Dell Boomi wants you to go with the flow of the connected business

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright January 23, 2018
With the addition of workflow automation to its cloud API integration platform, Dell Boomi wants to enable the connected business

Businessman on ladder planning network design in cloud © Tom Wang -
(© Tom Wang - Adobe Stock)
Cloud-based integration vendor Dell Boomi is making a big push into workflow automation this year. It's a timely move. As business becomes more digitally connected, people are starting to look for tools that can help them chain together functionality and data from different applications and services. Meanwhile, the underlying application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable this are becoming more readily available.

Boomi now offers both of these elements following its acquisition last year of ManyWho, whose co-founder Steve Wood has just been named Chief Product Officer. In a conversation earlier this week, Wood tells me Boomi is repositioning this year to reflect that broader remit:

We're expanding the definition of what integration really means. That's part of why we're talking about 'The Connected Business.'

The workflow automation tool that Wood's company developed has now been integrated into the Boomi product line as Boomi Flow. It gives users an intuitive, 'low-code' means of building streamlined workflows that cut across different applications and data sources — such as order-to-cash, purchasing, employee onboarding, case management and credit limit approvals.

Enabling connected business outcomes

This goes beyond what's been traditionally available from enterprise integration platforms, says Wood, which have focused on delivering data integration and APIs rather than finished business processes. By adding workflow automation, Boomi Flow enables the outcomes that people in the business are looking for:

The business imperative is not to build a whole bunch of APIs. [Boomi Flow] enables very fast composition of the APIs and processes in a more scaleable, abstracted way of the enterprise. You want to engage more with a community of people. You need the workflow layer to do just that.

We are laying claim that we are finishing the stack. For connecting everything together you need the APIs. But the business imperative is [enabling outcomes].

Let us solve the really tough technology and architecture challenges so you can just move fast and get stuff out the door.

That speed of delivery is illustrated by the customer story of Aphrox Healthcare, which took just over ten weeks to deliver a mobile app that its nurses in sub-Saharan Africa use to enter and access key data in its SAP and Salesforce systems. It includes support for offline working on several different mobile platforms, with two-factor authentication and other enterprise-grade features. This would previously have taken months but instead was completed with almost zero coding, says Wood.

With co-founder Dave Norris, Wood set up ManyWho in May 2013 after a three-and-a-half year stint at Salesforce, which acquired their previous business Informavores in December 2009. Headquartered in Cardiff, Wales, Informavores had also been a process automation company, providing what the jargon of the time called business process management (BPM) for customer service processes. Its technology formed the basis of Salesforce Visual Workflow.

Taking workflow beyond Salesforce

The launch of ManyWho was a response to the limitations on workflow automation in the Salesforce environment, which works fine so long as the process doesn't involve coding or linking out to applications or data sources outside of the Salesforce platform. The ManyWho technology, now known as Boomi Flow, was developed to solve three key problems, says Wood.

  • Workflow applications need to be connected to all of your valuable data, which means integration is a critical piece. "You can compose these applications, but ultimately it has to be connected back to your data — and it's not all in one place," says Wood. That requires an orchestration architecture that will work with various APIs in a consistent way: "We were laser focused on, we are becoming your enterprise architect."
  • Avoiding what Salesforce insiders call the "declarative cliff," which is when you find you have to rewrite an entire process in code because one small part of it can't be done through drag-and-drop. "We were going to deliver you a well-architected infrastructure that you could use to drag-and-drop, and code on top if you wanted to. The architectural consideration was make it easy to extend. It's 'low code', not 'no code'," explains Wood.
  • No governor limits of the type that Salesforce uses to gate workloads when reading or writing data. "Boomi Flow is serverless, elastically scalable. It's our job to scale to what you need," says Wood.

Although now more deeply integrated with Boomi's integration platform, the technology will still work with other iPaaS providers, says Wood.

We wanted to solve the workflow architecture problem and leave the problem of integrating across a hybrid IT landscape to the likes of Boomi.

My take

The acquisition of ManyWho last year was an important step by Boomi to ensure that it stays abreast of these emerging trends in enterprise application integration — or connection, as I prefer to call it.

As APIs become mainstream as a means of exposing application and data resources, it becomes increasingly important to harness those APIs rapidly and effectively in support of business outcomes. It's no longer acceptable to wait for IT to manually forge each connection. Instead, IT must work out how to allow business users to make their own connections. Boomi Flow is a ready-made tool for doing exactly that.

This helps Boomi stay in contention at a time when workflow automation is becoming an important feature in the landscape of messaging and chatbots — part of an emerging trend towards conversational computing and headless apps.

This is a topic we'll be covering a lot this year as vendors continue to innovate in this field. I have more in the next few days following on from some other conversations this month, and I look forward to catching up with Steve Wood again not too far in the future. I'm sure it's going to be an interesting year for all of us.

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