Free Now uses no code to automate its processes
Mobility service provider Free Now relies on Workato’s no-code solution to automate various processes, the latest of which is equipment renewal.
Free Now is a provider of mobility and intermodality services born from the merger of several start-ups in the sector. Its application allows customers, individuals and businesses, to access VTC and car-sharing services, but also to rent bicycles, scooters and electric scooters. The platform is also aimed at independent drivers, who can offer their services on it. Based in Hamburg, Germany, the company is present in more than 150 European cities. With nearly 1,300 employees in 13 different countries and an IT department of around 30 employees, the company has chosen to automate as many support processes as possible, ranging from the onboarding of new employees to the replacement of workstations. For this, Freenow relies on Workato’s no code solution. Ivan Morschel, IT Director of Free Now, discusses what has been put in place and the benefits of such an approach, which he presents as IT as code.
“One of our major challenges was to automate support for our employees,” explains Ivan Morschel. In 2021, the service desk received 12,000 tickets on Jira and 21,000 messages on a channel dedicated to IT support on Slack, called Ask IT. “Everyone can send requests on the channel of their choice, by email, on Slack or Jira. At the same time, we regularly have new arrivals in the company who need to be equipped, employees whose workstations need to be repaired, with all the logistics to be managed behind it,” says the IT director. Equipment management is particularly time-consuming, with a fleet of more than 2,500 devices, mainly MacBooks, iPhones and iPads as well as a few PCs, particularly in the financial department. To lighten the load on the service desk, Free Now decided to automate its procurement processes as much as possible, both in terms of software and hardware. For this, the company has chosen to rely on Workato’s no-code automation solution. “In 2018 we evaluated several suppliers. Workato has proven to be the best solution for our service desk teams, which have a lot of system administrators who are more used to writing scripts than doing development. We needed a tool that everyone could learn, without having to be an expert in programming languages,” explains Ivan Morschel.
One of the first automated processes was onboarding. The HR team has created a process to manage the transition from candidate to employee. This starts when the contract is signed. You have to ask what equipment is needed, what keyboard to provide depending on the nationality of the employee, what software and applications to provide, then order the equipment. Previously, this process was almost completely manual. It was sometimes necessary to approve up to six tickets for the same person, which proved to be tedious in a context of strong development of the company. Thanks to Workato, Free Now was able to replace an old Python script used to manage the arrival of new employees, in particular by taking advantage of the integration with Workday. With the solution, the onboarding process for new employees went from 34 to 2 hours.
During the health crisis, all Free Now employees switched to teleworking. “We had three days to prepare, check VPN access and other needs, especially in terms of security,” recalls Ivan Morschel. During this period, the company reduced purchases of new equipment to a minimum. As 2022 approaches, the majority of the park is therefore obsolete. “My position, for example, was more than 4 years old, it was eligible for renewal. When it was necessary to renew the fleet, we found ourselves with more than a thousand devices to order at once. We had to collect the old equipment, check the specifications, the models available, place the orders…”, testifies Ivan Mosrchel. In addition, the various uncertainties on the markets have made supply more complex. “With Brexit, the shortage of electronic components or the shutdown of Apple factories in China during the pandemic, delays were sometimes several weeks before delivery. It was therefore necessary to optimize the purchasing process, to find both the fastest available equipment and the best price, so that IT costs do not explode,” says Ivan Morschel. Until then, hardware renewals were handled manually, with an agent emailing users to let them know they were eligible to place an order. Automation has also imposed itself here, in order to relieve the IT and purchasing teams.
The renewal of positions managed from Slack
Free Now has two guidelines for IT: first implement a cloud-native strategy. Then, automate as much as possible using local tools. “This approach works very well, because the solutions are already present and easier to integrate, there is no need to add sophisticated elements”, observes Ivan Morschel. With this in mind, the IT team reused the core set up on Workato by extending the process planned for new employees to all users. “We look at the purchase dates of all devices in our database to automatically trigger a message informing employees when they are eligible,” says the IT director. The process adapts to the different communication channels used in the company. “Some of our employees are used to using our Jira ticketing tool, but others are much more used to using Slack,” explains Ivan Morschel. In Slack, for example, the employee receives an automatic notification. “You are ready for a new device, please return your device with serial number, model, location. In the same message, a drop-down menu lists the models the employee can select, displaying only pre-approved and in-stock equipment, thanks to integration with the reseller system. Via an API, Free Now can indeed consult the stocks of these in real time. Employees can also use the Slack interface to confirm or change the pickup date and location. This way, employees, IT and purchasing know where the order is at each stage and can act if there is a change, for example on the delivery date.
“We implemented this process in the fourth quarter of 2021, with our IT team and purchasing. It is still in progress, in particular because of chip shortages, but we will almost be finished in the second quarter of 2022”, indicates the IT director. In terms of development, it took about three months of work with Workato to integrate the first reseller’s API. “We have a multi-vendor strategy, but we started with one partner. Today we have two, and we are looking for a third,” says Ivan Morschel. On the supplier side, this automation has also made it possible to simplify the situation: previously, orders went through a portal, with several round trips to obtain and validate commercial proposals. “The automation has reduced processing times and facilitated integration with their management systems,” points out Ivan Morschel.
Other IT processes being automated
Today, Free Now has about 240 automated processes, or “recipes,” and about 600,000 jobs per month in Workato across all categories. “We also use a bot that recognizes keywords, in order to move towards self-service,” says Ivan Morschel. The goal is to directly process queries that can be resolved automatically. When this is not possible, the bot opens a request. “We see a lot of benefits, not only for IT, but also for our business partners: human resources, purchasing, invoicing… The main advantage of the solution is to be able to support the growth of Free Now. At the IT level, we couldn’t keep pace with the company’s growth without automation,” says the IT director. “It’s also a way to better manage limitations related to external events, because everything is calibrated. »
Ivan Morschel describes this approach as IT as code. “We started with the service desk, but we want to extend this approach to other IT functions and processes”. The company thus begins to do so on the allocation of access rights, taking advantage of integrations with Active Directory or Okta. “We offer a list of tools that users can access depending on their profile. Some requests to obtain access rights are already automated, but we still have to manage others manually. This is the next subject we will tackle. The goal is to ensure that employees can be productive from day one,” says Ivan Morschel. “We have also created a process to automate decommissioning when an employee leaves the company, in particular by deleting their accounts and access,” adds the IT director. The company has implemented a zero trust architecture. “With remote working, we have to assume that one of our devices is probably compromised, so we need control mechanisms to check what is happening behind the scenes. We have also automated some internal tests,” says the IT director. “We want to provide automation services to all of our colleagues. What we have learned can be applied in other areas, spread throughout the organization”, concludes Ivan Morschel, also advising his peers to adopt IT as code.