The skies are grey, the rain is cold. The wind seeps earnestly through all manner of trees and hedgerows as the people make their merry way – home. Bright pinpricks of yellow light scatter on snow and frosty windows, and the smell of spiced wine punctuates the earthy undertones of winter. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

We here at ProcessGold thought it would be amusing – and somewhat entertaining – to do a little digging into our own Christmas stories. Christmas theme aside, there is plenty to learn about the wonders of qualitative analysis with process mining: the wealth of knowledge one can uncover, and the nuances one can map using process analytics.

We started by designing our very own data collector: in this case a Google Forms questionnaire. We picked out a few activities we thought would be key, and the whole office got to work in answering when they did what, with the promise of a VIProcessGold Christmas lottery ticket for those who partook.

We took stock of the responses and set to work wrangling the data into a usable format. Of course, this step is a little unique to this particular process mining implementation. Usually we mine server logs and other large, automated, digital data repositories. The principle is the same, however, and qualitative analysis with process mining is just as easy in this example as it is when you have millions of server log entries.

After wrangling, we used the ProcessGold process explorer to set up a quick dashboard to explore the gathered data. ProcessGold’s software has evolved over the last decade to provide industry leading tools for the visualisation of process data, so it was incredibly easy to map our data in a process graph.

On first glance, our data seems quite diverse. Not surprising considering how we all celebrate the holidays differently. With a little wit and guile, though, we can do some qualitative analysis with process mining. In the questionnaire, one of the questions we asked was nationality. Filtering on nationality gives us some insight into how people from different cultures celebrate Christmas!

Filtering for the Dutch – the vast majority in our Eindhoven based office – changes the graph but only a little: filtering out some of the more exceptional cases, we arrive at what seems to be a typically Dutch winter holiday process. It starts with the first kruidnoot of the year. A kruidnoot a little hemisphere of spiced biscuit. It’s somewhat of a national icon, with some concept stores selling hundreds of varieties. Then comes the celebration of sinterklaas. For our test subjects, this usually happens on the 5th of December with some minor variations. Most people who celebrate sinterklaas also exchange gifts on our around the 5th of December, and a significant minority still uphold the waning tradition of writing a poem to go with at least one of the gifts they give: usually called a “suprise” (Sup-ree-zuh). After the gifts and poems most Dutchies go on to set up a Christmas tree, visit some Christmas markets or wear jingle sweaters, before preparing the holiday meal and celebrating Christmas shortly after.

christmas-process-graph-dutch

After all the delicious foods, consisting of various combinations of brunch, snacks, and a special Christmas dinner, most Dutchies will celebrate the day after Christmas (“Tweede kerstdag”) before entering the hallowed interim period. In the time leading up to New Years eve, they snack on another lowland delicacy – Oliebollen, before celebrating the New Year. Literally “oil balls” – these varyingly delicious doughnuts are sometimes made with raisins and unvaryingly served with powdered sugar.

Here comes the interesting part: if we inverse the filter, we see how the non-dutch folk celebrate. There seems to be more diversity: only one non-dutch participant celebrated Sinterklaas and one participant even celebrated Christmas twice! At first glance it seemed more than a little unusual, so I did a little digging. It turns out that for those of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January rather than the 25th of December. This is because, for religious events, they use the old Julian calendar, rather than the now common Gregorian calendar. This particular person is highly integrated into Dutch culture, so rather than pick one or the other, they do both! I wonder how one would become Eastern Orthodox….?

christmas-process-graph-foreign

In general, the non-dutch folk in our sample followed a more internationally recognizable pattern. Gift exchange on the 25th (rather than the 5th), far less kruidnoten and oliebollen (with exceptions), and a greater proportion of the non-dutch folk look forward to make new years resolutions. All these qualitative insights from an incredibly limited dataset!

It is important to note, of course, that quantitative analysis with process mining software goes much further than this. With the millions of data points available to corporate clients, we can do much more thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis with process mining. One could investigate differences in supply chain logistics between operations in different continents, tailoring optimization efforts for a bespoke fit, or investigate differences in middle management practices in various countries – combining cultural awareness with factual data analysis to save costs and reduce risk.

In any case, we at ProcessGold had fun analyzing our Christmas processes. We look forward to time with family and the closest of friends, and wish you all Happy Holidays, and a fruitful New Year.

jorim-theunsJorim Theuns, Marketing Trainee @ProcessGold