ServiceNow and Celonis recently announced a strategic partnership that is looking to create a closer linkage between ServiceNow’s low-code platform and Celonis’ Execution Management System. The partnership goes far deeper than your standard press release and actually includes some serious co-engineering by both firms, as well as an investment in Celonis by ServiceNow. We looked at this partnership, and here are our thoughts:

  • What Celonis can do for ServiceNow. ServiceNow has expanded from service request management to one of the most significant players in the burgeoning low-code platform market with an increasing focus on digital process automation (DPA). This has opened up much higher orders of magnitude of value for those who can automate enterprise-specific, complex, end-to-end business processes with a high degree of variability — of which some are differentiating for enterprises. ServiceNow clearly understands that tapping into these complexities requires full business process transparency and insight. Therefore, Celonis, with its mature task and process mining capability, is an ideal add-on to the ServiceNow platform. It’s worth noting that ServiceNow has been pursuing process mining on its own, and this move is validation of the sheer complexity of process mining and the value of working with an established market leader. By creating an objective and holistic view of a company process, its weak points are easily identifiable and improvement work can be triggered. Some improvements require human decisions, while others require changing the application landscape. Right here, ServiceNow kicks in with its low-code platform to reimplement processes with IT.
  • What ServiceNow can do for Celonis. Celonis has been following a continuous business process improvement cycle from mining and discovery to documentation, reengineering, and, most recently, implementation through its Execution Management System. Adding ServiceNow to the mix greatly expands Celonis’ execution capabilities. Celonis recently added streaming massive amounts of data in near real time, targeting process execution in the operations and manufacturing space, which has historically been a hard-to-crack domain of highly specialized software vendors. Given ServiceNow’s aspiration to grow through industry-specific solutions, such as in the manufacturing space, the timing of the partnership with Celonis makes a lot of sense. Moreover, ServiceNow’s customer base, especially in the US, is an attractive asset for Celonis’ process mining core as it aims to grow this business in North America.
  • Two unanswered questions remain. From a market perspective, two questions come to the forefront. The first is whether competitors to ServiceNow in the automation platform market will shy away from partnering with Celonis based on the depth of the relationship. The second is that, given what’s at stake in the massive low-code DPA automation market, is this partnership a precursor to an acquisition (as has become a pattern in the industry)?
  • Bottom line: Closing the loop from insights to automation is the big trend. Forrester has explored the growing trend of moving from insights to automation for a number of years, and the trend is now gaining widescale acceptance (see figure below). Celonis and ServiceNow are not the only ones attempting to create this continuous cycle of insights to automation. Other examples include acquisitions such as ProcessGold by UiPath, Signavio by SAP, myInvenio by IBM, and Lana Labs by Appian, as well as partnerships like the most recent announcement regarding ABBYY Timeline and Blue Prism. Forrester’s concern with this trend is that by tying insights to automation, organizations run the risk of tying process optimization to automation (not always the right answer) and, even more concerning, to a particular vendor’s automation solution.