Take Different Perspectives On Your Process

As you have learned in the Data Requirements chapter, with process mining you can get a process perspective of the data. The specific process view results from the three event log parameters: Case ID, Activity name, and Timestamp.

Usually, the first process view – and the resulting import configuration – follows from the general process understanding and your task at hand.

However, many process mining newcomers are not yet aware that one of the strengths of process mining is that you can rapidly and flexibly take different perspectives on your process. The parameters of Case ID, Activity name, and Timestamp function as a lens with which you can adjust to view your process from different angles.

You can often look at the same process in different ways. Each way reveals some new information about the process, and different views are needed to answer different questions about your process. There is not just one “right” view about the process but multiple views are needed to get a full picture of your process.

Here are three examples of the kind of views that you can take.

Focus on Another Activity

If you followed the Hands-on Tutorial then you have already seen this shift in perspective for the purchasing process example. Initially, the ‘Activity’ column was configured as Activity. This provides a view on the flow of the different process steps (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1: By configuring the ‘Activity’ column as Activity during the import step, we can see the different process steps in the map view.

But towards the end of the tutorial, we changed the focus to the organizational flow by setting the ‘Role’ column (the function or department of the employee) as Activity. This way, the same process (and even the same data set) can now be analyzed from an organizational perspective (see Figure 2). Ping-pong behavior and increased transfer times when passing on operations between organizational units can be made visible and addressed.

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Figure 2: By switching the Activity configuration to the ‘Role’ column, we can take an organizational perspective on the process.

Switching from the activity sequences to the organizational flows is just one example. You can often explore many different columns in your data set in this way.

Combined Activity

Instead of changing the focus, you can also combine different dimensions in order to get a more detailed picture of the process.

If you look at the following call center process (download the CSV file together with the other demo logs that come with Disco), you would probably first set the column ‘Operation’ as activity name. As a result, the process mining tool derives a process map with six different process steps, which represent the accepting of incoming customer calls (“Inbound Call”), the handling of emails, and internal activities (“Handle Case”) - See Figure 3.

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Figure 3: A first view of the callcenter process could be to use the ‘Operation’ column as the Activity name.

Now, imagine that you would like to analyze the process in more detail. You would like to see how many first-level support calls are passed on to the specialists in the back office of the call center. In fact, this information is actually present in the data. The attribute ‘Agent Position’ indicates whether the activity was handled in the first-level support (marked as FL) or in the back office (marked as BL).

To include the ‘Agent Position’ in the activity view, you can set both the column ‘Operation’ and the column ‘Agent Position’ as activity name during the data import step. The contents of the two columns are now grouped together (concatenated) - See Figure 4.

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Figure 4: If we want to bring in the ‘Front office’ and ‘Back office’ dimension into the process view, we can simply configure the ‘Agent Position’ column as part of the Activity name as well.

As a result, we get a more detailed view of the process. The ‘Agent Position’ dimension has been included in the process view. We see for example that calls accepted at the first-level support were transferred 152 times to the back office specialists for further processing. Furthermore, no email-related activities took place in the back office.

Combining columns into the activity name is not limited to two columns. You can bring in as many dimensions as you want. Refer to Combining Multiple Case ID, Activity, or Resource Columns to see how exactly multiple columns can be combined during import.

Focus on Another Case

Furthermore, we could question whether the ‘Service ID’ (the service request number of the CRM system), which was selected as the case ID, provides the desired process view for the call center process. After all, there is also a ‘Customer ID’ column and there are at least three different service requests noted for “Customer 3” (Case 3, Case 12 and Case 14) - See Figure 5.

What if these three requests are related and the call center agents just have not bothered to find the existing case in the system and re-open it? The result would be a reduced customer satisfaction because “Customer 3” has had to repeatedly explain the problem with every call.

The result would also be an embellished “First Call Resolution Rate.” The “First Call Resolution Rate” is a typical performance metric for call centers, which measures the number of times a customer problem could be solved with the first call.

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Figure 5: Three different service requests have been registered for customer No. 3. What if we would not use the Service ID but the Customer ID as the case during import?

That is exactly what happened in the customer service process of an Internet company [Rozinat-09-15]. In a process mining project, initially the customer contact process (via telephone, Internet, e-mail or chat) was analyzed with the Service ID column chosen as the case ID. This view produced an impressive “First Contact Resolution Rate” of 98%. Of 21,304 incoming calls, apparently only 540 were repeat calls - See Figure 6.

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Figure 6: Initially, the first contact resolution metric looked great.

Then the analysts noticed that all service requests were closed fairly quickly and almost never re-opened again. To analyze the process from the customer’s perspective, the Customer ID column was chosen as a case ID. This way, all calls of a specific customer in the analyzed time period were summarized into one process instance and repeating calls became visible - See Figure 7.

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Figure 7: But after switching the case perspective from to service request to the customer, it become clear that more than 3000 of the new requests were actually repeat calls by customers who had called before.

The “First Contact Resolution Rate” in reality amounted to only 82%. Only 17,065 cases were actually started by an incoming call. More than 3,000 were repeat calls, but were counted as new service requests in the system (and on the performance report!).

These are just examples. But as you can see, process mining does not only allow you to get a process perspective on your data. Bur in addition, it allows you to consider different views on the process. Look out for other activity perspectives, possible combinations of fields, and new perspectives on what constitutes the case in the process.

You can take different views to answer different questions. There is not “one right view” and often multiple views are necessary to obtain an overall picture of the process.

[Rozinat-09-15]Anne Rozinat. You Need To Be Careful How You Measure Your Processes, 2015. URL: https://fluxicon.com/blog/2015/09/you-need-to-be-careful-how-you-measure-your-processes/