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Celonis process mining edges toward autonomous enterprise

The Celonis process mining platform now has Operational Applications for accounts payable and supply chain that allow companies to take automated actions on processes.

Process mining vendor Celonis is moving beyond helping companies just understand their processes by giving them the functionality to take automated actions.

During the virtual Celosphere Live, Celonis unveiled new extensions to its process mining software platform, which crawls through ERP and other enterprise systems and captures data about how processes work. The technology provides insights into events like bottlenecks that stop processes, or which processes have redundant tasks that can be eliminated.

The Celonis platform now includes Operational Applications, which extend insights derived from the Celonis process mining engine and allow automated actions on processes. The Operational Applications integrates the Celonis process mining engine with business context and AI that detects friction in processes and automatically recommends or takes actions.

The Operational Applications platform extensions come with two out-of-the-box applications for Accounts Payable and Materials Management in Supply Chain. Customers will be able to build their own automated applications with Operational Applications.

Celonis also made available Real-time Data Connectivity for the process mining engine, which allows it to extract and analyze data from back-end data sources, including those from SAP, Salesforce and ServiceNow. Real-time Data Connectivity comes from technology developed by Banyas, a Belgian software firm that Celonis acquired in 2019. It goes through ERP processes step-by-step in real time, building maps that can be analyzed by the Celonis process mining engine. The real-time data enables the Operational Applications' automated actions.

The Operational Applications and Real-time Data Connectivity extensions are currently available now at no extra cost for any licensed Celonis customer or for those who become licensed customers before the end of May, according to the company.

Making processes frictionless

The process mining platform extensions were developed to help companies improve processes and ultimately become "frictionless," said Alexander Rinke, Celonis co-CEO and co-founder.

Alexander Rinke, co-CEO and co-founder of CelonisAlexander Rinke

"We have been the leading platform for finding process insights, and we are now moving on to help customers act on the insights," Rinke said.

Being able to act on process insights provides several benefits, which include saving time by cutting out repetitive manual tasks and reducing waste, Rinke said.

"Primarily, Celonis so far has focused on analytical applications that basically work like an X-ray system and show you where there are friction points or bottlenecks in processes," he said." The Operational Applications are purpose-built apps that take all this insight in real time and then know how to act and enable customers to take action."

The out-of-the-box Operational Applications for Accounts Payable and Materials Management in Supply Chain were built with input from customers, who helped determine some of the most commonly used processes.

"We discovered what actions our customers took and included these in the platform so they can take actions right away," Rinke said. "For example, a lot of our customers have issues with paying on time -- not too early or too late, but this optimizes when invoices are paid at just the right time."

One Celonis customer, German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, claims to have saved €40 million by finding cash discounts that they had agreed to with suppliers but were lost because the invoices were being paid late.

A step on the road to the autonomous enterprise

The Operational Applications is a sign that Celonis is advancing beyond process mining to supporting fully autonomous enterprises, said R "Ray" Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. The autonomous enterprise is a self-driving organization where AI and automation run business processes with little or no human intervention.

R 'Ray' Wang, Constellation Research CEO and principal analystR 'Ray' Wang

"Process mining has always been one of the components to get you there, that's how you build the model and get to the understanding," Wang said. "Now they're putting the automation on top of it and allowing people to build apps, and that's what companies are asking for. This is a major leap forward, and where we're headed for the future of cognitive apps."

Celonis' main competition comes from vendors that supply cognitive automation applications, including Aera Technology, which automates supply chain applications, and Auditoria.AI, which automates financial applications.

"The Operations Applications is just the beginning," he said. "They took the processes that they understand really well to start with [Accounts Payable and Materials Management in Supply Chain] and they're going to build out on that, and then you'll be able to build out applications for your own processes."

A breakthrough, but not fully autonomous yet

The Celonis platform extensions are a breakthrough that improves process mining's ability to improve operations, said Marc Kerremans, Gartner senior research director.

Marc Kerremans, Gartner senior research directorMarc Kerremans

"[Previously, process mining] looked at some operations and processes in an isolated way, but it was not connected, and Celonis realized that it has to be connected because processes don't live in isolation," Kerremans said. "You can only orchestrate this by stepping back and looking at it from an organizational perspective and seeing how you can connect this to the other parts of the business model, which is what Celonis says is the ultimate goal -- to enable the frictionless company."

However, even with real-time connectivity, the Celonis platform extensions fall short of having a fully autonomous enterprise, he said. Real-time Data Connectivity operates in near real time rather than on streaming data, which will enable true autonomous processes.

"Real-time connectivity is important because you can have the data to explore and map the models, and then you can act, but you have to go back to the data to get the new data and map the new models," Kerremans said. "There are new platforms coming that are built on streaming, and if you can do that, that will allow continuous process improvement to take place."

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