Tell us about your role at Workato and the team you handle?
I’m the VP of Growth at Workato. The team I oversee is mostly marketing — from product to content — but it also includes our sales development team.
What was the biggest attraction for you at Dreamforce 2018?
Personally, I’m a big fan of the expo floor. I loved walking around and seeing how the Salesforce ecosystem and its partners are growing.
This was your fourth year attending Dreamforce. Whom were you keen to meet at the event? Which sessions were the most exciting?
Every year, the best part of Dreamforce for me is meeting our customers. It’s just mindblowing to have people stop by our booth and share how our platform has made their lives easier. Sometimes, our customers even join us working the booth and introducing Workato to people coming to our booth. It’s just amazing to see this.
As for sessions, I was most excited to attend the Box fireside chat. We have a strong working relationship with Box, so it’s always cool to see what they’re doing internally to make processes more efficient.
Earlier this year, Salesforce acquired Mulesoft. What does that say about the need for integration and automation?
On the whole, Salesforce’s acquisition of Mulesoft really validates the need for integration throughout the enterprise. When organizations evaluate SaaS solutions such as Salesforce, one of the first things they want to know is: How will this app play with the rest of my tech ecosystem? In other words, businesses already know they need integration. Our CEO wrote a post on what that means for the integration space.
Automation, however, is different than integration. It’s not just about moving data back and forth, but about automating a workflow or business process. Nowadays, most business workflows require you to touch multiple apps to get something done. So what businesses need at present goes beyond integration — they also need the ability to automate workflows.
What’s the role of vendor-neutral platforms?
Businesses continue to choose applications and tools that are best for their specific need; they choose what’s best-of-breed. This makes it absolutely critical to have a vendor-neutral platform on the market that can work well across all applications. This not only gives businesses the chance to select the best applications/tools for their needs but a platform that they can rely on as those needs, applications, and tools change as well.
How do you see integration evolving to meet the needs of digital businesses?
We see three big trends that are redefining the integration market for the digital businesses.
Speed of adoption of cloud applications: Businesses are buying cloud applications at a rapid pace. As per the latest report by NetSkope, an enterprise on average uses over 1000 applications. This is causing data and process fragmentation faster than ever before. Workflows are also now fragmented across these apps; people have to work across multiple apps to get things done, which drives the need for workflow automation.
AI/ML technologies are maturing: AI and ML technologies are at a point where they can be leveraged to make integrations better and more intelligent.
Chat platforms are on the rise: People are spending more and more time and doing their work inside of chat platforms such as Slack and MS Teams. This has spurred on the growth of bots that can enable users to perform workflows and get things done across apps — directly from the chat platform.
We see integration platforms going beyond just connecting to applications and moving data towards capitalizing on these trends to enable workflow automation, bots, and leveraging AI/ML to make integrations and automations intelligent.
“Integration” and “automation” can be scary words for non-IT folk. Do you think marketers have gotten more comfortable using automation and integration?
In recent years, the MarTech stack has exploded; the average marketing team uses 40+ applications. In order to streamline overall marketing and sales operations, these apps need to work with the CRM, sales development tools, and other applications used by sales teams. Integration and automation are crucial to a working MarTech stack; there’s just no way around that.
However, most of the integration and automation platforms available are either too simplistic to handle advanced integrations and automations or they require an IT person to build and operate them. Thankfully, there are select modern integration and automation platforms that are easy to use and operate while providing the ability to handle advanced integrations and automation needs.
If not, what do you think is needed for them to take full advantage of these tools?
The main thing marketers need to be comfortable with is an integration platform that is also a workflow automation platform and is easy enough to be used by marketing operation professionals. Basically, one place that supports their specific MarTech stack and that can handle all their integration and automation needs.
What emerging technologies are you most excited to watch over the next five years?
We are already seeing intelligent technologies (such as AI, ML, and bots) starting to gain momentum. These technologies have significant and broad applicability across the board; every line of business, every vertical, and every consumer can benefit from these.
There’s been a lot of buzz about workstream collaboration tools such as Slack. How do you see marketers and salespeople leveraging these platforms in the future?
I think the real potential of workstream collaboration apps such as Slack is that you can use them as a central place to do work, whether you simply want to access information in other apps and make updates or whether you want to execute more complex workflows like approving expenses and marketing campaigns. You can even run your entire sales deal desk from Slack! In each of these scenarios, workstream collaboration tools provide significant productivity gains and help marketing and sales stay on top of rapidly-changing priorities — which, for sales and marketing, is just about everything!
A great example of this is our friends at People.ai, who use Slack to receive actionable Marketo notifications. Whenever a lead takes a meaningful action — such as clicking on an email marketing CTA — the marketing team gets a message in Slack. They can then take actions without ever leaving the chat app. Not only is it really cool, but it helps them work more intelligently and get more done.
Similarly, we at Workato, created a Slack-based deal desk for our sales team. They can log activity (like demos), update leads, and even submit pricing requests for approval, all without ever leaving Slack.
Do you have any tips for anyone evaluating an integration and automation platform?
For someone running marketing ops, the key things to look for in an integration and automation platform are:
Is this something that I myself can use to build and manage the integrations and automations? If you have to always go to someone in IT to get your job done, you won’t be able to get things done as fast as you’d like.
Is it flexible enough to accommodate all my current and future use cases? Marketing is always evolving and moves much faster than the rest of the organization. You need a platform that can keep up with that speed. It should be able to automate all your marketing workflows and give you peace of mind for the future, so that even when you change things — by adopting a new app, for example — you know the platform will be able to support those changes.
How easy is it to operate?
Exceptions always happen, and you need a platform that can automatically handle them. For example, Workato automatically detects and handles duplicates, makes sure that there’s no data loss even when one of the apps in your workflow goes down, reports errors in an easy to understand manner, and provides you with the tools to automatically retry or fix that error and rerun — without having to go to an IT person.
Is this platform enterprise-grade (i.e.. secure, reliable, and scalable)? Marketing and sales apps often contain a lot of sensitive information (such as PII about your prospects/customers) and you need to make sure that the platform is secure, compliant, and auditable. It should also be serverless whereby it scales as your needs scale.
How can integration and automation enable more traditional marketing strategies such as ABM, lifecycle marketing, and personalization?
Integration and automation can massively reduce the amount of manual work these strategies would otherwise require! For example in case of ABM, apart from making sure that all the touchpoints with the account being targeted are integrated — it also ensures that any meaningful interaction that is taken by a contact in the account is automatically alerted to the AE or the SDR so that they can take action right away. If you’re sending personalized drip emails based on past purchases, for example, automation and integration can help you execute without spending too much time on mundane tasks. It also helps you scale much more quickly and keep pace with your marketing goals as your organization expands.
For example, a popular gift company in Australia created an automation that checks who placed an order one year and ten days ago inside of Magento. It then triggers a targeted campaign from Marketo asking them if they want to purchase a gift again for the special event that is coming up in 10 days. It’s brilliant because most events that require gifts, like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. occur each year. Their repeat purchases went way up thanks to a simple automation.
There are a million and one MarTech options to choose from. How do marketers identify the tech they need — and what they can skip?
This is the toughest part, because you always want to take advantage of the latest technologies to give you a competitive edge in the marketing space. I find it useful to always ask: what are the key things that we need as a team to do our jobs 2x better and faster? Then we can identify the tech that could help us achieve that. If there’s only incremental benefit from a technology, it’s not worth the effort.
An inspiring quote from the past editions of Dreamforce that you have ever heard:
“From vision to production within a week.” This quote came from one of our customers, and it truly sums up what a person should look for in an integration and automation platform.
Thank you, Bhaskar! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Bhaskar Roy heads Growth at Workato. He has over 20 years of experience building innovative products and bringing them to market. He was a co-founder of Qik, a mobile video company that was acquired by Skype / Microsoft, and Playphone, a mobile gaming platform acquired by GungHo Online Entertainment. Bhaskar also led product and marketing teams at companies like PlaceWare, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Workato is the operating system for today’s fast-moving business. Recognized as a leader by both Gartner and Forrester, it is the only AI-based middleware platform that enables both business and IT to integrate their apps and automate complex business workflows with security and governance. Given the massive and growing fragmentation of data, apps and business processes in enterprises today, our mission is to help companies integrate and automate at least 10 times faster than traditional tools and at a tenth of the cost of ownership.
We believe Integration is a mission-critical, neutral technology for the dynamic and heterogeneous IT environments of today. We are the only technology vendor backed by all 3 of the top SaaS vendors: Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow.
Trusted by worlds top brands as well as it’s fastest growing innovators, we are most appreciative of the fact that customers recognize us as being among the best companies to do business with.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.