Miners
Photo: Library of Congress; Wikimedia Commons

The golden goose in the process mines

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why process-mining companies are the next logical place for big enterprise tech to expand, Ampere signals its intentions to go public, and the latest major funding rounds in enterprise tech.

Spin up

While applications built around managed container services dominate a lot of new application-development strategies on cloud providers like AWS, the concept is still pretty new to the broader world. Only 14% of cloud customers surveyed by Dark Reading are using managed container services, which suggests there’s still lots of room to grow.

Trust the process

The enterprise software establishment is on a process-mining buying spree. At the end of March, Microsoft purchased process-mining company Minit; early last year, SAP acquired Signavio for an undisclosed sum; and IBM acquired startup myInvenio just a few months after SAP’s purchase.

But why are these business software giants investing so heavily in process mining? The answer may be less about process mining itself, and more about what process mining, workflow management and robotic process automation can achieve together. In this industry, the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Process mining lets companies analyze their business processes — workflows and procedures that employees follow in response to various events, such as receiving an invoice — in order to fix bottlenecks and make other operational improvements.
  • But the complexity of today’s business operations makes this no easy task.
  • And there’s often a pretty strong divergence between the processes a company claims to have and what actually happens day to day.
  • “[Process mining] was only known more at the academic side, and less so in the true operations of larger customers,” said Rouven Morato, general manager of SAP Signavio.

One of those early academics was Wil van der Aalst, a professor at RWTH Aachen University and the chief scientist for Celonis, one of the better-known upstarts in the process-mining world.

  • “In the mid-1990s, I saw the uptake of workflow management solutions, and there was then a huge wave of systems to support business processes by just modeling them,” he said. He shifted his research from workflow management to process mining, a topic he said hadn’t existed at the time.
  • Traditionally, this work has been done by systems integrators or consultants, who map out processes by interviewing employees and analyzing documents.
  • But both van der Aalst and Morato agree that process improvement should be a continuous practice, not a one-off project.
  • “Oftentimes what we see in the market with customers is that they run these transformation projects where they look at procure to pay as one project: They analyze it, they find inefficiencies, they might even take the next step of fixing it,” said Morato.
  • But when vendors go back to those customers a year later, they might have stopped following the new processes and are back at square one, he said.

Still, process mining on its own isn’t enough to drive the types of operational improvements enterprises are seeking. To Celonis co-founder Alexander Rinke, process mining is a “gateway technology to building new and better processes,” which is why it's often lumped together with workflow management and robotic process automation.

  • That’s why the recent merger activity points to a logical transition for big companies that sell enterprise resource planning software, known as ERP, because they probably already have all the necessary operational and process data in their systems.
  • By plugging in a process-mining component, these companies can provide more value to their customers by making their processes faster or less error-prone, for example.
  • And to Morato, the integration between an ERP system and process-mining software is essential. “If you think about what you want to achieve with a process change, at the end of the day you want to change the execution of how the process is being executed. And that always requires the underlying transactional application.”
  • After a company has identified its processes, the logical next step is to automate them, which is why process mining and robotic process automation services are also talked about in conjunction. In fact, process mining is a necessary first step before even using RPA.

Overall, it’s clear that further industry consolidation lies ahead for process-mining, ERP and RPA players. In fact, some industry practitioners think process-mining and RPA companies will almost have to expand into adjacent spaces to survive.

  • “I think that consolidation clearly shows that as a standalone mining vendor, it's really hard because by now it’s very hard to differentiate, it's very hard to get traction in the market,” said Morato.
  • Morato sees the market becoming commoditized because so many companies can do process mining.
  • Rinke, however, disagrees. “I think it’s actually a space that is commoditizing other things and not getting commoditized,” he said, pointing to RPA as an example. “Because you look at RPA, I mean RPA is really a transient technology. It doesn't have long-term durability.”

If process-mining companies can’t succeed on their own, it might prove that a platform play is ultimately more impactful than a more focused approach pursued by a single vendor. And it would be a feather in the cap for ERP companies that have been touting that strategy for years.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM PwC

M&A and workforce reorganization can create a wealth of opportunities for companies seeking rapid growth, transformation and market expansion. In fact, 47% of executives say pursuing corporate M&As, joint ventures and alliances is their top growth driver in 2022. Unfortunately, nearly half of executives say talent acquisition and retention challenges are the biggest obstacle.

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Ampere’s likely going public

Oracle-backed server processor startup Ampere Computing said Monday that it plans to go public, filing initial confidential paperwork with the SEC.

Ampere designs server chips based on Arm architecture that aim to challenge chips made by Intel and AMD, which run on x86-based designs. Microsoft and Oracle are two of Ampere’s larger customers; the latter has quietly invested $426 million in Ampere, which is run by former Intel president Renée James. The funding will likely aid Ampere’s efforts to carve out a space in the data center for rivals to Intel and AMD, which currently dominate the server market.

A public listing would give Ampere an infusion of cash and potential access to more investment further down the line via public markets. The confidential treatment allows Ampere to proceed with the listing process without making significant disclosures around its operations and financial performance in recent years. Some companies file prospectuses and never go public, or end up getting acquired along the way.

Oracle’s latest quarterly earnings report implied that it had taken a 20% to 50% stake in Ampere, based on accounting rules. James sits on Oracle’s board, but it stopped treating her as an independent member after Oracle first took a stake in the Silicon Valley company.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Financial corner

Remote raised a $300 million round led by SoftBank that values the hiring and recruiting SaaS startup at nearly $3 billion.

Clarify Health was another recipient of SoftBank’s largesse, raising a $150 million series D round for its health care data analytics software.

Grafana Labs raised $240 million led by Singapore’s GIC as observability startups gain traction amid the broader shift to cloud computing.

Nord Security landed the first major funding round in its 10-year history, raising $100 million from Novator to build out its security and identity management software.

Around the enterprise

Intel unveiled a new expansion to its flagship D1X chipmaking plant in Hillsboro, Oregon, and renamed the facility “Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres” in honor of its co-founder, a chip industry legend.

Kaseya acquired Datto for $6.2 billion to add its small-business backup and recovery software to its broader array of IT software and services.

Thoma Bravo executed yet another SaaS private equity deal, this time snapping up SailPoint’s cybersecurity operations for $6.9 billion.

Puppet, one of the first infrastructure-as-code startups that also helped establish the concept of DevOps, was acquired by Perforce for an undisclosed amount.

A MESSAGE FROM PwC

ProEdge can help you conduct a skill gap analysis across your organization and gain insights you can leverage to develop forward-looking plans while taking into account the needs of the entire enterprise, including individuals, teams and functions. In an M&A scenario, an upskilling program like ProEdge can also be used to uncover employees’ skills that weren’t utilized before

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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