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CELOcity: How Celonis Increased Deal Velocity by Reducing Friction within the Sales Cycle 

Challenges Facing the Celonis Legal Department   

In 2021, Celonis was going through a phase of “hyper-growth,” doubling its revenue and consistently adding to its headcount. The process mining company had a new chief legal and risk officer (CLRO) and several challenges facing its legal department, including how to address the legal debt resulting from the substantial growth of the business and lack of adequate resources to accommodate it, as well as how to sustainably support that growth long-term.  

“We knew that our solutions couldn’t be single threaded,” says Marya Milton, VP and associate general counsel, Global Commercial, noting that a holistic approach was needed — one that considered current data, hiring practices, common sense solutions, processes, and automation — and most importantly the demands of the business.  

“The solution had to deliver against the business priorities first and foremost,” continues Carol Rodgers, chief of staff, Legal & Risk. “Everything we were trying to do as far as deal governance and risk control had to be woven around their requirement for velocity. That’s where the name came from — CELOcity is velocity, Celonis style. It was about how to weave our requirements into the business imperatives.” The team knew that if they led with business objectives, and invited the whole team along on the journey, they’d get the support of executive leadership and staff.   

CELOcity was developed in 2022 as a joint program of work between the Celonis Commercial Legal and Legal Operations teams. The goal was to build a team of legal business partners who could be trusted not only on legal matters, but to be considered an informed source to advise on all matters of the business. While the team understood that figuring out the appropriate staff size was part of the solution, they needed to focus efforts on the ease of doing business, while also establishing ways to reduce friction and effort in the go-to-market cycle. The solution needed to enhance the understanding of their contract portfolio, give valuable insights into the enterprise risk profile, and target their limited resources at the highest impact workstreams. In response, the team built a multi-faceted program focused on three pillars of success: people, standardization of process and policy, and automation. 

Key elements of CELOcity 

  • People. The Celonis team introduced a new legal headcount modeling tool based on industry benchmarks; and robust stakeholder training and a self-help content portal for staff.  
  • Standardization of processes and policies was established via the creation and implementation of a Contract Execution Matrix, which outlined approval requirements for specific risk positions; negotiation thresholds backed by C-level approval for exceptions; industry-benchmarked standard form MSA, DPA, and other templates, and eliminating multiple geographic and content-specific variants. A risk scoring model was also included to provide a common understanding of the company’s contractual risk profile, and the elimination of outdated or underperforming workflows and documentation was conducted, allowing the team to focus on high-quality negotiations.  
  • Automation of certain processes plays a significant role in the changes the team implemented. They include click-through acceptance of standard terms; automated application of the Contract Execution Matrix via approval workflows applied according to contract attributes; automated generation of eSignature envelopes as appropriate; the creation of a single source of truth document repository, and integration of a document repository into CRM to facilitate self-service access to contracts on a role-based, need to know basis; and integration with the company’s Execution Management System for data analysis and risk reporting.  

Getting people on-board, and streamlining workflows and processes   

The partnership between the commercial legal team and legal operations allowed members to approach the challenge from many different perspectives, beginning with the data and leadership buy-in. “It can be hard to get attention on unproven projects in a department like Legal, where we are often in the background and less visible,” says Milton, who credits the company’s CLRO, Vanessa Candela, for championing their “smart and tactical” approach to establishing and enforcing the process and policy standards. Using the approval matrix as an example, Milton notes the difficulty associated with getting people onboard — using automation as a tool, for example, makes sense but telling a customer “No” is hard. It wasn’t easy to convince the global salesforce team that Celonis could continue to be successful while also getting deals done more efficiently with the matrix, but once it was proven, they came around. “They saw that we had the data to back it up; that the time to close deals was reduced; and that sales suddenly had transparency where previously the legal process had been a black box.”  

Denisa Cekrezi, the technology specialist behind the team’s process automation, focused on simplicity, especially as it related to the matrix. “I wanted our executive leaders to have a user-friendly platform, so they could easily move through the approvals,” explains Cekrezi. “They saw that we [legal] were not a bottleneck; we automated processes, creating transparency, security and governance.” As with any legal team, compliance is extremely important, and this cross-departmental, easy-to-navigate process made it easier to understand why the matrix was critical to gaining the efficiencies and cost savings Celonis needed.   

The team behind CELOcity cut costs and gained efficiency through more standardization and automation of its processes, creating a sustainable framework for continuous improvement. Those changes resulted in many departmental and organizational improvements, including eliminating 4,952 legal negotiation touch points and saving up to $4.2M in operational costs, which allowed the team to redefine its headcount budgeting model. When asked to offer advice to other legal teams looking to make similar improvements, the team emphasized the importance of data, starting small, and realizing the limitations of technology. “Embrace the data. When advocating at the executive level for major process changes that affect global operations your best and biggest tool in those conversations is the data,” stresses Milton. Rodgers agrees, encouraging teams to “pull in the data you’ve got, compare it to outside data; build a model that says this is where we fit and these are the changes we need to make, and then going forward, this is how our business should run.” When it comes to technology, Cekrezi points out that failure is a teacher; that the process doesn’t have to be perfect, nor the automation huge. “Just by automating something small, you can do big things.”    

“Remember that you are implementing a process, not a tool,” cautions Rodgers. “This is not about the technology; the technology is there to enable the process. My inbox is full of vendors promising a new tool that is going to fix everything, but no tool fixes anything. You must understand the process, understand the business. And then work out what technology can bring to that.”