Workday Podcast: Automating and Streamlining Vital Business Processes

Vijay Tella, co-founder and CEO of Workato, talks with Leighanne Levensaler, co-head and managing director of Workday Ventures, about real-world examples of how integrations and workflow automations can move businesses forward, and how the Workday-Workato partnership benefits our shared customers. Take a listen here:

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If you’re more of a reader, below you’ll find the transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity. You can find our other Workday Podcasts here.

Leighanne Levensaler: Hello. This is Leighanne Levensaler, co-head and managing director of Workday Ventures, and I’m here to talk with Vijay Tella. Vijay is the co-founder and CEO of Workato. Today we will be talking about the Workato and Workday relationship, our partnership. So, Welcome Vijay. Thanks for being here with me.

Vijay Tella: Thank you Leighanne. It’s really great to be here.

Levensaler: Yes. We’re at Workday Rising. We’re on the Expo floor, and we’re spending our time meeting with customers and talking about our solutions. Tell us a little bit about what Workato does, the offering.

Tella: Yes. Workato is a platform for integrating and automating applications, so, being able synchronize data between various applications you have, but more importantly from a business standpoint you have workflows that cut across all these applications, like onboarding/offboarding type of workflows. So we help orchestrate those workflows, and those workflows underneath that connect onto the applications that are involved.

Levensaler: So give us an example of maybe an experience that would help automate across multiple applications—just to bring it home for the listener.

Tella: Yeah. So I’ll give you an example of a customer, alright?

Levensaler: That’d be great.

Tella: What they’re doing. So, Broadcom is a company that does a lot of acquisitions, and onboarding employees is a big challenge. They did the acquisition of Brocade and they’re now, they’re just gearing up for CA. So when they bring these employees onboard, there’s a lot that needs to happen. From the time you’re generating the offers through the DocuSign process and then making arrangements for them based on their role, the location, making the right kind of requisitions—all of this involves approvals from managers.

So, being able to automate all of this end to end so that it’s—you know, before Workato, just to give you a sense, the people that were responsible for onboarding had to manually implement these workflows. There’s a bunch of it inside ServiceNow and other applications, so you have to go to all these different applications and do little bits of these things, and it was easy to make mistakes. You know.

Levensaler: Doesn’t create the best experience…

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: …for employees…

Tella: Yeah. Especially the new people that you are welcoming into your…

Levensaler: …when they have to go to multiple places and go here for that, here for that, here for that…

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: …but yet it’s all one thing. In their mind, it’s all one thing. They don’t really care that it takes five systems to orchestrate it.

Tella: That’s right. And these are the new employees they’re welcoming into the Broadcom family. So it was really important for them that the experience be really smooth, fast, efficient, transparent, and customizable. Right? I think just based on the roles and the business rules around this stuff, and the volume at which they need to do this with. Right?

So they use Workato to automate all of this and wherever managers need to—the only manual part of it at that point is where someone needs to look into something and to check and approve. They do that via email, but a lot of our other customers do this through Slack. You know, they sit inside Slack and get all this onboarding done. So, it’s a way to smooth things out between all these applications.

Levensaler: And every single one of our customers at Workday will say that they’re operating in a heterogeneous environment now. Workday is a really important part of their environment, the core. You have that system of record for people and in finance, but there are many other applications involved in creating experiences for their employees and for their business leaders. So having a tool like Workato or solution like Workato will help to orchestrate these cross-application experiences to create just a more streamlined, more efficient, more effective way. It is something that they all desire, so we’re so attracted to [Workato] from a Workday Ventures perspective to say, you know, hey, this is a solution that’s complimentary to our offering. Our customers need it. They want it. Let’s see if we can advance the state of our partnership to not only have you in our software alliances program, but also invest in you and build an even tighter integration.

So we’re so delighted that Workato is one of the Workday Ventures portfolio companies. We appreciate your partnership there and we know that creating solutions for our shared customers is extremely important.

You mentioned a great example—Broadcom as a shared customer, but there are a few other great ones out there. Panera’s doing some amazing things.

Tella: Yeah. Panera is automating a lot of the processes that happen with its 3,000 restaurants, the staff at these restaurants, with the headquarters. There too, it’s a very heterogeneous environment. It also involves the work that they do with partners. Suppliers are a big part of it. Especially when you have a very geographically distributed sort of environment. Being able to make things—they do a lot of interesting things—they look at the log files of some of the activities that are happening inside the store to automatically detect potential issues and look up the persons managed, like information in Workday and file a ticket in ServiceNow. Right?

People don’t have time in the stores to go and make a call to headquarters. Right? So, [it’s a] very high-tech restaurant company that is just leveraging technology in a beautiful way.

Levensaler: Yeah. Its digital transformation—it has made so many leadership steps. You know, showing other companies how to do digital transformation from their in-stores to the way they’re taking care of their employees to the back office. It’s just, for me, I think Panera is a shining example of a company that’s doing digital transformation well, and spending a lot of time with Workday and a lot of time with Workato, so we think this is a great example.

Tell us why Workato is beyond your standard fare integration tooling. You know?

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: What do you all do that’s more intelligent, more business user-centric. Because most companies have one, two, three, different integration tooling environments and this is materially different. I want the listeners to understand that.

Tella: Yeah. That’s a great question. Integration platforms have been around as long as business systems and applications have been around. So what’s really different now, and what Workato has focused on are three things that are very different.

One is integration platforms and the problem was seen as a plumbing problem in the past, where you would be syncing up high volumes of data between some back-end systems that really didn’t see the light of the day, those things that are getting coordinated in the back end. If you look at what’s happening now, it’s the number of apps and the fragmentation of data and business process that is impacting front-line business users. It goes far beyond plumbing. You know? People sit inside Slack and they are collaborating with their co-workers and teams and their own work, like a customer support person, a help desk person getting a request, and then you’re looking up information about that request or that company from 15 different apps, and getting the context together and taking action across all these.

So having the apps—the cloud apps and SaaS apps—has been such a blessing. It simplifies so much of the core business operations. At the same time there’s been the flip side of it, which is the complexity of having the context chopped out. Right? So it’s now no longer a plumbing problem. It affects business users in the company, number one.

Number two, the thing that is different is, historically, the model with integrations has been the business people come up with this requirement, and they will write them down, and they will give it to IT to get these things done, because the tools that do these integrations were technical.

Levensaler: Yeah. They’re heavy duty. They’re not for us mere mortals.

Tella: You need to be a developer. So I think the second difference is that the people that are setting up Workday, like the people that are at this conference, like the HR analysts, head of HR systems, they want to be able to create the automations around all of the HR automations themselves without having to go to IT. But IT is really important from a security, compliance, and governance standpoint, so you’re doing these things in a secure way. So there’s the guardrails for it.

Levensaler: Yeah. Freedom within a framework —freedom is not a great choice of words—but rather, self-sufficiency.

Tella: Empowerment is the word that we use.

Levensaler: Yeah. Love that.

Tella: But empowerment is the other side of same coin as security. Without security and confidence in the integrity of your systems, you’re not going to empower. So, a big part of our product was to kind of make it technically accessible to business users and also provide the guardrails framework, where IT and business can really be comfortable working with each other.

Levensaler: Right.

Tella: So that’s the second difference. The first is that it impacts all of the front-line business, not just back end. The second is, IT and business really truly being on the same page and collaborating.

The third difference is just the volume and speed. Right? I think it’s completely phenomenal right now. And you’re looking to apply AI and machine learning technologies to learn—you’re not just automating business processes, you’re learning what you are doing, and doing them better. You want to do them at scale.

Levensaler: More intelligent automation.

Tella: Yeah. More intelligent automation. So, internal help desk and improving employee experiences and productivity in fundamental ways is a big deal, and it’s sort of a very large-scale automation problem.

Levensaler: Right. And Workato’s gonna be a big part of our People Experiences solutions for our customers as we welcome them into our landing page, or our home experience, other applications, and of course, we can handle the provisioning and security aspects of that, but the journey, something that’s so core to Workday is our journeys, and helping companies or enabling their employees to get through journeys in a frictionless way and a personalized way and a delightful way. You know, Workato is one of our partners, and one of our premiere partners, and also being a Workday Ventures portfolio company to help enable companies to bring together those applications so we can do our job on the People Experience, and so we’re excited about that integration point.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the other integration work that we’ve done to date together?

Tella: Yeah. So I think that the first order of business for us is to have just the greatest connectivity to the Workday suite of applications. Right?

Levensaler: Right.

Tella: So no matter which part of Workday functionality that you’re using, you know, from pre-hiring, recruitment, to the core HR, financials, everything in between, to have very deep, great connectivity. So we got to build a very strong connector working closely with the Workday team.

It’s not just about encapsulating Workday APIs. We’ve done a lot of work to humanize these APIs so HR analysts are not just thinking—

Levensaler: They’re not the interpreters. It’s very evident what they are. Right?

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: They’re not pulling together a bunch of web services.

Tella: Yeah. It should be English. You should be able to do these integrations in English. Right?

Levensaler: Right.

Tella: Not in APIs. So, you know, so, if …

Levensaler: Not WS_50632? No.

Tella: That’s right. So that’s one part of it.

Levensaler: And that is available to our customers, shared customers, to take advantage of those connectors so they can in effect get a running start on their integration work.

Tella: And yeah, and two other things that we’ve done. Right? One is the connector, the second is we have a library of over 2,000 public recipes on Workato, where you can go in and instead of starting from scratch on vacation processing, or onboarding, off-boarding, you can go to Workato—

Levensaler: Because no one likes to start from scratch unless you’re a chef.

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: That’s about it. No one else.

Tella: Having a bunch of prebuilt community recipes that you can learn, it’s like a GitHub for …

Levensaler: Are there a lot of Workday recipes out there?

Tella: Yes. Over 2,000 of them.

Levensaler: Over 2,000 Workday recipes.

Tella: Yeah.

Levensaler: That is phenomenal.

Levensaler: Yes. And you participate in our hackathon.

Tella: Yes.

Levensaler: And won an award in our hackathon, so that’s fantastic. Well it is such a delight to have this time to just connect with you and share with our listeners a little bit more about Workato and of course the Workday-Workato partnership. Say that fast three times. And we look forward to just so much more experiences we have together with our customers. I think if the showroom floor and the kind of traffic that you’re getting and conversations you’re having are any indication, then the future looks very bright together. So thank you for being here and again, I’m Leighanne Levensaler and this is the Workday Podcast. Thanks for listening everyone.