Automation Is Just the Beginning for Business — Here’s How the IT Leaders Are Taking It to the Next Level

6 min readSep 8, 2022

How businesses like Vonage and Autodesk are using automation to create seamless experiences for customers.

  • Automation is everywhere, but what does it mean? Automation’s transformative power is evident, and we dig into how four different organizations are applying that power.
  • IT Visionaries spoke with four IT leaders to discover what automation means to them and how different businesses are using it to scale.
  • Key to this rapid ongoing transition is Salesforce, which empowers automation through value-adding software and services to unlock significant organizational growth and success.

Consumer demands and expectations are rapidly changing. Workflows that used to take weeks, months, or years now take days, hours, or minutes. What’s behind this shift toward efficiency? Automation.

Salesforce has long empowered customers to do more with less with a full suite of end-to-end automation capabilities (including Flow Builder, Flow Orchestration, Robotic Process Automation, and Flow Integration, both powered by MuleSoft, and Omnistudio).

Take a Deeper Dive: hit the trail with a free Flow Builder Trailhead course.

In a series of interviews, IT Visionaries host, Albert Chou, spoke with key industry figures, including

They discussed in detail how automation is shaping business — and how IT leaders can take full advantage of the tools available.

Explore all our IT Visionaries automation episodes on Youtube.

Automation Definition

Every industry interprets automation differently and how it can change the game.

“It’s trying to figure out how you can do things in more efficient and consistent ways so you can grow and save money,” said John Kucera, Salesforce’s SVP of Product Management. “[For customers with] a hyper-focus on cost, repeatability, and compliance, automation has been a super hot buzzword.”

The pandemic accelerated cross-industry automation trends, quickening the necessity for change. IT experts agree all industry leaders need to embrace this transformation as soon as possible.

Prakash Kota spent almost two decades at Autodesk and is the Chief Information Officer. He believes any repeatable action is automatable and wants to empower customers with tools to automate their designs into reality.

“Automation is a tactic used to create a frictionless experience,” Kota said.

However, while customers benefit from smoother front-end interaction, the underlying back-end complexity doesn’t disappear — it is simply hidden from customers.

For employees, it’s a different story.

“When you call up that customer service representative, they literally might be looking at a green screen,” MuleSoft’s Chief Technology Officer, Matt McLarty, explained.

“We’re talking about applications that were written in the 1960s,” McLarty says. CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs, can resist radical overhauls because of budgetary constraints, but often it’s a lack of trust. Common business functions often lack verification procedures.

These issues frequently come up during major migration projects.

“Low-code, automated tooling … overcome[s] those fundamental challenges around trust, [offering] oversight of what’s being built by the business,” said McLarty.

Tackling this head-on for all users means retiring legacy systems and properly integrating necessary functions into ongoing migrations.

“Until you can plug into those old systems and get them into the flows,” said Kucera. “You’re never going to really get rid of them.”

If (or when) the tooling catches up with the overall user experience — rather than just hiding away the nuts and bolts making it all work — organizations will start reaping the benefits of end-to-end automation.

Check out the full episode: Autodesk’s Senior VP and CIO Prakash Kota

Automating Across Any System

MuleSoft helps businesses transform digitally by connecting any system, legacy or otherwise.

“For our entire existence, we’ve been getting to the core of … digital business capabilities in a way that allows [businesses] to innovate and deliver new products [and] experiences for customers,” McLarty said. “Automation is the next phase of this.”

A large company could easily have around 900 systems and applications — integrating them seems like a monumental challenge. But with MuleSoft’s composable APIs and their newest offering, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the unthinkable suddenly becomes plausible.

Creating reusable APIs to ease integrations while using RPA to deal with non-API cases, such as green screens and Java apps, is MuleSoft’s bread and butter. But comfortably handing these reusable building blocks to business analysts in a trust-based, verified way is where the pull really lies for business.

“What we have is a unique advantage for our customers: not just that we can connect these things, but it’s a journey — every company’s on a journey,” McLarty said. “A lot of companies still have that issue of siloed pockets of data and fragmented customer experiences.”

Automating Smarter Decisioning & Action

How we communicate is changing, and so is consumer behavior — from expecting instantaneous results to using emojis as shorthand for words.

“This is a generation which is going to grow up to become decision-makers for how things happen in companies at scale,” Savinay Berry, Vonage’s Executive VP of Product and Engineering, said. “They’ll bring in those behaviors.”

For AI, adding more data builds on intelligence and its correct application. When a customer responds to a business with an emoji, the business can respond in kind. “It creates an identity for the business,” Berry said. “Whenever you’re talking to anybody in any company, it’s like talking to your friend — that’s where it needs to get, and we’re not there yet.”

Despite being around since the early 2000s, chatbots have had little progress.

“As far as we’ve come in the chatbots world, it still feels like a very robotic conversation,” said Berry. “It speaks the language of code versus the language of humans.”

With automation, companies can scale much faster — they simply add training capabilities to help bots learn.

“It’s a real being, representing the company’s identity,” Berry said. “It’s possible, but it’s not happening enough at scale. That is one of the immediate challenges we have in front of us.”

Check out the full episode: Accelerating Human Connection with Savinay Berry, EVP, Product and Engineering, Vonage.

How Salesforce helps businesses achieve more

For Vonage and Autodesk, the Salesforce CRM plays a critical backend role in record-keeping. Combined with automation and workflow capabilities, this is critical for end-user engagement.

Solving customer-facing problems, boosting efficiency, and helping people make good decisions are just some quick ways automation can promote business growth. One Salesforce insurance customer wanted to replace 5,600 different processes on one legacy system.

Another wished to digitize 7,000 PDFs.

“It’s been really fun to see how the different tools within Salesforce and MuleSoft can solve this,” Kucera said. “Digital forms for customer self-service, AI-powered chatbots, and multi-person workflows to streamline and route the work to the right people,” he adds, all drive toward the end goal of a better experience all around.

“Salesforce has always been about empowering: providing tools for everybody to be part of the IT experience,” McLarty said. “People who are not necessarily hardcore coders are still working on information technology — Salesforce has always been inclusive in that way.”

“Taking that shared DNA around empowerment of people in the organization — that’s what automation brings us,” McLarty clarified. “We can give the right tools to everybody in the organization to not just be users of technology, but to be builders of technology solutions: to be part of a much greater fabric of it.”

Check out the full episode: The Automation Revolution: Automation Miniseries Part 1 with John Kucera of Salesforce & Matt McLarty of MuleSoft/Salesforce.

This article is based on several episodes of the IT Visionaries podcast and brought to you by Salesforce Platform — get more IT insights in your inbox by subscribing to the IT Innovator newsletter.