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Process mining innovation starts with real-world customer experiences says Celonis co-CEO

Before Celonis starts developing a new product, they start with their customers. That’s how Alex Rinke, Celonis co-Founder and co-CEO, described the company’s approach to process mining and business execution innovation at Celosphere 2022.

“When we think about developing new products or building on new ideas, we don't go in a lab and invent something for six months, for nine months, and then we see if people like it,” Rinke said. “No, we start with customers from day one.”

Rinke sat down with Tom Smith, an analyst for Acceleration Economy and Cloud Wars, during the event to discuss how the company is reinventing process mining and execution management, why sustainability is a huge focus for Celonis and its customers and how disruption is driving innovation.

READ: Celosphere 2022: Everything you need to know news, product, process mining best practices


The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for readability.

Celosphere: The world’s best process mining and business execution experts together, in-person

Tom Smith: Tons of energy here at Celosphere. I know we talked a little bit in the lead up to this event. I remember you saying how excited you were to get people back together, get your customers in one place. So now that we're here, how does it feel?

Alex Rinke: Oh, it feels amazing. This is the first time in three years basically, that we are getting together. The whole community is getting together and the energy, the people, I mean everybody here is driven by this mission to change their companies, to put them on a better path to the future, to introduce new technology. I mean, I said yesterday, this feels like Disneyland for me.

Tom Smith: Well, and it's funny, something that came to mind for me just hearing you and [Dr. Wil van der Aalst] talk about the earliest days, 2009, I'm sure you couldn't have envisioned this at that time. That's just got to feel tremendous.

Alex Rinke: No, we always envisioned Celonis to be big because we thought, okay, processes are just such a big issue for everybody and they're so horizontal in nature. They are everywhere and every organization, every department has processes, but I don't think we would envision how it would feel and that we would get here. So it's amazing and it's super energizing.

Process Sphere: Process mining reinvented

Tom Smith: So for those who were not here live or perhaps didn't see the live stream, can you recap a few of the key points from the vision that you shared in person here?

Alex Rinke: Yeah, so this was a very meaningful Celosphere of course, because we are all together again, but also because we reinvented process mining, and you don't reinvent it very often. We brought it out for the first time in 2011, and now after more than 10 years, we said, "Hey, we can bring this to a whole new level and give people this added and incredibly revolutionary perspective on their businesses."

Celosphere 2022 Alex Rinke Name 2

Celonis co-Founder and co-CEO Alex Rinke at Celosphere 2022 in Munich, Germany.

That's what we are delivering with moving from process mining effectively from a 2D technology that always looks at individual processes at a time, and you have to take a lot of x-rays of the company to try to understand what's going on to 3D technology, where you take one picture, one MI, and you see a 3D model of what's going on in the company. We think that's going to change businesses going forward.

Tom Smith: That's Process Sphere, of course.

Alex Rinke: That's Process Sphere, and that comes to life in many other different ways. We are bringing apps to life. We are thinking about business minor, which is making, really reducing the barrier to entry for our users. So making it super easy to consume for everybody in the company. So I think the product showed up very strong and we have some really, really exciting announcements.

Then the other thing that I take away is just this shared sense of mission by everybody here, because we realize that we have to look up and realize this moment where we have to make a difference to our processes and save the world one process at a time. Because there's a tremendous amount of carbon that's trapped in all of our business processes in every industry, whether it's consumer products, retail, energy, it doesn't matter. Everybody here is getting on board with this idea of making a difference, way beyond just improving efficiency or improving performance. So we are super excited and you can just feel that shared sense of mission, this movement that's getting going and that's what today is all about.

Also: Process Sphere™ is a capability of Celonis EMS built on a novel type of process mining technology called object-centric process mining (OCPM).

Tom Smith: Yeah. I was going to say, much news coming out of the company today, couple new products, some really key partnerships that I think are critical to driving results. So if you could speak to those, a bit...

Alex Rinke: Part of new perspectives, we are always thinking of our businesses in terms of the top and the bottom line. Those two things are really, really important and they remain important, but we are adding this other perspective, which is the green line. If you can manage all of your processes in one view, in one platform, and optimize performance for the top, for the bottom, and for the green line, you're going to be a business that thrives in the future. Everybody here understands this. That's what this shared sense of mission is all about.

Celonis product innovation starts with customers

Tom Smith: I was struck by in the development of those applications, you worked with some customers and specifically identified those customers. Can you talk about how important that is and how valuable it is to have that real-world perspective? Obviously they're influencing your direction because they're struggling with the problems you'd like to solve.

Alex Rinke: A lot of times when we think about what is our biggest strength, I think our biggest strength is our customers. When we think about developing new products or building on new ideas, we don't go in a lab and invent something for six months, for nine months, and then we see if people like it. No, we start with customers from day one.

Celosphere 2022 Ariel Bardin - New UI

Ariel Bardin, Celonis Chief Product Officer, introduces the latest Celonis EMS products at Celosphere 2022 in Munich.

Even before we start with a new product, we start with customers. That's why when we said, "Okay, sustainability is going to be a big part of our mission going forward", we said, "Hey, we want to really unlock the potential of our Celonauts and our customers". We said we're going to do three impact days every year, and meaning three days where everybody drops their pens and focuses on things that drive an impact, in different executives sponsor and different things.

I said I'm going to go all in on sustainability and I'm going to host a hackathon. The fourth one is coming up now. I'm going to host hackathon where we invite all of our customers to come together, drop our pens. We have some of our best engineers, our best data scientists, and we work on leveraging Celonis' sustainability. That really shaped our roadmap because we get our best customers, our best people in a room, and we bang out sustainable use case. We have big retailers improve transportation, we have automotive suppliers reduce the footprint of their manufacturing.

We work with some of the biggest textile companies. I mean, you cannot imagine the importance of the textile industry for sustainability. To produce an average t-shirt costs thousands of liters of water. There's just so much energy and improvement opportunity, and Celonis from day one was about changing things, was about improving organizations. There are so many people in every company that don't want to change a little bit. They just want to keep things running as they know they're running, but none of them are here. So that's what Celonis was always about, and that's what Celonis is going to be about for many years to come.

Now is the time: Disruption is driving innovation

Tom Smith: Your passion around customers certainly comes through, in this discussion and when you're speaking. I have to say, as a non-Celonis employee, it's very cool to see all the high profile customers you have here who are up talking about the results that they're achieving. I know you've been spending a lot of time with them here in Munich. What are you hearing? What are they saying about their outlook with all the disruption they've been experiencing? How are they feeling about where things go from here?

Alex Rinke: Well, I think they face a situation that has been unprecedented for a very long time. We see recessionary fields and pretty likely recession in major markets. We see inflation, so financial issues. We see a huge supply chain disruption. We see this constant drive to create a more sustainable future because we have to survive as humanity. They put all these things together and say, "Now is the time to change my company's processes one step at a time to deliver better economic outcomes, to deliver more reliable supply chains and to deliver a more sustainable business".

I think that's what it's all about. That's what I'm hearing from every customer. How can we get on board fast? How can we really make a difference faster? How can we prove the tangible outcomes of what we're doing? And I think our new products help with that, our teams help with that. Our customers are amazing at it. Our partner ecosystem, we have a lot of our partners here, [that] help with that.

READ: Celosphere 2022 notebook: Process wisdom from Celonis customers

Tom Smith: Your customers...

Alex Rinke: It's what everybody rallies around; now is the time, right? We tried to change things when everything was going up, and a lot of people were not understanding why we would need a change. Now we are these change agents at a time where everybody realizes that we have to change. So this is the moment for everyone in this community to take it up a notch and put the pedal to the metal.

More from Celosphere 2022

Editor’s note: This video was originally published on Acceleration Economy, How Celonis Co-CEO Alex Rinke Sees Opportunities in Sustainability, Process Mining.

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Bill Detwiler
Senior Communications Strategist and Editor Celonis Blog

Bill Detwiler is Senior Communications Strategist and Editor of the Celonis blog. He is the former Editor in Chief of TechRepublic, where he hosted the Dynamic Developer podcast and Cracking Open, CNET’s popular online show. Bill is an award-winning journalist, who’s covered the tech industry for more than two decades. Prior his career in the software industry and tech media, he was an IT professional in the social research and energy industries.

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