BlaBlaCar, the world’s leading car-sharing company, has set itself the mission of becoming the benchmark marketplace for shared travel. To achieve this goal, the company has to manage a multitude of internal processes, ranging from the management of bus journeys to the welcoming and departure of employees, not to mention driver training. Jérémie Lebrun, Engineering Manager at BlaBlaCar, and his team are responsible for building and maintaining the company’s internal business tools. Tools and processes that have been transformed by automation.
The challenge: automate manual processes to improve efficiency and maintainability
Process automation offers many advantages. Not only does it save time and resources, it also reduces errors and improves the maintainability of systems. However, implementing automation can present challenges, particularly when it comes to complex processes involving multiple systems and tools.
Managing bus journeys
One of the major challenges facing BlaBlaCar concerned the management of bus journeys. This process required precise synchronization between the inventory tool and the geolocation tool, a task that had previously been carried out manually. This meant that Jérémie Lebrun’s team had to constantly monitor and update these tools to ensure that the information was correct and up-to-date. Not only was this a time-consuming task, but it was also prone to errors, which could have an impact on the effectiveness of bus journey tracking.
Training for bus drivers
Each new driver had to complete specific training before starting work. However, the follow-up to this training was carried out manually, and it was necessary to check regularly whether each driver had completed the training. This process was time-consuming, repetitive and unreliable, and the passenger experience could suffer as a result.
Onboarding and offboarding
Employee onboarding and offboarding are often problematic processes for companies. Each time an employee arrives or leaves, manual intervention is required to update the company’s systems, access and tools. This was not only time-consuming, but also posed maintenance problems. When an employee left, it took time to manage the transition and understand how they worked, with what tools and processes.
Managing ferry costs
Finally, the management of ferry charges for buses leaving for the UK was another process that required automation. Ferry operators charge taxes and fees based on the number of passengers on the buses. Without accurate automation, BlaBlaCar risked paying more than necessary, which would have a negative impact on the company’s costs.
These challenges led BlaBlaCar to look for an automation solution. The aim was to find a tool capable of handling these repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up time for all the teams to concentrate on higher added-value tasks. In addition, automating these processes improves maintainability, by making processes more transparent and reducing reliance on individual employee knowledge.
Workato: The key to successful automation at BlaBlaCar
Against this backdrop, the BlaBlaCar teams decided to look for an automation solution capable of handling these complex processes. Following a competitive survey carried out in 2021, the company discovered several potential solutions. In the end, Workato was chosen for its ITops scope, with the intention of extending its use to other areas.
“We chose Workato because we were won over by the experience offered by the platform. Everything seemed straightforward and easy to use. What’s more, Workato offered most of the pre-defined connectors we needed for our ITops perimeter. This saved us the time and hassle of creating our own connectors.
Jérémie Lebrun, Engineering Manager at BlaBlaCar
The BlaBlaCar teams began with a trial phase with Workato, which lasted several months. During this period, they were able to test the platform and ensure that it met their needs. “The exploration phase was long, mainly because of the availability of our teams,” explains Jérémie. “But once we started using Workato, we were reassured. The platform’s flow logic was something we were already familiar with, so there were no surprises.”
Workato’s support was also a key factor in the success of the implementation. “Workato’s support and guidance have been very good. There’s a strong community around Workato that we can call on when we need it. This has enabled us to gain real autonomy and to make the tool our own.”
With Workato, Jérémie Lebrun’s team was able to automate a variety of processes, from managing bus journeys to onboarding and offboarding employees.
“Workato has enabled us to automate processes that were previously managed manually, or that didn’t exist at all. This has saved us time, resources and improved the maintainability of our actions.”
Jérémie Lebrun, Engineering Manager at BlaBlaCar
Efficiency and optimisation at the heart of BlaBlaCar’s results
The return on investment from an automation solution like Workato is not always immediate or easily measurable. Sometimes, Workato allows you to implement a new automation that doesn’t replace an existing manual process, but rather creates a process that didn’t exist before. In these cases, it can be difficult to quantify the precise benefits of automation.
However, even when the benefits cannot be precisely quantified, there is no doubt that Workato’s impact is significant. Whether in terms of increased productivity, improved customer experience, time savings, reduced effort or, where this can be measured, financial savings, the results achieved by Workato are undeniable.
Synchronization of SaaS tools: automation for greater operational efficiency
As part of its business, BlaBlaCar uses a variety of SaaS tools to manage different aspects of its business. However, by default, these tools are not designed to communicate with each other. Where synchronization is possible, it often involves spending time working with each tool’s API and documentation to create a custom solution. This can be a complex process and requires advanced technical skills.
Prior to the integration of Workato, this synchronization was a major challenge for BlaBlaCar. For example, to manage bus geolocation, the company had to synchronize information between 2 SaaS tools. Thanks to Workato, BlaBlaCar was able to automate this synchronization process to save time and improve the accuracy and reliability of the information.
Managing ferry costs: automation for cost optimisation
As explained above, another major challenge for BlaBlaCar was managing ferry charges for bus journeys between France and the UK. Ferry operators charge taxes and fees that depend on how full the bus is. A bus may be more or less full, which has an impact on the price to be paid.
Prior to Workato’s integration, this was not done. In fact, it was humanly impossible and technologically very complex to have two different systems and software talk to each other to obtain this information on a daily basis for all UK journeys. As a result, BlaBlaCar often found itself paying the highest fare, even if the bus was not full.
Thanks to Workato, BlaBlaCar has been able to automate this process. The platform synchronizes information on the number of bus passengers traveling to the UK with the ferry operators. This allows BlaBlaCar to pay the correct fare based on how full the bus is, avoiding paying more than necessary. This automation has enabled BlaBlaCar to make significant savings. Without this solution, the ferry would automatically apply the highest fare, even if the bus was not full. Thanks to Workato, BlaBlaCar has been able to save several tens of thousands of euros a year on the Channel crossing alone.
Bus driver training: essential automation to ensure safety and compliance
Training bus drivers is a crucial aspect of BlaBlaCar’s business. Each new driver must complete specific training before they can start work. This training is essential to ensure that the driver has all the necessary skills to drive a bus safely and in accordance with BlaBlaCar processes and standards. Before Workato was integrated, this training was carried out manually. This meant that the bus teams had to check regularly whether each driver had completed the training. Thanks to Workato, BlaBlaCar has been able to automate this process. Once a driver has completed and validated their training on a mobile application, Workato automatically activates their account. This means that the driver cannot make his first journey without having successfully completed the training. This automation has saved time in verifying that training has been successfully completed. It has also improved safety and process compliance by ensuring that each driver has completed the required training before starting work.
Improving the passenger experience through real-time communication
One of the key aspects of BlaBlaCar’s business is to guarantee an optimal passenger experience. This involves clear, real-time communication with passengers. In the case of bus journeys, the company was finding it difficult to effectively inform passengers of any delays that vehicles might experience on the road. Thanks to Workato, BlaBlaCar has synchronized a tool that retrieves information on bus delays with another tool that sends text messages to passengers to inform them of delays. This has enabled the company to offer passengers a better experience by preventing them from waiting unnecessarily for their bus. Since April 2023, thanks to this automation, BlaBlaCar has sent more than 200,000 text messages to inform passengers. This real-time communication has not only improved customers’ experience, but also boosted their confidence in BlaBlaCar, showing them that the company cares about their time and comfort.
BlaBlaCar’s adoption of Workato has enabled the company to automate numerous internal processes, leading to significant improvements in efficiency and security. In the future, BlaBlaCar plans to continue using Workato to automate other processes. As Jérémie Lebrun confirms: “Our approach is fairly opportunistic and prioritized, and we’re taking a cautious approach, because there are aspects of security and focus involved. Technically, we can connect everything with Workato, but we need to look at the implementation and maintenance time needed to automate the priorities. It’s set to expand.”