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Show your Data Science Workplace!

The job of a data scientist is often a mystery to outsiders. Of course, you do not really need much more than a medium-sized notebook to use data science methods for finding value in data. Nevertheless, data science workplaces can look so different and, let’s say, interesting. And that’s why I want to launch a blog parade – which I want to start with this article – where you as a Data Scientist or Data Engineer can show your workplace and explain what tools a data scientist in your opinion really needs.

I am very curious how many monitors you prefer, whether you use Apple, Dell, HP or Lenovo, MacOS, Linux or Windows, etc., etc. And of course, do you like a clean or messy desk?

What is a Blog Parade?

A blog parade is a call to blog owners to report on a specific topic. Everyone who participates in the blog parade, write on their blog a contribution to the topic. The organizer of the blog parade collects all the articles and will recap those articles in a short form together, of course with links to the articles.

How can I participate?

Write an article on your blog! Mention this blog parade here, show and explain your workplace (your desk with your technical equipment) in an article. If you’re missing your own blog, articles can also be posted directly to LinkedIn (LinkedIn has its own blogging feature that every LinkedIn member can use). Alternative – as a last resort – it would also be possible to send me your article with a photo about your workplace directly to: redaktion@data-science-blog.com.
Please make me aware of an article, via e-mail or with a comment (below) on this article.

Who can participate?

Any data scientist or anyone close to Data Science: Everyone concerned with topics such as data analytics, data engineering or data security. Please do not over-define data science here, but keep it in a nutshell, so that all professionals who manage and analyze data can join in with a clear conscience.

And yes, I will participate too. I will propably be the first who write an article about my workplace (I just need a new photo of my desk).

When does the article have to be finished?

By 31/12/2017, the article must have been published on your blog (or LinkedIn or wherever) and the release has to be reported to me.
But beware: Anyone who has previously written an article will also be linked earlier. After all, reporting on your article will take place immediately after I hear about it.
If you publish an artcile tomorrow, it will be shown the day after tomorrow here on the Data Science Blog.

What is in it for me to join?

Nothing! Except perhaps the fun factor of sharing your idea of ​​a nice desk for a data expert with others, so as to share creativity or a certain belief in what a data scientist needs.
Well and for bloggers: There is a great backlink from this data science blog for you 🙂

What should I write? What are the minimum requirements of content?

The article does not have to (but may be) particularly long. Anyway, here on this data science blog only a shortened version of your article will appear (with a link, of course).

Minimum requirments:

  • Show a photo (at least one!) of your workplace desk!
  • And tell us something about:
    • How many monitors do you use (or wish to have)?
    • What hardware do you use? Apple? Dell? Lenovo? Others?
    • Which OS do you use (or prefer)? MacOS, Linux, Windows? Virtual Machines?
    • What are your favorite databases, programming languages and tools? (e.g. Python, R, SAS, Postgre, Neo4J,…)
    • Which data dou you analyze on your local hardware? Which in server clusters or clouds?
    • If you use clouds, do you prefer Azure, AWS, Google oder others?
    • Where do you make your notes/memos/sketches. On paper or digital?

Not allowed:
Of course, please do not provide any information, which could endanger your company`s IT security.

Absolutly allowed:
Bringing some joke into the matter 🙂 We are happy to vote in the comments on the best or funniest desk for election, there may be also a winner later!


The resulting Blog Posts: https://data-science-blog.com/data-science-insights/show-your-desk/


 

Establish a Collaborative Culture – Process Mining Rule 4 of 4

This is article no. 4 of the four-part article series Privacy, Security and Ethics in Process Mining.

Read this article in German:
Datenschutz, Sicherheit und Ethik beim Process Mining – Regel 4 von 4

Perhaps the most important ingredient in creating a responsible process mining environment is to establish a collaborative culture within your organization. Process mining can make the flaws in your processes very transparent, much more transparent than some people may be comfortable with. Therefore, you should include change management professionals, for example, Lean practitioners who know how to encourage people to tell each other “the truth”, in your team.

Furthermore, be careful how you communicate the goals of your process mining project and involve relevant stakeholders in a way that ensures their perspective is heard. The goal is to create an atmosphere, where people are not blamed for their mistakes (which only leads to them hiding what they do and working against you) but where everyone is on board with the goals of the project and where the analysis and process improvement is a joint effort.

Do:

  • Make sure that you verify the data quality before going into the data analysis, ideally by involving a domain expert already in the data validation step. This way, you can build trust among the process managers that the data reflects what is actually happening and ensure that you have the right understanding of what the data represents.
  • Work in an iterative way and present your findings as a starting point for discussion in each iteration. Give people the chance to explain why certain things are happening and let them ask additional questions (to be picked up in the next iteration). This will help to improve the quality and relevance of your analysis as well as increase the buy-in of the process stakeholders in the final results of the project.

Don’t:

  • Jump to conclusions. You can never assume that you know everything about the process. For example, slower teams may be handling the difficult cases, people may deviate from the process for good reasons, and you may not see everything in the data (for example, there might be steps that are performed outside of the system). By consistently using your observations as a starting point for discussion, and by allowing people to join in the interpretation, you can start building trust and the collaborative culture that process mining needs to thrive.
  • Force any conclusions that you expect, or would like to have, by misrepresenting the data (or by stating things that are not actually supported by the data). Instead, keep track of the steps that you have taken in the data preparation and in your process mining analysis. If there are any doubts about the validity or questions about the basis of your analysis, you can always go back and show, for example, which filters have been applied to the data to come to the particular process view that you are presenting.

Consider Anonymization – Process Mining Rule 3 of 4

This is article no. 3 of the four-part article series Privacy, Security and Ethics in Process Mining.

Read this article in German:
Datenschutz, Sicherheit und Ethik beim Process Mining – Regel 3 von 4

If you have sensitive information in your data set, instead of removing it you can also consider the use of anonymization. When you anonymize a set of values, then the actual values (for example, the employee names “Mary Jones”, “Fred Smith”, etc.) will be replaced by another value (for example, “Resource 1”, “Resource 2”, etc.).

If the same original value appears multiple times in the data set, then it will be replaced with the same replacement value (“Mary Jones” will always be replaced by “Resource 1”). This way, anonymization allows you to obfuscate the original data but it preserves the patterns in the data set for your analysis. For example, you will still be able to analyze the workload distribution across all employees without seeing the actual names.

Some process mining tools (Disco and ProM) include anonymization functionality. This means that you can import your data into the process mining tool and select which data fields should be anonymized. For example, you can choose to anonymize just the Case IDs, the resource name, attribute values, or the timestamps. Then you export the anonymized data set and you can distribute it among your team for further analysis.

Do:

  • Determine which data fields are sensitive and need to be anonymized (see also the list of common process mining attributes and how they are impacted if anonymized).
  • Keep in mind that despite the anonymization certain information may still be identifiable. For example, there may be just one patient having a very rare disease, or the birthday information of your customer combined with their place of birth may narrow down the set of possible people so much that the data is not anonymous anymore.

Don’t:

  • Anonymize the data before you have cleaned your data, because after the anonymization the data cleaning may not be possible anymore. For example, imagine that slightly different customer category names are used in different regions but they actually mean the same. You would like to merge these different names in a data cleaning step. However, after you have anonymized the names as “Category 1”, “Category 2”, etc. the data cleaning cannot be done anymore.
  • Anonymize fields that do not need to be anonymized. While anonymization can help to preserve patterns in your data, you can easily lose relevant information. For example, if you anonymize the Case ID in your incident management process, then you cannot look up the ticket number of the incident in the service desk system anymore. By establishing a collaborative culture around your process mining initiative (see guideline No. 4) and by working in a responsible, goal-oriented way, you can often work openly with the original data that you have within your team.

Responsible Handling of Data – Process Mining Rule 2 of 4

This is article no. 2 of the four-part article series Privacy, Security and Ethics in Process Mining.

Read this article in German:
Datenschutz, Sicherheit und Ethik beim Process Mining – Regel 2 von 4

Like in any other data analysis technique, you must be careful with the data once you have obtained it. In many projects, nobody thinks about the data handling until it is brought up by the security department. Be that person who thinks about the appropriate level of protection and has a clear plan already prior to the collection of the data.

Do:

  • Have external parties sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to ensure the confidentiality of the data. This holds, for example, for consultants you have hired to perform the process mining analysis for you, or for researchers who are participating in your project. Contact your legal department for this. They will have standard NDAs that you can use.
  • Make sure that the hard drive of your laptop, external hard drives, and USB sticks that you use to transfer the data and your analysis results are encrypted.

Don’t:

  • Give the data set to your co-workers before you have checked what is actually in the data. For example, it could be that the data set contains more information than you requested, or that it contains sensitive data that you did not think about. For example, the names of doctors and nurses might be mentioned in a free-text medical notes attribute. Make sure you remove or anonymize (see guideline No. 3) all sensitive data before you pass it on.
  • Upload your data to a cloud-based process mining tool without checking that your organization allows you to upload this kind of data. Instead, use a desktop-based process mining tool (like Disco [3] or ProM [4]) to analyze your data locally or get the cloud-based process mining vendor to set-up an on-premise version of their software within your organization. This is also true for cloud-based storage services like Dropbox: Don’t just store data or analysis results in the cloud even if it is convenient.

Clarify Goal of the Analysis – Process Mining Rule 1 of 4

This is article no. 1 of the four-part article series Privacy, Security and Ethics in Process Mining.

Read this article in German:
Datenschutz, Sicherheit und Ethik beim Process Mining – Regel 1 von 4

Clarify Goal of the Analysis

The good news is that in most situations Process Mining does not need to evaluate personal information, because it usually focuses on the internal organizational processes rather than, for example, on customer profiles. Furthermore, you are investigating the overall process patterns. For example, a process miner is typically looking for ways to organize the process in a smarter way to avoid unnecessary idle times rather than trying to make people work faster.

However, as soon as you would like to better understand the performance of a particular process, you often need to know more about other case attributes that could explain variations in process behaviours or performance. And people might become worried about where this will lead them.

Therefore, already at the very beginning of the process mining project, you should think about the goal of the analysis. Be clear about how the results will be used. Think about what problem are you trying to solve and what data you need to solve this problem.

Do:

  • Check whether there are legal restrictions regarding the data. For example, in Germany employee-related data cannot be used and typically simply would not be extracted in the first place. If your project relates to analyzing customer data, make sure you understand the restrictions and consider anonymization options (see guideline No. 3).
  • Consider establishing an ethical charter that states the goal of the project, including what will and what will not be done based on the analysis. For example, you can clearly state that the goal is not to evaluate the performance of the employees. Communicate to the people who are responsible for extracting the data what these goals are and ask for their assistance to prepare the data accordingly.

Don’t:

  • Start out with a fuzzy idea and simply extract all the data you can get. Instead, think about what problem are you trying to solve? And what data do you actually need to solve this problem? Your project should focus on business goals that can get the support of the process managers you work with (see guideline No. 4).
  • Make your first project too big. Instead, focus on one process with a clear goal. If you make the scope of your project too big, people might block it or work against you while they do not yet even understand what process mining can do.

Privacy, Security and Ethics in Process Mining – Article Series

When I moved to the Netherlands 12 years ago and started grocery shopping at one of the local supermarket chains, Albert Heijn, I initially resisted getting their Bonus card (a loyalty card for discounts), because I did not want the company to track my purchases. I felt that using this information would help them to manipulate me by arranging or advertising products in a way that would make me buy more than I wanted to. It simply felt wrong.

Read this article in German:
Datenschutz, Sicherheit und Ethik beim Process Mining – Artikelserie

The truth is that no data analysis technique is intrinsically good or bad. It is always in the hands of the people using the technology to make it productive and constructive. For example, while supermarkets could use the information tracked through the loyalty cards of their customers to make sure that we have to take the longest route through the store to get our typical items (passing by as many other products as possible), they can also use this information to make the shopping experience more pleasant, and to offer more products that we like.

Most companies have started to use data analysis techniques to analyze their data in one way or the other. These data analyses can bring enormous opportunities for the companies and for their customers, but with the increased use of data science the question of ethics and responsible use also grows more dominant. Initiatives like the Responsible Data Science seminar series [1] take on this topic by raising awareness and encouraging researchers to develop algorithms that have concepts like fairness, accuracy, confidentiality, and transparency built in (see Wil van der Aalst’s presentation on Responsible Data Science at Process Mining Camp 2016).

Process Mining can provide you with amazing insights about your processes, and fuel your improvement initiatives with inspiration and enthusiasm, if you approach it in the right way. But how can you ensure that you use process mining responsibly? What should you pay attention to when you introduce process mining in your own organization?

In this article series, we provide you four guidelines that you can follow to prepare your process mining analysis in a responsible way:

Part 1 of 4: Clarify the Goal of the Analysis

Part 2 of 4: Responsible Handling of Data

Part 3 of 4: Consider Anonymization

Part 4 of 4: Establish a collaborative Culture

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Frank van Geffen and Léonard Studer, who initiated the first discussions in the workgroup around responsible process mining in 2015. Furthermore, we would like to thank Moe Wynn, Felix Mannhardt and Wil van der Aalst for their feedback on earlier versions of this article.