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There’s gold in them thar SAP systems

Emily Kucukalic Sunday, July 9, 2017 Blog

By Geoff Armstrong

Do you ever get the feeling you have purchased a gold-plated investment but are not getting the ROI you were expecting?

You are not alone. SAP is a brilliant ERP system, the best available, but it needs expert tuning to run at its best.

Have you considered Business Process Mining? 

Business Process mining promises to provide Real-Time Insight into what your processes are doing and could deliver the ROI you have pursued for 30 years!

Hold on a minute.. queue the sceptics!! If you are starting to yawn at the thought of another Business Process Modelling exercise (e.g., ARIS, Visio or BPM in Solution Manager) then keep reading as that was my initial reaction too!! In this 3-part blog, I will take you on my journey from sceptic to convert!

Now, you probably already have lots of BI Analytics which tell you the dollars and quantities of the transactions passing through your system. However, did you know that your ERP system also stores data about your business processes that are completely underutilised? For example, every time a user posts a purchase order, the system also stores lots of information about what happened. For example, the time the posting was made, the user who made it, the type of transaction which occurred and a whole lot more.

A new body of thought called ‘Process Mining’ suggests we can construct what’s actually happening in our SAP system by analysing the ‘event logs’ associated with the transactions. All that is required to do this is;

  • A Case ( unique identifier)
  • An Activity (what happened)
  • A timestamp (when it happened)

Now, what if we could take this “Meta Data” about the process and use it to construct the Business Process Models in real time rather going through than an elaborate modelling exercise?

What if we could construct the “Actual” Business Process Models that are happening in your business rather than a fanciful ‘Best Practice Model’ which bears no resemblance to reality?

What if we could use these real-time Process Models to highlight inefficiencies, bottlenecks and conformance issues in real time and give advice on how to improve performance?

That could save your business millions!

Enter Business Process Mining. Sound like something from Star Wars?

Yes, but it’s happening now and with real-world success stories.  The convergence of new technologies like HANA In-memory database, predictive analytics, machine learning and cloud has enabled this to become a reality.

Process Mining uses smart algorithms to reconstruct, analyse and understand the real process. It then uses Advanced Analytics to visualise the process flows which highlight the inefficiencies and suggest improvements!

As Head of Analytics at Plaut Australia, I keep a constant eye on emerging technologies. In recent years, we have all been ‘hyperbolised’ by analytics vendors regarding In memory computing, cloud, predictive analytics, internet of things, text analytics and now machine learning. Unfortunately, these technologies are just that, technologies. While they have been interesting to observe, learn and become skilled at, they have lacked the killer approach which made SAP so good in the first place: The applications!!

In my search to combine and use these approaches into something useful for clients, I stumbled across Business Process Mining. In my 25 years of implementing SAP systems, I have been rarely impressed and often disappointed! Nevertheless, I’m calling it. Business Process Mining will be a breakthrough approach to radically improve your Business Processes and finally achieve the ROI that SAP has promised for 30 years.

Stay tuned for part 2 of ‘There’s gold in them thar SAP systems……’ where we will examine how process mining works and some of the Software tools to enable Business Process Mining… If you’re interested in this topic click here to continue the conversation.

References 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

Process Mining Definition

Process Mining Group

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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