Workato was recently awarded a patent for our technology enabling Recipe Cloning. I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate the team and reflect on how this seemingly esoteric technology actually forms the basis for an important contribution to the integration landscape: the Workato integration community.
The Need for an Integration Community
One of the biggest challenges in Integration has been the inability to share integrations across customers. Say a customer builds a really cool employee onboarding automation across Workday, Active Directory, and Okta with an approval workflow done via Slack. There is no easy way to share this automation with others in a way that would allow the other person to reuse and repurpose the integration with their own app instances and have it running in a few clicks. This is one of the reasons integration projects can be very expensive: there is little reuse and every project starts from first principles.
When we set out to modernize and democratize integration software, one of the core components of our vision was to enable a Github-like community for integrations. It is easier to get started by building on top of what others have already built. GitHub is a great example of this concept. The community lets people easily share integrations with others and allows anyone to reuse them in their own environment with a few clicks. Having a community for integrations not only reduces the time it takes to make integrations but also expands the number of personas who can build integrations. It enables even business users to create integrations like a pro by using what others built and easily tweaking it to their specific needs.
There have been several well-funded attempts by prominent vendors in the past to create a way to reuse integrations. Most of these approaches have been around vendor or partner built reference libraries or templates i.e. not strictly a community.
These haven’t really worked because:
- On the business side, it is expensive and time-consuming for any vendor to take on identifying, developing and maintaining a large corpus of useful solutions.
- There was no way for users to contribute their integrations or build on top of these templates. Modern businesses have specialized workflows and are seldom able to use templates without modification.
- Technically, templates are a combination of logic and data schema. Most modern apps like Salesforce, ServiceNow, etc. supports extensive schema customization. If your schema is different than what was assumed in the template, the template won’t work!
The Workato Approach
At Workato, we took a different approach. Our integrations are called recipes, and we made sure that logic and schema are distinct. That means every recipe, for every app it uses, understands what its schema dependencies are. This way, when a recipe is cloned, we can examine the new user’s app schema to see if it satisfies the schema requirements of the recipe. If there are things that need to be addressed, Workato will point out the schema requirements that have not been satisfied and suggest options for adjusting the recipe to work with the new schema requirements.
To make this vision work, we had to make sure we had a smarter approach to versioning – one that understood the difference between logic changes and schema changes.
Of course, we also had to get the security aspects right. When a recipe is copied, we had to do the right set of things to make sure the recipe author’s proprietary information does not end up in the copied recipes.
It has been exciting to see how effective our approach has been. We have over 36,000 community members who have created and shared 225,000 recipes. These recipes address popular workflows like employee onboarding, quote to cash, customer success, DevOps, etc. Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow are some of the most popular applications in the community.
We know our users love community recipes: 74% of integrations are cloned from an existing recipe and 77% of our users get their first integration live within a week.
The real impact is that it lowers the technical capabilities required to build integrations and empowers more personas to create integrations. Nearly 51% of our community members identify themselves as non-technical business personas.