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Enterprise automation: What you need to know about a process-first strategy

Enterprise automation is a priority as companies look to build resiliency and drive value, but a process-first approach is needed to do it right. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about automating your business. 

What is enterprise automation?

Enterprise automation leverages software to execute tasks and processes holistically to drive value across multiple functions and key performance indicators. 

Where does enterprise automation start?

Intelligent automation starts with a holistic view of processes as well as systems. Fragmented technology systems have created execution gaps that need to be identified before automating. Enterprises need to understand the root causes impacting KPIs, define business logic to automate decisions not just tasks and then execute. 

By focusing on automating processes instead of siloed tasks, enterprises can drive more value. This automation is powered by Process Mining and the real-time data and intelligence provided by it. 

Celonis CIO Jon Dack said CIOs and their organizations are among the few across a company that can see and understand a full process. "In any particular part of the organization, people don't truly understand the full process," said Dack. "They understand they're part of a process, but there are a lot of dependencies across the organization. When you look at process excellence across an entire organization, you start to see those interdependencies across the business and how one influences the other."

"Because we're not in any one particular area, we're in a position to help understand those connective threads," he added.

What is driving enterprise automation? 

In short, enterprises are focusing on resiliency as well as efficiency to drive value. Companies are using software and applications to automate processes and ultimately becoming more autonomous.

Morgan Stanley predicted that the emerging enterprise automation software market will grow 20% annually and represent a $40 billion market by 2025. Morgan Stanley said the enterprise automation market will include integration and API management, messaging and event stream processing, process mining, low-code process automation tools and robotic process automation (RPA) and task mining. These enterprise automation platforms will increasingly be enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

IDC analyst Maureen Fleming said in a blog post that business value and automation technology projects are converging. She said:

Several factors are changing the way organizations will plan and execute automation projects in 2023, including economic uncertainty, the need for automation technologies to seamlessly work together to deliver the broadest possible automation and process improvement benefits, as well as the need to tie these efforts together to deliver provable business benefits.

In a nutshell, organizations increasingly want to accurately predict the business value of automation opportunities before automation investments are made. That means approval to fund an automation project will have a much greater dependency on automation planning that combines identifying automation opportunities with business value metrics. Once automation projects begin, mirroring metrics will continuously measure the business value delivered as improvements move into production.

Also see: Intelligent process automation: Put Process Mining at the core

Where does Process Mining fit?

Process Mining works by extracting knowledge from event logs readily available in today’s information systems, in order to visualize business processes — and their every variation — as they run. With fact-based insights, enterprises will have a better view of what to automate with Celonis EMS. 

Also see: 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Process Mining Tools | Press release

The next generation of Process Mining is Object Centric Process Mining (OCPM), which is a novel approach to process mining that overcomes the limitations of traditional techniques and allows organizations to better visualize and analyze the complexity and interconnectedness of modern business operations. Celonis was the first technology provider to fully embrace object-centric process mining with the release of Process Sphere™, a new capability of Celonis EMS unveiled at Celosphere 2022.

Process Mining can give enterprises a holistic view of processes to discover opportunities for automation, find issues and fix them. Process mining also can continue to optimize processes as well as workflow automation efforts.

What is RPA

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. It’s technology designed to automate the repetitive tasks employees are doing on their desktops — by getting software "robots" to do them instead.

By automating repetitive tasks such as form-filling, copy-pasting and systems-integrating, RPA theoretically frees up people to concentrate on more high-value work. RPA can also be deployed quickly to streamline user interaction tasks.

Where does RPA fall short?

RPA is a useful tool to integrate disparate systems, but it is often deployed without a holistic view of process improvement. Robots also require supervision and upkeep as processes change. Bots can also create bottlenecks in end-to-end processes if they aren't balanced with human labor. 

Automating the wrong process creates more work in the long run, where maybe removing a step in the process, or tweaking some of the rules regulating it would have been a better way to drive efficiency. 

What are the building blocks of enterprise automation strategies?

Gartner has identified three building blocks of automation. These include process automation, task automation and augmentation. Process automation is designed for long running operations with tasks automated for shorter time periods. Augmentation is more dynamic and fluid. 

The goals for these building blocks of automation are to drive efficiency, agility and efficacy. The challenge will likely be the integration of multiple automation solutions.

Use cases for an automation solution should be prioritized based on revenue growth, cost optimization or risk management. Those use cases for automation mean that multiple C-level executives are driving projects in addition to the CIO. For instance, 79% of CFOs said their companies plan to embed more automation and digital transformation into operations as they manage through higher costs and concerns about the economy, according to a survey from Deloitte.

What are the automation opportunities?

Opportunities for automation abound. Although enterprises tend to think of automation in terms of silos like RPA, business process automation and workflows there are more opportunities if companies think holistically beyond manual processes. 

Celonis customers have outlined efforts to automate their enterprises. Some recent examples include:

Simply put, there are multiple use cases for automation including processes such as Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Procurement, Supply Chain and customer experience to name a few.

How will enterprise automation expand to enterprise partners, ecosystems?

Celonis' Execution Management System enables process excellence and automation within a company by tapping into its systems of record, such as ERP, CRM and SCM. But there’s a lot more to be done between companies with collaborative execution. Celonis Labs is working on leveraging EMS for interconnections between companies, said Eugenio Cassiano, Senior Vice President of Celonis Labs. In the future, companies can join a business network in EMS that'll connect internal systems as well as a process view of all involved parties and systems. "The next big thing of Celonis becoming that performance company will be to create network externalities," said Cassiano.

Maximilian Schrupp, Senior Technology Researcher, Celonis Labs, elaborated in the Celonis Labs Journal:

We had the question before of integrating new kinds of software into Celonis and I think it's not just software that's out there. It's really about digitizing everything that's relevant to a process, whatever that means. Those are new types of data sources, but also new types of actions that you can actually build on top of processes that can be network related or whatever.

Bottom line: Enterprise automation requires a holistic view that includes real-time data ingestion, process and task mining, planning and simulation including process digital twins, visualization and ultimately an execution engine.

Larry Dignan mugshot 2022
Larry Dignan
Editor in Chief (former)

Larry Dignan is the former Editor in Chief of Celonis Media. Before joining Celonis, he was Editor in Chief of ZDNet and has covered the technology industry and transformation trends for more than two decades, publishing articles in, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine.

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