Modern organizations use dozens of systems (ERP, CRM, IT and more) to run their business processes. Most enterprise companies use over 200 IT systems and applications. A 2022 study conducted by Forrester and Celonis found that the average individual business process runs across 10+ different systems. It’s no wonder then that only 16% of respondents to the same survey said they have total process visibility. And these processes run core business functions like supply chain management, Order-to-Cash or Purchase-to-Pay.
If you want to analyze those processes and identify inefficiencies and execution gaps, you need to pull data out of all those different systems and into an Execution Management System (EMS).
Using real-time data ingestion, Celonis EMS pulls data from systems throughout the enterprise. EMS is the execution layer that sits across the entire tech stack and companies to understand and optimize the processes that operate their business. Celonis customers can quickly and easily pull data into EMS via the 100+ pre-built connectors in the Celonis EMS Marketplace or by using the low-code Extractor Builder.
Creating these connectors, let alone a low-code tool that lets technical and non-technical professionals alike pull data from almost any system with a REST API, is a tough technical challenge, and one that the Celonis product and engineering teams have been taking on.
Not long before Celonis World Tour 2022, I sat down with Lara Lingelbach to talk about the data extractors, Extractor Builder and how her team keeps their work fun and interesting.
Lara Lingelbach, Team Lead Product Management, Celonis
Lingelbach is a team lead product management at Celonis who oversees a team of dedicated product managers. She also had a background in data science and IT with multiple degrees in information engineering and management.
The following is a transcript of our interview edited for readability.
Detwiler: So let's talk about data extractors, because they really are that first step. It's the way that data gets into the Celonis EMS. What are data extractors?
Lingelbach: Data extractors have a very fundamental role in EMS. They ensure that data from our customers can be executed on within EMS. So basically, without the data extractors, EMS is just empty, and yes, we fill the EMS with life.
Detwiler: So, they pull the data into the EMS. What types of systems can they pull data from? I mean, in the modern enterprise today, there are all different types of systems, ERP and CRM, payroll, finance, all these different types of systems. I assume the extractors are designed to work with all of those types of systems.
Lingelbach: Yes. Probably not all, but a majority of those. So as we are building a platform to execute on. We also focus on big ERP systems like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft or those best-in-class systems. Like for CRM, you have Salesforce. For workflow management and IT ticketing, you have ServiceNow. For spend management, Coupa. Or for example, if you want to execute on your human capital management, you can basically connect to Workday or SAP SuccessFactors.
So these systems would basically give you the process relevant data. Additionally to that, we also enrich our processes with third party data that is coming from, for example, EcoVadis. EcoVadis would provide you sustainability scores on your vendors. We also integrate with Conexium, which is an OCR solution that allows us to basically get OCR data in a structured way into Celonis.
See also: Challenges in data engineering: Secrets on building a real-time streaming platform from Celonis’s head of streaming data and CEO of Lenses.io
Detwiler: And you didn't really just stop there. So within the CMS, there are dozens and dozens of extractors that are already available, but there's also an extractor builder so that people can create their own extractors. Tell me a little bit about the Extractor Builder. What is it? How does it work?
Lingelbach: Yes, good question. So, the extractor builder is really a local tool and it basically allows you, so really everyone from our engineer to a business user, to build their own data extractor for any system that has a REST-based API and without writing a single line of code. By providing a step-by-step interface, the extractor builder guides you through this process of setting up an extractor and with just a few clicks, you can create your own extractor by simply specifying your system's API endpoints and the authentication method. So, there's no need to know JAVA, Python or anything like that.
Celonis Extractor Builder
Detwiler: It sounds like to me, that you had to balance building a tool that had a lot of power, but also one that was easy to use. So as you put it, you don't have to know, a business user doesn't need to know JAVA. They don't need to write code to be able to build an extractor. You’re a project manager, you're always working with engineering and developers and you're always working with customers and you're trying to make sure that the product fits their need. How did you and the team balance that? Just, I'm thinking about your own experiences. How do you balance building something that's really powerful, but also simple and easy to use?
Lingelbach: Yes. That's a very good point here and fair point. So basically, within our engineering team, I think we have a lot of great ideas on how to provide new features to end users. But at the same time, yes, we need to balance that the user actually understands on how they can use this feature, because often, we are super specialized in our product area, but our end users might come into this area once or twice a week and they don't necessarily understand what we've designed this feature for. So we really need to have a trade off between providing them features and being flexible, but at the same time also, yeah, guiding them and not overwhelming them basically with the amount of features we provide. So then again, limiting their flexibility.
Detwiler: Yeah. It's definitely important to provide the options, but also do so in a way that's constrained, so it's not filling the screen with 50 things. It's saying, oh, these options are here. So if you are a power user, you can get to those options and get behind the scenes a little bit, or find the right menu to do that, find the right drop down. But if you need to come in and do something quickly, that the interface allows you to do that.
See also: API Automation: How Make and Celonis engineering teams are building consumer-ready apps at enterprise
Detwiler: So my last question really builds on that, which is what advice would you give to people, other product teams, engineering teams, who are tackling a tough engineering challenge like that of building something that's really powerful, of building something, but is also easy to use? What advice would you give for people who are approaching the challenge, a similar challenge?
Lingelbach: Yes. So when you are asking this question, I mainly think about escalations where we really have to provide a solution and help our customers fix a problem or a challenge. And what helps me, especially, and the engineering team there, is really also bringing the fun to that challenge and not stress out over it. So really having a positive mindset, even though it might be really critical and there might be a lot of pleasure, but really try to stay positive. Because what I've seen basically, is that, that brings the most creative ideas and really allows you to tackle that problem from an open mind and maybe sometimes, also crazy perspective. So yes, that's my biggest advice I would give there.
At Celonis we’re building a new type of enterprise technology, called execution management. And, we’re recruiting the world’s best engineers to do it. Whether you’re a frontend or backend developer, full stack engineer, data scientist or DevOps specialist – we have technical challenges that need solving.
To learn more about how we’re pioneering advances in AI, machine learning, automation, analytics and data mining, and to see current engineering job openings, visit Celonis Engineering.