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The evolution of process mining: A look at the journey and what's next

In March 2023, Gartner® published its first Magic Quadrant™ for Process Mining Tools. It names Celonis as a Leader, placing the company furthest on Completeness of Vision and highest on Ability to Execute.

“Process mining tools deliver visibility and insights to technology innovation leaders that enable smart decision making and strong performance on an organization’s critical priorities,” wrote Gartner.

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In an open letter about the company’s placement on the Magic Quadrant, Co-founder and co-CEO Alexander Rinke thanked Celonis customers, ecosystem partners and team members. Rinke also said Celonis wasn’t stopping there.

“Let's keep pushing the frontier of this technology,” Rinke wrote. “Using process mining to capture the world's biggest opportunities for businesses, people and the planet.”

Celonis continues to push the technology’s boundaries with innovations like object-centric process mining, a consumer-grade user experience and an open platform strategy. In just over two decades, process mining has gone from an academic discipline to business transformation necessity. As Vaish Sashikanth, Celonis Chief Engineering Officer, has said, process mining is ”poised to become the trusted, daily digital assistant for every business.”

It couldn’t happen at a more important time.

The journey so far: Process performance is business performance

When processes work well, organizations can execute at their full capacity. As businesses change and grow however, processes get more complex, more prone to bottlenecks and breakdowns. Those process pain points keep businesses from running at peak performance. They also present an opportunity. 

Process mining enables organizations to find and capture the value opportunities that hide in their processes. Opportunities to find invoices that were paid twice or goods that were shipped but not billed for. For years, businesses across industries have used process mining to drive cash value, manage costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Before process mining technology, creating a process model was a manual affair. People got together in rooms and mapped out what they thought a process looked like using sticky notes and whiteboards. They conducted interviews with process leads, stakeholders and end users. This was traditional process discovery and analysis as practiced in the world of Business Process Management (BPM). It was time-consuming, expensive and often produced models that reflected how people thought a process worked instead of how it actually worked. Process mining changed everything.

Process mining allows companies to pull event data from the information systems that run modern business operations, such as ERP, CRM and SCM. The data is stored in event logs and analyzed to create an unbiased view of how processes actually run, not how people think they run.

In describing how process mining transformed BPM research and application, Prof. Wil van der Aalst, Chief Scientist at Celonis and the person who coined the term process mining, wrote that it was “no longer acceptable to waste time and money on creating BPMN [business process management and notation] models that say little about the actual processes.”

According to van der Aalst, process mining was initially used with a data science mindset to perform process analysis for a specific improvement project. “Celonis was the first process mining vendor that enabled non-experts to use process mining results continuously,” he wrote.

Since then, process mining, especially when combined with the automation functionality and  consumer-grade user experience in Celonis EMS, has become the solution for driving rapid business value.

According to Gartner, “by 2025, 80% of organizations driven by the expectations of cost reduction and automation-derived enhanced process efficiency will embed process mining capabilities in at least 10% of their business operations.” Driving this adoption are macroeconomic conditions such as supply chain disruption and inflation, accelerated digital transformation efforts, and increasing demands for operational excellence and resilience.

The use cases for process mining across the business are many:

  • Procurement - By leveraging process mining, procurement teams can better enforce contract compliance and usage, reduce late deliveries, improve the touchless order rate, more easily match free-text requisitions to past POs and reduce maverick buying.

  • Accounts Payable (AP or A/P) - With process mining, AP teams can prevent duplicate invoice payments, minimize payment term mismatches, maximize cash discount utilization, minimize payment blocks and prevent currency mismatches.

  • Accounts Receivable (AP or A/P) - AR teams can use process mining to ensure on-time payment, increase touchless collections, track payment term compliance, prevent underpayments and improve credit utilization.

  • Inventory Management - Process mining can accelerate key inventory management initiatives such as reducing excess and obsolescence, speeding up inventory turnover, reducing the risk of shortages and ensuring on-time deliveries.

  • Order Management - Process mining is used by order management teams to minimize credit holds, prevent late deliveries, prevent order rejections, cut down on manual work by increasing touchless orders and reduce the number of unbilled orders.

The journey ahead: Reinventing process mining

Whether they’re fighting macroeconomic headwinds, setting their company up for the next expansion or currently growing their business, decision makers can use process mining to optimize operations. And new use cases will emerge as process mining technology advances and the use of enterprise automation expands.

A major innovation occurred with Celonis being the first vendor to fully embrace object-centric process mining (OCPM) with the release of Process Sphere™ in late 2022. The traditional process mining approach is great for analyzing and optimizing a single process in isolation. Modern business processes however, are highly interconnected.

OCPM is a novel approach to process mining that overcomes the limitations of traditional process mining by capturing the complex relationships between every object involved in a process as well as the connections between different processes. OCPM gives businesses a more complete picture of their end-to-end business operations. One can describe the change as going from a two-dimensional process X-ray to a three-dimensional MRI.

Another advancement is the further democratization of process mining through a user experience (UX) that allows everyone in the business to use the technology. Celonis took a significant step toward this goal with the release of Business Miner™ at Celosphere 2022.

Business Miner enables non-technical business users to develop process intelligence through a question-and-answer-based interface. Intelligence in hand, the interface allows users to share them with others and collaborate on them directly within the Celonis platform. Business Miner also provides a streamlined onboarding process for new users.

In addition to making UX improvements to the process mining platform, with solutions like the Celonis Intelligence API, developers and engineers can pull process insights directly into the business systems people use every day. For example, the Celonis EMS Connector for Power BI, built with the Intelligence API, embeds process intelligence directly into Microsoft’s Power BI data analytics software.

When these process mining innovations are taken in context, organizations will be better able to adopt a process-first strategy for their enterprise automation efforts and more effectively build process digital twins. In other words, the process mining journey is just getting started. I am confident that Gartner publishing the first Magic Quadrant for Process Mining Tools is an important event for the category, but it’s not the final stop. It’s a preview of emerging use cases and business value to come.


Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Process Mining Tools, Marc Kerremans, Kimihiko Iijima, Andrei Razvan Sachelarescu, Nick Duffy, David Sugden, 20 March 2023

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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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