“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Introduction

The famous English adage still holds true today and has been one of the spear points for process mining and BI in general.  

According to the latest findings, a human brain can process an image in 13 milliseconds (fastest), while it takes significantly more time to go through the text.

It becomes increasingly crucial as we start working with large volumes of data – a picture allows a human brain to easily understand large volumes of data and draw conclusions from it.

Despite this fact, an image is just a static representation of information and it might not give you the precise knowledge you are looking for. Especially if you are about to deep dive into the operational processes of your organization – one image is not enough. 

This is where visual communications come into play, transforming raw data into coherent visuals that allow the human brain to recognize information in a quick and straightforward manner.

Visualization in Process Mining

The entire process mining technology is based on 2 major data processing steps that are performed all the time:

  1. Process model generation. The actual mathematical model of your process.
  2. The layout engine (or layout algorithm) application. This is what brings that model on a screen and gives it a shape.

And that’s process mining.

We can apply the same image principle mentioned above for process mining. As soon as the data is processed, the need for its visualization arises.

Event logs hold valuable information about the health of business processes. In order to reach this information, raw data must be transformed into a comprehensible format. Process mining tools use various diagrams to support the visual exploration of process logs. Designing such diagrams is not an easy task because oftentimes neither the developer nor user knows where interesting or intriguing information lays. (Marit Sirgmets, University of Tartu)

DOT – traditional layout algorithm

As a visualization-focused company, ProcessGold team is striving to provide the best visuals of process models, which would deliver the maximum usability to the process analysts.

The team has started exploring the market and found out that the industry is using the same visualization algorithm – DOT graph description language. The layout algorithm developed in 1988 has been widely used by the process mining software companies for years.

Despite its strong market reputation, this layout algorithm has several disadvantages:

  1. DOT doesn’t look at the event log but only considers how activities are connected – it doesn’t provide all the information;
  2. It’s limited to creating a snapshot of the process based on the information given at that moment, although it delivers a good picture of the process with minimal cross lines;
  3. Any extra tiny change in your process will give a completely different look of the process graph. DOT algorithm makes a completely new snapshot that doesn’t consider the model information;
  4. You need extra tools, like animation, to track the changes, since DOT algorithm doesn’t allow to see them correctly.

dot-process-algorithm

Overall, the DOT algorithm is very suitable for a so-called point-to-point process. Still, it is challenged by processes that cross system and team lines, with many handoff points.

These traditional graphs might look simple, however, they do not show an accurate and easy to read the picture of process complexity, and real-time process changes.

TRACY – Creating the algorithm of the future

Our team strives to simplify the graph visualization on our platform and the user interaction that goes with it. Indeed, always seeking for ways of improvement, the team aims at a higher efficiency to users which includes the layout algorithm development too.

We believe, that simplified visual data representation allows users to analyze complex datasets and draw conclusions that you couldn’t draw otherwise, and much faster than before. 

As the biggest feature of the ProcessGold 16 release, we have proudly introduced the TRACY algorithm. Or how the teams loves to call it: “The layout engine that makes sense”.

TRACY was created from scratch by ProcessGold team as a research project in cooperation with the TUe university – home of process mining technology. As a matter of fact, TRACY is one of the few research projects that got to be applied to the industrial production making a big impact in a relatively short term.

The journey of TRACY started 1.5 years ago when the team realized there were tons of research papers written on process mining algorithms, but not on the visualization.

This was an opportunity.

Furthermore, ProcessGold Head of Research R. Scheepens and Non-Executive Director E.J. van der Linden have published a whitepaper giving insights on this novel algorithm from a scientific perspective.

Consequently, TRACY layout algorithm has officially acquired a patent-pending technology status, which gives promising prospects of its regular use across the industry in the nearest future.

How does TRACY work?

TRACY uses the whole event log information from your process to provide a more stable layout.

tracy-process-layout

1. It makes sense

The algorithm looks at the whole event log and tries to understand how the entire process was formed. It brings earlier activities to the top of the process model, and those happening later – to the bottom.

The resulting layout looks similar to how you would draw the process by hand and therefore is easier to understand.

It’s obviously making sense, but somehow nobody thought of it before.

2. TRACY keeps your graphs stable

TRACY also keeps the graph stable over changes in selection. This means that the overall shape will stay the same all the time and you will always be able to detect core activities.

The process shape is equivalent all the time, so the mental map of the process is always the same, no matter how you look at it, or which changes you make.

Which leads us to the next advantage – animation.

3. TRACY is animated

When you change your selections, the graph changes seamlessly from one stage to anotherBecause of the stable layout, the resulting changes are minimal compared to before. 

In addition, a very functional algorithm animates the changes, so a user can go stage to stage. Thus animation lets you see where the changes were applied and how it affects the workflow from one stage to another.

4. Fast. Simply fast.

We have tested the speed of both algorithms – DOT and TRACY and made sure that TRACY is significantly faster.

The process size can be twice the size of what it used to be, with much more details in it, more precise insights, and still faster than the traditional layout engine.

Conclusion

TRACY algorithm is already integrated into ProcessGold platform in its’ latest ApplicationOne version, therefore all the users are now able to go through the visual process model quicker and more efficient.

Again, there are no more messy curves or unaligned activities – what you actually see now on the screen is how you imagine the process in your head.

Now, isn’t it great?

If you would like to see TRACY in action, go ahead and contact our team, or simply fill up the form for a demo version.

Happy mining!

Daliya Khussainova, Content Marketer @ProcessGold