Workato: the next chapter

I put my thoughts on Workato down when we first invested,  then added a follow-up post over a year ago. I thought it would be a good time to check in again as an investor with our latest round which we just announced. It’s no surprise that I’m a fan of Workato, so this time around I think you might find some larger observations about the market from my point of view interesting. 

The market for workflow automation is real, and it’s accelerating for many reasons. Workato is fortunate to be one of the leaders in this next wave of SaaS innovation. 

SaaS applications fall short of delivering you a workflow for your business. If you want to adhere to the NetSuite, Salesforce, or Workday playbook and conform to the application methodology, it works well. Really well. But every business has unique requirements that don’t fit neatly into a monolithic application. Even with out-of-the-box integrations, there are generally no intelligent workflows or triggers. 

You can’t expect any single application to deliver against your needs completely. Rather than trying to wrestle with a prescriptive, static, one-size-fits-all application, what you need is to be able to share data between applications and modulate logical workflows. The point isn’t whether you can customize your Salesforce instance (of course you can) but rather: why would you go beyond the application’s design? And how will you make this work with all the other applications you have in your stack? The market for workflow automation is real and growing rapidly because the answer is that there’s a much better way. And with thoughtful automation, your SaaS investment just got an even greater ROI. 

Workato clearly benefits these SaaS applications because when integrating a workflow, these applications become much more rich with information; as a result, they become more valuable. This means you can get more leverage out of the investment you’ve made in your application infrastructure by gaining the ability to create intelligent automated workflows that make use of this rich information. 

Workato enables you as an enterprise to have your data as the north star rather than any one application. Now you can move your workflows around valuable data rather than be a slave to siloed applications. With Workato effectively integrating them, applications become more valuable and the team more knowledgeable. 

The need for a solution like Workato is clear across the enterprise, from employee onboarding, order management and fulfillment, lead management, to getting the workflows done from communications platforms.

  • Every company deals with the complex process of moving candidates from recruitment (maybe in to new employee (creating a new record in Workday) to provisioning that employee (sending a Slack message to the new employee’s manager, where they can choose the hardware and software that the employee needs via dropdown menus, then creating a ticket in ServiceNow). Workato also works with single sign-on vendors to automatically and securely provision applications; this way, employees are up and running quickly and there’s no dependency on other departments or people in the organization.
  •  For organizations that use communications platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, Workato can alert individuals of new tasks or account updates without the need to log into the system of record. Users can also interact with Slack to make changes to applications like Workday without ever leaving the Slack interface; the simple recipes take care of everything in the background. 

It makes sense that a separate workflow automation vendor would be providing these recipes; it’s hard for large SaaS vendors to anticipate every enterprise need, because there’s such a complex matrix of potential requirements. Furthermore, Workato’s the ease of use is core to its value proposition: simple English recipes and a cloud-native service that has all the security and reliability that an enterprise requires. Many of Workato’s customers have formed business technology teams that work with different groups to better integrate applications. The expectation is that these teams can build these workflows, which is really only possible with a platform like Workato. 

Many times when we make an investment, the product plan substantially evolves with time as the team learns more about product/market fit and how best to respond to customer needs. Workato is in another category, where the vision the company pitched when we first met is largely the focus of the team today almost three years later, though we’ve had to make adjustments to the go-to-market strategy and have certainly focused the product with more customer feedback. What’s surprised me most is how hungry enterprise customers are for workflow automation — not just agile smaller companies, but companies across the spectrum in virtually every vertical. With more than 6000 customers and many application partners as a foundation, Workato will continue to lead the way in workflow automation. You can follow the company’s blog for more updates, or if you’re in business technology, you can join the Business Systems Magic Conference next year.  

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