Podcast: The Integration Landscape and How it Will Affect the Future of Customer Service

“We all came together because we were unhappy. We were unhappy with the state of integration, that area that we’ve practiced for 25 years. We saw applications evolve dramatically while the integration side didn’t. The old powerful tools, they felt like 15 years ago, and there were new and easier ones, but they just were so simplistic, so we set out to create a new one, and that’s Workato.”

– Markus Zirn, VP of Business Development at Workato

TechBytes is the podcast for all things related to ServiceNow and we’re excited to have our VP of Business Development featured on the show! Markus talks with ServiceNow’s Martin Barclay about how Workato came to be, some examples of ServiceNow customers using Workato like media giant Hulu, and the Slack and IBM Watson integration at CreatorCon Hackathon. Take a listen or read the transcript below.


Podcast Transcript:

Martin Barclay: Hello and welcome to TechBytes, the podcast series about all things ServiceNow. Today’s podcast is about new apps available in the ServiceNow Store from Workato, the 2016 Gartner Cool Vendor. My name is Martin Barclay with ServiceNow, and I’m happy to have along with me today Markus Zirn, Vice President of Business Development at Workato. Welcome Markus.


Markus Zirn: Thank you Martin, great to be here and talk about Workato.


Martin Barclay: Tell us about Workato and what the company name means.


Markus Zirn:




Sure, so Workato stands for work automation. What we built is a modern integration and automation platform, and it really was built by a set of integration veterans. Our CEO created the first Integration Bus in the world. He co-founded TIBCO. We actually have the team that built TIBCO BusinessWorks at Workato. Our VP Solutions was the SVP of Force.com at Salesforce, and myself, I was VP Product Management for Oracle Fusion Middleware, and then for Splunk. I mean, you see, we’ve been there done that, and we all came together because we were unhappy. We were unhappy with the state of integration, that area that we’ve practiced for 25 years. We saw applications just evolve dramatically, and then on the integration side, it didn’t. The old powerful tools, they felt like 15 years ago, and there were new and easier ones, but they just were so simplistic, so we set out to create a new one, and that’s Workato.




Workato which combines revolutionary productivity and at the same time a fully enterprises great platform, and it’s in one package. Some people call us the IFTTT for the enterprise. Others call us MuleSoft for citizen developers. I think you get the idea. I mean, we sometimes joke at the office that our mission is to make integration great again.


Martin Barclay: Okay.


Markus Zirn:







Like political jokes aside, Gartner did name us 2016 Cool Vendor, and it’s because they saw in Workato a platform that really expands the whole spectrum, from the citizen developer across what they call the ad hoc integrator, which is very much a service now, administrator, all the way to professional integration developers all covered in one unified offering, and we’re making integration possible for small businesses, and then we’re simplifying it dramatically for large enterprises. A big way of how we go to market is with application partners just like ServiceNow.


Martin Barclay: I see, that’s great, so is it fair to say that it’s a solution that kind of … it’s a full spectrum in terms of being able to be used by no-code sort of ad hoc integrators, low-code, maybe some scripting involved, and then kind of the real pro developers if they want to get and to do the API Level, it kind of addresses all 3 of those?


Markus Zirn: That’s exactly what it is. Like someone with no to very little integration experience to someone who has significant experience with the applications, but kind of wasn’t able to tackle integrations up until now, and then really it makes the eyes light up of people who have done integration for a while who kind of see something that is so much easier.


Martin Barclay:


Cool. Let’s talk maybe a little bit about the major components of your product line. I think that might help the audience understand exactly what you’ve got on offer for the no-code, low-code, and pro-code kind of personas, so if you could just tell us about your product line?


Markus Zirn:









Sure. I’d love to. At the core of all of this is the Workato platform. One analogy that we always use is Excel. Think of Excel Macros and Excel Formulas, just now kind of move from spreadsheets to the world of applications. With Workato, what you can do, you can build Macros or you call them scripts. We actually at Workato we call them recipes, and this is the business logic, for the business logic between your applications, and then you do the data mapping, either drag and drop or you have to build formulas for some transformations. You can do all of that, not limited to the world of spreadsheet and settles in that but to any data that’s in any of your applications. You can probably see that this is just a great tool for the IT guy. Not necessarily a professional Java developer, but comfortable with scripting and that’s the ServiceNow, I think-


Martin Barclay: Yup. Yeah, I think I’m getting it. This would be a kin to a low-code developer that does some scripting and they can create their own recipes. If you’re a no-code user, you can actually use preexisting recipes that you build which you have hundreds of, is that correct?


Markus Zirn:






No, that’s exactly true. I mean, I’ll get to that in a second, because what we wanted to make sure is that not everyone has to start from scratch, okay? I mean, there’s the big saying you don’t want to reinvent the wheel every single time. If it’s possible to reuse something that someone has already built, let’s do it. I mean, I think GitHub has shown us, so some of these capabilities are included into the platform. It even goes one level further where for certain offerings and we’ve done that with the ServiceNow Store, where we put the Wufoo and DocuSign and Twilio and so on, integrations out there. There, what we did is we took a few of those recipes, we packaged them up as bundles, and the end user now doesn’t even need to worry about these Macros or recipes. All they need to do is configure this bundle of script, so that makes it even easier.


Martin Barclay: Those are what you call integration apps?


Markus Zirn: We call them integration apps.


Martin Barclay: It’s all correct, okay. That’s for the no-coder. They just, basically as you said, needs to configure, and then, I guess, if you’re a professional systems architect or enterprise architect, you can go as deep as you want with the platform and get into the REST Level and do your thing that way, right? Is that the case?


Markus Zirn:


Absolutely, so we support, obviously, ServiceNow, but applications like Salesforce, SAP, JIRA, and about 150 of those out of the box, but then on top of that, there is a developer platform. If you have a custom application with a REST API, you can bring that into one of our recipes, absolutely. You can integrate with databases. This can be in the cloud or on-premise. You can do everything that you could’ve done with TIBCO.


Martin Barclay: All right, so we’ve touched on, and I think with the concept of recipes and integration apps, but, I mean, if you had to say how you’re different, there’s several or many iPaaS vendors out there, what’s your prime differentiator from those other iPaaS vendors?


Markus Zirn:


No, that’s a very good question. We’re an integration and automation platform, and there’s been many like that before. I think what it boils is really these 2 elements of the productivity aspect and then being fully enterprise great. More than just those 2, having both of them in one package, I think that’s what’s so key. I mean, if you think about it, integration is just a fundamentally very challenging technical problem space. It’s possible, it’s easy to make something simple, look simple. I think the world of enterprise software and middleware is littered with products that are quite powerful but they look complicated. What we wanted to do with Workato was really to build something that is tackling a tough problem but make it look simple. I think that’s what makes Workato unique.


There is just a long list of little aspects. I mean, we talked about the reuse before, the fact that we had a GitHub model that you can reuse someone’s recipe and we call it smart clone. That’s important to make it easy. We’re abstracting a lot of technical details that you would’ve seen in other integration products. You really have to just focus on the business logic.


Martin Barclay: It’s interesting about these smart clone and recipes, do users of Workato share? Is there a place where you can share these recipes, or do you manage that process and make them available on some kind of marketplace, on GitHub for example?


Markus Zirn:



No. We have our own community on Workato. As we speak today, we have about 100,000 recipes that people have actually shared. Now, what we do is we screen them and we feature some that’s especially useful.


Martin Barclay: Okay.


Markus Zirn: We have enterprise customers who have their own communities just within their larger company. That is absolutely possible, but it is a … Think of GitHub as a capability included in Workato.


Martin Barclay: Right. Right. Yeah, so that’s really the power of the platform. That is when you start getting that level, that volume of community contribution. It really shows the power of the platform and benefits the entire community.


Markus Zirn:




Totally. We talked about all of this stuff that makes it easy, on the hand, I mean, we’re talking here a serious tool. We’re scaling up to thousands of transactions in minutes. We have redundancy built in, in terms of reliability. We’re audited, SOC 2 audited for data privacy. Workato is, it says in the name, work automation, this is actually not just a data syncing tool, but we have automation that can last across days and even weeks or months. This is workflow automation. These are long running processes. We have a governance component built in for our larger enterprise customers, and then I talked about the developer platform before. It’s really simplicity meeting a tough technical challenge.


Martin Barclay: Right. Let’s shift gears a little bit and maybe talk about some common use cases that you’ve seen at ServiceNow customers.


Markus Zirn:



Absolutely, I’m happy to share that. Let me structure that into 3 segments if you want. The first area is really around ServiceNow customers using Workato for productivity. I’ll name Hulu here as an example of one of our customers. Those customers, typically, what they want to do, they want to sync their IT assets, the Microsoft SCCM integration is a good example. They want to create productivity automation like event reminders, maybe through Twilio with their iPhones or Android phones. They might want us to monitor ticket thresholds or include signatures into certain processes with DocuSign. I mean, you get the idea, so in this productivity segment, we see even small customers easily saving 100 to 300 hours each month just basically automating error-prone manual tasks. That’s category number 1.




Category number 2 is really about speed and cost of very flexible integrations. Let me explain. This is the larger customers that we have. They run service now, but then they also run other best of breed applications like a JIRA for their software lifecycle, Salesforce for CRM, and all of those systems, they have invested quite a bit of effort, and they have customized them so they need flexible integrations. What Workato can do is integrations between those very serious applications but do them in 20% of the time and 20% of the cost. That’s really what it boils down to, a time and cost advantage for integrating.





Then area number 3 is the fun stuff. This is where Workato really helps facilitate just new models of working together. One large ServiceNow customers, for example, uses us together with Slack, in this scenario all the Linux help desk tickets automatically get posted in the channel where all the Linux admins hang out. They can answer them there, and Workato brings them back into the ServiceNow tickets. If you think about what’s happening here, is Workato makes it possible that the help desk staff gets augmented by a very large team of Linux administrators that are really not part of the help desk, but they’re now pitching in and they’re actually loving it, because they love that end customer connection, if you want. We’ve seen help desk response times and efficiency improve by 50% just because of they do service smarter.


Martin Barclay: That’s great, and so you talked about Slack, can you talk about Spark? I heard you’re doing some interesting things with Cisco Spark.



Markus Zirn:


Yeah, so Cisco Spark is a very interesting new chat platform. Cisco, you might’ve heard, there was very recently a big partnership with Apple that they made. Workato, just like Cisco, were part of that Apple enterprise initiative which is about enterprise application running on iPads. We collaborate and Cisco and for upcoming Cisco Live. We’re bringing out a Spark connector for Workato. What I just mentioned that use case, using Slack channels, you would be able to do the very same thing with Spark. What we’re seeing is that a lot of ServiceNow customers are also Cisco customers. I think there’s a lot of interesting synergy ahead.


Martin Barclay:


Talking about ServiceNow customers, I mean, you’re on the Store. You’re on the ServiceNow Store. You’ve got a few integration apps up there. You mentioned Twilio, Wufoo, and others. If you’re on the Store it means that you’re now certified, and so you’ve gone through a bunch of testing. Can you give our audience a little bit of a deeper dive on what you had to do to attain Now Certified status, and then just as importantly, how that certification benefited our joint customers?


Markus Zirn:






Of course, so for us what that certification process meant was really going through 6 iterations of testing with the ServiceNow team, doing a security scan. We actually changed practices of how we were suing the ServiceNow staging tables, all to conform to best practice. Workato actually has offerings up on many different marketplaces out there, but I have to say that the ServiceNow certification process is thorough. ServiceNow customers know that, and so a lot of questions that we get often is very early in the process is, are you on the Store? They know that if we’re on the Store, it makes things easier. If we’re not, then questions come up. The IT operations people will asks, “So does that mean we now have to do the pre-production testing ourselves?” Some people have noticed that when they go with the solution from the Store that that testing is actually 60% reduced.


Martin Barclay: Right.


Markus Zirn: What we see is it helps customers. They get the approvals that they need. They know it’s up to best practices, and I think it’s … It’s a great thing-


Martin Barclay:



They basically that it’s going to work and they can deploy it much, much faster than if they had to, as you said, do their own testing and their own series of gates to go through.


Markus Zirn: That’s the right seal of approval.


Martin Barclay: That’s right. Yeah, that’s good to know. I mean, we do put a lot of time and resources jointly, partners and ServiceNow, into that process. We should mention, you gave us a couple of customer examples, but you have thousands of customers, right?


Markus Zirn: We have now a little over 13,000 users using Workato. Yeah, so we’re seeing a lot of different scenarios out there.


Martin Barclay: That’s great. At Knowledge 16, you and I were both there in the developer hub, and the Workato team participated in the CreatorCon Hackathon with a team member from LinkedIn and others, and you developed an app that you called Crowd Service, which was an integration between the ServiceNow knowledge base Slack and IBM Watson in just 8 hours. Pretty amazing integration in that limited time frame. Tell us a little bit more about that application.



Markus Zirn:












Yeah. We called it the next gen intelligent crowd service solution, so that’s a handful but it shows how we combine a whole bunch of things together. Everyone talks about cognitive computing and artificial intelligence is whatever everyone always dreams about. IBM Watson has made it quite accessible, I have to say, and then Slack is, everyone knows how dramatically the growth is of Slack in collaboration. What we did is we created that scenario where someone asks a question on the new ServiceNow Helsinki self-service portal. That question now is analyzed by IBM Watson for sentiment, should it be prioritized, is it just a customer angry, for example. Also, IBM Watson is used to now match it to a topic area, identify experts in the company that should be able to answer that question, and then spin up magically an ad hoc Slack channel where these experts can collaborate. Once they find a solution, Workato brings it back to ServiceNow. It’s a very dynamic, collaborative team sourcing of applications.


Martin Barclay: Right.


Markus Zirn: Yeah. That was just so much fun to work on that. I think it blew our mind how, I believe, we were able to create something quite disruptive in just 8 hours, right?


Martin Barclay: Right.


Markus Zirn: Because if you think about it, that’s what we were thinking about there over pizza and beers that evening. We’re thinking of Uber and Airbnb and how other very famous companies have been able to crowdsource or team source areas, and we were doing the very same thing just for the support of services.


Martin Barclay:


That was the concept. That’s great. We’ll congratulations you’re a finalist, and we’re very impressed with your apps, so thanks for participating and being there. Well, we’re just over halfway now through 2016, right?


Markus Zirn: Yes.


Martin Barclay: Tons of success already, Gartner Cool Vendor, I know that you’re going to be in the iPaaS Wave very soon. We talked about the tens of thousands of customers, the hackathon success. What do you see of the second half and maybe in the 2017 for Workato?


Markus Zirn:






No, absolutely, and yeah, to all the listeners, you should watch out for the Forrester iPaaS Wave, because you’ll find Workato in there, and you’ll find Workato in a good spot. What’s ahead? I think with ServiceNow, what is really exciting to me and to Workato, and we’re already working with your product managers on that, is really how ServiceNow is pushing beyond IT, how you’re building solutions now that address customer support, that address HR, and other areas.


Martin Barclay: Security operations.


Markus Zirn: Security operations, and if integration is important for the IT space, it is absolutely even more important for those areas, these other areas, because you have to integrate with business applications. I think Workato can add tremendous value there, and we’re just really excited about it.


Martin Barclay:






Well Markus, I want to thank you for taking the time to come in today. We really appreciate it. It’s been a great discussion. I hope our listeners have learned a lot about the value that Workato can bring to their business. If you’re a ServiceNow customer and you’re interested in some Workato integration apps, you can go to Store.ServiceNow.com, and you’ll find a few of them there, and then of course, you can also go to Workato.com and get the full story and all the information there. Again, Markus thank you and thank you to the audience for listening today.


Markus Zirn: Thanks Martin.