The Landscape of Automation Softwares

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In light of the recent capital raise by Workato, I thought it prudent to discuss a few of the workflow automation tools out there and where they are strong. I am definitely what I call “the right kind of lazy” and always looking for ways to automate the administrative tasks I have to do.

First, if you are unfamiliar, a workflow automation tool is something that allows you to visually program links between two software programs that otherwise would not integrate. These platforms utilize the application programming interface (API) behind popular tools and give you a way to push and pull data versus having to download and upload. Many of the platforms also allow for manipulation of the data before pushing into the new system. They are increasing the functionality as well and adding in logic arguments (basically a fancy “if” statement like you would use in Excel).

Here are some of the tools available:

Zapier

Pros:

  • Over 2000 connected applications
  • They have a free version, and the paid version is relatively inexpensive
  • They integrate with many accounting apps

Cons:

  • Zaps can be finicky and require a lot of maintenance 

Workato

Pros:

  • Enterprise complexity
  • Works with larger accounting systems (Sage Intacct andNetsuite)
  • Robust when an integration is built

Cons:

  • Extremely expensive
  • More difficult to setup

Automate.io

Pros:

  • Intuitive interface with drag and drop functionality
  • Easy to add conditional workflows

Cons:

  • Only connects to about 200 apps

Microsoft Power Automate

Pros:

  • Included in Microsoft 365 subscription
  • Deep integrations with all 365 apps
  • Very complex workflows and logic
  • Microsoft’s help database is amazing and tells you exactly how to build out what you need
  • You can see the underlying code if you want to

Cons:

  • It can be finnicky at times and break for no reason
  • It is not as user friendly or pretty as some of the other options
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Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is the Founder of High Rock Accounting, Rebel Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, publishes a YouTube show (The Hot Accounts), and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her husband and young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.