Friday, May 2, 2008

What are Event logs?

It is probably appropriate to begin here. Event logs are produced by "process aware information systems". These event logs usually contain case ids, event names, originators and timestamps. They will contain decision data, ie customer ids, product types, information necessary for determing workflow decision attributes. The event logs are usually kept as an audit trail. So why would an organisation want to mine them?

When I first heard about Process Mining I was curious too. Process Mining in many ways addresses the initial issue organisations face when they start with Business Process Managment . They need to map their organisation's workflows but it's such a big task! Lots of workshops. Key people tied up for weeks. Where do you get the data from? Finally once its done how do you know its correct? Projects are often abandoned because it is seen to be taking to long even after initial success.

A Process mining tool takes a log file from an application and after a interface converts it to an MXML (mining xml) format its ready to be mined and analysed. This requires about a day per log file to code and test. Once this is done a mining tool can carry out literally dozens of different analysis and convert it to a workflow diagram in minutes.

Not only does it create the workflow but it provides performance data as well; how long does each event take, what are the wait times, what is the throughput time etc.

It is also possible to discover sociometry based analysis that will show the relationships between the users of the systems. You can mine emails to map your social networks!

So the answer to the original question becomes clear. If you have poorly documented legacy systems which need to be analysed, improved or converted into new systems then this is your starting point. These tools can save an enormous amount of time whilst providing accuracy and analysis that would be almost impossible to determine otherwise. In order to carry out a process improvement project you will need this data to benchmark your processes as you proceed.

This blog contains links to the Business Process Management Groups at the Eindhoven University of Technology & Queensland University of Technology plus other BPM sites. These two organisations are working together as leaders in Process Mining & BPM.