Celonis pushes beyond process mining into automated workflow tooling

Celonis has made its name as a process discovery company, helping companies understand the way work flows through its systems to expose inefficiencies, but up until now the company has left it to others to solve those problems. Today it announced the first products that help companies improve those workflows automatically.

Alexander Rinke, founder and CEO at Celonis, says customers have been asking the company to go beyond process discovery to something that really helps solve the problems and bottlenecks they were finding.

“Where customers were really pushing us is to take the company from a software that’s showing you all the insights around your business processes, where the friction points are, where things aren’t going as they should be going…” he told TechCrunch.

To that end, the company acquired Banyas last year to give it a way to connect to internal ERP systems more easily, as they were thinking about how to create some process improvement automation apps. The Banyas acquisition gave the company some tools to start thinking about this more deeply.

“We put all of this together — the intelligence, the action, the automation and we solve business goals for certain departments,” Rinke said.

For starters, that involves supply chain and finance, but there are plans for building even more applications this year and beyond. The way it works for starters, is it connects to the company’s transactions systems, whether that’s SAP or Oracle or something similar. This is where the Banyas acquisition really comes into play,

“You can basically put these applications on top of your transaction systems and tell them which business goals you have — like I want to preserve cash or I want to pay on time — and then we analyze the enterprise’s entire processes towards these business goals, and then drive everything, automate things towards these business goals intelligently,” he said.

In addition to the two apps, the company is also announcing that it’s making the platform that the engineering team used to build these apps more broadly available to allow third parties to build their own apps on top of Celonis, and then they will be able to share them in an app marketplace.

If you’re thinking this is moving Celonis into Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Rinke disagrees As he sees it, RPA is about automating all-computer processes. He says the Celonis solutions often have human stopping points in a process, and he sees that as a big difference.

Celonis was founded in 2011 and has raised more than $367 million, according to Crunchbase data. Rinke reports the company has more than 1000 employees now.


By Ron Miller

New Celonis tool moves process mining vendor into customer experience

Celonis created the idea of process mining, the act of automating the understanding and improvement of internal processes. But understanding the process in and of itself only gets you so far. Ultimately, companies need to use that information to improve the customer experience and a new operational layer announced today could help them do that.

When we think about managing the customer experience, we tend to look at the consumer-facing app or the website. If that isn’t working right, or there is unnecessary friction in the buying process, then then you can lose the customer.

But Celonis co-CEO and co-founder Alexander Rinke says that eliminating friction at the front end of the process is only part of the equation. If there is a problem anywhere in the delivery system from the manufacturer or warehouse to back-end systems, then that kind of friction can be just as problematic he says.

“Where process mining really helps is it reveals where there’s friction. The biggest challenge companies face is that there’s a ton of operational friction. Things get stuck. Things get delivered late. Customer promises get broken,” he said.

Part of what makes Amazon work so well isn’t just that customers can easily place orders on a website or app, but also that Amazon has figured out how to pick the order and get it to the customer in the promised amount of time. If there were any delays in that process, people wouldn’t gravitate toward Amazon as much as they do.

But most companies don’t have the operational excellence of Amazon and that’s where Celonis thinks it can help — by identifying the bumps in the operational road and finding ways to smooth those out in an automated fashion. “Initially, we sold a product for discovery, laying the land, understanding what’s going on in complex companies. And now we see more and more companies moving into operationalizing these insights, so acting on them, fixing things that are broken, and wanting to automate these fixes,” Rinke explained.

The company’s answer to this is the Beta of Workflow Engine, a tool that is designed to help companies improve that operational flow. As it describes it, “The no-code, point-and-click workflow allows business analysts to arrange process steps and connect process flows across systems.” It includes templates out of the box for common tools like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com, ServiceNow, Jira, etc.

He says as an example, a company may have switched to electronic payments, but it’s finding customers aren’t moving with them. They can use the tool to identify those customers and offer a discount on their next order if they pay electronically without bothering the folks who are already doing it.

The company also announced a new tool to help connect easily to SAP systems. As Rinke points out, there are hundreds of these systems running the back-end (finance, inventory, HR, etc.) at companies all over the world. It’s not always easy to connect to them because of their age and complexity.

To that end, the company revealed it has bought Banyas, a tool designed to help automate workflow from SAP systems, and one that should fit in nicely with the company’s vision to automate and understand process flows across large organizations.

Celonis was founded in 2011. Today it has over 700 employees, and has raised almost $78 million.


By Ron Miller

Celonis brings intelligent process automation software to cloud

Celonis has been helping companies analyze and improve their internal processes using machine learning. Today the company announced it was providing that same solution as a cloud service with a few nifty improvements you won’t find on prem.

The new approach, called Celonis Intelligent Business Cloud, allows customers to analyze a workflow, find inefficiencies and offer improvements very quickly. Companies typically follow a workflow that has developed over time and very rarely think about why it developed the way it did, or how to fix it. If they do, it usually involves bringing in consultants to help. Celonis puts software and machine learning to bear on the problem.

Co-founder and CEO Alexander Rinke says that his company deals with massive volumes of data and moving all of that to the cloud makes sense. “With Intelligent Business Cloud, we will unlock that [on prem data], bring it to the cloud in a very efficient infrastructure and provide much more value on top of it,” he told TechCrunch.

The idea is to speed up the whole ingestion process, allowing a company to see the inefficiencies in their business processes very quickly. Rinke says it starts with ingesting data from sources such as Salesforce or SAP and then creating a visual view of the process flow. There may be hundreds of variants from the main process workflow, but you can see which ones would give you the most value to change, based on the number of times the variation occurs.

Screenshot: Celonis

By packaging the Celonis tools as a cloud service, they are reducing the complexity of running and managing it. They are also introducing an app store with over 300 pre-packaged options for popular products like Salesforce and ServiceNow and popular process like order to cash. This should also help get customers up and running much more quickly.

New Celonis App Store. Screenshot: Celonis

The cloud service also includes an Action Engine, which Rinke describes as a big step toward moving Celonis from being purely analytical to operational. “Action Engine focuses on changing and improving processes. It gives workers concrete info on what to do next. For example in process analysis, it would notice on time delivery isn’t great because order to cash is to slow. It helps accelerate changes in system configuration,” he explained.

Celonis Action Engine. Screenshot: Celonis

The new cloud service is available today. Celonis was founded in 2011. It has raised over $77 million. The most recent round was a $50 million Series B on a valuation over $1 billion.


By Ron Miller

Celonis scores $50 million Series B on $1B valuation

In the age of digital transformation, it’s important to understand your business processes and find improvements quickly, but it’s not always easy to do without bringing in expensive consultants to help. Celonis, a New York City enterprise startup, created a sophisticated software solution to help solve this problem, and today it announced a $50 million Series B investment from Accel and 83North on a $1 billion valuation.

It’s not typical for an enterprise startup to have such a lofty valuation so early in its funding cycle, but Celonis is not a typical enterprise startup. It launched in 2011 in Munich with this idea of helping companies understand their processes, which they call process mining.

“Celonis is an intelligent system using logs created by IT systems such as SAP, Salesforce, Oracle and Netsuite, and automatically understands how these processes work and then recommends intelligently how they can be improved,” Celonis CEO and co-founder Alexander Rinke explained.

The software isn’t magic, but helps customers visualize each business process, and then looks at different ways of shifting how and where humans interact with the process or bringing in technology like robotics process automation (RPA) when it makes sense.

Celonis process flow. Photo: Celonis

Rinke says the software doesn’t simply find a solution and that’s the end of the story. It’s a continuous process loop of searching for ways to help customers operate more efficiently. This doesn’t have to be a big change, but often involves lots incremental ones.

“We tell them there are lots of answers. We don’t think there is one solution. All these little things don’t execute well. We point out these things. Typically we find it’s easy to implement, ” he said.

Screenshot: Celonis

It seems to be working. Customers include the likes of Exxon-Mobile, 3M, Merck, Lockheed-Martin and Uber. Rinke reports deals are often seven figures. The company has grown an astonishing 5,000 percent in the past 4 years and 300 percent in the past year alone. What’s more, it has been profitable every year since it started. (How many enterprise startups can say that?)

The company currently has 400 employees, but unlike most Series B investments, they aren’t looking at this money to grow operationally. They wanted to have the money for strategic purposes, so if the opportunity came along to make an acquisition or expand into a new market, they would be in a position to do that.

“I see the funding as a confirmation and commitment, a sign from our investors and an indicator about what we’ve built and the traction we have. But for us it’s more important, and our investors share this, what they really invested in was the future of the company,” Rinke said. He’s sees an on-going commitment to help his customers as far more important than a billion valuation.

But that doesn’t hurt either as it moves rapidly forward.


By Ron Miller