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Faculty of Computer Science Students Take Gold at BPI Challenge 2017

Elizaveta Povalyaeva, Artem Fomenko and Ismail Khamitov, fourth-year students of Software Engineering, took first place in the student category at the BPI Challenge 2017, a business process analysis competition. They presented their solution at the 13th International Workshop on Business Process Intelligence 2017 and are the first students from Russia to participate in the event and win, with the highest-ever number of projects participating in the competition.

As part of the competition, the researchers had to analyze the event logs from a Dutch credit bank information system, and find ways to improve the company’s business processes. The research process, results and recommendations were included in a report paper.

In your presentation, you said that companies have a trend to raise the bar in client service, and have just moved it up yourselves as part of BPIC.

Boudewijn van Dongen
Associate Professor, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven

The team members share their impressions of the competition below.

— How did you learn about the challenge and why did you decide to go for it?

— As third-year students, we attended a research seminar on Process-Aware Information Systems by Irina Lomazova. Among other things, the seminar analyzed BPI Challenge cases from past years. This is how we got some practical experience in business process analysis, and we thought, ‘why not take part ourselves?’ As a result of the seminar work, our student team evolved.

How did you work on the solution of BPI Challenge 2017?

— We had depersonalized event logs from an information system for the whole 2016. The logs contain tracks of credit offers and credit grants. The process steps are accompanied with such information as date and time, the purpose of the credit, ID of the service staff member or robot, the sum requested, the sum offered, the result ID (offer confirmed, declined, or cancelled), and other indicators. This is quite a big volume of data. When we first faced it, we asked ourselves, ‘where do we start from?’. What is the purpose of the analysis? At BPIC, our result is supposed to include some recommendations which would be valuable for the business and based on the analysis of business process efficiency from the event log.

We tried to understand the process (logics, capacity and bottlenecks) in our solution, though a thorough analysis of the log and communication with the company representatives. After we understood the process, we detected its specific features for investigation. We focused on the questions suggested by this year’s BPI Challenge, and complemented them with our observations. Our conclusion was that it was necessary to improve the quality of client relations.

What knowledge and skills did you need for participation?

— We used Process Mining approaches, which we learned at the seminar, and also courses in data analysis, machine learning, and mathematical statistics turned out to be very useful. We were lucky to have got all that knowledge at HSE. Alexey Mitsyuk, Research Fellow at the Laboratory of Process-Aware Information Systems (PAIS Lab), also helped us and advised on what areas to choose to investigate, and what to focus on in the data analysis. Alexey also helped us to formulate our report correctly as an applied research paper.

How did you win?

— To win the competition, one not only has to analyze data and detect some important trends and regularities, but to explain them correctly, as well as to write brief recommendations for improving the company’s business processes. It looks like we managed to detect more interesting trends than the other participants, and our recommendations turned out to be useful.

How do you evaluate the opportunity to use these outcomes in practice?

— This event is a purely practical experience of business process analysis, since the event logs are submitted by a real company. And this same company already provided its data back in 2012. It looks like the data they received as part of this research was helpful, and they wanted more.

What will this conference be remembered for?

— Process mining is rapidly developing today as a research area, and the annual BPM Conference brings together researchers and company representatives in the beginning of September. We’ll remember this conference thanks to the exchange of experience and ideas, presentations of new methods and tools, meetings of the IEEE CIS Task Force on Process mining, and debates on future areas of development in business process management. For us, it was the first experience of taking part in such events. And we were the only undergraduate students there.

What are your further plans?

— Process mining is an area that hasn’t been widely applied in Russia yet. Foreign companies are making attempts to implement it, and those who have done this are already enjoying its advantages. We are planning to continue our research (as part of PAIS Lab and research seminars), and to look at opportunities to implement this technology in Russian businesses.

By the way, next year, the conference will take place in Sydney, Australia. And this is a great motivation to take part.

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