Celonis co-CEO Rinke: Executing on your data

ZDNet caught up with co-CEO Alex Rinke to talk business process mining, expanding the customer base, and the plan for leveraging data to build an execution management ecosystem.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Celonis is ramping its visualization for its Execution Management Systems and using some of its funding to acquire companies like Lenses.io for real-time streaming data insights. 

Add it up and it's a busy time for an enterprise software vendor that appears to be critical to improving business processes with data. We caught up with co-CEO Alex Rinke to talk business process mining, the customer base and the plan to leverage data to build an execution management ecosystem. 

Here's a recap of my conversation with Rinke:

The elevator pitch. Rinke's argument for Celonis revolves around the idea that companies aren't leveraging their data to execute well and refine processes. Data provides the raw material of processes and how they actually happen. With that information, companies can become more efficient via process mining. "We can get massive amounts of efficiency improvements, deliver a better customer experience and run a more sustainable business," said Rinke.

The process morass problem. Celonis sits in what Rinke calls the digitization layer of the enterprise software stack. The stack includes a bevy of different IT systems including ERP and CRM and systems of record. Toss in sensors and other data and you get a picture of processes. "With all this data growing at a very rapid trajectory you need a 360-degree view of your business process," said Rinke. "We show you how it is working and what's going on is not based on opinions, workshops or whiteboards. It's based on data and it's real-time. We then can drive better decisions and actions."


Customer data hygiene. For Celonis to work, it needs to plug into existing systems without a lot of customer data work. Supply chain is a key area of improvement. Rinke noted that one customer had more than 100,000 variations of its procurement process.

The eureka moment. Celonis' best sales pitch is that aha moment when a customer realizes a process is inefficient. "That aha moment is what customers have when they see how a process works with their own data for the first time. We call it the X-Ray. Once they see it, they say 'ok, we have a lot of room for improvement," said Rinke. Many Celonis customers are already successful. "Just imagine if you run a perfect process how successful your business will be," Rinke.

Returns on investment. Rinke added that many customers have seen strong returns on process improvement, but there's also soft benefits such as more transparency as well as more time to innovate.

Robotics process automation vs. process mining. Rinke said RPA isn't the same as process mining but can be a tool that's handy. "I look at RPA as a niche and there are some problems it will solve, but it's usually not that many," said Rinke. "RPA is a good Band-Aid for some issues, but it really doesn't drive substantial transformation on its own."

The base of customers. Rinke said Celonis typically starts with functional leaders in an enterprise and often in the supply chain. From there, the CIO then takes it across the company. Celonis has a bevy of manufacturing and financial customers, but process mining is expanding into customer service and sales. The company's new Execution Graph has the potential to expand Celonis reach with business users because it can spark curiosity about processes and improving them, said Rinke. He added that Celonis has a land and expand strategy that can grow the base of users over time.

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