Intercom is a customer service platform built for an AI-first world. More than 25,000 global organizations use Intercom to send over 600 million messages to their customers per month.
In 2022, Intercom was looking for new ways to empower employees to automate their processes. Their IT team found a solution in Workato, and quickly started building workflows using their recipes. But after a year, they found that the pricing structure restricted the team’s ability to build, and the platform’s lack of robust change control capabilities was a growing concern.
Enter Tines, and the opportunity to solve their problem while refining and consolidating their workflows.
Emanuele Sparvoli, Intercom’s Director of IT, entered his search for a new platform with a long wish list in hand. His team needed a way to automate workflows freely and securely. He also needed a pricing model that would encourage automation among Intercom’s teams, not restrict it.
And there was another hurdle. Intercom had dozens of high-value workflows that they needed to migrate to their new automation platform. These workflows included business processes like managing forwarding rules in Gmail, syncing users from Workday to Okta, and automating hardware issue reporting and response. So, the migration process needed to be seamless.
Tines was able to satisfy all of the items on Intercom’s wish list, which included:
Role-based access control via Okta SSO
Custom editor role without the ability to create or modify credentials
Governance via mandatory change control on all stories
All Workato recipes migrated to the new platform
An interface that IT infrastructure, cloud security, IT support, and customer solutions teams can easily use
Emanuele first encountered Tines in 2019, and, although he was impressed by the platform’s potential, it couldn’t satisfy his criteria at the time. But, he always kept a close eye and checked in to monitor the platform's evolution. In 2023, he was excited to discover that Tines appeared to offer the functionality he needed. Now, it was time to put it to the test.
During the POC process, Emanuele and his team worked with Tines engineers to convert a complex user lifecycle management workflow involving around 15 recipes into a single Tines story. It was a great example of the kind of workflow consolidation they were looking for.
Intercom’s onboarding process with Tines went incredibly smoothly, Lucas Cantor, Staff Engineer, Information Systems, tells us. “We worked with Tines engineer, Emily, to migrate all of our Workato recipes to Tines. And that process was really, really easy. We were able to not only seamlessly migrate things over to Tines, but actually make a lot of the existing automations a lot simpler and consolidate things.”
“It's amazing to be able to say, ‘Tines just does this for me.' I don't have to think about it. For me, that’s the biggest benefit of Tines, it just makes my life easier.”
Emanuele was particularly impressed by the speed of onboarding, the flexibility of the platform, and the time savings that Tines afforded his team.
In Workato, it took 2 months to build one story. In Tines, it takes about 2 hours.
Emanuele Sparvoli, Director of IT
Intercom is growing a culture of secure automation, using Tines to remove barriers to entry.
The previous platform's pricing structure not only limited Intercom’s ability to build, it created additional work for the IT team.
“For a long time, we’ve had this goal to empower other people in our company to automate their own processes, without having to wait on engineers to have bandwidth,” Lucas says.
“With Workato, every time anybody in the company had an idea to automate something, it became a question for IT, ‘Is that automation worth paying an extra X number of dollars for?’ And I don’t necessarily have the context for how important the automation is, or how it would impact the business. With Tines, that’s not an issue.”
The Tines pricing model allows Emanuele and Lucas to actively encourage team members to create efficiencies in their workflows. “It reduces friction,” Lucas adds, “and reduces the barrier to entry to using the platform.”
With Tines, we are building a generation of accidental programmers.
Emanuele Sparvoli, Director of IT
One potential downside of the wider team embracing automation is increased security risks. “At Intercom, we're very security-minded and we have a strong change control mindset,” Lucas says. “So we wanted to implement this thing that I called ‘no code as code’. Because we deploy all of the infrastructure that we manage, as an IT team, as code. We use a change control pipeline via GitHub and Terraform to deploy anything that we can via infrastructure as code.”
Historically, when looking at automating processes, most tools didn’t offer a high level of governance or change control.
“One of our requests for Tines was the ability to enforce change control tenant-wide as a policy, which didn't exist before,” Lucas explains. “We also asked for per-team event execution limits, as well as a separate limit for the test versus live environments. Tines implemented a bunch of these new capabilities very quickly for us.”
For Lucas, migrating existing recipes to Tines stories provided a great opportunity to rethink his team’s workflows. “We drastically simplified a couple of our automations while we migrated them. For example, Workato is very heavy on Slackbot integrations or Microsoft Teams bot integrations. In my opinion, it's tougher to design a Slackbot than it is to design a Tines page, like by several orders of magnitude. And it was a little annoying, because they charge per bot. Whereas, with Tines, you can have as many pages as you want.”
This overreliance on chatbots was increasing the team’s alert fatigue, not reducing it. Lucas adds that there were several examples of this in their recipes. “Managing forwarding rules in Gmail on behalf of our users, that’s another one that used to be a Slackbot in Workato. Now it's just a simple and intuitive Tines page.”
Let’s take a look at some of the critical and complex processes that Tines has helped Intercom optimize.
Lucas’ favorite workflow is one that Tines engineer Derek built during the POC process, a user lifecycle workflow that Lucas had previously built in Workato.
“This is like an entire re-architecting of that workflow,” Lucas explains. “And Derek just built it for us in a week. It ingests a JSON report from Workday of all of our workers, and then it uses the AWS Redshift API to make SQL queries to the Redshift database to process changes of HR data coming from Workday, and execute all sorts of complicated user lifecycle automations in Okta.”
Another workflow automates responses to on-site hardware issues. Say, for example, an employee wants to report a broken webcam in a conference room. A QR code brings them to a Tines page where they can report the issue.
“Then it opens an Intercom conversation on behalf of the user, because our IT support team uses Intercom for support. We’re planning to also integrate this with Google Workspace, so it can seamlessly move all of the events that are scheduled in that conference room to another conference room, and stop that conference room from being booked until IT resolves the hardware issue.”
Lucas also built a Tines story that connects CrowdStrike, Oomnitza, Slack, and PagerDuty to automate security alert notifications. It receives webhooks from CrowdStrike, determines the severity of the issue, traces the relevant employee through Oomnitza, and requests more information from the employee via Slack. Depending on the information the employee provides, it will also send a PagerDuty alert to the security practitioner on call.
“This one, again, was migrated from a giant folder of stories in Workato into a single story in Tines.” Lucas explains. “It’s a great way to reduce noise and add context to security issues that are added on our endpoints as well.”
Before Tines, Intercom’s access request management workflow used a Slackbot, which Lucas says only created unnecessary noise.
The Workato recipe required the IT team to provide information via a Slackbot. “Whenever we wanted to add a user to the allow list for an app integration, we would have to message a Slackbot and follow the steps there. This created friction and slowed our ability to do the task. We got rid of the Slackbot altogether. It’s simply a story in Tines without any need for human interaction – we don't even need to use a Tines page.”
Lucas adds that the support from the Tines team has been invaluable in getting these workflows up and running. “We get very, very responsive feedback and action from the team at Tines,” he says, “so we’re very excited and happy to see that.”
Teams at Intercom hope to repeat recent successes by extending the use of Tines across the organization. The IT team plans to migrate their Okta workflows to Tines in 2024, and there are projects in the pipeline for sales engineering and solution architecture teams, too.
With an interface that teams in IT infrastructure, cloud security, IT support, and customer solutions can easily use, Tines is helping Intercom create that all-important culture of secure automation faster.
Intercom’s future is being built on Tines.
Emanuele Sparvoli, Director of IT