Process mining - Shifting from pure discovery to process improvements

Process mining - Shifting from pure discovery to process improvements

My impressions from the Celonis Superfluid World Tour in Munich 2019

On November 12, I took the opportunity to join the Celonis Superfluid World Tour in Munich. For those of you who are not familiar with Celonis: Celonis offers a process mining solution which helps companies to uncover gaps between designed and real-life processes. Their solution visualizes the actual flow of processes, not the way how processes are supposed to work. Gaining insights into how processes actually work holds significant potential to improve those processes. We reported about Celonis already back in 2015. In our 2015 blog post we gave a brief introduction into process mining as well.

At this year’s event, I was mainly impressed by two things: First, by the tremendous growth of Celonis: Founded as a start-up in 2011, they employ around 800+ people today and report a yearly growth rate of 100% with an order entry of $100m+.

Second, at the event there were also quite some interesting Celonis customer references presenting and sharing their experiences, successes and also challenges related to working with Celonis’ process mining solutions.

Impressive development of its global partner network and launch of the Celonis Digital Consulting Platform

With regards to its go-to-market strategy, Celonis has managed to establish an impressive partner network. This comprises consulting and systems integrators such as IBM, Sopra Steria, Capgemini, Reply or adesso, BPO partners such as Accenture, Infosys, Cognizant and Tech Mahindra, and global partners such as EY, KPMG and Deloitte. Among the major technology partners are SAP and ServiceNow, next to providers such as Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Oracle.

In order to enable consulting partners to develop their own solutions for customer-specific use cases, Celonis launched its Digital Consulting Platform in May 2019. It enables consultants to create dedicated Celonis project instances. According to Celonis, there are already about 2,000 consultants from 300+ companies on the platform, having worked on 750+ projects.

Portfolio enhancements – From enabling discovery to enabling process improvement

A lot has been said about new functions and features within the Celonis solution portfolio. From my perspective, these were the most interesting ones:

  • Celonis sees a shift in the motivation of companies engaging in process mining. Today, companies are increasingly investing in projects related to optimizing processes, whereas the pure reconstruction, i.e. the discovery of processes has already become a commodity. Celonis is addressing this among others with its “action engine”, which is an AI-based process assistant that constantly analyzes data, identifies improvement potential in real time, and then sends signals to all stakeholders to suggest concrete actions that are needed to get a process back on track.
  • Every process has two aspects: business data (e.g. data captured in enterprise applications, such as SAP, Salesforce, Oracle etc.) and user interaction data. User interaction data is the data that is generated when employees work in an application to perform a process step. For example, checking data in Excel or researching background information about a company via Google or checking recent email communication about a customer order etc. In order to also include such user interaction data into the process mining analysis, Celonis has introduced “task mining”, which enables companies to collect and analyze this data in a way that helps to better understand how employees perform their tasks and how to become even better.

Customer reference: Vetter Pharma

Given my personal research focus, the manufacturing industry, I was in particularly interested in the on-stage presentation by a representative from Vetter Pharma, who shared their experiences, successes and also challenges related to process mining:

Their process mining initiative includes two systems, SAP and TrackWise (a quality management solution for pharmaceuticals). Major insights which they gained from process mining were that they have tremendous potential in optimizing cash flow in their processes (procure-to-pay, order-to-cash, accounts payable and accounts receivable) and optimizing digital processes. The next steps will now be to execute appropriate measures to realize that potential and to quantify business results.

Basically, Celonis has a strong footprint in the manufacturing industry, incl. automotive, high tech, CPG, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and aerospace, but is also addressing other sectors, such as the financial services sector, energy, telco, media and retail.

Process mining technology is great, but achieving business results is key!

Celonis’ co-founder and co-CEO Bastian Nominacher has made very clear that, from his point of view, the technology that enables process mining is great, but what is even more important is to always focus on the business results. The key is to turn data into insights and to take appropriate action to turn these insights into business value. Bastian Nominacher therefore briefly referred to some customer examples and what kind of real business value they had achieved with process mining:

  • Deutsche Telekom: saved millions of euros improving processes in payments, purchase orders and deliveries:
  • Lufthansa: increased the number of on-time flights for eight million passengers;
  • L’Oréal: improved their order-to-cash efficiency rate by three times and are aiming even higher.

I have no doubts that there is huge demand in the market for applications, tools and consulting services that enable and help companies to improve the transparency of their processes. This is because increasing transparency should always be the first step, prior to any efforts related to optimizing processes.

However, a major driver for investments in process mining is to be able to quantify business benefits that arise from applying process mining techniques. And, despite a lot of experiences that were shared at the event, my impression has been that one of the key challenges related to process mining is defining a clear RoI and creating a clear, quantifiable business case around it.

The interest in process mining is high, the event was fully booked and attendees were all very engaged and motivated to learn more about process mining and its business potentials.