The New Age of Enterprise Automation

The enterprise automation challenge and opportunity has never been greater. As a result, an assortment of technologies have sprung up in an attempt to solve it, offering different solutions and approaches aimed to perform different types of automation and be used by different kinds of users. The lack of a cohesive strategy around these approaches has been a huge obstacle for enterprises.

Enterprise Automation is a hard technology challenge – made harder by the need to disappear the technology and make it accessible to non-coders. Our maniacal focus on this led to our unique position in the market. We are the only modern (2010 or later vintage) product that is a leader in either Forrester or Gartner. We were positioned as a top leader in the Forrester Wave for iPaaS, named the ‘Best Enterprise Software Startup’ by Constellation Research beating out darlings like Airtable, became the #1 enterprise iPaaS on TrustRadius, and most recently, were again named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for iPaaS 2019.

What does this have to do with enterprise automation? Everything. In today’s world, automation requires great integrations for the hundreds of applications, microservices, devices, big data, and intelligent technologies used in an enterprise. You simply cannot have one without the other – integration is where the rubber meets the road for automation.

Let’s look at the scale, scope, and direction of the enterprise automation problem, the limitations of existing tools, and Workato’s strategy. We’ll also explore how leading global brands, as well as high growth companies, are transforming their companies and the modern, connected experiences they deliver to their customers and employees.

The enterprise automation problem

There has been an explosion in the growth of modern SaaS, micro-services, IOT, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies. There has never been a more exciting time in this space. Similarly, there’s lots of excitement on the business side to drive digital transformation and become like Amazon, Netflix or Google through smarter revenue operations to drive growth, operational excellence, customer and employee experiences, and innovative business models. Automation falls on very fertile ground on both, revenue and experience, sides of the equation.

Unfortunately, after a few initial lighthouse projects or low-hanging automations, business transformation and the automation of tasks feels stuck for many businesses and there remains a fast growing backlog of ideas that remain unfulfilled.  

Additionally, the exponential increase in applications and devices has resulted in an outbreak in complexity, splintered data and a diversity of use cases. There is a real need to harness all of these apps and achieve a more integrated state of automation and a more unified foundation of data.

Related: The benefits that come with using an automation center of excellence

Challenges with existing automation technologies

A big reason transformation and automations-at-scale are hard to achieve is the challenges with the broad range of tools and technologies meant to provide these services. Each comes with significant trade-offs:

  • Some of the tools like iSaaS (API based Integration Software as Service) are modern, fast, cloud native and easier to operate while others like Robotic Process Automation (RPA – UI based automation) and iPaaS are of an older vintage, more complex to automate with and operate.

  • Technologies like iPaaS are complex, powerful and made for IT, while others like iSaaS are business focused and lack the power IT requires.

  • Tools like RPA that are based on UI automations are great for legacy systems, but are brittle to UI changes and less applicable to modern SaaS apps. Why scrape screens when there are good APIs? RPA also can’t easily leverage modern AI services, which come as APIs. There aren’t any screens to scrape. iSaaS tools are API-based but don’t connect to legacy systems. Real world companies require both.

  • Most automation tools are focused on the back-end and are therefore plumbing oriented. In 2019, automating the front-end workflows of our digital workers, usually in the context of a team collaboration tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, is equally important.

  • Many of these tools like RPA, iPaaS, iSaaS and cloud API automation tools are stand-alone and some are part of app platforms from SaaS leaders like Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow, and Slack (via the launch of their native Workflow Builder at Frontiers last week).

To put all of this into perspective in terms of theses tool’s capabilities and target audience, there are five levels of automation products today; Task, Application, Process, Data, and Enterprise:

Here's how enterprise automation is transforming businesses.

Task automation platform (Business users): A task automation is the automation of a step that is part of a larger business process, like employee on-boarding or quote-to-cash. Zapier is the most commonly used tool for this. Another form of task automation could be attended macros in an RPA tool that automates, say, data entry from a form into a legacy app via a UI script.

Application automation platform (Business users): Application automation is often done by workflow products available as part of SaaS platforms like Salesforce Process Builder, Workday Journeys, ServiceNow Flow, or Slack Workflow Builder. They enable their customers to create extensive pre-built workflows natively in their apps and to get data from external data sources.

Data automation platform (IT users): Data automation is mostly handled by iPaaS products (Mulesoft, Boomi …)  that zoom out a bit across multiple applications and help you orchestrate data across these apps for a more unified view of customers, employees, products and other business information.

Process automation platform (Business users): There are two different approaches to process automation – UI oriented automation tools like RPA tools (UIPath, AA …) for automating interactions with legacy systems and API oriented automation tools like iSaaS (, …)  for automating cloud applications.

Enterprise automation platform (Business and IT users): Enterprise automation supports end-to-end and integrated automation solutions across the enterprise, based on a strong foundation of iPaaS.

Companies face a faustian bargain with these tools. They are left to choose between ease-of-use paired with limited scope, or depth of capabilities with an IT-only or business-only focus, or fast time-to-deploy, or better security and governance.

What is required to cut through these non-choices is an enterprise automation platform that is versatile, is based on a foundation of iPaaS to automate end-to-end, and that empowers both business and IT. Our founding vision was to deliver exactly such a platform.

Related: How iPaaS and RPA differ

Our approach to enterprise automation

A modern enterprise automation platform must support:

  • More integrated automations connecting with thousands of apps, services, devices, and on-prem systems.
  • More pervasive business automations from connected customer experiences and smart employee experiences, to operational excellence across the business in sales, marketing, HR, finance and IT.
  • More diverse technical automations from data and app integration, workflow automation to intelligent technologies (AI/ML), IoT, and workflow bots (digital assistants accessible from Slack, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Workplace).
  • And most importantly, it must enable more ‘do-ers’ from business teams across the company to IT to tackle the incredible automation workload and backlog together. Digital transformation must be a team sport to succeed.

That is exactly what we’ve been building here at Workato.

Here's how enterprise automation is transforming businesses.

You might be wondering if this approach is working. Here’s why we think it is:

  • Until now, automation has not been a team sport. Business experts had their tools (e.g. process documentation) and IT specialists had their integration platforms. Workato changes that. Workato is a platform that both can use, collaborate on, and stay on the same page.

  • Throughout the history of integration, integration tools were either powerful and complex (Enterprise iPaaS) or they were easier to use and limited in what they could integrate with and what they could do (iSaaS). Workato shatters this dichotomy. As Forrester states: “Workato proves that simplification doesn’t have to mean lack of power.” Longtime integration practitioners are usually suspicious of Workato at first. They don’t believe something this intuitive could handle all of the integration complexities under the hood. But as Spherica, one of our consulting partners, recently stated: “We tried and tried, but we couldn’t find anything that Workato couldn’t automate.”

  • Workato is the first Enterprise-Grade automation platform with a truly modern architecture. 19 years ago, Salesforce started the cloud movement with its “No Software” pledge. The benefits of not having to deal with any infrastructure issues are overwhelming. In 2018, Salesforce acquired Mulesoft, which has an on-prem, open source heritage and still more than 60% of its customers are on-prem. RPA tools are from a similar vintage and also are not cloud native. Integration and automation has not modernized fast enough and Workato is answering that call. When most major business applications are native, why should integration and automation software be left behind?

  • Today, speed matters more than ever. The rate of innovation is so high and competition is so fierce that both customers and employees expect seamless experiences. Thus, lines of business don’t have time to wait for IT to go through never ending integration and automation backlogs and IT wants to work on more than just keeping the lights on. Workato allows rapid deployment without compromising on power or security. 77% of Workato customers go live with their first automation in one week.

We know Workato is different from the other tools out there. Seasoned integration users become almost emotional when they experience Workato and how carefully Workato has been designed to remove the high-friction pain and complexities of integrations and automations. As for newcomers, Workato just feels like “how integration should be.” It’s already meeting the modern, always-on expectations of those who are used to SaaS apps.

It is people who have used other platforms that truly understand the enormous improvement in speed and experience. This comes from a long list of small improvements everywhere that are best experienced when you use the platform hands on. Other integration platforms may tick some of the same feature checkboxes, but they don’t feel as friction-less as Workato. As Slack’s integration architect, Monica Wilkinson, put it: “Workato makes creating automations a joy.”

Enterprise Automation is real and growing fast

In the past couple of years there’s been explosive growth in the automation space. During this period Robotic Process Automation has been one of the hottest topics in enterprise technology, seeing growth of ~100% YoY according to an Everest Group report. The market for iPaaS, which is foundational to RPA, has been growing at over 70% year-over-year according to Gartner. Gartner also predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% through 2021 for the Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) space.

As for some of the immediately adjacent markets — which require support for a massive volume of a new customer and employee facing integration use cases like the Workstream Collaboration market — Gartner’s prediction is even stronger, with 96% cumulative annual growth.

This market dynamism is reflected in the automation stories we hear from Workato customers.

Take Slack, the world’s fastest growing Enterprise software company. Becoming a Workato customer in 2017, Slack has deployed over 800 Workato recipes in record time to automate its fast growing business across most lines-of-business. This includes the mission critical order-to-cash process, sales process optimizations, data-driven marketing campaigns, and employee experience initiatives. Slack was able to use Workato to made this happen through application integrations, as well as batch-oriented ETL data integrations, and of course Slack bots integrated with applications such as Salesforce, Workday, Coupa and many others.

After timeline failures on past projects over the last 12 months using traditional integration tools, Broadcom automated their employee onboarding process across Workday, ServiceNow and Active Directory in an agile 4 week sprint with Workato. They were then able to fully onboard over 10,000 CA employees upon completing the acquisition. As Broadcom CIO, Andy Nalappan puts it, “If an automation takes more than 4 weeks, the technology is too complicated and won’t be easy to consume at scale.”

Panera Bread has entirely reimagined its help desk for over 3,000 cafes across North America with innovative Workato automations such as an IoT connected helpdesk and AI-driven workflows to parse voicemails into text and create support tickets.

Logistics giant, XPO Logistics, quickly finessed its client on-boarding and B2B processes through smart exception processes using Workato.

As evidenced by these leading companies, the automation market is clearly on the rise. Workato isn’t just keeping pace. It is accelerating enterprise automation for its customers and inspiring them to ideate more and iterate faster. Working with our customers every day, we realize that this is just the beginning of this automation journey for them and us.

Driven by these trends and the Enterprise Automation movement, we grew over 3X in our core enterprise business in 2018 on top of nearly 6X growth in 2017. It has been an extraordinary couple of years for Workato.

Some of the numbers:

  • Community: Workato has always been community-powered, with over 70,000 community recipes (workflows in Workato terms) added in the last 12 months. Our customers are directly benefiting from these contributions; 74% of the new integrations built in the last year were cloned from existing recipes, significantly cutting down on the time-to-value of enterprise integration projects.
  • Customers:  We now have over 63,000 users (builders) on Workato across over 4,300 companies – both direct and indirect via embedding. Some of the world’s leading brands and high growth companies chose Workato as their enterprise automation platform, including the:
    • #1 credit card brand
    • #1 financial services company,
    • #1 big data company
    • #1 ride sharing company in Asia
    • #1 energy infrastructure company
    • #1 casual restaurant chain
    • #1 arts and crafts company
    • #1 BI/analytics company
    • #1 enterprise collaboration company
    • #1 construction software company
    • #1 E-commerce company in Africa

These customers have anywhere from 80 to over 1000 active workflows of all kinds that they have automated across multiple groups in their company.

  • Strategic investors and partners: The top 3 SaaS companies – Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow became investors – Workato is the only company the three have invested in together.
  • Team: The Workato family has doubled over the last year with key new leaders from Salesforce, Oracle, McKinsey, Apple, Lyft and Tableau. I can say without a doubt that we are building world-class teams in every department.
  • Product: It has been an extraordinary period of innovation for our product team as well. We released some huge updates. A new interface for recipe building that is drawing rave reviews, improvements to our ML-driven automation building feature called RecipeIQ, a major update to our API Management platform, a cloud data warehouse solution for Snowflake, the industry’s first business user accessible solution for integrating with SAP, a gen 2 version of our OEM product for ISV, an enterprise automation dashboard capability, an enterprise automation lifecycle management capability, Workbot platform for Microsoft teams and much more.
  • Technology partnerships: We are excited about new partnerships with leading tech platforms including Workday, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Zendesk, Box, Slack, and Coupa plus a larger number of others adopting our new OEM product for ISVs.
  • GTM partnerships: We’ve been developing partnerships with global SIs, including Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, and Persistent as well as many vertical and regional SIs. These ISV and SI partnerships are shaping up to be force multipliers for us in taking our vision of enterprise automation to a larger number of customers.

Thank you to everyone who helped build Workato

Despite all this hype, the most important and humbling aspect is the passion we see from our users. They see the value of Workato, the speed it enables, and how transformational Enterprise Automation is across their companies.

It started with the first wave of early adopters, who understood the urgency to democratize integration and the need for fast, robust automations. Leaders in the tech sector like Slack, Box, and Intuit have embraced Workato and implemented Enterprise Automations for processes like employee on-boarding and provisioning, order-to-cash, and partner program management.

Now we’re seeing disruptors in all industries using Workato: from big retail companies and the logistics companies they use to move their wares, to transportation mainstays like Virgin Trains and financial institutions like Visa. With its Enterprise Automations in place, Zillow is on track to become the largest real estate company in the world and Grab is the second largest rideshare company outside of the U.S.

I truly believe that we are best in class for enterprise automation because we are best in class for integration. You really can’t have one without the other. It’s been an awesome ride and we are off to an amazing start in 2019.