Skip to main content

What is Tonkean?

Tonkean is a process experience platform—it empowers business operations teams to build processes that people actually follow.

We help shared services teams like legal, procurement, and HR to solve the problems of poor process adoption, lack of compliance, and the low visibility into the health of your process that comes as a result. We've learned that if you focus on the experience of your internal requesters and build an intuitive, easy-to-follow process, those requesters actually want to use your preferred process, leading to huge efficiency gains. These are the experiences we enable business ops teams to build.

To build these experiences and the processes behind them, business ops professionals leverage Tonkean's no-code workflow builder, AI tools, and data source connections. Rather than replace the systems that are working for you, Tonkean wraps around your existing systems and policies, allowing you to unlock additional value and orchestrate complex processes that involve both data and people.

The Tonkean platform gets its name from the Tonkean macaque, a species of monkey native to Indonesia. Tonkean macaques are known for working together as a team to resolve conflicts and accomplish their goals. This collaborative spirit is exhibited not only in how Tonkean coordinates systems and people to accomplish a goal, but internally, where the whole Tonkean team pitches in to make lives better for our users.

While Tonkean is flexible enough to handle a wide variety of use cases, our most successful makers leverage Tonkean to orchestrate processes characterized by a common formula: request intake, triage and routing, and resolution. This is the underlying structure of most internal team processes, whether it's fielding legal requests or guided buying requests for procurement.

For example, maybe your legal team accepts requests by email ( While many different requests are received here, the most common is an NDA request for a prospect. Instead of requiring people to manually read the email, duplicate the NDA template, copy and paste the prospect's information, then send the email to the requester, a Tonkean module will read the email with natural language processing, generate the NDA using data enriched by your existing systems, and then send it to the requester—all behind the scenes without the need for anyone to be involved.

But what happens if the NDA request wasn't standard? That's where Tonkean keeps people in the loop. The Tonkean module will contact the appropriate user and give them various actions to take, wherever they like to work (email, Slack, Teams). In this way, Tonkean effectively balances process automation and the people who can handle exceptions to the usual processes to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

The Maker Mindset

Before diving in and learning about the technology that makes Tonkean so powerful, it's helpful to first understand the philosophy that powers the platform, what we call the "maker mindset."

The maker mindset is a philosophy that makers cultivate as they build and work on the platform—a way of seeing and understanding problems that's powered by a certain technical curiosity and belief that there's always a way.

A maker may not know how to write in any particular programming language, but with our no-code builder, they don't have to know; they still understand many of the same high-level concepts as programmers. More than that, they're willing to get their hands dirty. A maker looks at a problem in their organization and thinks "I could probably build something to fix this."

With the maker mindset, you think through a problem or process from different levels, ask a series of questions to help clarify what exactly you're trying to accomplish, and then work backward to figure out the steps to get there.

To start developing a maker mindset, you can ask yourself these questions about your process before you start building:

  1. At a high level, what am I trying to accomplish? What is my end goal? This is the overall problem you're working to solve. To return to our legal department example from earlier, this might be providing NDA forms to prospective clients to help cut down on the manual work the legal team has to do. Even a simple goal of saving 10 hours per week spent responding to these common requests can snowball into huge efficiency gains.

  2. What information do I need to accomplish my goal? What data or systems do I need access to? Once you know what you're trying to accomplish, you need to determine what data you need. This may be as simple as getting access to an email inbox or as complicated as pulling data together from multiple apps (e.g. pulling content from Salesforce to create a Jira ticket and then notifying a team member of that creation in Slack, etc.). There's no need to detail the connections quite yet—just determine what resources you think you need.

  3. In what order do I need to connect the different apps or systems? How would the process flow from start to finish? You know what information you need and where you need to get that information, and now you need to map out what the flow might look like. It's helpful to figure out where your process can be handled entirely by machines and where you need to keep the people involved. We find that mapping things out with a pencil and paper can be helpful, or even collaborating with your teammates with a whiteboard session. Once you've figured out the overall flow of your solution, you should have a fairly clear idea of what the solution might look like in Tonkean.

  4. Where is my process most likely to break down or run into problems? As a last step before you start actually building, it's important to outline where the problems are likely to come up. For example, if you're monitoring an email inbox for NDA requests, could you run into a problem where the requester uses terms you're not expecting to ask for an NDA? Natural variations in language and even non-native speakers can phrase things in ways you might not anticipate. Or, on the other end of your flow, will you always pull your NDA form from the same place? Or could that change? Heading off some of these problems in the planning stages can pay huge dividends later.

Core Concepts and Common Terms

As a platform, Tonkean is composed of several distinct parts that work together to form end-to-end solutions. Understanding these parts and the overall architecture of Tonkean will allow you to organize your connections, connect your data sources, and automate your processes and create the complete process experience that suits your specific needs.



A board is the highest point in the Tonkean hierarchy and can contain many solutions. Boards are usually specific to an entire enterprise, with one board containing all the solutions for that enterprise. If your organization has unique needs surrounding business unit structure, reporting needs, or governance, you can organize your content into multiple boards.



The solution is the core of the Tonkean platform: it contains the description of a business problem, the planned and ongoing approach to solve that problem, and all the logic (that is, the modules and enterprise components) that address the business problem. Solutions also include the workspace app and business report, which allow users to gain important insights into the overall process.

Put simply, a solution allows you to accurately describe a business problem, build out and iterate on a solution to that problem, and respond to ongoing changes. You can build a solution from the ground up or find ready-to-go solution blueprints in the Component Library, giving you a jump-start on common use cases.

Because they can be endlessly customized, solutions can vary greatly from use case to use case, but many address common problems, such as automatically handling requests from multiple channels or coordinating processes between departments. Below are some of the most common solutions:

  • Legal intake, triage, and coordination

  • New employee onboarding

  • Email inbox request coordination

  • Purchasing approval

  • Customer support ticket triage



Each solution is made of modules. Modules house all the custom workflows, connect all of your data sources together, and give you the power to take actions based on the criteria you set up. Within each module, Tonkean provides you the ability to say "when" an event happens, the module takes specific actions.

Modules are typically built and organized as distinct, operational workflows or automations that orchestrate business processes between people, systems, and applications. This organization allows modules to remain simple to understand as they are iterated on and enhanced over time.

For example, a new employee onboarding solution could have the following modules:

  • Request system access from the hiring manager

  • Notify new hires of mandatory training

  • Create and triage IT tickets for new hires

You can build modules from the ground up or find ready-to-go module templates in the Component Library, giving you a jump-start on common use cases.


Data Source

Within each board, you have access to various enterprise components, the building blocks that support and enable your workflows. The most important of these enterprise components are data sources. These include hundreds of native cloud applications you can connect using your username and password or API key. Popular data sources include Google Drive, Gmail, Salesforce, Jira, Zendesk, and Slack. For any non-SaaS or non-cloud-based data source you want to connect (such as custom databases or internal APIs), you can leverage webhooks to integrate them as custom data sources.

Tonkean monitors these connected data sources for any changes and responds based on the business logic you configure. By integrating directly with your data sources, you can orchestrate complex workflows across multiple systems.


Triggers and Actions

Triggers function like "when" statements. At least one trigger must be created for a module to work, but the trigger can range in complexity from beginning a process when a new item is created (such as a new Salesforce opportunity) to containing numerous "if" statements that target specific conditions (such as only opportunities that fit certain parameters).

Actions are the "then" statements that respond to triggers and represent various processes in Tonkean—everything from moving data between systems to contacting a real human.


Matched Entities

Many records in your applications and systems are related. Matched entities take a piece of data from one system and match it to a piece of data in another system that creates a link for those specific records (for example, you might connect a user name in a Google sheet to a username database to move data between the two places). Once the match has been made, you’re then able to pull in all respective data and metadata from your connected data sources. Matched entities is one of the most flexible and powerful features of Tonkean.


Workspace Apps

Workspace apps are the face of a Tonkean solution, providing a user experience for all the actions, data, and business logic at work within that solution. Across multiple pages, workspace apps not only provide a way to interact with your solutions, but also illustrate their value to process contributors, helping to highlight process improvements, cost savings, or other key metrics that are important to your team and organization.

Workspace apps are often designed as central dashboards for shared services teams that provide a way for users to submit requests and track those requests through to resolution. Additionally, you can build specialized metrics that provide valuable insight into your various processes.


Business Reports

Each module has its own business report, which consists of data columns and the items your module is monitoring—they can also provide key metrics, which are aggregate fields that provide a holistic view of important values.

Business reports look much like a spreadsheet, except they're pulling in data from various data sources, providing constant monitoring, and can also provide direct access to module actions. For example, if your module intake source is a request form, you can submit that form directly from the business report.


Items and Inner items

Items are the pieces of data that the module will take action on, and inner items are simply children of items. This is the important data you are constantly monitoring. You can think of items as a row in a spreadsheet, with columns providing important pieces of information about each item. It might have a customer name pulled from Salesforce, that same customer's total payments made amount from Stripe, and their NPS score from Zendesk, all pulled within a single report in Tonkean.



Fields are the individual pieces of data from a data source. In programming terms, fields are like attributes of a complex object, but you can also think of fields as columns in a spreadsheet where the row is the object itself. A field can be data you're pulling in from external entities (Salesforce opportunity name, Salesforce opportunity amount, Intercom Tags, Zendesk ticket number, and so on), or they can be manually created text, number, or date field types.


Key Metrics

These are the formulas and calculations you can aggregate for the data in your data set. Continuing with the spreadsheet example, you might want to do a sum of all the tail spend under a certain dollar amount, or a count of all your open Zendesk tickets. These are metrics that dynamically calculate for your entire data set, for which you can then create a report or create modules to take action based on the values of the metrics.


Learn More

To learn more about the basics of Tonkean, visit another one of the topics below:

If you're ready to build your first module and start automating your unique process, see Tonkean 101.