How EarnIn Used Tonkean to Scale Its IT Support


EarnIn is a financial services company that facilitates Earned Wage Access (EWA) with an app that gives its users access to pay they’ve earned when they want or need it. The idea behind Earned Wage Access is that employees get to access a portion of their earned wages before their next scheduled paycheck.

When the company began growing quickly, the HR and IT teams weren’t scaling commensurately. Peter Vu, Senior IT Specialist with EarnIn, had a team of four people; over the course of about six months, EarnIn hired 84 people (not including contractors). Only recently has Vu’s team been able to expand, by two people. 

That’s what led Vu to look for ways to automate many of the tasks his team frequently performed, in order to maximize their efficiency, minimize the demands on their time, and make IT more available for important tasks and requests. 

The Challenge: Scaling Teams’ Capabilities Without Scaling the Teams 

It started with the onboarding process. Because HR and IT have to be involved with every new hire during a time of rapid growth, they discovered that their onboarding processes were both too manual and didn’t flow well from one task to another. “It was just a bag full of miscellaneous tasks that we needed to perform in order to onboard,“ Vu said. 

They decided to automate large portions of the onboarding process and began looking for the right tool for the job.

During that search, they identified more tasks and processes that could benefit from automation. At first, the goal was mainly to help HR with onboarding. But then the scope expanded to include IT and Engineering as they saw the value it could bring to the organization.

That was the point when the full challenge became clear: What the IT team needed above all was the ability to support other teams more effectively. As it was, they were constantly on their back foot on a lot of issues. They didn’t have much time to devote to preventing problems and proactively fixing things. Instead, they were constantly in “firefighter” mode.  

They realized they could leverage Tonkean to reduce the amount of manual labor they had to perform while coordinating with multiple teams so they’d have more time to spend on those other critical tasks. 

The Solution: Automate Tactically

Tonkean allowed Vu’s team to automate numerous business processes and create internal tools that help IT—and other teams like engineering, recruiting, and HR, as well. And they found it easy to get going with the basics, like building workflows and connecting them to data sources. “We have more use cases from different teams that are adjacent to IT and don't really have anything to do with IT,” Vu said. “But with automation in place within our organization, we can definitely help other teams do the same thing as us.” 

EarnIn uses Tonkean tactically as an enterprise-wide platform, by looking at specific problems that arise for other teams and getting creative about attacking the details. Here are two examples: 

Automating fast approvals

Vu’s team wanted a fast approval system for engineering requests–especially “break glass” requests. If something would break, Engineering team members needed approval for something like super access to AWS in a hurry. 

They used an automation that connects to the Okta identity management platform and creates a custom group through which Tonkean can assign super access without IT having to be directly involved.

The request will go to Slack, where Engineering managers can approve, deny, and revoke access.

Automating manual back-end work

One of the more constant requests Vu’s team receives from the wider organization that his team has to triage and resolve has to do with Mobile Device Management (MDM), which is the software that the company uses to manage corporate hardware. New devices deployed in the company need access to corporate resources. IT has to grant and gate access to each device, depending on multiple factors like seniority and which team a person is on. 

To make initial setup easier, they created a device trust exception group so users would be able to access some resources for a limited amount of time. But people still needed to have their devices added to that group. Multiple times per day on average, someone in the company would request access to that list. It was too overwhelming to handle each request manually, so they made it self-service. Problem solved…

…almost. The secondary problem was that they didn’t have enough software licenses to keep up with demand. They needed a temporary workaround until they could get more licenses. So, they connected a Google form to the device trust requests, and the form updated a spreadsheet that’s connected to Tonkean. Every time Tonkean detected that an item was added to the spreadsheet, it would pull that email address and add that user to Okta. 

The Tonkean implementation and support teams were along to help every step of the way. “They’re extremely knowledgeable and extremely fast to get back to us on different things,” Vu said. He added that they also learned a lot from working with the support team in terms of what to include in workflows, like human validation. Human-in-the-loop processes are critical for those exception errors where a human needs to make a decision. Tonkean is designed specifically to handle these asynchronous exception errors by including humans throughout the process, without the process breaking down.

Fuel or friction?

The way EarnIn uses Tonkean speaks to the “fuel or friction” concept of deciding how to solve a problem: Do you need more fuel, or do you need to remove friction? In EarnIn’s case, freeing up IT’s time wasn’t about adding more “fuel” in the form of additional team members; it was about removing the friction of manual tasks and clunky workflows that consume too much of their time and energy. 

By automating so many of their processes, and doing so tactically as specific issues arise, EarnIn’s IT department is better able to support other teams smoothly and efficiently.

Want to learn more about how you can start automating with Tonkean? Get started here.

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