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November 19, 2021

How a self-taught coder built a no-code tool to simplify business ops

We don’t often talk about code and no-code in the same story, but today, we’ll make an exception! After all, there’s a lot of coding that goes into building no-code tools! This is the story of how a former management consultant learnt how to code, and built a tool to help automate and manage business operations.

My name is Aaron and I’m the Founder of Workflow86 – a no-code platform for teams to document and automate their operations playbooks and business processes. We are an early stage start-up and about 15 months into our journey.

I’ve been in start-ups for about 3 years now, after working in corporate law and then management consulting. My experience in management consulting played a very big role in the development of Workflow86. I worked on a lot of operations and strategy projects where I got a firsthand look at how poorly operational knowledge and processes are stored, managed and the sheer lack of automation in most organizations.

Going beyond coding

During my downtime as a consultant, I taught myself how to code. That ability to code and create scripts and apps that would automate repetitive tasks felt like having superpowers.

Then it struck me that if anyone could build software to scale their operational knowledge and processes, pretty much all the problems I was seeing as a consultant could be solved by the teams themselves – rather than hiring a consultant, write a report to tell them what to do.

It was all about empowering all teams to build the tools they need to solve the problems they knew and understood best. So that’s how I arrived at building Workflow86.

Workflow86 was built based on my experience as a consultant working on lots of strategy and ops projects, and then running ops in my own start-up.

I noticed that 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, or are fragmented between multiple SaaS tools.

Workflow86 provides an all-in-one solution which means you can build and manage more of a process in one place. This makes it a lot easier to build and maintain more complex workflows, as well as providing teams with that vital single source of truth.

It’s a 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.

How Workflow86 works

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.

We have a bunch of pre-made playbooks you can download and run straight away in areas ranging from cybersecurity to COVID-19 response.

One unique feature of Workflow86 is how easy we make it to share an entire workflow or process you have built, like a Notion doc. Just deploy the workflow you have built as a template and share the link – the whole thing gets packaged together and once downloaded, can be run instantly with minimal to no set up.

We recently launched on Hacker News and have received some great feedback and customers who love our product. We have a free tier plan so anyone can sign up for free and start building.

The process of building a no-code tool

Our core tech stack is Java, React JS, MongoDB and SQL. We ran into a lot of obstacles when building Workflow86 – a no-code platform is an incredibly complex piece of software to build. If you have ever used a no-code platform, a lot of work went into that behind the scenes to make it as easy to use as possible.

You need to account for thousands of possible ways the user might configure or piece together their workflow. One of our main challenges was simply getting the platform to a level where it had enough features to be useful for users - building these out takes time and lots of careful design decisions.

We needed to pick the right features and ship them at the right time, and we could only do that well by talking to users. What also helped a lot was my own experience working in ops, so I had a strong vision of what Workflow86 needed to do in order to be useful. I was able to draw on that experience to inform a lot of these product design decisions.

Let your users inform your product

If you want to build an excellent product, talk to your users. No-code platforms live or die on how easy they are to use, how steep the learning curve is, and how long it takes for users to build something of value. You will only know these things if you talk to your users.

Tools like Zapier do this very well because you can set up a zap very quickly and it starts delivering value almost instantly. If you want users to build something more complex, you need to identify, and then reduce all possible points of friction. This could be anything from your user signing up to them building something and getting value from that. So talk to your users!


Thanks for the insight on building a no-code tool, Aaron! You can follow his work here.

Related Course

No-Code Fundamentals: Getting started with no-code

$850
Start Date:
JAN 2022

Build a business, launch a side-project, or finally start that idea you've been sitting on, without writing code.

Join a passionate and skilled group of makers, creators and entrepreneurs in this immersive, cohort-based course. Over 5 weeks, Makerpad's expert instructors, Ben Tossell and Amie Pollack, will give you the foundational skills you need to build and share your idea with the world.

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