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Reflections on an impactful partnership with Celonis: Consultants share insights on value creation with process mining


Strong partnerships are key to helping clients improve operations and boost productivity across their enterprises. 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 partnership, IBM has delivered greater flexibility and choice in how its clients deploy workflow intelligence technology, and it’s changing the way value is delivered to clients.

This partnership is critical for both companies. IBM Consulting has set the agenda for data-driven consulting and moved clients to value faster by embedding Celonis into business transformation workstreams. For Celonis, IBM Consulting introduces their platform’s process mining, automation and execution management capabilities to its customers. IBM and Celonis have also developed industry-specific applications for multiple use cases including supply chain, procurement and accounts payable and receivable.

IBM initially set out to certify 2,000 consultants on Celonis and hit that mark ahead of schedule. Since the inception of the partnership, the companies have made great strides. Several consultants shared insights and reflected on the outcomes of this partnership.

Scott Kim, a Category Manager for IBM Consulting, said “Celonis has given 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 KPIs.”

Kristina Dreher, Associate Consultant at IBM, has focused on being a process mining consultant for the last 18 months. When Dreher initially worked with a client using legacy systems, she had to map out processes and discover opportunities without the capabilities of 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.” 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 quickly get something visual in Celonis for the client.”

Clients may need time to process and understand what they are seeing, but typically they become curious and look for deep dives into processes. 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 improvements. Think big and don’t stop.”

Dreher’s delivery projects include IBM peers as well as Celonis experts. “We act as one team, and it feels like the family has grown,” said Dreher. “IBM and Celonis have combined forces.”

Cazzie Williams, IBM Delivery Project Executive, is a strategic-sourcing veteran who had positions at Honeywell, Electrolux, Microsoft and Whirlpool. When the IBM and Celonis partnership was announced, 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 gathering 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. Williams said his Celonis usage has ramped from a bi-weekly check of client processes to looking at the data every other day.

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.

Compared to manual process mapping and discovery approaches, Celonis has cut the time to make recommendations in half. 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. Process mining will be part of the culture if you create the environment.”

Oliver Wilhelm, Associate Consultant, joined IBM Consulting with an automotive background and a strong interest in improving processes leveraging technology.  Wilhelm discovered Celonis and shares, “I started with classical process mapping to discover improvement potential. Two years ago, I started working with Celonis as its data-based view on processes that provides an objective perspective on processes while identifying automation potentials.”

Wilhelm added that Celonis enables him to assess process KPIs 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.

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.” The resources IBM brings can help clients understand the process, compare it with industry benchmarks and implement appropriate process improvements.

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 the Celonis PQL, as well as IT system migration projects.

The goal for Wilhelm is to move clients more into automation and action flows via the Celonis Execution Management System (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.”

IBM has over a dozen applications available in the Celonis Marketplace for users to explore, including those covering functional areas such as procurement, record to report, supply chain, and customer and IT services. Many of these apps have been specifically designed for key industries including banking, insurance, industrial, engineering and more.

Moreover, IBM Garage jump start sessions with Celonis EMS offer many of our clients a great starting point for process exploration — and we’re finding that our consultants can accelerate time to value realization through these engagements too. “The exploration process with Celonis EMS gives our consultants new capabilities and in turn, they’re identifying cost-reductions for a wide array of enterprise clients that are much needed,” comments Juan Jimenez, Partner Marketing, IBM and Celonis.

“In today’s unstable economic environment, every opportunity to improve the bottom-line matters. IBM and Celonis share a common vision around the power of intelligent workflows, and we take a systematic approach to uncover hidden inefficiencies — so that we can help our customers reduce costs,” added Juan.

Even the most mature organizations can lack the tools and experience to look beyond blind spots. To ensure clients are well served, surround them with practitioners that can operate in partnership across their specific domain and know how to orchestrate it all.





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