CIO interview: Carter Busse, CIO, Workato

Workato CIO Carter Busse talks up the company’s approach towards automation and its efforts to drive the technology across its business

More than five years ago, Carter Busse was among a group of IT leaders who met with the founders of Workato, an integration and automation platform, during a product demo in the San Francisco Bay Area. At that time, he was vice-president of IT at an internet telephony company and was impressed by what he saw.

“These guys were from Tibco, and they cut their teeth on integrations for banks, but they had a really intuitive user interface which caught my attention. Then, my CIO friends in the Bay Area started buying Workato over its competitors,” Busse told Computer Weekly during a recent visit to Singapore.

As Busse was about to purchase the Workato platform when he took up his next job as vice-president of IT at Cohesity, he found out that Workato was looking for a CIO and decided to go for it: “I wanted that job – this is the next big platform and the next Salesforce for me.”

Workato was founded in 2013 on the premise that integration and automation are two sides of the same coin, offering capabilities spanning application programming interface (API) management, integration platform as a service (iPaaS), business process automation and robotic process automation through a single platform.

Like its customers, Workato uses its own platform to empower business and IT teams to drive automation across the company. Today, it has automated nearly every business process, from employee onboarding and procurement to more complex automations that involve pulling data from over 70 systems into Snowflake, a cloud-based data warehouse.

Busse, who was the first IT leader hired by Salesforce over two decades ago, heads a team of technology professionals at Workato in various roles, including automation architects, business analysts, data specialists, as well as those involved in driving employee experience.

But not everyone on his team has a tech background. Busse said it was more important for them to demonstrate traits like leadership: “Can they be a leader? Do they have a process mindset? Can they think differently about a business problem?”

For example, an employee who was writing United Nations grants joined Workato four years ago as a support manager and is now part of the application automation team. Another employee in the facilities team who was stocking shelves at a grocery store before joining Workato was behind the company’s staff onboarding process and moved to Busse’s team a year ago. Both employees do not have tech degrees.

If you have a goal to find out who is competing with you in a deal, we could automate that with some steps, but that mindset is not always there
Carter Busse, Workato

That the Workato platform makes it easy to kickstart automation projects helps. Workato’s marketers are using it to automate A/B testing for marketing campaigns while its customer success operations team automates customer survey operations, among other tasks, with Workato. “They are even building automations to send T-shirts to customers who gave us a good recommendation,” Busse said.

While Busse’s team does not stand in the way of automation projects spearheaded by business users, guardrails, including a governance framework developed with the enterprise architecture team, are in place.

“We have a framework to set it up right through things like naming conventions and roles-based access for connections to applications,” Busse said. “This can be very controlled and is something we can help customers with as well.”

Besides running automation projects in sandboxes before they go into production, Busse said employees must be trained in automation before they can log on to the Workato platform.

“We also use terms like chef and head chef because you’re actually writing recipes with Workato. A chef could be somebody in the business who writes the automation, and a head chef is someone who can put it into production. There are also certifications and processes we have in place for them to get to the next levels,” Busse added.

Although all data on the Workato platform is encrypted, Busse said IT and security teams are still involved in most automation projects to prevent leakages of data by bots.

For organisations to reap returns from automation, a mindset of automation is needed, but that’s not always the case, even for Workato where some employees may have worked in places where automation is not as prevalent.

“We have people coming in who still take the manual step-by-step process,” Busse said. “It takes my team to talk to them about not just the steps involved, but what data they need at the end of a process. If you have a goal to find out who is competing with you in a deal, we could automate that with some steps, but that mindset is not always there.”

Surprisingly, as an advocate of automation, Workato still has some processes which are not completely automated. This year, it plans to fully automate its order-to-cash process, offering “zero-touch ordering” for its customers, Busse said. “It’s semi-automated now and we can do a lot better, but we needed a new enterprise billing system, and that’s why we’re excited about that this year.”

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