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Show HN: Document and automate your operations playbooks and business processes (workflow86.com)
148 points by taaron on Nov 8, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

Workflow86 was built based on my experience as a consultant and then running ops in my own start-up.

All teams develop specific ways of doing things - how they handle pull requests, respond to incidents, handle bugs, hire new employees etc. These processes are important, but they often don't get documented, rely on lots of manual handling, and jump between multiple SaaS tools.

Workflow86 is an all-in-one platform for building, automating, and managing your team’s operations playbooks and business processes. It comes with lots of built-in functionality so you can do more with just Workflow86, while still making it super easy to integrate with other tools when needed.

You use drag and drop components to build out your process step by step with forms, business logic, document templates and more. It's no-code, so non-technical team members (bizops, HR, admin, legal, risk and compliance) can set up playbooks and processes on their own.

Once a playbook/process has been built, you can run them automatically and at scale. Trigger playbooks automatically on a specific event, time, submission.

I also noticed that sometimes the problem is a lack of established playbooks/processes to begin with. So Workflow86 also comes with a bunch of pre-made playbooks you can download and run straight away in areas ranging from Cybersecurity to COVID-19 response. This is the other big feature of Workflow86 - the ability to easily package and then share entire playbooks and processes like a Notion doc.

Try it out and send any feedback our way.

It has been claimed for years that some day in the future "everyone will have to learn how to code". While I don't really disagree with that statement, I am much more inclined to believe that it will be tools like these that regular folks will adopt, rather than using conventional IDEs and writing scripts.

My company just started using Power Automate and Power Apps, and after getting over the initial learnings, we have found a plethora of processes that are due for being automated and best of all, we have found that our employees quickly grasp how to apply it to their own domain of expertise. That rings true empowerment.

Your project looks even more refined than Power Automate and Power Apps! Good job.

Thank you! 100% agree. The amount of operational expertise and knowledge held by non-technical people is massive. Empower the individual to unlock, capture and scale their expertise as software and you really do get true digital transformation.

If you can make this on prem, there are a bunch of DoD contracts that I've seen that are looking for this type of thing. If there's anything the DoD loves, it's documented and verifiable workflows. Years ago, I worked on a prototype for something like this for intelligence analysts. Search for contracts on "orchestration".

On prem isn't a standard feature, but it is something we can work out on a case by case basis. Will check out your tip on "orchestration" contracts, thanks!

I am sorry that I had to quit right away because of the stupid chat bot getting in front of the content, even though I was very interested in what this tool does.

Our bad! Currently stripping back the chat bot messages as we speak.

I'm a software engineer who has a hospital COO for a parent, my mom! Earlier in the pandemic she asked me about building an app to help with managing vaccination of hospital staff, something that spreadsheets and other ad hoc tools were being used for, that was pretty clumsy. I said that it'd be best to find existing products, creating something like that would definitely be beyond a one-man project (for me at least) but something so specific might be hard to find and it might be best to make due. I mentioned your product to her as something to keep an eye on as it might fit similar uses cases.

After reading your top comment, it got me thinking about the world of SaaS and no-code products like yours working together. It seems products like Zapier are used to automate and share data between apps, but that type of integration seems to require connections between each pair of products. Smaller products might get left out. Could there be demand for a product that maintains data in a middle ground between a set of products, allowing for a hub and spoke model of managing data? This would move the source of truth to a middle ground that could be easily shared, if the right no-code management layer existed on top of it. Maybe something like this already exists?

Good luck, your product looks great! I look forward to seeing how the world is changed by the democratization of creating apps.

Thank you! Really interesting point re the "data middle ground". I guess the problem has always been with the "spokes" to connect that data middle ground/"hub" to other apps. This has either required pre-built integrations (e.g. apps on Zapier) or interacting with APIs (not easy for non-technical people).

The lack of a "source of truth" is definitely one issue we identified with many processes. If your process is 8+ different SaaS tools duct taped together, maintaining consistency in data as it travels from app to app is always going to be challenging.

This looks remarkably similar to n8n[1]. Is this a variant of it?

[1] https://n8n.io/

Nope, built ourselves and no relation to n8n :) Like n8n the focus is a visual builder where you drag, drop and connect modules together.

n8n has more of a focus on integrations/piping data between different external SaaS tools. Our focus is on performing more of the tasks/operations natively so you can build, run and manage more of your process in place.

I couldn't tell from an initial review of the feature set, but does this product incorporate any sort of digital signature / approval process? And I don't mean integration with DocuSign or similar, but something built in (and legally compliant). This feature alone has been a pain point for me for years when it comes to document flow and approvals, usually because of exorbitant pricing for per-user signing. Contract draft developed by a paralegal or similar, goes to legal for initial approval, then goes to safety dept and finance dept for their review and approval, then to maintenance for feedback and approval, then back to the legal department for adjustment, then to the other party (without access to your internal system) to edit and/or approve "as to form" (vs approve as complete), back to your legal dept and then again to the various VPs/directors, etc.

The other, semi-related feature I crave is the ability to generate entire documents from piecemeal templates. For example, drafting a new service contract where there are boilerplate paragraphs that must be included, with certain aspects replaceable (i.e. "Party 1" in the template can be replaced with "Bill's Plumbing, Inc."). Probably need to throw a force majeure clause in there, and an arbitration clause, and a bunch of other standard things, but maybe this particular document needs to have a clause about compliance with FAA regulations because they use drones to inspect piping.

For those purposes, some nice haves are: Automatic renumbering of sections and subsections, and automatic reference updating ("In accordance with section 5(f)(i) documented herein" or whatever) if paragraphs or sections are reordered for any reason. Multiple columns and sections, recognition of the occasional need to print hard copies. Version control and diffing.

Not sure if any of that makes sense or is doable already, but just a few thoughts on how I would personally use such a system as I understand it. Might not apply to the use case here, in which case sorry for wasting your time!

All of these requirements does make sense, in the context of contract management. Do check Zoho Contracts - https://www.zoho.com/contracts/

It has all of your stated problems solved and comes with a fair cost.

I agree, the first thing I looked for in the docs was authorisation controls/checkpoints. I need a trail of approvals and review checkpoints. This is far more important than integrations, etc.

Also, Business processes are not static. I would like to understand how changes in process are managed.

"the first thing I looked for in the docs was authorisation controls/checkpoints."

We've got a component called the Assign Task that was pretty much built for this - its pretty flexible, but it is mainly used to create authorisation/control/approval/decision points in a workflow.

Here's an example for a process to handle timesheets: https://app.workflow86.com/template/812aaa61-8e00-414d-9898-...

The Assign Task component acts as a step where you can accept or reject the timesheet that has been submitted.

The Assign Task component is probably our most popular component and I'd be happy to show how you can use it for controls/checkpoints in your use case.

"Business processes are not static. I would like to understand how changes in process are managed."

All workflows are version controlled. This means that when a workflow starts, it is attached to a particular version e.g. version 5. This means if you make changes to the workflow i.e. update to version 6, the workflow currently in progress remains at version 5 so nothing breaks. We are looking into the possibility of migrating in progress sessions from one version to another.

It absolutely does make sense, I was actually in corporate law before consulting!

"does this product incorporate any sort of digital signature / approval process?"

We have a component dedicated to building out approval steps and plan to integrate a way for users to "digitally sign off" that they completed it. Happy to chat through this use case, and we can build it out for you?

"generate entire documents from piecemeal templates"

You can indeed generate documents from templates using our Document Editor component with logic to select certain clauses etc. We've actually got a playbook for generating Non-Disclosure Agreements you can try out to see it in action: https://app.workflow86.com/template/dba33e59-e4a2-422f-9460-...

Looks great! Out of curiosity, how do you plan to compete with & distinguish yourself from well-funded players in the space like Integromat[1] etc?

[1] https://www.integromat.com

Right now our main point of difference is consolidation. We allow users to build and manage more of their workflow with just one platform vs duct-taping together 6 different SaaS tools like you would in Integromat. Our thesis is that it is easier to build, run and maintain more complex workflows when as much of its functionality as possible is managed natively in one place.

Thanks for the reply! My experience is that the sad reality of most large businesses is a vast landscape of systems introduced over decades and glueing them together with some RPA tool is a necessary evil if you want to achieve some level of automation.

You sound like you’re targeting smaller businesses with less complex processes that might not be fully established in existing systems. I can definitely see the niche there. Best of luck to you!

Yes, large and established enterprise is a tough one to crack. As a consultant, I've seen teams still running Lotus Notes (!).

I'm getting a 504 Gateway Timeout when attempting to access your site.

Fixed! Our apologies - we did not foresee this much traffic from this post, so it got hugged to death for a while.

Interesting choice of IF ... THEN ... ELSE ... for non-coders. I would have thought IF X ... OTHERWISE ... would have been a clearer choice in context coming from many human languages.

We've actually had this exact discussion - based on feedback, we might switch over from "else then" to "otherwise" very soon.

Looks interesting...how does this compare to something like Zapier?

Pretty different to Zapier. I'd say Zapier is very focused on piping data between different apps and tools, and is fantastic for establishing those connections.

Our focus is on consolidating and running as much of the core operations and logic in a playbook or process in one platform. This means you can build, run and manage more of your operations from one centralized "command center" rather than having to glue multiple SaaS tools together to achieve the same thing.

You can of course still integrate with other apps, and we actually have a Zapier integration for users who don't want to use our more technical webhook and API modules.

I have had a peruse of the product website, but I'm still kind of confused having never used a product in this niche before. When I hear "operations", as a developer/administrator I think of things like DB migrations, data archiving, crisis management, routine deploy related tasks, system and software upgrades, metrics/monitoring and associated tooling, etc.

At first blush, I can't work out how a website would be particularly helpful in orchestrating those type of actions.

Can you give some examples of "operations" that fall right in your wheelhouse?

Sure, by "operations" we essentially mean a collection of processes which governs the right way to do something. It could be, for example, the steps you want a developer to take when making a pull request, or how a reported bug or vulnerability should be handled.

For many teams, these processes are undocumented or loosely documented, so what needs to be done, in what order and when is difficult to understand, manage and scale.

Workflow86 allows you to document and map out these processes with modules that can automate parts of the process (e.g. calculations, logic, sending emails, making API requests) or request human input (e.g. approvals, review, decision making). Once you've build out a process, you essentially have a functional piece of software that when started, can run that process from start to finish for you.

One example that we use internally is this process for PR requests: https://app.workflow86.com/template/2b9ae31f-d29d-4198-a7b2-...

Here we've taken the "checklist" which we might have otherwise stored say in Confluence, and turned it into am interactive form instead. When the form is submitted, a further checklist is assigned for the dev to complete once merged into prod. Email notifications and slack messages are automated along the way to keep the team informed. There is some logic to see if it rates as potentially risky and warning notifications accordingly.

And here is another for handling data breach response: https://app.workflow86.com/template/26d48842-26cd-48bb-af51-...

Looks cool! What is the pricing like for more than 10 users?

Thank you! Currently it is +$7 per user seat per month BUT we are reviewing our user seat pricing.

Based on feedback, we'll likely separate out pricing based on user role i.e. a per editor/admin/builder user seat price and a much lower bulk price for 10/100/1000 end user seats.

I like the idea of having humans within the flow, getting emailed, completing tasks and marking them complete. What other products are there in this space?

Lotus Notes.. :-)

Seriously though, visual coding/drag and drop etc are great for non-technical users but in my experience the issue isn't code vs. icons. I worked in corporate workflow development for around 15 years using guess what, Lotus Notes, and the 'real' problem was getting end users to think programmatically, not remember syntax / tools. You can have all the easy to use tools in the world, but you still need to really be able to think through a process.

100% agree, there is a certain mindset required to go from "stuff I do everyday" into a structured process. We've found it sometimes takes a bit of pre-work, like mapping the basic process on paper or a whiteboard, to smooth the transition.

And I have come across many a Big 4 consulting team still running on Lotus Notes :)

A few others in this space include Process Street and Piepfy. I am biased, but I do think we have them beat for functionality and pricing though. Give them a go, give us a go, let us know what you think!

Looks cool. Looks like there might be a typo in the pricing. Surprised to see the storage go from 5 to 5 to 50 to 5 gb.

Thanks for the heads up! Just fixed.

Looks great. Will try this out. Was evaluating Pipefy a while back for the same exact reason.

Let us know how you go! We are happy to offer the full white glove treatment for our early users. If you need a feature, we work hard to turn it around for you :)

Looks very smooth. Pricing seems amazing for bootstrapping. Time to read the docs and sign up.

Thank you! There are still some things that need some more smoothing out, so let us know if you hit any rough patches. Also feel free to shoot us a message if you need any help (on-boarding, tips, build a process for you, whatever). We should also gradually be releasing some instructional videos as well on our website.

Super excited to try this out. I've been hoping for a tool in this space for awhile.

Shoot us a message if we can help in any way! Happy to build out a sample workflow or proof of concept, all we need is a description of what is involved in a process of your choice.

Any option for dedicated tenant or onsite hosting?

Not as a standard feature, but it is something we can do on a case by case basis. Happy to chat further about this, just shoot us a message!

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