Point of View

Digital leaders must build in rapid adaptability to win in today’s business ecosystems

August 19, 2021

All enterprises are striving for post-pandemic digital transformation. The nuances of how you actually accomplish this depend on your business and sector. Often the need is to modernize and become interoperable with an ecosystem of partners.

Global supply chains were among the most impacted by the pandemic, often struggling to keep pace when working with fragmented and manual systems across the chain. In Exhibit 1, you can see that transportation and logistics is among the sectors scaling up investments in process automation in response.

Exhibit 1: 81% of transport & logistics firms expect to increase investments in process automation

Sample: 800 Global 2000 Enterprises
Source: HFS OneOffice Pulse Study, H1 2021

Freight by train brings the challenge of engagement with multiple partners and third parties; for example, international services running along the new Silk Road from Germany to China and back. Those partners and the systems they each use can change rapidly.

TFG Transfracht needed a modern digital supply chain solution

Rail businesses work within a wide range of large supply chain networks. TFG Transfracht is a 100%-owned subsidiary within the DB Cargo AG branch of Deutsche Bahn AG, a private joint-stock company with the German state as its single shareholder. It needed a modern digital supply chain solution for its intermodal business. It needed to be one that could adapt at pace. On the one hand, it needed to cater to modern and digital native customers dependent on them for goods movement. On the other, it had to align with other transportation players, joining in ecosystems such as that enabled by supply chain platform TradeLens.

TFG’s solution was to transform core systems with low-code application development and robotic process automation (RPA), all orchestrated and integrated into end-to-end processes on an enterprise automation platform.

A combination of solutions orchestrated with an enterprise automation platform meets the need for speed

TFG concluded there was no single solution to deliver the future-proofed flexibility it needed. Instead, it combined three. California-based Workato provides the over-arching integration, automation, and orchestration. It uses Boston-headquartered, Lisbon-founded OutSystems for low-code app development. RPA, provided by Copenhagen-based Leapwork, is reserved as a last resort to connect legacy systems where there is no API available and to automate continuous testing of all applications.

Workato is at the core of the solution. TFG selected it ahead of a range of major integration vendors. As HFS highlighted earlier in 2021, Workato has experienced a leap in demand in Europe, leading to investment in a new data center in Frankfurt, Germany.

Workato is the platform for every end-to-end automation

Gernot Reinmüller has been working with TFG for the last three-and-a-half years. His role has been to modernize core systems and drive the new platform stack for TFG’s intermodal business. Reinmüller found he could complete what he needed to achieve faster and more reliably with Workato than with competitors. Workato also came with a wide range of out-of-the-box connectors and enterprise-level security and governance. In TFG’s case, the connector to OutSystems was particularly important.

Some 18 months in, Workato is also filling in blind spots in the existing legacy systems—bringing legacy into the modern stack.

Workato is the platform for every end-to-end automation workflow the TFG team designs. The low-code/no-code aspect makes it easy to use. And, along with the low-code app development provided by OutSystems, it brings IT and business together. Workato offers IT teams “stability out of the box,” as Reinmüller puts it—and the comfort of governance and control built-in. It’s all in a drag-and-drop solution the business can readily engage with.

Orchestration and integration support future-proofed flexibility

“When we design these flows, we always start with Workato and complement it where other systems have their strength,”
– Gernot Reinmüller, Consultant to TGF

He added that he would never try to do everything in an OutSystems app, for example. Apps (and legacy systems connected through RPA) provide the building blocks in an automation flow that Workato integrates and orchestrates.

“You don’t need traditional hard-core developers, and you still get scalability, performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness,” he explained.

He calls out Workato’s ability to be the workflow automation platform without having to be all the elements of the workflow, providing effective future-proofed flexibility.

He said that he sees “so many wonderful services out there that are stable and clear cut,” and TFG would prefer to be able to consume them through Workato rather than have a 40%-as-good solution from one single-solution platform that was trying to do it all.

Extensibility enables versatility—maritime blockchain added in days

The ability to plug in new and better solutions as they emerge and connect with the wide range of systems found in the TFG ecosystem provides the ability to respond at the speed that makes or breaks business today. TFG can now deliver solutions in days and weeks that used to take much longer.

Reinmüller offered an example of the speed TFG’s combined platform now enables. Maersk introduced the maritime blockchain platform TradeLens for global shipping. Reinmüller was able to add it to TFG’s workflows himself in a couple of days. Previously, similar tasks had taken several months. Even simple projects, such as automating basic manual tasks, are returning their investment costs within a couple of weeks.

TFG is now running around 35 core automations with Workato. The user interface is via the recipes. Recipes are instructions for assembling objects and connectors to deliver event-based outcomes, which we describe in more detail in the HFS Hot Vendor report on Workato.

Clients have access to over 500,000 recipes and 1,000 out-of-the-box connectors.

Ideate early, bring IT and business together, and bring developers with you

TFG has also been impressed by Workato’s customer service and rate of product innovation (more than 250 releases a year). Reinmüller’s preference is for regular small releases rather than some rivals’ fanfared bulk delivery every six months, which may take two months to understand and assimilate.

For those starting fresh on projects of the kind TFG is embarked on, Reinmüller has some advice: Start early on idea generation. When ideas start flowing, you open more opportunities to realize value faster. Always bring business and IT together; blur the lines quickly. IT as a silo is no longer effective, and be more relaxed when classical software developers object. Their concerns are based on fear of change. Offering them the opportunity to learn with the new technology soon creates allies.

The Bottom Line: To deliver OneOffice™ speed and flexibility, you need a combination of solutions, including an enterprise automation platform.

TFG’s need for future-proofed flexibility is far from unique in our rapidly shifting business environment. The answer is in Exhibit 2, The HFS OneOffice Emerging Tech Platform—the combination of enablers such as integration, orchestration, workflow, RPA, and more.

Exhibit 2: Speed and flexibility is delivered in the combination of emerging technologies

Source: HFS Research, 2021, Examples are representative

While the Emerging Tech Platform offers Workato as an example of the kind of integration required, we recognize, as TFG’s example makes clear, that Workato also provides the enterprise automation platform for integrating the tech stack and orchestrating the end-to-end workflow that is key to OneOffice success.

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