SaaS is here to stay, undoubtedly, and with it comes a number of tools to help integrate the most commonly used apps in cross-functional workflows. With an explosion of cloud tools and technologies and a variety of use cases identified between them, it can be very easy to experience app bloat and tool overload – the result of too much of a good thing. Even when it comes down to the types of integration and automation tools between them, the level of nuance is enough to make anyone confused. So how do you know which integration tool is right for your business?

Eric Hansen, Principal Business Systems Analyst at Workday, addressed this in detail during his session at Biz Systems Magic, the first and only conference for Systems leaders. In it, Hansen boiled down the problem of finding “the right tool for the job” in the midst of what he calls a data “flowpocalypse.”

What Is the Flowpocalypse and Why Should I Care?

We currently have an overabundance of available applications and technology, Hansen said, the perfect conditions for an impending flowpocalypse. Referring to Chris Anderson’s Technology’s Long Tail TED Talk, Hansen highlighted the four stages that all new technology goes through. 

  1. The technology lies below the critical price and is easily accessible 
  2. If the tech is successful, it will reach critical mass 
  3. Competition of the tech grows
  4. It essentially becomes a free commodity

So what does this mean in terms of integration and automation platforms? According to Hansen, the “flowpocalypse” occurs during the first two stages, when workflow tools cross that critical “easy enough” point, and a critical mass of users creates their own workflows. For enterprises, the “critical price” is user experience. This can unleash internal bottlenecks caused by disjointed integrations and impacted workflows. The number of data integrations at a business eventually becomes unmanageable, a clear sign that a solution is needed (if one hasn’t already been introduced).

What Are the Signs of an Imminent Flowpocalypse?

To Hansen, the signs are evident – there’s no cohesiveness to your strategy. To solve this, there’s a strong shift to ensure that your technology can be used not only by developers and integrators but also analysts and those with non-technical backgrounds like business users who rely on business apps.  

Initially, Hansen points to the rise in first-party flow tools that have automation built into the platform (like ones from Slack, Atlassian and Microsoft). Overall, first-party tools are beneficial when you are dealing with more straightforward workflows and integrations.

If you have no new accounts coming in, common use cases and external apps already authenticated with the platform, it’s very easy to set up triggers to prompt actions in your workflows. No much to worry about, says Hansen. 

On the other hand, no-code to low-code solutions can be utilized for more complex enterprise and platform-wide use cases. There’s more room to automate across platforms and a higher focus on speed (as you want both internal use cases and customer automations to go-live faster).

The growing abundance of integration platforms highlights the need for more streamlined and accessible workflows. The next step is determining which automation tool is right for your business and end users among the current explosion of options on the market.

Armor Up With Low-Code/No-Code Tools

So how can you survive this overflow of disjointed data integrations? Luckily, there’s an array of options for enterprises looking to introduce low-code/no-code platforms. When dealing with an issue such as flowpocalypse, you want to make sure you are arming each persona in your business with a capable tool. Hansen notes that each of the main personas – the developer, integrator, analyst, and business user – can benefit from and operate a low-code/no-code tool, but it’s up to your business to determine which of them is right for you. 

In terms of typical things each persona would like to do, we have:

  1. Developer: Build single-page applications for various use cases
  2. Integrator: Manage the flow and the storage of data and data integrations
  3. Analyst: Automate data entry instead of using manual processes
  4. Business user: Now empowered by the lack of coding barriers, the business user can use automated approvals and employ the help of bots to speed up their processes

There’s a prescription for what tool works best for each persona, Hansen says, but again, it’s ultimately up to the business to decide how many of their users need to use this platform and to what extent and, depending on resources, what will give them the most value based on their use cases (both cross-functional and functional).

Weighing Expectations of New Technology

So now that you have the right tools, are you in the clear? Well, not exactly. In his talk, Hansen revealed how utilizing the right tool for the job can increase your productivity, but also warned businesses to be leery of expectations.  

He referenced the “hype curve,” a diagram that displays the relationship between expectations over time. At first, your company may experience a huge spike in expectations, or hype, about the new technology – they expect great things from it. But like with any technology, there is no perfect transition to a solution. He urged the audience not to get discouraged but to wait through the trough of disillusionment and ride out to the adoption phase to be able to truly use the technology to your advantage. Then your business can reach a higher level of productivity.

Thriving, Not Just Surviving in the Flowpocalypse

With knowledge of the tools available to combat the flowpocalypse and which is prescribed for each end user, here’s what you can do to start implementation and begin seeing results. 

  1. Analyze your existing workflows in your business system
  2. Assess a permissionless model/framework and compare it to the traditional model
  3. Build a sandbox, or a free space where you can experiment with your new tools
  4. Push for team ownership in your system
  5. Create a scalable process for workflows to move from one environment to the next

Scaling with an enterprise tool that democratizes integration is key in this scenario, as the growth of the business and its efficiency will depend on whether workflows can be adapted to increased demand and how well each designated persona can use those tools to bring value.

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Mary Hodges
About Mary Hodges

Mary Hodges is the Community Manager for Systematic.