By the end of 2017, research indicated that two-thirds of Global 2000 companies had placed digital transformation at the core of their corporate strategies.
At the same time, research also shows that close to two-thirds of digital transformation projects fail. And the reason is quite simple.
The truth is that most businesses have an integration and automation problem. VP of Constellation Research Holger Mueller explains: “With the multiple new things happening in the public cloud, you either have an integration problem between existing and new technology or with multiple clouds, which you have to link together because you have fragmented automation.”
Many companies approach this problem on a case-by-case basis. This project-specific view is important, and solving the immediate integration problem will always be top of mind for both the lines of business who need the integration, and the IT team that needs to implement it. However, thinking only case-by-case hinders companies from achieving true digital transformation. Most companies want their business to run like a well-oiled machine, but business are much more like a living, breathing entity. While machines are built once and run the same way over and over, inside a business things are constantly changing. Much like a living entity, things evolve but all essential functions must continue running in order to stay alive.
Empowering the entire organization to create and innovate automations creates a healthy organism, with efficient processes in each department that can change as strategy, apps, and processes change.
Company-wide automations unlock hidden potential by making everyone more efficient.
Whether you’re triaging support tickets or approving expense reimbursements, every department does lots of administrative work. It’s just part of keeping a business running.
No matter the department, automation can empower employees spend less time on rote, manual tasks like data entry. A great example is how a large financial app company used Workato to create an automated onboarding workflow for new hires. Whenever the company hires a new employee, they need to have an easy way of requesting the items the new worker needs. They use ServiceNow to handle these service requests for a new laptop or provisioning to their business apps, but even beyond hiring, people are ordering things throughout the company all the time.
Prior to automation, the company generated 60,000 tickets a year—all of which were handled manually. Then they had a brilliant idea: why not let people order things right from Slack? Employees can simply ask Workbot—a chatbot Workato created to allow you to do work in other apps directly from Slack—to order something and enter the request right from the chat app using drop-down menus, buttons, or commands. Workbot creates the request in ServiceNow.
That’s a great automation, but it’s not as helpful if the IT team is still approving requests by hand. With company-wide automations, the IT team is also empowered to do their job from Slack. They’ll receive a Slack notification from Workbot when the service request is created; they can securely approve it with the click of a button.
Not navigating to ServiceNow to file a ticket 60,000 times makes everyone more productive, and it reduces the time spent on these requests by 20%. Without the burden of so much administrative work, the company’s employees can devote more time to meaningful work that involves higher-order thinking.
Company-wide automations can streamline crucial business processes.
In any business, tasks and processes often span departments. That can create bottlenecks in getting work done because you have to wait for another team or colleague to complete a task or provide the necessary information.
Company-wide automations can make it easier to complete crucial tasks with little to no manual work. And they can ensure that business processes move forward quickly, with minimal lag; many automations begin with a trigger—an event that starts the automation running. So instead of waiting for a colleague to manually perform Step C of a process, that step can happen as soon as Step B is complete.
For example, you might want to create a new lead in your CRM—such as Salesforce—whenever someone registers for an event on Eventbrite. Because your sales ops and marketing teams work independently, it would require a lot of coordination to create these new leads in a timely fashion. With company-wide automations, however, you can ensure that new leads are created with no manual effort and in real-time.
Company-wide automations enhance your data.
Good quality data is important for every organization, because it feeds so many business processes. From sales to marketing to engineering, data determines everything from daily tasks to strategic decision-making.
But good data can be difficult to access. Data is often inconsistent or needs to be manipulated before it can be used effectively. And it’s not sufficient for only one team to have access to good-quality data; in order to cooperate optimally, every department needs consistent, high-quality information at their fingertips.
Providing that data can be daunting task, but company-wide automations can make it easier for every department to access the data they need in the right format. For example, Puppet—a configuration automation software company with a user base of over 36,000 organizations—uses automation to empower employees across departments.
Using the Workato intelligent automation platform, three Puppet employees—a Salesforce admin, and Marketo admin, and a business systems analyst—individually created automations that streamline their teams’ workflows and enhance data quality. The Marketo admin, for example, uses an automation to massage lead data before syncing it with Marketo. The business analyst designed a similar workflow that moves leads from Salesforce to Zendesk. Each person understands their own use case the best, and each one can execute the automations without the help of developers. This empowers all 3 employees to quickly streamline their processes and ensure good data quality.
Company-wide automations give you a bird’s eye view.
Company-wide automations also allow you access to a wider pool of data, which is key to developing a 360° view of your customers—or your business. Best-of-breed SaaS provide specialized tools that are great for specific tasks, but they can also become disconnected data silos. To get a truly holistic view of a client or aspect of your organization, you need easy access to information stored in multiple places.
For example, H2O.ai uses an automated workflow to cleanse over 4,600 leads in just three months by connecting six best-of-breed apps using Workato. By automating across the company, H2O.ai saves hours of work every week. These automations also create a full 360° view of the organization and its customers, which they use to make well-informed and data-driven decisions—ultimately converting the most leads to paid customers.
Why don’t more organizations implement company-wide automations?
Given all of their benefits, it seems like a no-brainer for companies to adopt company-wide automations. So why don’t most companies implement them?
The first barrier is that generally, traditional tools either allow for point-to-point integration or automation—but not both. This means that companies must purchase separate tools to create company-wide automations, which can be cost-prohibitive.
The second problem is that traditional integration tools do not sufficiently empower lines-of-business users to create their own integrations. In the past, integration and automation were the domain of technical staff like IT or integration specialists, so traditional tools aren’t particularly easy for non-technical users to pick up.
But as businesses have committed to making digital transformation a reality, the need for agile integrations has exploded. Today, automated workflows must be built, tested, and implemented more quickly than ever before. In most organizations, however, the number of technical staff hasn’t changed.
It’s unfair to expect IT to keep pace with the exponentially increasing number of automations required. It’s also not ideal to make non-technical staff wait weeks or months for a crucial integration to be built out. And they frequently don’t; they create their own integrations themselves, which propagates shadow IT.
How can you make company-wide automations achievable?
The first step is to find an automation platform that is simple enough to be widely usable, even by non-technical personnel. Leveraging a user-friendly automation platform is key to resolving this problem and making automation available across the organization.
But what does such a platform look like, from a technical standpoint? Gartner describes a platform capable of handling company-wide automations as a “hybrid integration platform,” which combines on-prem integration tools (like ESB or ETL) with cloud platforms (such as iPaaS and API management). In order to truly be robust enough to handle company-wide automations, such a platform should:
- Allow for a wide variety of integrations, from app and data integration to APIs and IOT;
- Enable many different personas, from integration specialists to business analysts, to create robust integrations; and
- Work like your Instagram—not a camcorder.
It should also be community-based and iterative. You shouldn’t have to start from scratch every time you need an integration or a workflow. You should be able to crowdsource ideas and build upon the work of others—similar to how developers use GitHub.
Finally, you need to be creative. Automation can be a powerful tool for your business, but it won’t leverage itself. The most successful companies are the ones that don’t settle for “more efficient” or “good enough” automations. They are the organizations that are constantly dreaming up newer, smarter ways to do business.