The Time is Ripe for Process Mining: Interview in I/O Magazine

From right: Eric, Wil, Boudewijn and myself

“Powerpoint reality” is what Wil van der Aalst calls the level of insight that organizations often have into their business processes. The processes that are modeled, communicated and put on Powerpoints are usually much more complex in reality than people think they are.

At the same time, IT systems record detailed information about the executed processes. These data can be automatically analyzed by process mining techniques to generate graphical process maps which bring the actual process reality into the picture.

In an interview for the Dutch I/O ICT magazine, Wil van der Aalst, Boudewijn van Dongen, Erik Verbeek and myself talked to Karina Meerman about process mining. Here is the full article (in Dutch).

It is always a challenge to explain process mining to people outside the field. There is just so much context to be considered:

1. There needs to be a realization of the importance of business processes and process thinking for improving the quality and efficiency of organizations. Otherwise the question is, “Why would you even want process models, be it in Powerpoint or not?”
2. You need to have IT support in place for these processes, and the data that are collected by the systems need to fulfill certain minimum criteria. Also, the person you are talking to needs to be aware of the fact that this data is already available. Otherwise you would not believe that it is possible to automatically discover processes by looking at the data.

As for the latter point, Wil made it clear that there is more and more data, so this point is hardly an issue anymore1:

The amount of data grows exponentially. Earlier on, you went to a travel agent and you got a paper ticket. The number of transfer times was limited. Now, when you book a ticket online, that site contacts several airline companies and a payment system. All those events are recorded.

Wil explained that these data reflect the real world in an increasingly better way:

The time is ripe for process mining. The digital world is very close to the real world. The introduction of diagnosis-treatment combinations in hospitals — which mean that payments are only provided based on registered event logs — has triggered an explosion of data. And if you, for example, order a book at then it does not matter whether the book really is in stock — that you can see it on a shelf — because if the information system says it is there, then it is there.

What about your experience? Do you find it difficult to explain process mining? And if so, which aspect or part of it do you find particularly hard to explain? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Freely translated by myself.