Workflow automation vendor Workato has launched a major update of its product this week, at the same time as becoming the first startup to announce venture backing from all three leading enterprise SaaS pureplays — Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow.
The Workato tool is designed to enable business users to build automated workflows and insights that connect across multiple applications and data sources. It provides a user-friendly interface, augmented with AI and a library of pre-built 'recipes', to make it easy to connect applications. The resulting workflow can then be made available via messaging clients such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. We've previously described this combination as serverless integration and headless workflow.
The new update introduces collections of ready-made process automations for sales, marketing and HR functions. It also improves the visual process builder to make it even more intuitive when creating and modifying automations. A new administration dashboard helps monitor and manage automations across an organization.
Partnering with application vendors
The $25 million series B funding round, led by new investor Battery Ventures, adds ServiceNow as a new corporate investor, with existing backers Workday Ventures and Storm Ventures also participating. Salesforce is an existing investor from its previous round. The unique spectacle of the top three enterprise SaaS vendors all investing in the same startup is testament to Workato's success in enabling workflow automation for their customers, says Bhaskar Roy, VP of Growth:
All these cloud vendors are seeing the promise in what we do ... When you look at what people are using us for, these three apps are pretty much across the board.
Workato now plans to work more closely with application vendors by allowing them to embed a tailored version of its tool into their own user interface — becoming a headless function within the host application. Typically, this will provide a set of ready-to-run workflow automations tailored to the application, along with access to further recipes pre-selected by the vendor, which users can customize to their needs. If a customer wants to add use recipes or capabilities outside of the vendor-specific version, they can still do so by licensing Workato directly.
The pre-built Automation Editions for Sales, Marketing, and HR teams package up Workato's learnings from looking at common patterns among all the automation recipes built to date by its customers, says Gautham Viswanathan, founder and Head of Products:
Companies want to understand what does a best practice look like in a certain area. That motivated us to learn from what our customers have done, and bottle it up.
This builds on looking at how Workato is being used by companies such as fast-growing messaging vendor Slack, which as well as being an important partner for Workato is also a big user of the tool for its internal operations. Some examples in use at Slack include a workflow for managing and signing off deals and automatically updating the Salesforce records when pitching to new customers, or a vacation approval process that takes place entirely within Slack, while Workato automatically takes care of recording the necessary information in Workday.
The Automation Edition for HR includes prepackaged processes such as onboarding and offboarding, account and device provisioning, and payroll related workflows. It also has what Workato calls 'ChatOps' — using a messaging app like Slack as the UI for approving time off, expenses and so on.
Following on from this week's launch, Workato expects to introduce further prepackaged automations in the near future for finance and support processes.
Visual process design and monitoring
The improvements to the visual process editor are designed to intuitively give users a better sense of the logic and data flow as they build out or modify a process automation. Each control statement has a simple icon that conveys what it does, and the layout makes it easy to understand the flow. Users can also alter the name that Workato automatically assigns to each step to help describe each action clearly.
An improved operations dashboard called OpsIQ makes it simpler to evaluate how projects have performed over time and also provides the ability to search across a job history to quickly find a specific transaction or set of transactions in the event of a problem occuring. This functionality is designed to help quickly troubleshoot operational issues as well as improve overall performance over time.
The announcement also highlights the RecipeIQ function within Workato, which uses AI and machine learning to automatically suggest next steps to anyone building an automation, based on the collective experience of those who have automated similar processes in the past using Workato.
Packaging up proven automations is a significant step for Workato, especially when combined with the new strategy of encouraging application vendors to bundle its platform within their own application. This is a great way to accelerate adoption.
What blew me away though was the demonstration of its new visual process editor. Over the past couple of decades I've seen a huge number of these editors — at one time some people even tried to define them as a category called personal service builders — but I've never seen something that provides such a visually succinct rendering of each action.
What we now know as low-code/no-code is a movement that has a long pedigree — the link above is to an article that dates back a decade and a half. But we do now seem to be getting close to achieving the results those early pioneers dreamed of, and Workato is taking a lead in showing how powerful these capabilities can be, especially when augmented by AI and machine learning.