‘With automation, you don’t need to be a technical person to work in IT’

17 Sep 2021

Carter Busse. Image: Workato

Workato’s CIO told Siliconrepublic.com about a chatbot that was built by someone without a technical background and the value of automation as a whole.

Carter Busse is the chief information officer at Workato, an intelligent automation platform that can be used both business and IT teams.

Before his current role, Busse was the first IT leader hired for Salesforce and has worked in several private and public companies. He joined Workato in March 2021 and is now in charge of scaling the business using technology.

“It’s great to be at a company that is growing and scaling so quickly that it can bring in a senior CIO like myself so early to help build these foundational processes and systems, which will allow us to scale even faster,” he told Siliconrepublic.com.

“I’ve been at companies where this kind of role is brought in way too late, when it becomes much harder to unwind those processes if they’re inadequate.”

‘Automation will play a key role in ensuring the right person has the right access to an application’

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

We’ve recently launched a back-to-office accelerator. This automation handles contact tracing and allows employees to prove they are vaccinated and reserve seats in the office, all through a chat interface. It is enabling IT leaders to get their companies back to the office efficiently, control workplace capacity and help employees feel safe throughout the process.

This automation was built by a person without a computer science degree and without a technical background. She was working on facilities operations in Singapore. But in just six hours, she was able to build this chatbot that works on Slack and Microsoft Teams, which has allowed Workato’s Singapore branch to come back to the office quickly and safely.

It uploads an employee’s vaccination card and allows staff to reserve a desk or office space so they can safely come into the workplace to collaborate with colleagues. Part of the functionality includes letting you ‘follow’ your manager or teammates so that you get a notification when they plan to go in.

Something else we’re working on is called Buyer Intent, which is for websites like G2.com, where IT buyers can browse and compare software tools. Using G2’s APIs, we can actually see when a potential customer looks at our product or a competitor’s product.

When that happens, our Buyer Intent automation will automatically create a lead in our system and notify the relevant sales rep or account executive via Slack to let them know right away that someone from that company is looking at a Workato product.

How big is your team?

There are 560 people in total at Workato. My team is made up of 13 people right now, most of whom do not have technical backgrounds, but are able to work closely with the business to automate processes, which is fantastic to see happening.

We’ve been able to promote a lot of people from within our customer support organisation, who joined at entry-level roles and have then been able to move up. With automation, you don’t need to be a technical person to work in IT right now.

We’ve been able to train people up thanks to our Automation Institute: our specialised collection of interactive, on-demand courses that can teach anyone how to automate. These courses are free and open to anyone.

At the moment, we don’t tend to outsource our internal work. We outsource for certain challenges: for instance, with more people working remotely, distributing laptops to people can be difficult depending on their region, so we are looking to work with vendors to outsource laptop distribution.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

We recently created the Work Automation Index to find out how advanced the adoption of enterprise automation has become, and which business processes are being automated the most. The report is based on anonymised data collected from our enterprise customer base to identify patterns and trends and to see how automation is being put to work in the real world.

There were a few takeaways from this research. First, automation is happening widely in areas we would expect, such as onboarding and offboarding employees, as well as automating customer order processes.

But it’s also happening in less obvious ways in the industry, such as security automation. There are now a number of tools that can alert you to security risks and create actions based on those alerts.

Another major issue regarding the future of work is around access. With more people working remotely, how do you manage people’s access to sensitive company software and information? Automation will play a key role in ensuring the right person has the right access to an application.

Finance automation is another growing priority. After customer support, the finance department saw the greatest increase in automation use during the past year. The volume of automated finance and accounting processes has increased by 199pc.

Lastly, and this was another eye-opener to me, 45pc of automation is being built by non-technical people. That’s amazing, because it shows that with the right tools, anyone can automate a process and shows that IT departments are confident and comfortable with giving away some of their control and letting people in the business use the Workato platform to put automations into practice.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

As the world is becoming more digital, everyone is moving to the cloud for their apps and infrastructure. Data needs to flow between all these applications, and Workato is in the sweet spot with a product that can help companies making this transition.

I’ve lived through this trend. I was one of the first employees at Salesforce, when we were originally putting CRM into the cloud and were asking clients to put all of their customer data in the cloud. Everyone is doing this now, and not just their customer data, but their financial data and healthcare/personal data.

This cloud migration has been a trend for around 20 years, but today it’s more relevant than ever before, as large companies and legacy apps are only now moving their data into cloud infrastructure. This trend is going to continue to be a major factor. Automation is going to play a big role in running these applications and managing this data, so having the right tools for automation is going to be critical.

Speaking of automation, prior to Covid, there was usually only one department in a company doing automation. According to our index, now there’s up to five departments doing automation. That’s a major change in just 18 months and I think that’s a tech trend will really change the world.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

With everyone working remotely and from home, the concept of ‘zero trust’ for security is becoming more important. How do you balance the productivity of an employee with the company’s security? It’s a matter of managing who they are, what devices they are on and where they can go. Automation can help but managing this balance will be challenge for a lot of CIOs to figure out.

The biggest thing to realise is that security starts with people, not technology. You need to educate people and make sure security is a part of your culture and mindset. It needs to be front and centre for all of your employees.

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