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Tonkean – Revolutionizing Workflow Automation

An Interview with CEO & Co-Founder of Tonkean Sagi Eliyahu

Today we had the opportunity to chat with Sagi Eliyahu, CEO & Co-Founder of Tonkean, touted to be “trusted by the world’s most innovative teams”. We wanted to speak to him about the evolution of no-code workflow automation technology and how it applies to the legal sector specifically. We wanted to ask him, what is no-code exactly? And will AI take over the world? Because humans don’t seem to actually like all the rules and constraints around using software applications! How do you solve for a problem like that?

Sagi Eliyahu is Co-Founder and CEO at Tonkean. An entrepreneur, innovator, and tech guy, Sagi is passionate about building products that solve real problems. His ability to look at the big picture while zooming into a product’s most minor technical and design details has made solving “unsolvable” problems what Sagi does best.

Introduction: In today’s fast-paced and technologically advanced world, businesses are constantly seeking ways to streamline their operations and maximize efficiency. Workflow automation has emerged as a powerful solution, allowing companies to automate repetitive tasks and optimize processes. Tonkean, a leading workflow orchestration platform with a no-code approach, has been at the forefront of this automation revolution. In this article, we dive into the world of Tonkean and gain insights from its CEO, Sagi Eliyahu.

Tonkean – A Brief Overview: Tonkean is a cutting-edge no-code process orchestration platform that empowers organizations to automate complex business workflows without the need for extensive coding or IT involvement, by applying the no-code methodology. Tonkean’s Process Experience Platform seamlessly wraps around existing policies and systems, allowing internal service teams to do more with what they already have as well as build process experiences that are personalized for each requester. Unlike traditional workflow automation tools, Tonkean leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a human-centric approach to automation. The platform seamlessly integrates with various systems and tools, empowering teams to work more intelligently and collaboratively, by connecting people, processes, and tools across functions. Founded in 2015, Tonkean is headquartered in Palo Alto with R&D in Tel Aviv.

What was the initial inspiration behind starting your company?

“The essence of why I started Tonkean was my previous experiences that enterprises are not leveraging software correctly. Business processes are about people, but software is about data,” Sagi said. Sagi realized that ROI should not only be measured for the company but also for the individuals using the tools. The technology needed to be a leverage point for humans, not a detractor.

Explain that a little more, what exactly is the challenge here?

Sagi provided a little history, dating back when SaaS was at its peak in 2015, and the
proliferation of software tools, integrations, and access to data was transforming the business landscape. There was a disconnect, though. Business processes are not solely about data but are fundamentally centered around people. Enterprise software was designed with a focus on data and efficiency, neglecting the importance of personalization for individual users.

One of the significant challenges faced by software lies in the lack of user adoption. Compliance requires high adoption; adoption requires a great experience. Sagi explains, “people don’t like the process; they were never involved in the decision-making on user experience or how their workflows best suit their needs. There wasn’t collaboration, and the time to implement, train, support and deploy were time consuming and expensive. “And guess what, no one is using it.”

The solution, he argues, lies in providing a user experience that aligns with consumer
technology principles, where simplicity and personalization drive adoption.
“The sad truth about this all, is they also don’t use it because they just don’t care.” 67% of employees routinely skip legal procedures.

Sagi continues, “What I mean is, why would a salesperson care about learning a new tool now when all they want is to get a resolution.”

Sagi further explains if there’s pressure that the deal “has to happen, or if it’s a massive risk, they may consider going around it.” Unfortunately, the reality is, people will circumvent the process.

Sagi suggests it should be a priority for companies to improve the end-user experience. This will result in higher process adoption, which is critical, because “without the adoption, you’re not going to get compliance, and you’re definitely not going to get efficiency.”

So how do we get people to “care” about using software and following required processes?

“Personalization is key to increasing adoption,” Sagi said. “Firstly, we need to be proactive in our approach and offer tools and processes at the right time. Secondly, we should leverage existing context and data to simplify the user experience. Lastly, change management plays a crucial role. Instead of forcing people to change their behavior, we should focus on providing a good reason for them to adopt new tools and processes.”

“The user experience should be designed to eliminate unnecessary complexity and align with consumer technology principles. We automate processes by leveraging existing data and context, reducing the need for manual form filling and data entry. Additionally, we focus on change management by providing a user-friendly interface and avoiding the need for users to switch between multiple tools.”

Tonkean acts as an orchestration layer that sits on top of existing systems, streamlining
workflows, and providing a cohesive user experience.

Sagi’s realization led to developing a platform that prioritizes personal ROI – the value of technology to individuals using it – alongside the company’s ROI. By facilitating human-centric processes and understanding the specific needs of users, Tonkean seeks to bridge the gap between technology and people, ensuring technology acts as a leverage to enhance human productivity and experiences. People often resist adopting new tools or processes because they find them complicated, time-consuming, or not aligned with their preferred way of doing things.

This is especially true in legal. Legal workflows often involve very specific steps and requirements, which can be perceived as rigid and not aligned with the natural workflow of individuals within the organization. This misalignment between processes, tools, and individual preferences can hinder user adoption and result in circumvention of established procedures, leading to inefficiencies and compliance issues.

Tonkean’s approach to personalization and orchestration addresses these challenges. The platform empowers users by integrating with existing tools and systems, allowing individuals to work within their preferred environments while ensuring streamlined processes and collaboration. By utilizing automation and intelligence to provide contextualized information and by eliminating unnecessary complexity, Tonkean enhances the user experience and encourages adoption.

Tonkean also utilizes AI and machine learning to understand and learn from user behavior. The platform is equipped with intelligent features that enable it to adapt to changing circumstances and make informed decisions. Tonkean can analyze data, detect patterns, and proactively suggest improvements to workflows. By continuously learning from user interactions, Tonkean
becomes smarter over time, allowing businesses to optimize their processes and make data-driven decisions.

From a legal ops’ executive perspective, it sounds like Tonkean offers a powerful solution for addressing some of the organization’s pain points without disrupting the entire workflow. The ability to start small and iterate gradually is appealing. However, I’m also curious about AI applications in the legal tech space. How does Tonkean leverage AI, and what extraordinary applications can it bring to legal operations complex processes?

Sagi predicts: “AI is indeed a game-changer in the legal tech space, and Tonkean has recognized the immense potential it offers. With the advancements in AI technology in the past six months alone, we can expect even more remarkable developments in the future. Contrary to the misconception that AI will replace lawyers and legal teams, its impact will be more transformative and complementary.”

Tonkean’s AI Front Door is a prime example of how AI can enhance legal operations. By combining GPT and Large Language Models (LLM) with Tonkean’s powerful process automation capabilities, you can bring a seamless and intuitive experience to legal operations. It revolves around the concept of intent rather than just self-service.

Sagi described a new AI front door feature, “it looks like a Google search bar, which is very familiar and user friendly.” This feature enables users to ask questions or send emails to legal departments through various platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email. Instead of having to navigate a legal portal or search through policies, users can simply inquire about their needs, and then it will reply to you based on the policies in place. AI Front Door understands intent and can guide users to the appropriate workflows or forms based on their queries.

This approach also allows legal departments to be involved earlier in the process, ensuring that important matters are addressed proactively and preventing last-minute fire drills. It simplifies the interactions between legal teams and other departments, making it more efficient and effective for both parties.

In summary, Tonkean’s AI Front Door offers a significant advancement in how legal teams can interact with the rest of the organization, making the process smoother, faster, and more accurate.

What types of workflows can Tonkean automate for legal sector use cases?

Sagi: “Tonkean’s LegalWorks platform, launched in May 2023, is capable of automating a wide range of workflows across different industries. From intake and matter lifecycle management to categorizing and resolving requests, to operations and customer support, Tonkean can handle complex workflows involving multiple systems, data sources, and stakeholders.

Our platform also integrates with popular business applications, such as Salesforce, Slack, and Jira, enabling seamless collaboration and data synchronization.”

How does Tonkean differentiate itself from traditional legal sector software solutions?

Sagi: “We’re not in the business of innovating new legal operations software solutions.
Tonkean takes a different approach by integrating with tools rather than replacing them.”

The Tonkean team recognized that businesses have different needs and preferences, creating a platform that sits on top of existing systems, and over 1,000 components, orchestrating processes, and ensuring frictionless collaboration. Tonkean aims to provide an intelligent and adaptive solution that maximizes efficiency while giving users the flexibility to choose the tools that work
best for them.

What experience have you had with the legal ops professionals and how would you rate their technical prowess?

Sagi commends legal operations teams for their strong understanding of operations, people, and processes. However, he also notes a common mental blockage among these teams, where they tend to expect poor software and may not realize the potential for improvement and better user experiences.

One aspect Sagi highlights is the need for legal teams to recognize their impact on the
organization beyond just cost-saving metrics. He encourages in-house legal leaders and GCs to measure their impact based on metrics related to revenue generation and risk reduction. By thinking of themselves as a central business unit and understanding their influence on other areas of the organization that rely on legal support, which is very significant, they can leverage technology and efficiency to create a positive ripple effect throughout the company.

Sagi emphasizes the importance of looking beyond the immediate cost-saving implications of improving legal efficiency. Instead, he urges legal teams to consider the broader impact on business processes and operations. By resolving legal matters faster and more efficiently, other departments can benefit and make more informed decisions promptly, resulting in significant improvements in overall business outcomes.

Moreover, he points out that other departments in the organization have already recognized the value of attaching data to a bigger narrative, showcasing the wider implications of their work. Sagi suggests that “Legal operators should adopt a similar mindset and connect their efforts to the organization’s strategic goals and long-term success. It’s an entire team effort from the entire organization and the legal department touches them all in some way or another.”

Overall, Sagi is optimistic about the positive trends he has observed in the legal tech and legal operations space over the past few years. The growing focus on leveraging technology to drive efficiency is paving the way for transformative changes in the legal industry.

When asked what recommendations he would offer to Legal Ops teams, Sagi provides valuable advice from a technology perspective.

Embrace the Role of Product People: Sagi believes “legal operations teams are essentially product people, even if they may not realize it yet.” They should focus on understanding their stakeholders and customers, which, in this case, are the various departments and individuals within their organization. By understanding their needs and behaviors, legal ops can tailor their processes and solutions to be more effective and efficient.

Adopt an Iterative Approach: Sagi takes the perspective that, “Like product development, legal operations should embrace an iterative process. Building a solution is not a one-and-done task. It requires continuous evaluation, validation, and improvement.” Sagi recommends that it is crucial to regularly talk to stakeholders and build relationships and trust, gathering feedback to ensure that the processes and technologies in place are meeting the organization’s evolving needs.

Foster Innovation: Sagi encourages legal operations teams to be innovative in their approach. “Rather than merely being efficient with existing tools, they should be proactive in seeking out new technologies and solutions. By staying curious and exploring the latest advancements in legal tech, teams can identify opportunities for improvement and drive positive change within the organization.”

In summary, Sagi sees legal operations teams as pivotal players in shaping the efficiency and effectiveness of legal processes within an organization. By approaching their role with a product mindset, knowing “their customer”, embracing iterative practices, and fostering innovation, legal ops teams can make a significant impact on the organization’s overall success.

Sagi Eliyahu’s insights regarding Tonkean’s approach to orchestration can provide valuable context for addressing the challenges related to enterprise platform customization, integration, and deployments in legal operations:
The interviewer raises the concern that enterprise platforms like Salesforce require extensive customization, support teams, and consultants to keep up with updates and integrations with other enterprise software. This complexity can be a major pain point for legal operations.

Sagi responds by acknowledging the overuse of the term “no-code” and warns against tools that claim to simplify complexity by just visualizing code without fundamentally addressing the underlying issues.

He highlights the importance of true integration and the challenges that come with connecting systems with different underlying structures and data formats.

Tonkean’s approach to integration is more than just connecting APIs; it involves a process called ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) to properly transform and load data. But the key difference lies in Tonkean’s focus on understanding the use cases and treating them as business functions, rather than merely wiring together APIs.

Tonkean has built enterprise components that recognize common concepts in different systems, such as ticketing, projects, and statuses, and wraps them in workflows to provide a seamless user experience. This orchestration approach enables workflow actions and needs to drive the workflow, instead of just forcing components together. In essence, Tonkean acts as an assembly line in a factory. Sagi likens it to how “humans and machines are integrated into the workflow, and a manufacturing engineer reviews the process to identify areas for manual handling and adjustments for greater efficiency.”

This approach allows legal operations to leverage technology effectively, stay compliant, reduce risk, and ensure smooth collaboration between different systems, all while enhancing user experience and overall success.

By understanding Tonkean’s orchestration philosophy, legal operations can expect a more streamlined and efficient integration process, with a focus on business needs and actions, from removing time-consuming manual tasks to ultimately improving the adoption and effectiveness of technology in their workflows

Now, turning our attention to a Senior Legal Operations Manager’s role specifically, how would you define their responsibilities and what key skills do you believe are essential for someone in this position?

Sagi: “Legal Ops Managers play critical roles in legal departments, and in my view, one thing to be more successful is if they apply the perspective of a product owner of their tech stack.” Sagi suggests, there are three main responsibilities:

  1. Understanding and Serving the Customer: As a legal operations manager to understand the needs and behavior of their stakeholders and customers within the organization. This understanding allows them to adapt and develop processes as “products”, driving behavior by catering to the personas and needs of their customers and developing solutions that align with their requirements and the policies that are in place.
  2. Embrace Iterative Process: They need to internalize the concept of continuous iteration and improvement. Building and deploying solutions is not a one-time task; it requires constant validation, reevaluation, and user testing. The true impact and success come from actively engaging with customers and making improvements based on their feedback.
  3. Cultivate Innovation: Legal operations managers should be innovative and open to exploring new possibilities. They need to ask questions, identify challenges, and stay curious about the latest technologies available in the legal tech space. Being technically efficient with existing tools and understanding the unique situation of their organization enables them to come up with creative and effective solutions.

 

In addition to these responsibilities, the key skills essential for someone in this position include:

  • Agile Methodology: Familiarity with Agile project management principles, which emphasize iterative development and continuous improvement.
  • Technical Proficiency: Being knowledgeable about the existing legal tech tools and technologies to efficiently work with them and integrate new solutions.
    Innovation and Curiosity: Having a proactive attitude towards exploring new technologies and finding innovative ways to improve legal operations.
  • By adopting these responsibilities and honing the necessary skills, legal operations managers can excel in their roles and make a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of legal operations within the organization.

How important is change management adoption within the legal industry, in-house or firms? Is there a lag compared to other industries?

Sagi feels, “There has been a shift in the past few years, as the pandemic forced a lot of change because of remote working, and it definitely had a significant effect on everything to do with legal departments. However, historically, law firms had systems in place they were happy with and didn’t feel the need to change. And to me, that was the biggest barrier to innovation, the actual change. And so, if you want to embrace innovation, you need to understand how to reduce the change, so it’s a manageable thing.”

Legal operations leaders often measure their impact based on metrics related to revenue or risk reduction. However, Sagi points out that legal efficiency is not just about saving billable hours; it’s about creating leverage across the organization and understanding the broader impact of improved legal processes on other areas dependent on legal.

Shifting Leadership Narrative: There has been a positive trend in the legal tech and legal operations space, with a changing narrative of leadership. Legal operations teams are now seen as more central business units, and there’s a growing recognition of their significant impact on the organization’s business and operations.

Sagi acknowledges that the legal industry has faced resistance to change, especially from lawyers and law firms. Lawyers often prefer traditional tools like Outlook and Microsoft Word and may be reluctant to embrace new technologies. This resistance poses a challenge in change management.

Sagi sees Tonkean as a solution to help overcome the resistance to change. Tonkean allows organizations to retain familiar tools and processes while still achieving massive improvements in efficiency and workflow. This approach allows legal professionals who prefer to stick to their existing ways to do so, while still benefiting from the enhancements brought by Tonkean’s automation and integration capabilities.

Legal operations leaders are calling for an Innovation approach, where different tools and technologies can be integrated in a way that fits the organization’s specific needs. This approach promotes flexibility and adaptability, reducing the barriers to innovation and change.

Sagi underscores that the biggest barrier to innovation is change itself. To foster innovation, organizations need to find ways to reduce resistance to change and make it more manageable. This involves shifting from the perception of change as insurmountable to seeing it as something that can be effectively managed with the right tools and strategies.

By understanding the impact of efficiency improvements, adopting flexible and user-friendly tools, and managing change effectively, legal technology operations can make significant strides in enhancing workflows and overall performance. “Additionally, we focus specifically on change management by providing a user-friendly interface and avoiding the need for users to switch between multiple tools. Tonkean acts as an orchestration layer that sits on top of existing systems, streamlining workflows, and providing a cohesive user experience.”

What sets Tonkean apart from other workflow automation platforms?

Sagi Eliyahu: “Tonkean’s uniqueness lies in its ability to bridge the gap between human and machine. We firmly believe that automation should not replace humans but rather augment their abilities. Our platform is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, allowing non-technical users to easily create and manage complex workflows. Tonkean understands that not all tasks can be fully automated, and that’s why we emphasize the importance of human decision-making and intervention when necessary.”

What does the future hold for Tonkean?

Sagi envisions “a future where Tonkean becomes an integral part of every organization’s workflow automation strategy.”

Their focus is on continuous innovation and enhancing the platform’s capabilities to meet the evolving needs of businesses and expansion into the legal sector.

“We are investing in research and development to further harness the power of AI and machine learning, enabling even more intelligent and adaptive automation.”

Tonkean plans to further personalize and optimize legal workflows using AI and machine learning. By empowering organizations to leverage technology in a human-centric way, it will provide an effortless automation to drive compliance, efficiency, and positive user experiences.

Ultimately, Tonkean wants to empower organizations to focus on high-value work while the platform handles the rest.

In conclusion, Sagi Eliyahu’s insights shed light on the critical need for a human-centric approach to enterprise software development. By prioritizing personal ROI, focusing on personalization and change management, and providing a seamless user experience, Tonkean strives to optimize efficiency, compliance, and user satisfaction in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

Tonkean’s commitment to bridging the gap between humans and automation sets it apart in the realm of workflow orchestration platforms. By harnessing the power of AI and machine learning, Tonkean empowers organizations to automate complex workflows intelligently while emphasizing the importance of human decision-making.

As businesses continue to seek ways to optimize their operations, Tonkean stands at the forefront, revolutionizing the way we approach workflow automation…

… Effortless and frictionless!

 


 

About the Author
This Interview was conducted by Dawn-Marie Vaughan (dmv), Founder of Springboard Ventures a PortCo and start-up consulting practice. She’s also a Board Member of Legal Operators and an early investor. Dawn-Marie is an experienced executive who’s developed an extensive skill set over 20 years as a practitioner and leader. Motivated by complexity and applying critical thinking to challenges, she has successfully retained clients for years and illustrates industry knowledge across a diverse range; including cybersecurity, Federal Government (DoD), financial services, venture capital/private equity, healthcare, telecommunications, e-Discovery, entertainment, retail, technology, supply chain and transportation.

Furthermore, she conducted due diligence analysis and investigations on behalf of financial institutions, venture capital and private equity firms, and organizations considering businesses to acquire. Evaluations included financials, human capital, asset validation, business operations, customer support & success, and leadership qualifications/capabilities. Led/participated in successful acquisitions of over $ 4 billion in investments.