Developers’ point: QPR’s 30 years of developmentdevelopers point
An interview with Kari Junkkonen, Matti Erkheikki and Teemu Lehto
QPR Software (www.qpr.com) provides solutions for process mining, process and enterprise architecture modeling, and performance management, with its R&D located in Helsinki and Oulu, Finland. Thirty years ago, QPR Software was founded and started providing solutions to improve its customers’ Quality-Processes-Results. Since 1995, the company has adopted a strong focus on Business Process Management. It launched the first official Process Mining tool in 2011. QPR has served thousands of customers worldwide and sold more than a million software licenses. We have a chat with Kari Junkkonen (in the following, KJ) – Founder and Product Owner –, Matti Erkheikki (in the following, ME) – SVP in Global Process Intelligence Business –, and Teemu Lehto (in the following, TL) – VP in Process Mining at QPR – to know more about their thirty-year journey.
Kari, how did you start QPR Software, and what does QPR mean to you?
KJ: In 1991, I worked with three other colleagues in a company specializing in quality management. We wanted to do more for the customers and wished to start our own company. At first, QPR Software offered consultancy in Management Information Systems and operational analysis. We were among the first to develop a software product for Activity Based Costing. Soon afterward, we started looking for partners and expanding our operations abroad. In 1993, QPR got its first partnerships with companies in Sweden and the Netherlands.
To me, QPR software is a company of talented and dedicated people. Our employees are most driven to solve customers’ problems, among other things. Many times, we have successfully achieved goals that seemed impossible at first. QPR has evolved a lot since 1991, but we still keep this pioneering attitude towards technology and thirst for innovation, which I treasure. I am proud of QPR Software and our people.
Tell us about your work in the past 30 years.
KJ: My work hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years. I’ve been involved in software development every day. I’m a product owner, one of my biggest responsibilities is specifying and designing new features in the software. Basically, I’m a tech guy, a software guy. New technologies fascinate me. To me, coding is also creative work. It’s rewarding to find the solution to a new challenge. It’s even better to be able to implement that solution successfully in real life.
How did QPR get the idea of building a Process Mining tool?
KJ: Since 1995, we’ve had a strong focus on Business Process Management. That year, we released our QPR ProcessGuide software. We witnessed various business struggles in BPM during customer projects. We knew that we needed to develop a solution for these issues to help customers achieve process excellence.
TL: I was appointed to lead a research team at the time to address this topic. Continuous improvement of business processes is essential – but often difficult and slow. In particular, documenting the current state of processes and identifying problems through workshops and interviews is challenging and ineffective, often leading to an incomplete, inaccurate, or even false understanding of the situation.
There were company-wide “innovation day” meetings when we sat together in a big meeting room, shared, discussed, and experimented with new ideas. Among the prominent issues we saw from customer projects, the most repetitive and troublesome struggle was customers creating their process models. We asked ourselves: how to do this better and in an automated way? All ideas were welcome in these meetings. I remember us even joking about inventing a mind-reading sensor. Then the idea finally came to us: we could use existing data.
During one of these “innovation day” meetings, on 16th April 2009, we documented our innovation of using event log data for drawing the flowcharts. I started to lead the product development project with the code name QPR Automated Process Bottleneck Remover. We began our first customer pilot projects six months later, and the official QPR ProcessAnalyzer 2.0 product launch for international markets took place on 15th February 2011.
What characterizes QPR ProcessAnalyzer today?
ME: Working on many customer projects allowed us to see how the business architecture varies significantly from one company to the next. That means we need different approaches to process excellence for different customers. This inspires us to develop QPR ProcessAnalyzer with flexibility in mind. This flexibility aspect is twofold. One, users can use the tool differently depending on their distinct business process landscapes. Two, we offer tailor-made solutions based on QPR ProcessAnalyzer and corresponding commercial models suitable for each customer’s unique needs. I’m confident that our customers can get exactly what they need when working with us: the most practical solution to their unique business problems.
TL: We always try to listen to each customer’s needs. We’re aware of the rigidness in today’s ERP systems, which can hinder the desired business transformation that our customers want. That’s why we’re developing QPR ProcessAnalyzer to be an intelligent, AI-powered process mining platform that can understand past incidents, predict, and recommend future actions. Machine learning algorithms can give users new meaningful information from the same process mining source data. They can receive recommendations for future actions and train the machine learning-based orchestrator to become an even better operations management assistant.
What are the plans for the future of QPR ProcessAnalyzer?
ME: The future of QPR ProcessAnalyzer is full of possibilities. The core of QPR Software’s innovation has always been our curiosity towards new technologies and solving customers’ business challenges.
Process automation and digital transformation are among the fundamental topics that our customers currently focus on. To help them, we might even take the intelligent orchestrator in QPR ProcessAnalyzer two steps further to achieve “self-healing processes.” That means giving the software more autonomy and the ability to ensure frictionless operations. QPR ProcessAnalyzer can become a tool so intelligent and powerful that it’s a must-have for successful process automation and business transformation. I think we’ve only just seen the beginning.
Another untapped potential for us lies within the process improvement business that the company has many years of experience in. We can revolutionize this niche business by combining our knowledge of process mining technology and process modeling. That could be an exciting alternative.
If you could characterize QPR ProcessAnalyzer in one sentence (a) without superlative adjectives (e.g., “best”, “fastest”, “most accurate”) and (b) not mentioning competitors, this sentence would be…?
ME: QPR ProcessAnalyzer is a crucial tool to help transform your business by giving comprehensive answers to your business questions, leveraging your existing process data.
- This article has been updated on October 7 2021, 12:51.
- An interview with Kari Junkkonen, Matti Erkheikki and Teemu Lehto