Keynote Speaker Prof. Dr. Wil van der Aalst about the evolution of big data and his keynote Predictive Analytics Powered By Process Mining: It’s The Process, Stupid!
Hello Wil, you are a full professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. Please, tell us about the relevance of predictive analytics for your work.
Of course our main role is to develop new techniques and tools for predictive analytics. We have applied our process mining software in over 150 organizations, but are also applying it to analyse the study behaviour of students at our university. We try to understand why students are successful or not. For example, based on the way that students watch video lectures we can predict whether they will fail or pass.
According to the Harvard Business Review, being a data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century. What makes your profession so sexy? Do you consider yourself as a data scientist, or rather something different?
I consider myself to be a process scientist. It is not just about data or local decision making. In the end it is about end-to-end processes. This explains my focus on process mining.
What can keynote participants expect from your presentation – and what do you expect from the attendees?
Process mining connects process models and data analytics. It can be used:
- to automatically discover processes without any modeling (not just the control-flow, but also other perspectives such as the data-flow, work distribution, etc.),
- to find bottlenecks and understand the factors causing these bottlenecks,
- to detect and understand deviations, to measure their severity and to assess the overall level of compliance,
- to predict costs, risks, and delays,
- to recommend actions to avoid inefficiencies, and
- to support redesign (e.g., in combination with simulation).
It is surprising that many people working in predictive analytics do not know about the amazing possibilities of existing process mining techniques and tools! From the attendees I expect an open mind for new technologies that have the potential to change everything.
What mobile device can you not live without?
Can we take a peek at your phone’s home screen?
Sure: But nothing surprising, it is close to standard.
What app do you use most often?
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Take me through your typical workday.
When I’m in Eindhoven my days are packed with meetings. I teach a course now and then, but most most time is devoted to talking with the team members and managing the many initiatives I’m involved in. I’m also traveling a lot (keynotes, projects, and research visits).
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
How to capture real processes in models that reflect reality well and at the same time have value for the people using them? This is related to the challenge of extracting real value from event data.
What has been the most exciting work development this year?
The opening of the Data Science Center Eindhoven (DSC/e) where I’m the scientific director. I believe that data science will become as important as computers science and change the lives of many people ranging from engineers to managers.
How many miles have you travelled this year?
No idea. In the last two months I have been in the US, Liechtenstein, Israel, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and Russia. I sure I’m still forgetting a few countries.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
No, I’m an open book.
What other career would you like to try?
What does your desk look like right now?
I’m currently working in Bolzano. My desk here is empty. However, in Eindhoven you cannot see my desk anymore because of the piles of paper.
What is the last business book you read?
I’m rereading „Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel“ from 2002. It is amazing how realistic it still is.
Big Data is still a hot topic in 2014. What do you think: is it pure hype or is it a substantial change for predictive analytics?
The Big Data hype helps us to promote the value of data science. However, there is too much focus on very specific applications (NSA, Facebook, Google, etc.). From an analysis point of view also „small data“ can be extremely challenging.
Please make a prediction for predictive analytics: what comes beyond big data and what trends drive predictive analytics in the upcoming years?
As a frame of reference, I like to talk about the Internet of Events (IoE). It is composed of
- The Internet of Content (IoC): all information created by humans to increase knowledge on particular subjects. The IoC includes traditional web pages, articles, encyclopedia like Wikipedia, YouTube, e-books, newsfeeds, etc.
- The Internet of People (IoP): all data related to social interaction. The IoP includes e-mail, facebook, twitter, forums, LinkedIn, etc.
- The Internet of Things (IoT): all physical objects connected to the network. The IoT includes all things that have a unique id and a presence in an internet-like structure. Things may have an internet connection or be tagged using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), Near Field Communication (NFC), etc.
- The Internet of Locations (IoL): refers to all data that have a spatial dimension. With the uptake of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones) more and more events have geospatial attributes.
I think that the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow in importance. When all kinds of inexpensive devices are connected the internet, we will see completely new data science challenges and applications. This will be the big trend in the coming decade.
And one more personal question: what is your favourite prediction tool or algorithm? And why?
Easy question: the process mining framework ProM of course. It provides over 600 plug-ins offering analysis techniques not available in any of the other analytics tools.
Thank you for your time and answers! We look forward to welcoming you in Berlin in November at the upcoming Predictive Analytics World!