Process mining becomes acquisition target, altering the terrain

Enterprise technology companies like SAP and Microsoft see value in process mining technology, but the current rate of acquisition is rapidly altering the market.

The process mining market is still relatively new, but it is evolving rapidly.

Indeed, the market is changing so rapidly that it will be significantly altered -- or not exist at all -- in a few years, according to analysts.

Process mining software enables organizations to analyze how business processes work, how often they're used and who is using them. This is particularly important for the enterprise, where business processes can be inefficient, broken or duplicated.

Typically, process mining applications are used for business process reengineering and business process management initiatives. But they've more recently established themselves as a tool for digital transformation projects. Modern process mining applications, which include advanced analytics and automation capabilities, can help companies audit processes when migrating from on-premises to cloud-based platforms, pinpointing what processes can stay behind.

Celonis and Signavio, two of the biggest process mining vendors, have made significant technology advancements and added capabilities such as automated recommendations on process improvements. And they've caught the eye of enterprise technology vendors such as SAP, which acquired Signavio in 2021, and Microsoft, which added Minit to its portfolio in 2022.

As companies look to examine and improve processes, there are a variety of approaches and vendors they can consider. Market leaders like Celonis and Signavio are complex software platforms that are well suited for larger, more complex organizations and are primarily aimed at data analysts and scientists. Other process mining vendors offer approaches that require less technical expertise.

Smaller process mining vendors hold out

Stereologic is one of the smaller vendors that aims to capture a slice of the process mining market. The Toronto-based company focuses on establishing a holistic picture of enterprise processes, according to Sofia Passova, Stereologic's president, founder and CEO.

Sofia Passova, president, founder and CEO, StereologicSofia Passova

To do so requires capturing not just the processes, but the people interactions involved in performing the processes, Passova said. Process mining in and of itself is superficial because how processes are interconnected can be misinterpreted and the people side of processes can be overlooked.

The Stereologic approach is to monitor and record what people do, and then generate an easy-to-read model that represents the reality of a process, she said. This is intended to provide information that average business users -- rather than data scientists -- can take advantage of, such as uncovering inefficiencies or helping determine what processes are best suited to automation.

"We try not only to understand processes, but to make it comprehensive enough for normal business people, not specialists like data analysts," Passova said. "You can read it like a story for kids."

Mavim is another independent vendor that's taking a more holistic approach to process mining. Based in Amsterdam, Mavim began about 30 years ago in process documentation and collaboration. It has evolved to incorporate process mining and modeling that enables the creation of a digital twin, or a digital representation, of an entire organization -- from processes to organizational structure to compliances and controls, according to Leo Salomons, head of U.S. value engineering at Mavim.

Leo Salomons, head of U.S. value engineering, MavimLeo Salomons

This digital twin can help organizations plan transformation projects, including a technical one like an ERP cloud transformation, or a business one like an M&A or a strategy shift.

"You can figure out how those changes impact the organization or model out what the implications of those changes would be," he said.

Process mining firms like Signavio and Minit that have been acquired by large enterprises will see their technologies absorbed into the enterprise platforms, but Mavim's position as a midtier vendor allows it to be more flexible and target specific industries, specifically those with regulatory requirements, Salomons said.

Take the pharmaceutical industry, for example. It faced a surge in demand and new regulatory oversight with the onset of COVID-19 and vaccine developments, which required process changes.

"When we identify opportunities like that, we have the ability by being small and nimble to pivot and address that need in the market," Salomons said.

Process mining acquisitions trend

While large enterprises like SAP, Microsoft and Pegasystems made a splash with their process mining acquisitions, smaller market consolidations are also happening.

In January 2022, iGrafx, a business process modeling software company in Tualatin, Ore., acquired Logpickr, a French process mining startup.

Alexandre Wentzo, chief strategy officer, iGrafxAlexandre Wentzo

The addition of Logpickr's process mining capabilities improved iGrafx's abilities to provide an accurate process model, while at the same time making this available for a wider range of users, according to Alexandre Wentzo, chief strategy officer of iGrafx.

Even just a few years ago, organizations had to use business analysts to conduct laborious projects to document processes and understand how businesses run, Wentzo said. However, these efforts usually only looked at the standardized business processes, without considering exceptions or one-off events.

"Obviously, leveraging data can give you a very accurate view of the business, because it's not what they're saying, it's what's happening," he said. "This is even more important for large organizations with lots of fragmented systems and trillions of lines of events. How can you analyze that as a human being?"

Celonis and Signavio are like the Lamborghinis of the process mining world -- they provide high performance, but are hard to drive and expensive to run, Wentzo said. Logpickr is akin to a Tesla, as it's easy to start and use, and the data can be used by anyone, not just data or subject matter experts.

UiPath, which specializes in process automation, added process mining when it acquired ProcessGold in 2019.

Palak Kadakia, vice president of product management, UiPathPalak Kadakia

Process mining is vital to setting the stage for robotic process automation, which is used to automate low-level repetitive tasks, said Palak Kadakia, vice president of product management at UiPath.

"Process mining is about discovery -- identifying the bottlenecks, finding where the gaps are," Kadakia said. "It's finding out which processes are good for automation and which ones aren't, thinking about how people do their jobs and the process that they're working on."

While mining is valuable, the real value is in what a company does with the information it finds, she said. UiPath can help provide transparency into critical business processes and pinpoint areas ripe for automation.

"This can help shift the workload or automate parts of it, so now users can do more interesting work or tasks that are more valuable for the time that they're putting in," Kadakia said.

List of process mining startups acquired in recent years
Acquisitions hit the process mining market.

Process mining market shakeout

The process mining market has been a hive of M&A activity in the last few years, which might be an indication that the market is not likely to last long, according to Mark McGregor, an independent business process technology consultant who has worked with process mining vendors, including Signavio and iGrafx.

Mark McGregor, freelance business strategy consultantMark McGregor

Enterprise companies that have acquired process mining vendors have done so largely to improve their offerings, McGregor said. When Appian bought Lana Labs, for example, it was because Appian recognized it has customers that need better ways of improving the Appian system within the Appian stack.

"It's the same thing with Pegasystems with the acquisition of Everflow," he said. "They've no interest in doing a generalized process mining application -- they're just recognizing that [Pegasystems customers] need good process monitoring, and that's the only way that they can look inside the systems."

Some of the smaller process mining vendors have worthwhile technology, but they have been better at showing what their applications can do for companies, rather than demonstrating how it has solved real problems for businesses, McGregor explained. It's likely that many of these tools will be subsumed into other enterprise platforms, as vendors like ServiceNow, Salesforce and Oracle might look to add process mining capabilities.

Right now, it's the Wild West of this new [process mining] category forming, with tons of demand. If you've got a decent product, that's the barrier to entry.
Reetika FlemingResearch leader, HFS Research

"There likely will be some [process mining] survivors in the shakeout, and I don't think the market will disappear completely," he said. "But it won't be a relevant market that everyone's tracking and covering."

Reetika Fleming, research leader at HFS Research, agreed with McGregor's assessment, saying the market will survive, but won't look like it does today.

"Right now, it's the Wild West of this new category forming, with tons of demand," Fleming said. "If you've got a decent product, that's the barrier to entry. If you have new customer contacts, you can go in and do POCs, so there are lots of new entrants out there."

The market is experiencing varying waves of maturity, however, as some customers are just starting their process mining journey, while others have done initial process improvements and are starting to move to more advanced uses cases, Fleming said.

"They've done the basics. Now they want to do things like build digital twins that are going to look at more predictive and probability-oriented use cases versus historical analysis, or look across functions to connect all of their data flows in the enterprise across systems," she said.

Reetika Fleming, research leader, HFS ResearchReetika Fleming

In the end, vendors will likely build out their process mining applications to address whatever state of readiness a company is at -- from basic needs to complex projects, she said. For example, Celonis offers cutting-edge process mining technology that now includes execution management capabilities that identify problems, but also enables automated fixes for the problems. However, customers need considerable preparation and resources to make this work.

"You have to line up everything else to wrap around those systems and have the people who can support all that versus doing a [less complex] process mining project," Fleming said. "Sometimes that can be easier to bite off and chew -- it's certainly easier on the wallet than even trying [to implement Celonis], never mind the maintenance and support."

Fleming agreed that enterprise companies will continue the buying spree of small process mining vendors because they want to include the capabilities in their technology stacks, and it's much easier to buy than build.

"If you're trying to create a process intelligence tool from scratch, but you have the ability to buy it, it's a no-brainer to buy it," she said. "Automation Anywhere struggled so long to build their own internal process intelligence tool, but they gave up and gave it away for free, and then bought FortressIQ -- so they learned their lesson that this is not easy."

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.

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