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New Celonis CIO Jon Dack: Prioritize process over technologies

Jon Dack has joined Celonis as Chief Information Officer and plans to leverage the company's Process Mining technology and Execution Management System (EMS) for IT. After all, a big part of a CIO's role revolves around melding process excellence, technology and business.

At Celonis, Dack will be responsible for using technology and data to empower businesses to be more efficient. Before joining Celonis, Dack was CIO at Bottomline Technologies where he embarked on a major digital transformation effort, focused on 20 years of legacy processes and technology. This included IT Operations, Business Systems, Information Security, Global Real Estate, and Operational Excellence. Prior to that he was CIO at Toast Inc. running the same functions for more than 4 years, where he helped scale the business from a few hundred employees and customers to thousands of employees and tens of thousands of customers.

We caught up with Dack to talk about enabling efficiency via technology and process excellence. Here are the highlights.

The intersection of process excellence and information technology. "I hate the term technical debt. For me, it's more about process debt. Technology is really providing the technical output for your process. When the technology isn't working, it's because your process needs to change and the technology hasn't changed to meet that process," explained Dack. "If I start just rolling out technology, without truly understanding what the right process needs to be, it's not going to succeed."

Seeing the process landscape. 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.

Also: What is Execution Management? | eBook: Process Mining For Dummies, Celonis Special Edition 

Process engineering evolution. Dack said he was always a process engineer and has run operational excellence teams. The work to optimize processes was manual and time consuming, said Dack. Celonis was appealing to Dack because he could use Celonis’ EMS as a technical layer to uncover opportunities instead of throwing humans at the issue. "How are we thinking about the best path for us? No one group is really going to solve this. That's why process excellence across the entire business is truly critical," said Dack. "I think about what work we should be doing and what work should be automated."

Dack's bet is that Celonis’ EMS can tell the entire process story for his organization and the company.

"I would love something that just told me the whole story. But anything that would give me a leg up where I can understand the why behind a lot of these different things and really challenge the business to understand how one part is impacting another, that's huge."

Think process not systems. Dack said he doesn't wade into debates about one technology over another. "Whatever the technology is, it needs to provide the right output for our processes," said Dack. Cost is a factor for systems such as cloud compute and software-as-a-service, but technology spending should be focused on making processes more efficient. "When people say we should use this technology vs. this other one, it doesn’t matter to me," said Dack. "It's about productivity and efficiency. We'll use the right technologies that give us a higher degree of productivity."

Dack added that picking a technology system really revolves around whether it's core to your business. He said it's all about "how are we adding business value versus how we are keeping a server alive?"

He added: "I can't really build the best systems without having strong process engineering."

Evolution of the CIO role. Dack said there are different types of CIOs with some focused on the technical, but the role has evolved. "When you think about CIO, you think about chief digital officer, you think about chief innovation officer. It's a role that's really looking broadly across the organization and has the influence to understand how everything is interconnected, so that we're not thinking about stuff in silos," said Dack.

Using Celonis on Celonis. Dack said his initial focus areas are sales processes, accounts payable and accounts receivable to understand the opportunities. Broadly speaking, however, process improvements fall into two buckets: The customer lifecycle and the employee lifecycle. "When we think about processes, we need to be understanding that entire lifecycle of those two entities," said Dack. "That's how our business operates."

Dack added that functions such as IT support also have opportunities for process improvement and automation. "When I think about growing an IT organization, I want that group to be doing high-end, high-yield work," said Dack. "I don't want to be spending their time on ticket taking and turning things on and off."

The key to becoming more efficient is complementing an EMS with an integration platform (IPAAS) to connect to every system and provide the opportunity to move data based on the ideal workflow for the business vs conceding to the integration limitations of each individual system. 

The first 100 days. Dack said his initial to-do list is to tackle some low hanging fruit, but also to learn. He said:

“My first 100 days here are really about learning. I'm trying to understand what has been done up to this point and why. Learn the culture of the company, understand what we do as a company, what our product does, who our customers are and how we go to market. Try and understand how we are creating opportunities for our employees to grow within the company? I'm very much in a learning mode right now.”

Dack said it's important to keep an open mind when doing a listening tour. "Just because we've done things a different way doesn't mean it's the wrong way," he said. There's also timing. A company will go through various stages of maturity at different times, and knowing when is the right time to focus on specific processes is very important. Some process engineering needs to occur later in the future due to culture, speed and prerequisite process excellence initiatives.

Managing in volatile times. Dack said:

“As we're in a downturn, I think what we need to be doing is focusing on what is really going to impact productivity and what isn't, and then really pull back on some of those areas that are no longer applicable to productivity. How do we think about prioritization as an entire company, so that these teams who are in support of an organization are doing the right things?”

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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