CAP Theorem

Understanding databases for storing, updating and analyzing data requires the understanding of the CAP Theorem. This is the second article of the article series Data Warehousing Basics.

Understanding NoSQL Databases by the CAP Theorem

CAP theorem – or Brewer’s theorem – was introduced by the computer scientist Eric Brewer at Symposium on Principles of Distributed computing in 2000. The CAP stands for Consistency, Availability and Partition tolerance.

  • Consistency: Every read receives the most recent writes or an error. Once a client writes a value to any server and gets a response, it is expected to get afresh and valid value back from any server or node of the database cluster it reads from.
    Be aware that the definition of consistency for CAP means something different than to ACID (relational consistency).
  • Availability: The database is not allowed to be unavailable because it is busy with requests. Every request received by a non-failing node in the system must result in a response. Whether you want to read or write you will get some response back. If the server has not crashed, it is not allowed to ignore the client’s requests.
  • Partition tolerance: Databases which store big data will use a cluster of nodes that distribute the connections evenly over the whole cluster. If this system has partition tolerance, it will continue to operate despite a number of messages being delayed or even lost by the network between the cluster nodes.

CAP theorem applies the logic that  for a distributed system it is only possible to simultaneously provide  two out of the above three guarantees. Eric Brewer, the father of the CAP theorem, proved that we are limited to two of three characteristics, “by explicitly handling partitions, designers can optimize consistency and availability, thereby achieving some trade-off of all three.” (Brewer, E., 2012).

CAP Theorem Triangle

To recap, with the CAP theorem in relation to Big Data distributed solutions (such as NoSQL databases), it is important to reiterate the fact, that in such distributed systems it is not possible to guarantee all three characteristics (Availability, Consistency, and Partition Tolerance) at the same time.

Database systems designed to fulfill traditional ACID guarantees like relational database (management) systems (RDBMS) choose consistency over availability, whereas NoSQL databases are mostly systems designed referring to the BASE philosophy which prefer availability over consistency.

The CAP Theorem in the real world

Lets look at some examples to understand the CAP Theorem further and provewe cannot create database systems which are being consistent, partition tolerant as well as always available simultaniously.

AP – Availability + Partition Tolerance

If we have achieved Availability (our databases will always respond to our requests) as well as Partition Tolerance (all nodes of the database will work even if they cannot communicate), it will immediately mean that we cannot provide Consistency as all nodes will go out of sync as soon as we write new information to one of the nodes. The nodes will continue to accept the database transactions each separately, but they cannot transfer the transaction between each other keeping them in synchronization. We therefore cannot fully guarantee the system consistency. When the partition is resolved, the AP databases typically resync the nodes to repair all inconsistencies in the system.

A well-known real world example of an AP system is the Domain Name System (DNS). This central network component is responsible for resolving domain names into IP addresses and focuses on the two properties of availability and failure tolerance. Thanks to the large number of servers, the system is available almost without exception. If a single DNS server fails,another one takes over. According to the CAP theorem, DNS is not consistent: If a DNS entry is changed, e.g. when a new domain has been registered or deleted, it can take a few days before this change is passed on to the entire system hierarchy and can be seen by all clients.

CA – Consistency + Availability

Guarantee of full Consistency and Availability is practically impossible to achieve in a system which distributes data over several nodes. We can have databases over more than one node online and available, and we keep the data consistent between these nodes, but the nature of computer networks (LAN, WAN) is that the connection can get interrupted, meaning we cannot guarantee the Partition Tolerance and therefor not the reliability of having the whole database service online at all times.

Database management systems based on the relational database models (RDBMS) are a good example of CA systems. These database systems are primarily characterized by a high level of consistency and strive for the highest possible availability. In case of doubt, however, availability can decrease in favor of consistency. Reliability by distributing data over partitions in order to make data reachable in any case – even if computer or network failure – meanwhile plays a subordinate role.

CP – Consistency + Partition Tolerance

If the Consistency of data is given – which means that the data between two or more nodes always contain the up-to-date information – and Partition Tolerance is given as well – which means that we are avoiding any desynchronization of our data between all nodes, then we will lose Availability as soon as only one a partition occurs between any two nodes In most distributed systems, high availability is one of the most important properties, which is why CP systems tend to be a rarity in practice. These systems prove their worth particularly in the financial sector: banking applications that must reliably debit and transfer amounts of money on the account side are dependent on consistency and reliability by consistent redundancies to always be able to rule out incorrect postings – even in the event of disruptions in the data traffic. If consistency and reliability is not guaranteed, the system might be unavailable for the users.

CAP Theorem Venn Diagram

Conclusion

The CAP Theorem is still an important topic to understand for data engineers and data scientists, but many modern databases enable us to switch between the possibilities within the CAP Theorem. For example, the Cosmos DB von Microsoft Azure offers many granular options to switch between the consistency, availability and partition tolerance . A common misunderstanding of the CAP theorem that it´s none-absoluteness: “All three properties are more continuous than binary. Availability is continuous from 0 to 100 percent, there are many levels of consistency, and even partitions have nuances. Exploring these nuances requires pushing the traditional way of dealing with partitions, which is the fundamental challenge. Because partitions are rare, CAP should allow perfect C and A most of the time, but when partitions are present or perceived, a strategy is in order.” (Brewer, E., 2012).

ACID vs BASE Concepts

Understanding databases for storing, updating and analyzing data requires the understanding of two concepts: ACID and BASE. This is the first article of the article series Data Warehousing Basics.

The properties of ACID are being applied for databases in order to fulfill enterprise requirements of reliability and consistency.

ACID is an acronym, and stands for:

  • Atomicity – Each transaction is either properly executed completely or does not happen at all. If the transaction was not finished the process reverts the database back to the state before the transaction started. This ensures that all data in the database is valid even if we execute big transactions which include multiple statements (e. g. SQL) composed into one transaction updating many data rows in the database. If one statement fails, the entire transaction will be aborted, and hence, no changes will be made.
  • Consistency – Databases are governed by specific rules defined by table formats (data types) and table relations as well as further functions like triggers. The consistency of data will stay reliable if transactions never endanger the structural integrity of the database. Therefor, it is not allowed to save data of different types into the same single column, to use written primary key values again or to delete data from a table which is strictly related to data in another table.
  • Isolation – Databases are multi-user systems where multiple transactions happen at the same time. With Isolation, transactions cannot compromise the integrity of other transactions by interacting with them while they are still in progress. It guarantees data tables will be in the same states with several transactions happening concurrently as they happen sequentially.
  • Durability – The data related to the completed transaction will persist even in cases of network or power outages. Databases that guarante Durability save data inserted or updated permanently, save all executed and planed transactions in a recording and ensure availability of the data committed via transaction even after a power failure or other system failures If a transaction fails to complete successfully because of a technical failure, it will not transform the targeted data.

ACID Databases

The ACID transaction model ensures that all performed transactions will result in reliable and consistent databases. This suits best for businesses which use OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) for IT-Systems such like ERP- or CRM-Systems. Furthermore, it can also be a good choice for OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) which is used in Data Warehouses. These applications need backend database systems which can handle many small- or medium-sized transactions occurring simultaneous by many users. An interrupted transaction with write-access must be removed from the database immediately as it could cause negative side effects impacting the consistency(e.g., vendors could be deleted although they still have open purchase orders or financial payments could be debited from one account and due to technical failure, never credited to another).

The speed of the querying should be as fast as possible, but even more important for those applications is zero tolerance for invalid states which is prevented by using ACID-conform databases.

BASE Concept

ACID databases have their advantages but also one big tradeoff: If all transactions need to be committed and checked for consistency correctly, the databases are slow in reading and writing data. Furthermore, they demand more effort if it comes to storing new data in new formats.

In chemistry, a base is the opposite to acid. The database concepts of BASE and ACID have a similar relationship. The BASE concept provides several benefits over ACID compliant databases asthey focus more intensely on data availability of database systems without guarantee of safety from network failures or inconsistency.

The acronym BASE is even more confusing than ACID as BASE relates to ACID indirectly. The words behind BASE suggest alternatives to ACID.

BASE stands for:

  • Basically Available – Rather than enforcing consistency in any case, BASE databases will guarantee availability of data by spreading and replicating it across the nodes of the database cluster. Basic read and write functionality is provided without liabilityfor consistency. In rare cases it could happen that an insert- or update-statement does not result in persistently stored data. Read queries might not provide the latest data.
  • Soft State – Databases following this concept do not check rules to stay write-consistent or mutually consistent. The user can toss all data into the database, delegating the responsibility of avoiding inconsistency or redundancy to developers or users.
  • Eventually Consistent –No guarantee of enforced immediate consistency does not mean that the database never achieves it. The database can become consistent over time. After a waiting period, updates will ripple through all cluster nodes of the database. However, reading data out of it will stay always be possible, it is just not certain if we always get the last refreshed data.

All the three above mentioned properties of BASE-conforming databases sound like disadvantages. So why would you choose BASE? There is a tradeoff compared to ACID. If databases do not have to follow ACID properties then the database can work much faster in terms of writing and reading from the database. Further, the developers have more freedom to implement data storage solutions or simplify data entry into the database without thinking about formats and structure beforehand.

BASE Databases

While ACID databases are mostly RDBMS, most other database types, known as NoSQL databases, tend more to conform to BASE principles. Redis, CouchDB, MongoDB, Cosmos DB, Cassandra, ElasticSearch, Neo4J, OrientDB or ArangoDB are just some popular examples. But other than ACID, BASE is not a strict approach. Some NoSQL databases apply at least partly to ACID rules or provide optional functions to get almost or even full ACID compatibility. These databases provide different level of freedom which can be useful for the Staging Layer in Data Warehouses or as a Data Lake, but they are not the recommended choice for applications which need data environments guaranteeing strict consistency.

Data Warehousing Basiscs

Data Warehousing is applied Big Data Management and a key success factor in almost every company. Without a data warehouse, no company today can control its processes and make the right decisions on a strategic level as there would be a lack of data transparency for all decision makers. Bigger comanies even have multiple data warehouses for different purposes.

In this series of articles I would like to explain what a data warehouse actually is and how it is set up. However, I would also like to explain basic topics regarding Data Engineering and concepts about databases and data flows.

To do this, we tick off the following points step by step:

 

Six properties of modern Business Intelligence

Regardless of the industry in which you operate, you need information systems that evaluate your business data in order to provide you with a basis for decision-making. These systems are commonly referred to as so-called business intelligence (BI). In fact, most BI systems suffer from deficiencies that can be eliminated. In addition, modern BI can partially automate decisions and enable comprehensive analyzes with a high degree of flexibility in use.


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“Sechs Eigenschaften einer modernen Business Intelligence“


Let us discuss the six characteristics that distinguish modern business intelligence, which mean taking technical tricks into account in detail, but always in the context of a great vision for your own company BI:

1. Uniform database of high quality

Every managing director certainly knows the situation that his managers do not agree on how many costs and revenues actually arise in detail and what the margins per category look like. And if they do, this information is often only available months too late.

Every company has to make hundreds or even thousands of decisions at the operational level every day, which can be made much more well-founded if there is good information and thus increase sales and save costs. However, there are many source systems from the company’s internal IT system landscape as well as other external data sources. The gathering and consolidation of information often takes up entire groups of employees and offers plenty of room for human error.

A system that provides at least the most relevant data for business management at the right time and in good quality in a trusted data zone as a single source of truth (SPOT). SPOT is the core of modern business intelligence.

In addition, other data on BI may also be made available which can be useful for qualified analysts and data scientists. For all decision-makers, the particularly trustworthy zone is the one through which all decision-makers across the company can synchronize.

2. Flexible use by different stakeholders

Even if all employees across the company should be able to access central, trustworthy data, with a clever architecture this does not exclude that each department receives its own views of this data. Many BI systems fail due to company-wide inacceptance because certain departments or technically defined employee groups are largely excluded from BI.

Modern BI systems enable views and the necessary data integration for all stakeholders in the company who rely on information and benefit equally from the SPOT approach.

3. Efficient ways to expand (time to market)

The core users of a BI system are particularly dissatisfied when the expansion or partial redesign of the information system requires too much of patience. Historically grown, incorrectly designed and not particularly adaptable BI systems often employ a whole team of IT staff and tickets with requests for change requests.

Good BI is a service for stakeholders with a short time to market. The correct design, selection of software and the implementation of data flows / models ensures significantly shorter development and implementation times for improvements and new features.

Furthermore, it is not only the technology that is decisive, but also the choice of organizational form, including the design of roles and responsibilities – from the technical system connection to data preparation, pre-analysis and support for the end users.

4. Integrated skills for Data Science and AI

Business intelligence and data science are often viewed and managed separately from each other. Firstly, because data scientists are often unmotivated to work with – from their point of view – boring data models and prepared data. On the other hand, because BI is usually already established as a traditional system in the company, despite the many problems that BI still has today.

Data science, often referred to as advanced analytics, deals with deep immersion in data using exploratory statistics and methods of data mining (unsupervised machine learning) as well as predictive analytics (supervised machine learning). Deep learning is a sub-area of ​​machine learning and is used for data mining or predictive analytics. Machine learning is a sub-area of ​​artificial intelligence (AI).

In the future, BI and data science or AI will continue to grow together, because at the latest after going live, the prediction models flow back into business intelligence. BI will probably develop into ABI (Artificial Business Intelligence). However, many companies are already using data mining and predictive analytics in the company, using uniform or different platforms with or without BI integration.

Modern BI systems also offer data scientists a platform to access high-quality and more granular raw data.

5. Sufficiently high performance

Most readers of these six points will probably have had experience with slow BI before. It takes several minutes to load a daily report to be used in many classic BI systems. If loading a dashboard can be combined with a little coffee break, it may still be acceptable for certain reports from time to time. At the latest, however, with frequent use, long loading times and unreliable reports are no longer acceptable.

One reason for poor performance is the hardware, which can be almost linearly scaled to higher data volumes and more analysis complexity using cloud systems. The use of cloud also enables the modular separation of storage and computing power from data and applications and is therefore generally recommended, but not necessarily the right choice for all companies.

In fact, performance is not only dependent on the hardware, the right choice of software and the right choice of design for data models and data flows also play a crucial role. Because while hardware can be changed or upgraded relatively easily, changing the architecture is associated with much more effort and BI competence. Unsuitable data models or data flows will certainly bring the latest hardware to its knees in its maximum configuration.

6. Cost-effective use and conclusion

Professional cloud systems that can be used for BI systems offer total cost calculators, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. With these computers – with instruction from an experienced BI expert – not only can costs for the use of hardware be estimated, but ideas for cost optimization can also be calculated. Nevertheless, the cloud is still not the right solution for every company and classic calculations for on-premise solutions are necessary.

Incidentally, cost efficiency can also be increased with a good selection of the right software. Because proprietary solutions are tied to different license models and can only be compared using application scenarios. Apart from that, there are also good open source solutions that can be used largely free of charge and can be used for many applications without compromises.

However, it is wrong to assess the cost of a BI only according to its hardware and software costs. A significant part of cost efficiency is complementary to the aspects for the performance of the BI system, because suboptimal architectures work wastefully and require more expensive hardware than neatly coordinated architectures. The production of the central data supply in adequate quality can save many unnecessary processes of data preparation and many flexible analysis options also make redundant systems unnecessary and lead to indirect savings.

In any case, a BI for companies with many operational processes is always cheaper than no BI. However, if you take a closer look with BI expertise, cost efficiency is often possible.

Scaling Up Your Process Management

Any new business faces questions: have we found the right product/market fit? Does the business model work? Have we got enough money to keep the doors open? Typically, new businesses are focused on staying afloat, meaning anything that isn’t immediately relevant to that goal is left until later—whenever that might be!   


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Machen Sie mehr aus Ihrem Prozessmanagement


However, most businesses soon realize that staying afloat means finding the most efficient way to deliver their products or services to customers. As a result, the way a business functions starts to move into focus, with managers and staff looking to achieve the same outcome, in the same way, over and over. The quickest route to this? Establishing efficient processes. 

Once a business has clarified the responsibilities of all staff, and identified their business process framework, they are better able to minimize waste and errors, avoid misunderstandings, reduce the number of questions asked during the day-to-day business, and generally operate more smoothly and at a greater pace.

Expanding your business with process management

Of course, no new business wants to remain new for long—becoming firmly established is the immediate goal, with a focus on expansion to follow, leading to new markets, new customers, and increased profitability. Effectively outlining processes takes on even more importance when companies seek to expand. Take recruitment and onboarding, for example. 

Ad hoc employment processes may work for a start-up, but a small business looking to take the next step needs to introduce new staff members frequently and ensure they have the right information to get started immediately. The solution is a documented, scalable, and repeatable process that can be carried out as many times as needed, no matter the location or the role being filled. 

When new staff are employed, they’ll need to know how their new workplace actually functions. Once again, a clear process framework means all the daily processes needed are accessible to all staff, no matter where the employee is based. As the business grows, more and more people will come on board, each with their own skills, and very likely their own ideas and suggestions about how the business could be improved… 

Collaborative process management

Capturing the wisdom of the crowd is also a crucial factor in a successful business—ensuring all employees have a chance to contribute to improving the way the company operates. In a business with an effective process modeling framework, this means providing all staff with the capability to design and model processes themselves. 

Traditionally, business process modeling is a task for the management or particular experts, but this is an increasingly outdated view. Nobody wants to pass up the valuable knowledge of individuals; after all, the more knowledge there is available about a process, the more efficiently the processes can be modeled and optimized. Using a single source of process truth for the entire organization means companies can promote collaborative and transparent working environments, leading to happier staff, more efficient work, and better overall outcomes for the business. 

Collaborative process management helps to grow organizations avoid cumbersome, time-consuming email chains, or sifting through folders for the latest version of documents, as well as any number of other hand brakes on growth. 

Instead, process content can be created and shared by anyone, any time, helping drive a company’s digital and cloud strategies, enhance investigations and process optimization efforts, and support next-gen business transformation initiatives. In short, this radical transparency can serve as the jumping-off point for the next stage of a company’s growth. 

Want to find out more about professional process management? Read our White Paper 7-Step Guide to Effective Business Transformation!

Seeing the Big Picture: Combining Enterprise Architecture with Process Management

Ever tried watching a 3D movie without those cool glasses people like to take home? Two hours of blurred flashing images is no-one’s idea of fun. But with the right equipment, you get an immersive experience, with realistic, clear, and focused images popping out of the screen. In the same way, the right enterprise architecture brings the complex structure of an organization into focus.

We know that IT environments in today’s modern businesses consist of a growing number of highly complex, interconnected, and often difficult-to-manage IT systems. Balancing customer service and efficiency imperatives associated with social, mobile, cloud, and big data technologies, along with effective day-to-day IT functions and support, can often feel like an insurmountable challenge.

Enterprise architecture can help organizations achieve this balance, all while managing risk, optimizing costs, and implementing innovations. Its main aim is to support reform and transformation programs. To do this, enterprise architecture relies on the accuracy of an enterprise’s complex data systems, and takes into account changing standards, regulations, and strategic business demands.

Components of effective enterprise architecture

In general, most widely accepted enterprise architecture frameworks consist of four interdependent domains:

  • Business Architecture

A blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization, and used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands. An example would be representing business processes using business process management notation.

  • Data Architecture

The domain that shows the dependencies and connections between an organization’s data, rules, models, and standards.

  • Applications Architecture

The layer that shows a company’s complete set of software solutions and their relationships with each other.

  • Infrastructure Architecture

Positioned at the lowest level, this component shows the relationships and connections of an organization’s existing hardware solutions.

Effective EA implementation means employees within a business can build a clear understanding of the way their company’s IT systems execute their specific work processes, as well as how they interact and relate to each other. It allows users to identify and analyze application and business performance, with the goal of enabling underperforming IT systems to be promptly and efficiently managed.

In short, EA helps businesses answer questions like:

  • Which IT systems are in use, and where, and by whom?
  • Which business processes relate to which IT systems?
  • Who is responsible for which IT systems?
  • How well are privacy protection requirements upheld?
  • Which server is each application run on?

The same questions, shifted slightly to refer to business processes rather than IT systems, are what drive enterprise-level business process management as well. Is it any wonder the two disciplines go together like popcorn and a good movie?

Combining enterprise architecture with process management

Successful business/IT alignment involves effectively leveraging an organization’s IT to achieve company goals and requirements. Standardized language and images (like flow charts and graphs) are often helpful in fostering mutual understanding between highly technical IT services and the business side of an organization.

In the same way, combining EA with collaborative business process management establishes a common language throughout a company. Once this common ground is established, misunderstandings can be avoided, and the business then has the freedom to pursue organizational or technical transformation goals effectively.

At this point, strengthened links between management, IT specialists, and a process-aware workforce mean more informed decisions become the norm. A successful pairing of process management, enterprise architecture, and IT gives insight into how changes in any one area impact the others, ultimately resulting in a clearer understanding of how the organization actually functions. This translates into an easier path to optimized business processes, and therefore a corresponding improvement in customer satisfaction.

Effective enterprise architecture provides greater transparency inside IT teams, and allows for efficient management of IT systems and their respective interfaces. Along with planning continual IT landscape development, EA supports strategic development of an organization’s structure, just as process management does.

Combining the two leads to a quantum leap in the efficiency and effectiveness of IT systems and business processes, and locks them into a mutually-reinforcing cycle of optimization, meaning improvements will continue over time. Both user communities can contribute to creating a better understanding using a common tool, and the synergy created from joining EA and business process management adds immediate value by driving positive changes company-wide.

Want to find out more? Put on your 3D glasses, and test your EA initiatives with Signavio! Sign up for your free 30-day trial of the Signavio Business Transformation Suite today.

Process Paradise by the Dashboard Light

The right questions drive business success. Questions like, “How can I make sure my product is the best of its kind?” “How can I get the edge over my competitors?” and “How can I keep growing my organization?” Modern businesses take their questions further, focusing on the details of how they actually function. At this level, the questions become, “How can I make my business as efficient as possible?” “How can I improve the way my company does business?” and even, “Why aren’t my company’s processes working as they should?”


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Mit Dashboards zur Prozessoptimierung


To discover the answers to these questions (and many others!), more and more businesses are turning to process mining. Process mining helps organizations unlock hidden value by automatically collecting information on process models from across the different IT systems operating within a business. This allows for continuous monitoring of an organization’s end-to-end process landscape, meaning managers and staff gain specific operational insights into potential risks—as well as ongoing improvement opportunities.

However, process mining is not a silver bullet that turns data into insights at the push of a button. Process mining software is simply a tool that produces information, which then must be analyzed and acted upon by real people. For this to happen, the information produced must be available to decision-makers in an understandable format.

For most process mining tools, the emphasis remains on the sophistication of analysis capabilities, with the resulting data needing to be interpreted by a select group of experts or specialists within an organization. This necessarily creates a delay between the data being produced, the analysis completed, and actions taken in response.

Process mining software that supports a more collaborative approach by reducing the need for specific expertise can help bridge this gap. Only if hypotheses, analysis, and discoveries are shared, discussed, and agreed upon with a wide range of people can really meaningful insights be generated.

Of course, process mining software is currently capable of generating standardized reports and readouts, but in a business environment where the pace of change is constantly increasing, this may not be sufficient for very much longer. For truly effective process mining, the secret to success will be anticipating challenges and opportunities, then dealing with them as they arise in real time.

Dashboards of the future

To think about how process mining could improve, let’s consider an analog example. Technology evolves to make things easier—think of the difference between keeping track of expenditure using a written ledger vs. an electronic spreadsheet. Now imagine the spreadsheet could tell you exactly when you needed to read it, and where to start, as well as alerting you to errors and omissions before you were even aware you’d made them.

Advances in process mining make this sort of enhanced assistance possible for businesses seeking to improve the way they work. With the right process mining software, companies can build tailored operational cockpits that unite real-time operational data with process management. This allows for the usual continuous monitoring of individual processes and outcomes, but it also offers even clearer insights into an organization’s overall process health.

Combining process mining with an organization’s existing process models in the right way turns these models from static representations of the way a particular process operates, into dynamic dashboards that inform, guide and warn managers and staff about problems in real time. And remember, dynamic doesn’t have to mean distracting—the right process mining software cuts into your processes to reveal an all-new analytical layer of process transparency, making things easier to understand, not harder.

As a result, business transformation initiatives and other improvement plans and can be adapted and restructured on the go, while decision-makers can create automated messages to immediately be advised of problems and guided to where the issues are occurring, allowing corrective action to be completed faster than ever. This rapid evaluation and response across any process inefficiencies will help organizations save time and money by improving wasted cycle times, locating bottlenecks, and uncovering non-compliance across their entire process landscape.

Dynamic dashboards with Signavio

To see for yourself how the most modern and advanced process mining software can help you reveal actionable insights into the way your business works, give Signavio Process Intelligence a try. With Signavio’s Live Insights, all your process information can be visualized in one place, represented through a traffic light system. Simply decide which processes and which activities within them you want to monitor or understand, place the indicators, choose the thresholds, and let Signavio Process Intelligence connect your process models to the data.

Banish multiple tabs and confusing layouts, amaze your colleagues and managers with fact-based insights to support your business transformation, and reduce the time it takes to deliver value from your process management initiatives. To find out more about Signavio Process Intelligence, or sign up for a free 30-day trial, visit www.signavio.com/try.

Process mining is a powerful analysis tool, giving you the visibility, quantifiable numbers, and information you need to improve your business processes. Would you like to read more? With this guide to managing successful process mining initiatives, you will learn that how to get started, how to get the right people on board, and the right project approach.

How to Ensure Data Quality in an Organization?

Introduction to Data Quality

Today, the world is filled with data. It is everywhere. And, the value of any organization can be measured by the quality of its data. So, what actually is the quality of data or data quality, and why is it important? Well, data quality refers to the capability of a set of data to serve an intended purpose. 

Data quality is important to any organization because it provides timely and accurate information to manage accountability and services. It also helps to ensure and prioritize the best use of resources. Thus, high-quality data will lead to appropriate insights and valuable information for any organization. We can evaluate the quality of data in certain aspects. They include accuracy, relevancy, completeness, and uniqueness. 

Data Quality Problems

As the organizations are collecting vast amounts of data, managing its quality becomes more important every single day. In the year 2016, the costs of problems caused due to poor data quality were estimated by IBM, and it turned out to be $3.1 trillion across the U.S economy. Also, a Forrester report has stated that almost 30 percent of analysts spend 40 percent of their time validating and vetting their data prior to its utilization for strategic decision-making. These statistics indicate that the scale of the problems with data quality is vast.

So, why do these data quality problems occur? The main reasons include manual entry of data, software updates, integration of data sources, skills shortages, and insufficient testing time. Wrong decisions can be taken due to poor data management processes and poor quality of data. Because of this, many organizations lose their clients and customers. So, ensuring data quality must be given utmost importance in an organization. 

How to Ensure Data Quality?

Data quality management helps by combining data, technology, and organizational culture to deliver useful and accurate results. Good management of data quality builds a foundation for all the initiatives of a business. Now, let’s see how we can improve the data quality in an organization.

The first aspect of improving the quality of data is monitoring and cleansing data. This verifies data against standard statistical measures, validates data against matching descriptions, and uncovers relationships. This also checks the uniqueness of data and analyzes the data for its reusability. 

The second one is managing metadata centrally. Multiple people gather and clean data very often and they may work in different countries or offices. Therefore, you require clear policies on how data is gathered and managed as people in different parts of a company may misinterpret certain data terms and concepts. Centralized management of metadata is the solution to this problem as it reduces inconsistent interpretations and helps in establishing corporate standards.  

The next one is to ensure all the requirements are available and offer documentation for data processors and data providers. You have to format the specifications and offer a data dictionary and also provide training for the providers of data and all other new staff. Make sure you offer immediate help for all the data providers.

Very often, data is gathered from different sources and may include distinct spelling options. Hence, segmentation, scoring, smart lists, and many others are impacted by this. So, for entering a data point, a singular approach is essential, and data normalization provides this approach. The goal of this approach is to eliminate redundancy in data. Its advantages include easier object-to-data mapping and increased consistency.

The last aspect is to verify whether the data is consistent with the data rules and business goals, and this has to be done at regular intervals. You have to communicate the current status and data quality metrics to every stakeholder regularly to ensure the maintenance of data quality discipline across the organization.

Conclusion

Data quality is a continuous process but not a one-time project which needs the entire company to be data-focused and data-driven. It is much more than reliability and accuracy. High level of data quality can be achieved when the decision-makers have confidence in data and rely upon it. Follow the above-mentioned steps to ensure a high level of data quality in your organization. 

The Power of Analyzing Processes

Are you thinking BIG enough? Over the past few years, the quality of discussion regarding a ‘process’ and its interfaces between different departments has developed radically. Organizations increasingly reject guesswork, individual assessments, or blame-shifting and instead focus on objective facts: the display of throughput times, process variants, and their optimization.

But while data can hold valuable insights into business, users, customer bases, and markets, companies are sometimes unsure how best to analyze and harness their data. In fact, the problem isn’t usually a lack of data; it’s a breakdown in leveraging useful data. Being unsure how to interpret, explore, and analyze processes can paralyze any go-live, leading to a failure in the efficient interaction of processes and business operations. Without robust data analysis, your business could be losing money, talent, and even clients.

After all, analyzing processes is about letting data tell its true story for improved understanding.

The “as-is” processes

Analyzing the as-is current state helps organizations document, track, and optimize processes for better performance, greater efficiency, and improved outcomes. By contextualizing data, we gain the ability to navigate and organize processes to negate bottlenecks, set business preferences, and plan an optimized route through process mining initiatives. This focus can help across an entire organization, or on one or more specific processes or trends within a department or team.

There are several vital goals/motivations for implementing current state analysis, including:

  • Saving money and improving ROI;
  • Improving existing processes or creating new processes;
  • Increasing customer satisfaction and journeys;
  • Improving business coordination and organizational responsiveness;
  • Complying with new regulatory standards;
  • Adapting methods following a merger or acquisition.

The “to-be” processes

Simply put, if as-is maps where your processes are, to-be maps where you want them to… be. To-be process mapping documents what you want the process to look like, and by using the as-is diagram, you can work with stakeholders to identify developments and improvements of the current process, then outline those changes on your to-be roadmap.

This analysis can help you make optimal decisions for your business and innovative OpEx imperatives. For instance, at leading data companies like Google and Amazon, data is used in such a way that the analysis results make the decisions! Just think of the power Recommendation Engines, PageRank, and Demand Forecasting Systems have over the content we see. To achieve this, advanced techniques of machine learning and statistical modeling are applied, resulting in mechanically improved results from the data. Interestingly, because these techniques reference large-scale data sets and reflect analysis and results in real-time, they are applied to areas that extend beyond human decision-making.

Also, by analyzing and continuously monitoring qualitative and quantitative data, we gain insights across potential risks and ongoing improvement opportunities, too. The powerful combination of process discovery, process analysis, and conformance checking supports a collaborative approach to process improvement, giving you game-changing insights into your business. For example:

  • Which incidents would I like to detect and act upon proactively?
  • Where would task prioritization help improve overall performance?
  • Where do I know that increased transparency would help the company?
  • How can I utilize processes in place of gut feeling/experience?

Further, as the economic environment continues to change rapidly, and modern organizations keep adopting process-based approaches to ensure they are achieving their business goals, process analysis naturally becomes the perfect template for any company.

With this, process mining technology can help modern businesses manage process challenges beyond the boundaries of implementation. We can evaluate the proof of concept (PoC) for any proposed improvements, and extract relevant information from a homogenous data set. Of course, process modeling and business process management (BPM) are available to solve the potentially tricky integration phase.

Process mining and analysis initiatives

Process mining and discovery initiatives can also provide critical insights throughout the automation and any Robotic Process Automation (RPA) journey, from defining the strategy to continuous improvement and innovation. Data-based process mining can even extend process analysis across teams and individuals, decreasing incident resolution times, and subsequently improving working habits via the discovery and validation of automation opportunities.

A further example of where process mining and strategic process analysis/alignment is already paying dividends is IT incident management. Here, “incident” is an unplanned interruption to an IT service, which may be complete unavailability or merely a reduction in quality. The goal of the incident management process is to restore regular service operation as quickly as possible and to minimize the impact on business operations. Incident management is a critical process in Information Technology Library (ITIL).

Process mining can also further drive improvement in as-is incident management processes as well as exceptional and unwanted process steps, by increasing visibility and transparency across IT processes. Process mining will swiftly analyze the different working habits across teams and individuals, decreasing incident resolution times, and subsequently improving customer impact cases.

Positive and practical experiences with process mining across industries have also led to the further dynamic development of tools, use cases, and the end-user community. Even with very experienced process owners, the visualization of processes can skyrocket improvement via new ideas and discussion.

However, the potential performance gains are more extensive, with the benefits of using process mining for incident management, also including:

  • Finding out how escalation rules are working and how the escalation is done;
  • Calculating incident management KPIs, including SLA (%);
  • Discovering root causes for process problems;
  • Understanding the effect of the opening interface (email, web form, phone, etc.);
  • Calculating the cost of the incident process;
  • Aligning the incident management system with your incident management process.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation (RPA) provides a virtual workforce to automatize manual, repetitive, and error-prone tasks. However, successful process automation requires specific knowledge about the intended (and potential) benefits, effective training of the robots, and continuous monitoring of their performance and processes.

With this, process mining supports organizations throughout the lifecycle of RPA initiatives by monitoring and benchmarking robots to ensure sustainable benefits. These insights are especially valuable for process miners and managers with a particular interest in process automation. By unlocking the experiences with process mining, a company better understands what is needed today, for tomorrow’s process initiatives.

To further upgrade the impact of robot-led automation, there is also a need for a solid understanding of legacy systems, and an overview of automation opportunities. Process mining tools provide key insights throughout the entire RPA journey, from defining the strategy to continuous improvement and innovation.

Benefits of process mining and analysis within the RPA lifecycle include:

  1. Overviews of processes within the company, based on specific criteria;
  2. Identification of processes suitable for RPA implementation during the preparation phase;
  3. Mining the optimal process flow/process path;
  4. Understanding the extent to which RPA can be implemented in legacy processes and systems;
  5. Monitoring and analysis of RPA performance during the transition/handover of customization;
  6. Monitoring and continuous improvement of RPA in the post-implementation phase.

The process of better business understanding

Every organization is different and brings with it a variety of process-related questions. Yet some patterns are usually repeated. For example, customers who introduce data supported process analysis as part of business transformation initiatives will typically face challenges in harmonizing processes from fragmented sectors and regional locations. Here it helps enormously to base actions on data and statistics from the respective processes, instead of relying on the instincts and estimations of individuals.

With this, process analysis which is supported by data, enables a fact-based discussion, and builds a bridge between employees, process experts and management. This helps avoid siloed thinking, as well as allowing the transparent design of handovers and process steps which cross departmental boundaries within an organization.

In other words, to unlock future success and transformation, we must be processing… today.

Find out more about process mining with Signavio Process Intelligence, and see how it can help your organization uncover the hidden value of process, generate fresh ideas, and save time and money.

From BI to PI: The Next Step in the Evolution of Data-Driven Decisions

“Change is a constant.” “The pace of change is accelerating.” “The world is increasingly complex, and businesses have to keep up.” Organizations of all shapes and sizes have heard these ideas over and over—perhaps too often! However, the truth remains that adaptation is crucial to a successful business.


Read this article in German: Von der Datenanalyse zur Prozessverbesserung: So gelingt eine erfolgreiche Process-Mining-Initiative

 


Of course, the only way to ensure that the decisions you make are evolving in the right way is to understand the underlying building blocks of your organization. You can think of it as DNA; the business processes that underpin the way you work and combine to create a single unified whole. Knowing how those processes operate, and where the opportunities for improvement lie, can be the difference between success and failure.

Businesses with an eye on their growth understand this already. In the past, Business Intelligence was seen as the solution to this challenge. In more recent times, forward-thinking organizations see the need for monitoring solutions that can keep up with today’s rate of change, at the same time as they recognize that increasing complexity within business processes means traditional methods are no longer sufficient.

Adapting to a changing environment? The challenges of BI

Business Intelligence itself is not necessarily defunct or obsolete. However, the tools and solutions that enable Business Intelligence face a range of challenges in a fast-paced and constantly changing world. Some of these issues may include:

  • High data latency – Data latency refers to how long it takes for a business user to retrieve data from, for example, a business intelligence dashboard. In many cases, this can take more than 24 hours, a critical time period when businesses are attempting to take advantage of opportunities that may have a limited timeframe.
  • Incomplete data sets – The broad approach of Business Intelligence means investigations may run wide but not deep. This increases the chances that data will be missed, especially in instances where the tools themselves make the parameters for investigations difficult to change.
  • Discovery, not analysis – Business intelligence tools are primarily optimized for exploration, with a focus on actually finding data that may be useful to their users. Often, this is where the tools stop, offering no simple way for users to actually analyze the data, and therefore reducing the possibility of finding actionable insights.
  • Limited scalability – In general, Business Intelligence remains an arena for specialists and experts, leaving a gap in understanding for operational staff. Without a wide appreciation for processes and their analysis within an organization, the opportunities to increase the application of a particular Business Intelligence tool will be limited.
  • Unconnected metrics – Business Intelligence can be significantly restricted in its capacity to support positive change within a business through the use of metrics that are not connected to the business context. This makes it difficult for users to interpret and understand the results of an investigation, and apply these results to a useful purpose within their organization.

Process Intelligence: the next evolutionary step

To ensure companies can work efficiently and make the best decisions, a more effective method of process discovery is needed. Process Intelligence (PI) provides the critical background to answer questions that cannot be answered with Business Intelligence tools.

Process Intelligence offers visualization of end-to-end process sequences using raw data, and the right Process Intelligence tool means analysis of that raw data can be conducted straight away, so that processes are displayed accurately. The end-user is free to view and work with this accurate information as they please, without the need to do a preselection for the analysis.

By comparison, because Business Intelligence requires predefined analysis criteria, only once the criteria are defined can BI be truly useful. Organizations can avoid delayed analysis by using Process Intelligence to identify the root causes of process problems, then selecting the right criteria to determine the analysis framework.

Then, you can analyze your system processes and see the gaps and variants between the intended business process and what you actually have. And of course, the faster you discover what you have, the faster you can apply the changes that will make a difference in your business.

In short, Business Intelligence is suitable for gaining a broad understanding of the way a business usually functions. For some businesses, this will be sufficient. For others, an overview is not enough.

They understand that true insights lie in the detail, and are looking for a way of drilling down into exactly how each process within their organization actually works. Software that combines process discovery, process analysis, and conformance checking is the answer.

The right Process Intelligence tools means you will be able to automatically mine process models from the different IT systems operating within your business, as well as continuously monitor your end-to-end processes for insights into potential risks and ongoing improvement opportunities. All of this is in service of a collaborative approach to process improvement, which will lead to a game-changing understanding of how your business works, and how it can work better.

Early humans evolved from more primitive ancestors, and in the process, learned to use more and more sophisticated tools. For the modern human, working in a complex organization, the right tool is Process Intelligence.

Endless Potential with Signavio Process Intelligence

Signavio Process Intelligence allows you to unearth the truth about your processes and make better decisions based on true evidence found in your organization’s IT systems. Get a complete end-to-end perspective and understanding of exactly what is happening in your organization in a matter of weeks.

As part of Signavio Business Transformation Suite, Signavio Process Intelligence integrates perfectly with Signavio Process Manager and is accessible from the Signavio Collaboration Hub. As an entirely cloud-based process mining solution, the tool makes it easy to collaborate with colleagues from all over the world and harness the wisdom of the crowd.

Find out more about Signavio Process Intelligence, and see how it can help your organization generate more ideas, save time and money, and optimize processes.