In the world of automation, there are numerous terms and technologies that are somehow always used but rarely really defined or differentiated. Two of these terms are Workflow Automation and iPaaS. Both are used especially in the context of cloud automation (again such a term), sometimes even synonymous. Nevertheless, the two terms mean two different things that we want to try to distinguish from each other. However, we note that there is quite a large intersection and it is not always possible to clearly divide both terms. After all, iPaaS cannot be automated without workflow. Why? We’ll explain it.
Workflow Automation – What is it?
A workflow is simply a work process. If it meets certain requirements, it can be automated, meaning it can be carried out completely independently. What are these requirements?
In order for a workflow to be automated, it must…
Run Digitally: When the process passes from digital applications to paper at one point, it is first necessary to digitize this analog step.
Run Standardized: If the workflow is completely different each time (and by “completely different” we do not mean other data or employees who carry out the process, but other process steps or applications), it must first be clearly defined and thus standardized.
Be Recurrent: We love automation, yes. But automating a workflow that occurs only once is probably a waste of time. However, our experience shows us that almost all workflows within a company are recurrent, even if only once a year.
Workflow Automation – Two Examples
If these prerequisites are met, the workflow can be automated. But what exactly does workflow automation mean? If the data of a process is simply pushed from A to B, i.e. “process automation”, there we talk about workflow automation. A simplified example: Employee B submits a holiday application, which is approved by employee A and manager C. The holiday application is therefore simply postponed.
Workflow Automation therefore means that this process is automated in itself. Another example is Microsoft’s Power Apps, which are designed to help you develop and share apps quickly and with little code. Basically, it is also possible to add external tools to such power apps, but it is not so easy and requires a lot of time and technical knowledge. Rather, the Power Apps are designed to work together and create automated processes.
iPaaS – What is it?
Integration Platform as a Service is a term or rather a technology of cloud automation. As the name suggests, this means a platform that makes it possible to develop, execute and monitor integrations (thus automated processes). It integrates a variety of processes, apps, data, and services, both inside and outside an organization. There is software that offers exactly that – iPaaS. Two providers are Zapier and Integromat. Both tools create an interface on which data and applications can be “connected” and thus enable us not only to map entire processes, but also to model them. But iPaaS can do much more: migrate data, create complex integrations, and automate a complex sequence of workflows.
An example of iPaaS
A good example of what iPaaS creates compared to workflow automation is the “Iterator” module in Integromat. This module is built into a process. This looks something like this:
An iterator allows us to break down bundled incoming data into several individual parts. An example to illustrate: You will receive an email with three attachments. However, all three attachments must be stored in different folders. With the Iterator module, we can “read” the e-mail, recognize that there are three different attachments and split them up. This allows each individual file attachment to be stored in the designated folder.
So, what is the difference between workflow automation and iPaaS?
The so-called multi-connectivity of iPaaS is significantly higher than in workflow automation. IPaaS is embedded in a vast landscape of data, applications, processes and services, allowing us to map much more complex scenarios.
In short, iPaaS allows us to easily connect complex tools and processes. On such a platform, it is possible to build integrations with other tools and also to build workflow automations WITHIN them as well. That means, workflow automation and iPaaS go hand in hand, iPaaS can’t do automation without workflow, but iPaaS can do much more.
Okay, that was quite a lot of technical terms. We strive to make the whole issue of automation more comprehensible and thus more tangible. But even when it comes to defining technical terms, we sometimes don’t get around to using other technical terms. If you still have more question marks on your forehead, please let us know. We are happy to provide support in the analysis and subsequent automation of business processes, explain possibilities and address your company’s processes individually.