November 19, 2020 4 min read
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Automation used to mean robotics. Next was algorithms. Then general artificial intelligence. Now? It’s all about the workflow. But what is a workflow exactly?
A modern “workflow” is a process of repeatable steps laid out by a graphical or code-based interface allowing for simple connection of parts of a sequence in order to produce an intended result.
You can think about this in terms of a train. The workflow is the train in its entirety. The steps are the cars of the train. The cars could be integrations, actions, or operations or Ops. The front of the train is the beginning. The last car is the intended result.
The workflow’s job is to easily layout the steps you need to do in order to complete a process.
Hot tech companies like Slack, Calendly, Sketch, Apple, GitHub and Airtable, all have built-in workflow builders that are low code to graphical no code. All it takes is a matter of minutes plugging X to Y to Z.
The massive adoption of workflows by Big Tech is leaning towards a process revolution that has the tingling feeling of Marc Andreesen’s Why Software is Eating the World article in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.
One example from Calendly’s new workflow feature is as follows:
Want to send an email reminder after a certain amount of time? It’s as simple as dragging and dropping. That’s the epitome of a workflow. It maps out what you want to accomplish and makes it dead simple.
It might look something like this:
Send an introduction email to podcast guest. Send time slot reminder one day before the episode. Send follow up thank you email after the episode airs with social media information.
In order to accomplish the above workflow, Calendly might integrate into your Google calendar and Gmail account to track when to send what email.
Now, that’s a business process automation. What if you are on the technical side of a startup or company? A workflow may also be known as an Op or operation in the DevOps or developer workflow world.
One example of this is CTO.ai, which brings developer workflows into Slack as well as the CLI (command-line interface).
CTO.ai’s interface is a code-based platform that allows a developer to create Ops or workflow automations within your CLI and run them with your team in Slack.
An example of this spinning up a Docker container instance or Kubernetes cluster. Below you can see Axial, a capital-raising platform, use CTO.ai’s The Ops Platform to run its Cluster Op.
When the Axial team has code that is ready for more rigorous testing, the Cluster Op can control the serverless namespaces in Kubernetes and deploy it to a cluster.
In doing so, Axial can:
Turn clusters on and off. Deploy various code and services to the cluster. Refresh the database to test on appropriate data.
Why does this workflow matter? Well, it saved Axial over six thousand hours of developer time and dollars. And that’s the thinking about workflows. Do them once and you’ll not only make your daily life easier but also save countless hours of manual processing time.
The wide world of workflows is rapidly growing. There’s even Workflow. Is for your personal life, where you can track how much caffeine intake you’ve had for the day with all the coffee you drink. It’s ever-expanding and getting easier every day. All you need to get started is to write down what your process is around a specific task.