it! But is there a better way?
My guests on today’s programme certainly think so and they argue that something they call Process Mining – effectively a technique for analysing data from your IT systems to find out what’s really going on with your processes – is the solution.
Dr. Anne Rozinat is an expert in process mining techniques and co-founder of Fluxicon. She has applied process mining techniques in companies like Philips Healthcare, ASML, and Philips Consumer Lifestyle. Joining Anne is Alberto Manuel, CEO of Process Sphere and an expert in Business Process Management.
Diana: Good day to you both – thank you for joining us on today’s programme.
Alberto: Hi Diana, thanks for the invitation.
Anne: It’s a pleasure to be here, thank you.
Diana: Anne, let’s start off with you…could you tell me more about Process Mining. What exactly is it?
Anne: Process mining is about bridging the gap between the ideal or documented processes and the process reality.
Imagine for example you are an operations manager at an electronics manufacturing company who is responsible for the customer service process. If a broken product is handed in by the customer, several companies like the dealer, a logistics company, the repairshop, and many different people at these companies are involved in the process.
Now imagine that there are customer complaints about the bad service, that they are waiting too long. We were working with an operations manager who was in that situation. What can you do? All you can do is looking at these individual customer cases and see what went wrong, but first of all it’s already too late – they are already complaining – and you are not fixing the root cause of the problem. The problem is in the process.
What was remarkable is that when we looked at their documented process map, they said “Yes, but that’s not really how our process works“. They didn’t trust it because – and I have seen this in other situations as well – there is often a huge gap between the ideal or documented processes and the way that processes work in reality.
So, process mining is really about bridging that gap by making the real processes visible. We do that based on data from the IT systems. Only by knowing how your real process looks like, waste can be eliminated and problems can be fixed. In the case of the customer service process, we found two major problems, of which one was a bottleneck at a forwarding company, which delayed the process on average by two weeks due to the way they were collecting their packets.
Diana: How does it work?
Anne: It’s a fact that most business processes today are supported by IT systems. ERP systems, CRM systems, Workflow systems, Order management systems, ticketing systems, and a whole lot of legacy and homegrown systems. All these systems record very detailed information about which activities are being performed, by whom, and at which point in time. These system records are like a log book in which a captain on a ship would note down events on his trip.
Process mining techniques take these IT log data and reconstructs the underlying processes out of the digital traces that are left by the real processes in the IT systems. It works in a bottom up manner: Imagine for example a simple order process, in which normally there is a quote, then the customer orders, pays, and then the goods are shipped. There will be variations of that process, for example for some customers the goods are shipped right away, because we know that these are regular customers and they will pay. In other situations, multiple proposals need to be sent, and so on.
With process mining we will extract all the thousands or millions of activity sequences of the process that really happened, for example, taking the data from last year. And that includes all the exceptions. So, we take that right out of the IT data, and – in a bottom-up manner – we can now show the complete process picture including all variations, loopbacks, and unexpected paths that the process took in reality. On top of that we can analyze the timestamp information in the log data and project the actual delays and waiting times on the process map to show where the bottlenecks are.
The advantages are that it’s quick because it’s automated, and that we get a complete, accurate picture that is objective because it’s based on facts rather than assumptions.
Diana: So it sounds like it’s a little like taking an X-ray of your processes?
Anne: Exactly! This is exactly what it is. Doctors wouldn’t think about starting an operation without taking an X-ray. Without the objective picture it’s just guesswork. And that’s not good enough. Also for business process improvement work, guesswork is just not good enough. It may not be lives that are at risk by bad processes, but the jobs of many many people depend on their companies being competitive and being able to deliver good services.
I am convinced there will be a time when process mining will be that standard X-ray procedure that makes sure you know what is going on, and to make sure you are taking the right actions.
Diana: Alberto, you’ve worked in the Business Process Management space for nearly a decade and I imagine that you’ve had a lot of experience mapping “As Is” processes. Why do you think Process Mining is the way forward?
Alberto: In order to understand what is happening regarding how business processes are being executed, companies rely on human perception of reality and this perception is a blend of tacit knowledge related with judgment, intuition, reasoning, and explicit knowledge that is related with company procedures, company policies, and culture.
The problem is that humans have different perceptions of reality. That is, if you ask people how work is done, you will get different and incomplete answers. In other words: Full of bias and affected more strongly by ease of retrieval than by the information they retrieve to explain how the process is executed.
If you add the growing complexity of today’s business processes, full of exceptions, social interactions, with increasing parts of the process being outsourced: How is it possible to have an accurate snapshot of reality? How much time does it take to get it? 6 months? Can a company today wait so much time to change and to adapt to changing business conditions? Can a company take the risk of losing competitive advantage because it takes too much time to understand where change must happen?
So, the great difference of Process Mining compared with other approaches is that all that time and effort to collect information about the “AS-IS” does not exist. People start immediately to understand how work is done, without bias. They can jump to process improvement fast and with a clear and precise idea because it’s based on what enterprise systems record what is being done rather than the human perception about what is occurring.
Diana: What would you say is the key difference between traditional way of mapping processes and process mining?
Alberto: The traditional mapping approach is about drawing imprecise process models, taking too long, and in the end you don’t have a picture of what is actually happening in the company. This is the main difference.
Diana: You’ve recently had experience applying process mining at ANA airport in Portugal. Can you take me through what you did?
Alberto: Like for any other change initiative program it’s important to get buy-in from the stakeholders. Thus, the idea was to start with a process that the customer feels or suspects that could be improved. They had some data that was pointing to inefficiencies, meaning that the team was not headed to the typical low hanging fruit approach. At the same time the process was critical enough because we are talking about the management of IT assets that are responsible to support an Airport. Lastly, the process data from the chosen ‘Change Orders’ process (this equals Change Management under the ITIL framework) was easy to understand because the process was being managed by the Information and Communications Technologies Directorate. This means that the concept could be easily validated before being expanded to other Airport business units.
The project was performance driven and control flow driven. The two key questions were: Can we be faster and can we execute things differently? This sets up the kind of answers you are looking to and subsequently the kind of data you need to retrieve from the system that supports the process. After the data is extracted, you discover the process model and then it’s an interactive process of discovery, questions, answers, and all of this is led by people. Process mining is about constructing and structuring and rediscovering the knowledge about a process. Where are the bottlenecks? Where can we change the way the work is done? Where can we be faster?
One of the key buy in arguments is that it took from start to finish one single week to get the process improved. This is impossible with any other analysis and improvement approach.
Diana: Now, was it really all that quick and easy?
Alberto: I remember that when the idea was presented the first time, even before ANA airports decided to get involved, it was pretty clear that for the first time in many years ANA Airports were looking at something different, because they could understand the reality as it was. Somehow they were tired of looking at process data as they felt they were not getting closer to the answers, because the problems continued to exist.
Diana: What kind of results did you get?
Alberto: The first important change was about the process model. There was, let’s call it a “worst practice” of replicating workflow process model templates for each of the ‘Change Order’ categories, causing that it was necessary to execute activities that did not make sense and increased the time to execute by letting people do things that were not necessary. The process was growing in complexity and that was eliminated. The process model became much more lean to execute.
After that, three important changes were done: First, there was evidence that it took too much time to start working on a Change Order request after being submitted. The first thing that was changed here was the workforce balancing. In the past there was a rule about work distribution to different Change Orders request types that was not working. The rule was changed and brought a lot of agility. The second thing that was changed was to eliminate the “noise” in the process. Some requests were being submitted long before being implemented. That distracted what was necessary to look for.
Also, it was clear that it took too much time to close a Change Order request. To address that the activity sequence was changed. For some categories it was making sense to eliminate and make it parallel. That made everything simpler.
The last point was about a compliance problem that did not exist: It was concerning Change Orders that were jumping immediately to implementation (under the ITIL framework this is not allowed). What Process Mining showed was that there was a problem with data that was being recorded in the configuration management database (CMDB), which is a database that contains all relevant information about the IT assets and had to be updated manually. For that it was implemented a new procedure to reduce errors. So, in the end it was clear that there was not any problem with compliance and the problem was about the way the data was being recorded in the database.
Diana: Now this all sounds great – but how can you really trust that the picture you are building up is accurate? Isn’t there the risk that you’re relying on poor quality data or not capturing the whole picture? Anne, maybe I can come back to you.
Anne: That’s an excellent question. What is important here to understand is that although the process mining analysis is automated, it’s not just applied blindly. Usually, the process analyst who applies Process Mining works together with a domain expert, the operations manager or someone else working in the process, and these people know their processes very well. So, for example, if there is a manual step in the process that is not captured in the data, a phone call for example, then this information will be taken into account when the results are interpreted. So, common sense and process knowledge go hand in hand with the actual process mining analysis. In this way, you can fill in gaps that might be there in the data recording.
As for data quality problems, these are taken care of in the data-cleaning step. When the data are extracted and imported, they are first screened for data quality issues and problematic data are then removed or excluded from the analysis.
In fact, just the insight that there are data quality problems is often very valuable to companies already, because they recognize how important good quality data are to be able to perform data analytics today. So, knowing that these issues exist helps them to fix them, and then the next time they can get even more valuable results from the analysis.
Diana: Final question and I’ll get you both to come in on this one – if I were an organization considering using process mining to analyze my As-IS processes, what are the key things that I need to take into account to decide whether this approach would be appropriate for me?
Anne: It has a lot to do with the mindset. You have to be willing to change your opinion if the facts change. Sometimes it’s more convenient to not know about certain problems, because then you don’t have to do something about them. So, this is about the mindset, to be willing to look at the truth, and to be aware that once it is out there it’s much harder to ignore. Process mining is a technique that works very well but it needs to be applied in an organizational setting, where people are willing to take this up, and really apply it and do something with it.
Alberto: I would say the only impediment is if your company does not have data. If there is no data there is no Process Mining. It’s not about if the approach is right or wrong. Process Mining is the answer to organizations that quickly want to modify their business processes and cannot be waiting for long cycles to change: Organizations that have to cope quickly to changes in the environment in which they operate, that must adapt very fast.
Diana: Anne, Alberto, thank you very much for joining me today.
Anne: Thank you very much for having us.
At Process Mining Camp and at the BPM conference we have seen again that rather than just reading about process mining, it’s so powerful to actually meet other people who are also interested in the topic. So, to make sure you are not missing anything, here is a list of the upcoming process mining events we are aware of.
G2 Tech Breakfast in Barcelona
A Process Mining Tech Breakfast is organized by G2 already tomorrow. The event is particularly interesting for IT Service Management professionals and will be held in Spanish.
Title: Discovering and analysing process inefficiencies
Date: Tue 18 September 2012, 9:30 – 13:30
Location: G2 offices in Barcelona, Spain
Price: free, registration required
This breakfast will discuss the main difficulties that we encounter when analyzing processes, the need for audits to ensure proper execution of the designed processes and authorizations, and the importance of visual representation of all this information.
Process Mining Research Day in Gent
Jan Claes again organizes a Belgian Process Mining Research Day at Ghent university this year. The event is targeted at Belgian process mining researchers and Wil van der Aalst will give a presentation about Process Discovery and Conformance Checking Using Passages.
Title: 2nd Belgian Process Mining Research Day
Date: Mo 24 September 2012, 9.30 – 17.30
Location: Ghent University, Hoveniersberg 24, 9000 Gent, 3th floor, room 7
Price: 10 Euros (paid in cash upon arrival)
We should have plenty of time to get to know each other and each others research. Every participant is welcome to prepare a presentation, demo, question session. We try to schedule for lots of time for feedback and discussion after each presentation. The setting is rather informal.
Business Analysis Conference in London
Alberto Manuel from Process Sphere has been invited to speak at the IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe about process mining. If you are planning to attend the conference, make sure not to miss Alberto’s talk!
Title: Process Mining – Accuracy and Speed on Business Process Analysis
Date: Wed 26 September 2012, 14:20 – 15:15
Location: Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London, UK
Price: £1,314 (whole conference), Registration page
Managers want a quicker and concise method to determine when a process no longer meets customers’ needs and thus needs to be redesigned. In this session you will learn what process mining is and how it works, and how process mining can be integrated in business analysis efforts to support business adaptation and transformation.
AE Process mining seminar in Grimbergen
Bram Vanschoenwinkel from AE gives a process mining seminar for IT and business professionals. Bram gave one of the most popular talks at Process Mining Camp 2012, so we highly recommend to attend the seminar if you can.
Title: Why you know more than you think
Date: Wed 26 September 2012, 16:00 – 20:00
Location: ‘Het Fenikshof’, Abdijstraat 20, 1850 Grimbergen, Belgium
Price: free, registration required
This AE Foyer is based on a number of concrete cases and explains what Process Mining is, in which stages a process mining project is performed, and what potential pitfalls are. At the end of the session each participant will have a clear insight into the possibilities and opportunities that Process Mining can offer for their company.
ProM Programming Workshop in Hasselt
If you wish you would know more about the ProM framework to start developing your own plugins, then this workshop is for you: Hasselt University organizes a full-day workshop just on Programming with/in ProM.
Title: Workshop on Programming with/in ProM
Date: Fr 28 September 2012
Location: Hasselt University, Belgium
Price: 15 Euros, Registration required
The workshop is a unique opportunity for people who want to start developing their own ProM plugins and who wish to increase their understanding of the framework. This workshop is open to anybody with a basic knowledge of the Java programming language and the concepts of object oriented programming. In addition we will also provide some basic information about theoretical aspects of process mining that you should go through before coming to the workshop.
Building Business Capability Conference in Florida
We are honored that Fluxicon was accepted for a speaking slot in the Emerging BPM Techniques and Technologies Session at the BBC conference. If you are coming to Fort Lauderdale this year, make sure to get in touch so we can meet up!
Title: Process Mining: BPM upside-down
Date: Thu 01 November 2012, 10:30 – 11:30
Location: The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US
Price: $1,795 (whole conference), Registration page
VISION12 Conference in Madrid
This year’s IT Service Management conference VISION12 will feature even two process mining presentations: One by Antonio Valle from G2 and one by Alberto Manuel from Process Sphere. Visit the conference website to learn more about this event.
Date: Thu 19-20 November 2012
Location: Hotel NH Parque Avenidas de Madrid, Spain
Price: 200 Euros until 1 November (whole conference), Registration page
Process mining BPMB Workshop in Berlin
Fluxicon is planning a Process Mining BPMB workshop on 23 November 2012 in Berlin, Germany. You can keep an eye on the BPMB website or receive notifications on BPMB events via the BPM-Netzwerk.
Did we miss anything? Let us know which other process mining events will take place in the coming months in the comments.
We are honored and very happy to announce that Disco, our professional Process Mining software, has won the Best Tool Demonstration award at the BPM 2012 conference in Tallinn last week.
The award was conferred to us during the conference banquet by demo chair Niels Lohmann, who praised the high quality of both Disco itself and the demonstration given by Anne. He mentioned that Disco had received by far the most favorable reviews from the committee, and quoted from one of the reviews:
It [Disco] can inspire researchers and developers for new techniques, visualizations, graphical user interface design and documentation approach. It can be seen as a successful integration of research in a practical, commercial tool.
It won’t surprise you that we are thrilled to have won this prestigious award from the most high-quality and thought-leading conference in the field of BPM and Process Mining. But we were even more blown away by the enthusiastic and widespread response to Anne’s demonstration of Disco.
Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to view any of the other tool demonstrations but one, the demo of Eventifier, which was held in the same room. Eventifier appears to be a nice tool for correlating and extracting logs from a database, and with its XES export it is of course compatible with both Disco and ProM 6.
We would like to thank the demo chairs, Niels Lohmann and Simon Moser, and the local organizers for setting up the demonstration track in a superb manner, from start to finish. Also, we would like to thank the whole demo committee, and everyone who attended our demo, approached us about Disco, and all of you who had such nice words for us!
And of course we have to give a big thanks to all our users, customers, consulting partners, and academic partners! Your support and constant feedback are essential in helping us move Disco and Process Mining forward. This award is a big step ahead not just for Disco or Fluxicon, but for the whole Process Mining community at large.
Of course, we released Disco just three months back, so instead of resting on our laurels we are indeed just getting started! And if you have not tried Disco yet, download it today and see what the fuzz is about!
The time has come to conclude our Process Mining Camp 2012 talk series with the Research Notes talk by Wil van der Aalst. Wil has started the area of process mining research more than a decade ago, and has been a defining force and spiritus rector of the movement since back then. As the most-cited computer scientist in the Netherlands, Wil has also founded the prolific BPM Conference, heads the IEEE Task Force on Process Mining, and has had a wide influence on industry and standard committees.
I have always enjoyed Wil’s presentations, since he has the rare talent to present in an approachable and entertaining fashion without sacrificing facts and rigor, and this presentation is no exception. Wil shares his vision and guiding principles for process mining research, from desire lines and cowpaths to building navigation systems for running a business. Giving a detailed overview of the different process mining research initiatives in his research group, and how they fit together into his larger vision for the future of this discipline, Wil’s talk is also an excellent sneak peek of what to expect from process mining in the years to come.
While this will be the last talk from this year’s batch, we are definitely planning to continue this tradition. Keep an eye on this blog, or follow us on Twitter, if you don’t want to miss the next edition! And in some sense we have definitely saved the best for last, so don’t hesitate and go watch Wil’s talk right now!
Some links related to Wil’s talk:
The annual BPM Conference is one of the rare places where academics and practitioners meet to discuss the latest trends and advances in Business Process Management.
This year’s conference takes place from 3–6 September in Tallinn, Estonia, and as always process mining will be an important topic at the main conference and the BPI workshop. We will also be in Tallinn, and we are already excited to go. In fact, there will be three presentations from Fluxicon at BPM 2012:
If you are still thinking about attending, we think you should try and come. The BPM conference is always a very inspiring experience, and you will get to meet many of the key people which are busy shaping the future of BPM and process mining. And for all of you who will be there, please come and say hello, we are looking forward to meeting you!
A bit more than a year ago we started the Fluxicon Academic Initiative for Process Mining to give something back to the academic community. In this program, we offer free software licenses and process mining lecture materials to our academic partners.
By now already more than 60 universities are active in the academic initiative, which shows that Process Mining is a growing field of interest for researchers and students all around the world. Just look at the map below to see in how many different places process mining research and education is taking a hold!
View Process Mining Research Institutes in a larger map
Many of you have asked us whether we can include our new process mining software Disco in the academic initiative as well. And there are good reasons for that:
- Disco makes it even easier to get started with process mining. Beautiful process maps, process map animation, and powerful log filters help you to explore your process in an intuitive way. It’s ideal for teaching, because it lets students experience the power of process mining without the technical headaches.
- For researchers, Disco is super fast and fully compatible with ProM due to its support of the event log standards MXML (ProM 5 and ProM 6) and XES (ProM 6), which makes it the perfect companion if you want to test your own algorithms based on real-life logs.
So, today we are excited to announce that staff members and students from our partner universities can now request free academic licenses for Disco. Also the lecture material will be updated soon.
If your university is already an academic partner, here is how you can get your Disco license:
- You are new to Disco? – Simply download Disco form the official product page. When you install it, make sure to use your official university email address. You will be prompted to request an academic license.
- You have already installed Disco? – If you have registered with your official university email address, you are offered to request an academic license the next time you start Disco. If you haven’t, you can switch by clicking on your email address in the upper right corner of Disco. Simply re-register with your university email and request your license.
If your university is not yet an academic parter, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We have taken a little break lately from publishing the talks from Process Mining Camp 2012. However, we think we have used the time well with releasing six updates to Disco, making it even faster and better to use. Today, we are back in full force and present you the latest instalment of our series, the live process mining analysis session by our very own Anne Rozinat.
Anne used an anonymized, real-life event log from one of our customers and analyzed it with our software Disco, live on stage. Her presentation includes both preparations, like making sure that all crucial information is included in the event log, as well as tried-and-tested analysis patterns that we use to drill down into an unknown dataset.
What I liked about Anne’s presentation was that it does not pretend that there is a repeatable, straightforward analysis process that you can simply copy and paste. Rather, she showed how we at Fluxicon see process mining, and what we design our software for: An explorative, iterative process which is driven by experienced analysts, rather than by what the software used requires.
If you want to learn about some best practices that can help you approaching an unknown dataset with process mining, make sure to watch Anne’s talk right now, and then come back and share your tricks here in the comments!
As you may have heard, this year’s BPM Conference will take place 3–7 September in Tallinn, Estonia. The conference program itself is always very high-quality and features a number of talks on process mining. However, for me the most interesting and inspiring part of the conference has always been the BPI Workshop, which is the meeting place for process mining researchers.
This year, the BPI Workshop features the Second International Business Process Intelligence Challenge (BPIC’12), which is also aimed at practitioners. The basic idea is simple: The BPI team has provided an event log, with some background information and points of interest. This is a great opportunity for everybody, researchers and practitioners, to show off their process mining skills and analyze this log, with the chance for eternal fame and a prize.
I had the chance to ask Boudewijn van Dongen, a former colleague of ours from Eindhoven University of Technology, and one of the BPI Workshop’s organizers, some questions about the BPI Challenge. Read our interview below, or head straight to the BPI Challenge website!
Interview with Boudewijn van Dongen
Christian: You have been involved in process mining research since the very beginning, and you are also organizing the BPI workshop, one of the major events where process mining researchers meet. Last year, you have initiated the first BPI Challenge alongside the workshop, and I was happy to see that you are continuing this tradition in 2012. How would you explain to people what the BPI Challenge is about?
Boudewijn: From the start of our process mining research, we have been looking for real-life data to validate our algorithms, approaches and techniques. Some 10 years ago, finding organizations that had event data available and at the same time were willing to share this data was a great challenge. Through a number of successful projects (and probably just as many unsuccessful ones) however, our research gained some momentum while at the same time organizations became more willing to share their data as they became more and more aware of the benefits of applying process mining techniques.
Meanwhile, researchers all over the world also gained interest in the domain of process mining and started to develop process mining techniques of their own. Many of these researchers were faced with the same challenge we encountered when looking for real-life data that can be used for validation purposes. Over the years, this has resulted in many requests from fellow researchers if we could share our real-life data to allow them to validate their work. On many occasions, we had visiting researchers use our collected case studies, but we were almost never allowed or able to publicly share our datasets.
In 2010, the three universities of technology in The Netherlands joined forces in erecting the 3TU Datacenter. This initiative aimed at publicly sharing datasets such that other researchers can benefit from whatever data can be collected (in many domains, not just process mining). This spawned an idea within our group to make a real-life dataset available to the community. However, we needed a way to make the research community aware of the existence of this dataset (as well as the entire collection) and this is where the BPI challenge comes in.
For the BPI challenge, both researchers and practitioners are asked to test, apply or validate whatever technique or tool they developed to real-life data. The datasets we use for this challenge are, of course, completely anonimized, but other than that they are not cleaned or altered in any way and such datasets indeed pose a challenge for many tools and techniques. This year for example, we have obtained a dataset from a loan application process of a financial institute. Every case in this log is an actual request by an actual person for a loan. We expect these datasets to pose a challenge for many process mining techniques, i.e. for example the “alpha-algorithm” does not produce sensible results, but at the same time we expect that process mining techniques are mature enough to provide insightful results.
Last year, the jurors of the challenge were indeed pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the submitted results. One participant even wrote in his conclusions that the dataset looked complicated at first sight, but that the underlying process was actually straightforward, and this was a dataset from the most complex of organizations, namely a Hospital.
Christian: Yes, I still remember the times when researchers were desperately looking for real-life event logs to try their techniques and software on. In fact, sometimes people still contact me with requests for logs.
In that sense I think it is great that the challenge does not only address the question for real-life data, but also provides sort of a benchmark for the variety of process mining and other BPI approaches out there. It forces researchers out of their tightly-controlled comfort zone to prove their approaches in the wild.
While we do have a lot of researchers and students reading our blog, I think there is an even larger number of practitioners, consultants or people working on process analysis in industry. In your opinion, why should these people take part in the BPI Challenge? And maybe you have some tips on how to get started?
Boudewijn: While researchers are often looking for logs to validate their work on, practitioners are faced with the opposite problem. Business analysts, consultants, but also process owners often have a good feeling about potential improvements to their processes. When looking for software solutions to analyze their processes and to confirm their ideas they encounter the problem of heterogenity in the data required for these tools. By participating in this challenge, I think that they can benefit in two ways.
One of the goals of the IEEE Task Force on Process Mining was to standardize the format in which event logs are recorded and stored and, as you know, the XES format in which the logs for the challenge are presented does exactly that. Currently, different process analysis solutions require different input. In some cases, a simple CSV file or database dump may be sufficient to start analysis, while in other cases complete adapters have to be developed from scratch. However, more and more tools support the XES format and participating in the challenge will help practitioners to get used to this event logging format.
However, a greater benefit for practitioners is in the experience of seeing many different analysis results on the same dataset. By getting logs in the XES format from their own processes, they could simply repeat the analysis of other participants. Moreover, most researchers would be happy to help in doing such an analysis, especially if the results can be published. In our academic community, we see that there is a real requirement for any new technique to be validated on real life data and what better way is there to validate results than to do this together with the process owner who has something to gain?
For a practitioner to get started on process mining, I think that there are a few good places. First, I would recommend looking at the website www.processmining.org and the ProM toolset for which a tutorial is available. Also, last year’s winner, JC Bose, has written a section in his PhD thesis on the analysis of the hospital log which nicely explains how he tackled that log. For a real introduction into the field of process mining, the recent book by Wil van der Aalst is also a good starting point.
Christian: These are some great pointers. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Boudewijn!
Do you accept the challenge?
If you accept the BPI Challenge, the organizers have made it very easy this year to get started. On the website for the BPI Challenge, you can download the challenge event log in the XES and MXML formats.
And if you would like to use Disco for the challenge, we have prepared a handy project containing this log which you can download here.
The deadline for submitting your analysis results is Monday, 30 July 2012.
The final talk in the practice session at Process Mining Camp 2012 was delivered by a Bram Vanschoenwinkel, who works as a Business Architect at AE in Belgium.
Bram gives you a condensed run through three process mining case studies he has performed. You will hear about hidden factories in payroll accounting, bottlenecks in public administration, and how even large event logs could be conquered in a postal services process. Get a tour of the kind of results that can be achieved with process mining in different domains, plus some best practices, all packed into 20 minutes.
Watch Bram’s talk now and let us know what you think in the comments!
The next round in our Process Mining Camp 2012 video series is the talk by Wim Leeuwenkamp, who — although now a strategic advisor at the Dutch tax office — is very experienced in all kinds of data analytics tools and an unstoppable explorer at heart.
With his process mining project, Wim had enthusiastically embarked on a new journey in a truly daunting data jungle made up of many different legacy systems. Sometimes a bit too brave as he now admits. At camp he honestly shared the mistakes he has made, so that you don’t have to make them for yourself.
I was involved in Wim’s project two years ago, and although he focuses on the data challenges that we encountered, I am still amazed from which kinds of data we were actually able to get very good process mining results. So it is definitely worth to dig into your own legacy systems to see what gold they hold.
But before you do, make sure to watch Wim’s talk to see which pitfalls to avoid!