Strong partnerships are key when you want to deliver valuable insights to clients, such as to help them improve finance operations across their enterprises and boost productivity in the process. A year ago, IBM Consulting and Celonis joined forces to embed the execution management system capabilities of Celonis at the core of IBM Consulting’s finance transformation business. Since the inception of the year-old partnership, IBM has delivered greater flexibility and choice in how their clients deploy intelligent workflows and it’s changing the way value is delivered to enterprise clients.
The partnership is critical for both companies. For IBM, who is looking to set the agenda for data-driven consulting and move clients to value faster, embedding Celonis, has advanced both causes. For Celonis, IBM Consulting can introduce their platform as well as process mining, automation and execution management. Together, they aim to develop industry specific applications for multiple use cases including supply chain, procurement and accounts payable and accounts receivable.
IBM initially set out to certify 2,000 consultants on Celonis and will hit that mark ahead of schedule. While it's early in the IBM Celonis partnership, the companies are already making great strides:
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As it turns out, several IBM consultants have recently shed light into the client outcomes they’re delivering and the value they’re uncovering by embedding Celonis into their workstreams and engagements.
Scott Kim, a category manager for IBM Consulting said Celonis has given his clients "an opportunity to fix problems they never knew existed. Process innovation provides such an improvement opportunity and the data gives you a lot of ideas for initiatives and developing key performance indicators (KPIs)," he added.
Kristina Dreher, Senior Consultant at IBM has focused on being a process mining consultant for the last year. "I was introduced to Celonis on my first day at IBM and said, 'that's what I want to do.'" When Dreher worked with a client with an older legacy system she had to map out processes and discover opportunities without Celonis. "After a couple of months, I knew there was a better way," she said. "With the data provided by Celonis, it's unbiased. One of the issues I had was that every time we tried to get a process locked, there would be a new idea, changed minds and the client was unsure how the process would run."
Dreher added that Celonis enables IBM consultants to show processes based on data. "When you can show them with data and not words, minds are more open," said Dreher. "I prefer to tell story based on data not general ideas. "Every project has its own nuances, but Dreher said Celonis reduces time to value. With a data driven approach, Dreher said she can start with a workshop to outline goals based on data. "If all goes well, I receive the data quickly or connect to core systems and get something visual in Celonis for the client as fast as possible," said Dreher.
It’s evident that the visual approach these consultants are taking is helping clients see the data behind processes in ways they couldn’t have imagined. And for those clients who need time and a closer look - to help process and understand what they are seeing - it helps to have a certified IBM practitioner like Dreher to guide them along their journey. More and more of these clients are becoming curious, and looking for deep dives into processes, indicated Dreher, who works on eight to nine projects a year ranging from weeks to months.
Dreher's engagements have included IBM peers as well as Celonis experts. "We act as one team and sometimes it feels like the family grew," said Dreher. "We act as one team together and IBM and Celonis have combined forces. Sometimes IBM is in an account first and others Celonis is there first."
Going forward, Dreher will work on supply chain issues as well as industrial products.
Dreher's advice: Be curious about processes and the underlying data as well as the full value chain. "You can connect dots from different departments, analyze them together and drive real improvement," said Dreher. "Think big and don't stop."
Cazzie Williams, Delivery Project Executive, is a strategic sourcing veteran who prior to IBM had positions at Honeywell, Electrolux, Microsoft and Whirlpool. When the IBM and Celonis partnership was announced a year ago, Williams said it was clear he "had to jump right in."
After about two weeks of tutorials, Williams began integrating Celonis into his procurement engagements. Williams' clients are in multiple industries. "It's about efficiency with my clients," said Williams. "What used to take a week or more for information now takes less than 5 minutes."
For instance, if a client is trying to find out why suppliers aren't getting paid, Celonis can show the purchase order process, show how to fix it and then deploy a solution, said Williams.
Williams said his Celonis usage has ramped from a biweekly check of client processes to looking at the data every other day. "You keep looking at areas for efficiency," said Williams.
Much of Williams' personal efficiency from Celonis is on the front-end of an engagement. "You can bring data in with data models and say, 'here are the gaps, here's what's good and here are the opportunities,'" said Williams. "Previously, we'd process that data manually, so you move faster."
Compared to manual process mapping and discovery approaches, Celonis has cut the time to make recommendations by half, said Williams. Data-driven consulting with the help of Celonis means that IBM can do more with less and focus on high priority projects ranked by value.
"The future of consulting is having readily available information to tell a story and drive a direction much faster," said Williams.
Williams' advice for veteran consultants looking to better serve their clients: "You can build a culture and create a community around Celonis usage where everyone helps each other." And "Process mining will be part of the culture if you create the environment."
Oliver Wilhelm, Associate Consultant joined IBM Consulting in October 2019 with an automotive background and a strong interest in improving processes leveraging technology. Later, Wilhelm discovered Celonis as a technology that applied process mining to improve processes and discover automation potential.
"I started with classical process mapping to discover improvement potential," said Wilhelm. "Two years ago, I started working with Celonis as its data-based view on processes allows an objective perspective on processes while identifying automation potentials."
Wilhelm added that Celonis enables him to assess process KPI’s before he even talks to the client in workshops. "It speeds up the process a lot when you have a first session with the business and hand over a list of calculated opportunities backed up by actual process data," he said.
According to Wilhelm, Celonis is running in every project he has across industrial and automotive clients.
Since the IBM Celonis partnership launched, Wilhelm said he has seen strong technical support from Celonis colleagues. "We have a personal connection and knowledge exchange," said Wilhelm. That relationship makes it easier to customize as needed for clients, he added.
Wilhelm said his projects have been a mix of clients that already use Celonis and ones where the technology is new. "When Celonis is new to the engagement, we can showcase some simple things, ask more precise questions and calculate benefits," he said. "Where Celonis has been implemented, we can begin talking about a global strategy and rollout." Especially the resources IBM brings can help in such a project to understand the process, compare it with industry benchmarks and implement appropriate process improvements. For the last point, the numerous established IBM solutions can be offered - like a bouquet of flowers from which the customer can pick – the Celonis Execution Management System (EMS) capabilities are the perfect addition to this.
Another perk of working with Celonis is that Wilhelm can hone his technical skills since he likes working with numbers and code. He added that he has an interest in both SQL and Celonis' PQL as well as IT system migration projects.
The goal for Wilhelm is to move clients more into automation and action-flows via Celonis' EMS as they expand beyond process mining and discovery.
Wilhelm's advice: "There will be a time when every company has process mining in place. There's high potential for personal development and your career if you can always point back to numbers and very clear measurements."
The partnership of IBM and Celonis reinforces a longstanding commitment to bring together the right companies, skills, technology and processes to meet client need and drive time to value.