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There’s gold in them thar SAP ERP systems… Part 2

Emily Kucukalic Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Blog

By Geoff Armstrong.

In Part 1 of this blog series, we introduced the topic of Business Process Mining and how it will deliver the return on investment that SAP clients have been pursuing for 30 years!

In this blog (part 2), we will examine how process mining works and some of the Software tools to enable Business Process Mining.

How does Process Mining work?

Process Mining works by using the historical data in your systems to produce a process model using a bottom up approach.  With process mining, you get a process model from actual transactional data. This way, your real process, and actual business rules can be discovered automatically.

Process Mining can be summarised as follows;

1 Process Discovery

  • Whenever transactions are created in your IT system they leave a digital footprint
  • This digital footprint can be converted to an “Event Log”
  • Using Process Mining Techniques, the event log can automatically generate a “Discovered Process Model”

2 Conformance Checking

  • You have a set of standard processes e.g. ARIS
  • The “Discovered Process Model” can be compared to the standard process model
  • Policy violations can be identified
  • Deviations in the process can be identified.

3 Process Enhancements

  • Performance Analysis allows bottlenecks and inefficiencies to be identified
  • The goal is to improve the existing model

How does Process Mining compare to Data Mining or Business Intelligence?

Process Mining and Data Mining both start from data.

Process Mining takes a Process-centric view on data Science”

However, data mining techniques are typically not process-centric. Topics such as process discovery, conformance checking, and bottleneck analysis are not addressed by traditional data mining techniques. Process mining and data mining need to be combined to answer more advanced questions.

With Business Intelligence, the focus has been on the technical methods of getting the data, storing the data in a Data warehouse and making it available for queries. There is no linkage between the steps or activities of the process, just some simple measurement metrics.

What it has lacked is a methodology or framework for “What to do with the Data”. This is left up to the client. In the end, it is the process that matters (and not the data or the software). Not just patterns and decisions, but end-to-end processes.

Classical BI tools tend to show only tables, meters and graphs. They try to capture reality in a set of numbers and KPI’s. And that is not sufficient to understand your processes

Process Mining has evolved later than Data Mining or Business Intelligence and both these techniques are important underpinnings for Process Mining

Software Systems to Support Process Mining

So now that we understand the concepts behind Process Mining, let’s look at some of the Software tools to enable it.  There are currently more than 20 Process Mining Software tools available today (See the list below). This blog will focus on 3 of the leading ones; Prom, Disco and Celonis.

ProM

ProM was developed by the Process Mining Group, Math & CS department, Eindhoven University of Technology.

This tool was developed under the guidance of the leading authority in Process Mining, Professor dr.ir. Wil van der Aalst from Eindhoven University of Technology.

The product features;

  • Extensive plug ins available for multiple methods and models
  • It’s somewhat tricky to use but very powerful
  • It has a free academic licence

I would use this product for academic research when the business problem is not clear. It has an amazing array of plug ins available to support all forms of process mining.


Disco (by Fluxicon)

Disco is a commercial product created by Dr. Anne Rozinat and Dr. Christian W. Günther (PhD’s from Eindhoven University of Technology)

The product is very easy to use and features;

  • Automated process discovery
  • Process map animation
  • Detailed Statistics
  • This has a commercial as well as a free demo licence

I would use this to explore an event log which has been made available to understand the statistical makeup of the log. This is an excellent tool when you are source system agnostic.


Celonis

Celonis was founded in 2011 by three former students of the Technical University of Munich, Alexander Rinke, Bastian Nominacher, and Martin Klenk.

The product is very easy to use and features;

  • Ability to load from external file or database
  • Automatically generated analysis for the Process Model, conformance checking, bottleneck analysis
  • Prebuilt extractors and models for SAP ERP data
  • This has a commercial as well as a free demo licence

I would use this to tool to apply process mining in an SAP context.

They have prebuilt analyses for the major SAP business processes (e.g. P2P, O2C etc.) and have standard extractors for SAP source systems (e.g., ECC, S4HANA, SRM, CRM).

Each of the tools analysed has a significant role to play in the world of Process Mining.  As an SAP consultant, I have found that Celonis is most closely aligned to analysing SAP processes in an efficient manner. Additionally, they are also a certified partner with SAP.

Stay tuned for part 3 of “There’s gold in them thar SAP ERP systems” where we will look in depth at Celonis and how to apply Process Mining to your SAP system. In particular, we will look at how to identify non-compliant processes at first glance, optimise throughput times by identifying bottlenecks and reducing manual interventions in process execution.

If you’re interested in this topic, feel free to click here to continue the conversation.

References

Professor dr.ir. Wil van der Aalst, Department of Mathematics & Computer Science, Eindhoven University of Technology

Distinguished university professor Wil van der Aalst is one of the most cited computer scientists in the world and thought leader in areas such as business process management, process mining, and data science.

COURSERA – Process Mining: Data Science in Action, Eindhoven University of Technology

Wikipedia

LinkedIn Group

Prom

Fluxicon

Celonis

By Geoff Armstrong, Solution Lead – BI & Analytics, Plaut Australia

Geoff joined Plaut in 2001 and has deployed SAP BI and Costing solutions in some of  Australia’s most sophisticated implementations in both the private and public sectors. 

Click here to contact Geoff.

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