The future is cloud computing and it is going to be awesome! But, the future has almost arrived, as more than 77% of enterprises had already adopted cloud computing by mid 2015.
That’s why workflow automation is more important than ever before. And, a clearly observable trend is that most businesses are developing a special liking for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications such as:
- Google Apps
Enterprises must spend less time on repetitive admin tasks and should instead focus on strategies to improve efficiency. With workflow automation through the integration of SaaS apps, this objective can easily be achieved.
Also, with automation, there is no human error as apps talk to each other through APIs, and there is a seamless flow of data between them.
Thus, businesses can save costs as well, due to less expenditure rectifying human errors. As life is all about saving time, let us immediately take a look at the top 17 innovative tips for workflow automation.
I prefer to focus on tips which will help you leverage automation tools, such as IFTTT and Zapier, that make it easier to trigger actions in one application — thanks to some event triggered in other apps.
1. Use Zapier to Integrate Salesforce Leads into Mailchimp
Zapier can set up interactions between a trigger and an action, for a variety of usages, ranging from email automation to social media account management.
An ideal example of this scenario would be setting up a “zap” (a rule for the trigger and action) that will identify an email containing videos, and save those media files directly to a cloud service such as Dropbox.
I once did a lot of research on one of my client’s Salesforce systems and found a way of integrating Salesforce and Mailchimp, to import new Salesforce leads automatically — as subscribers to the customer’s MailChimp list.
Why Do You Need to Implement this Tip?
It is possible to import contacts or leads from Salesforce into the MailChimp list as subscribers, by using the built-in Salesforce integration capability of MailChimp — for manager-level users and above.
However, this process needs to be repeated every time Salesforce is updated, with new records or leads. It’s best to import leads into Mailchimp once, and then automate the process of inserting new Salesforce leads into Mailchimp, by using Zapier.
A business can create zaps to import new Salesforce leads into Mailchimp, ignoring the old ones.
The process can be done automatically for all new leads. Once a new lead is added to Salesforce, Zapier integrates it to MailChimp’s list as a subscriber.
2. Automate File Management
Handling data can become tedious if several files need to be downloaded or uploaded to a particular file storage service. A business can receive data from clients each day; that is supposed to be uploaded to one place, which can be a hassle.
And, if you also have to change storage providers, the headache of downloading and then transferring data to a new provider gets even worse.
It is therefore of paramount importance that businesses automate file management tasks, by creating a zap, or by using readily available zaps in Zapier.
For example, while moving from Google Drive to Dropbox, a business can use any one of the following prepared zaps by clicking on the option “Use This Zap,” as seen below:
Along similar lines, it is possible to use other zaps to move files across different file storage providers, such as:
- Box –> Dropbox
- Box –> OneDrive
- Wufoo –> Dropbox
You can even use a zap to upload new data files in Google Drive — based on the entries made in Wufoo forms.
3. Leverage Multi-Step Zaps
The above two tips indicate how to to use high-utility zaps, to set up a trigger and corresponding action. I have recently started using a new functionality offered by Zapier: multi-step zaps. As the name suggests, you can setup multiple actions in different apps — for the same trigger.
I have been in complete awe of multi-step zaps, as I could not stop thinking about how much time it saves businesses by automating several steps at once, rather than wasting time setting up individual zaps.
Moreover, the process of creating multi-zaps is similar to making a single zap, except the last step of each action item can be continued as many times as you want.
Alternatively, you can create a new zap, set the triggers and actions, then join it with another zap.
In such zaps, data flows from top to bottom, similar to a waterfall. And, you can use the data from a particular step, while triggering an action in any of the following steps.
An ideal example of such a zap would be for a business to consolidate data from different app sources, including customer information from emails and forms, into a single Google spreadsheet or CRM tool, such as Salesforce.
You can setup more complicated workflows with multi-step zaps. As an example, let us consider a workflow created by using multi-step zaps — with Typeforms.
Set the trigger to be any response received from its form tool. Once the response is triggered, it activates the first action, and thus logs the response in a Google spreadsheet.
4. Integrate If, That ,Then, This, with Google Drive
IFTTT (If, That, Then, This), is yet another easy-to-use workflow automation tool, that makes it relatively straightforward for businesses to automate different processes.
It can be used to connect with various apps to improve productivity while performing tasks like tracking the company’s budget on the move, and quickly checking all employee tasks.
One effective way of using IFTTT is to integrate it with Google Drive. Many IFTTT recipes can help you get more out of Google Drive, as the two integrate pretty smoothly.
You can link IFTTT to a Twitter business account page and create an archive of all posted tweets. You can store that archive file on Google Drive, by using a Google Spreadsheet, to quickly look at all the social media content posted by the business on Twitter.
It is also possible to add replies and retweets to the same archive. To start using an IFTTT recipe, just follow these steps:
- Log in to your IFTTT account
- Connect the IFTTT account with a Twitter and Google Drive account
- Click “Add” on the IFTTT tip link, after logging in to your IFTTT account
Once your business allows IFTTT to access a corresponding app (Google Drive, in this case), the readily available recipe is set up for quick use. You can also integrate Dropbox and Google Drive to send new files from either of them if a business’s requirement is to shift data storage services.
Even photos uploaded to social media pages can be backed up on Google Drive, by using an already published recipe in a similar way.
5. Setup Automatic Timely Reminders in Slack
Slack helps maintain seamless communication within a team or group environment — via Slack channels.
Consider the following scenario: A business sends email reminders to its employees for certain events, such as:
- Monthly project meetings
- Periodic time filling tasks
- Team collaboration events
And other activities that require participation or contribution from a group of people. Instead of sending emails manually, it’s relatively easier to send reminders to everyone who accepted the particular event in their Google calendar.
So, this tip concerns integrating Google calendar with Slack for timely reminders.
There is a ready-made IFTTT recipe which states, “Before a calendar event starts, post a reminder to a Slack channel.” You can allow access to both Google Calendar and Slack, to set up this integration.
This way, you can ensure that everyone who is a part of the Slack channel will receive a reminder, just before the Google calendar event begins.
Such automatic reminders in Slack channels help businesses ensure increased participation in various events, without wasting time sending reminders.
6. Automate Event Creation via Trello’s To-do List
Online project management and collaboration tool, Trello, involves the use of “Trello cards”. These cards are tasks that need to be done by different team members, within a stipulated period, as indicated by a card’s due date.
With the Trello Calendar, you can set reminders for due dates, but such reminders only work on cards assigned to particular employees.
Now, there is a risk that employees might miss deadlines. Hence, it becomes necessary to sync time-bound tasks with Google Calendar, since it’s easy to miss an assignment or reminder.
Therefore, you need to use another useful calendar app for teams, for example, you can use sync Trello’s to-do list with Google Calendar for tasks with due dates.
You can use a premade zap with Zapier, to create Google Calendar events from Trello cards.
However, even if a business does not use Zapier, it can still achieve this function, with some simple setting changes in Trello and Google Calendar — to help connect them.
Below are the steps that will enable Trello card due dates to show up in Google Calendar:
- First open a Trello card, by clicking on the card and then “Due Date” on the right.
- Ensure that Trello’s built-in calendar is active by clicking on “Enable the Calendar Power-Up,” which appears at the bottom of the mini calendar.
- Then click on “Power-Ups,” which appears in the Trello menu’s right-hand side of the account dashboard.
- It’s important to click “Enable” and then click on the settings icon to activate iCalendar — and copy the web link generated.
- Here is an example of the web link that will help connect Trello’s calendar to Google’s.
- After signing into your Google Calendar account, click on the drop-down arrow, appearing next to “Other Calendars” on the left-hand side and select “Add by URL”.
- The iCalendar web link, which you’ve copied from Trello, needs to be pasted here
- Then click on “Add Calendar” and that is it!
After a few moments, Trello’s Calendar will be imported to Google’s Calendar, and will start appearing under the “Other Calendars” header on the right sidebar.
Eventually, Trello cards with due dates will appear as calendar events.
7. Integrate Google Drive Files in Evernote Notes with Thumbnail Previews
A new possibility opened up earlier this year about offering more context to ideas captured on Evernote.
You can now add Google Drive files to Evernote as enhanced clickable links, or objects that display information related to a file, such as:
- File name
- File type
- Date last modified
However, support for Google Drive files is currently only available with Evernote for Android and Evernote Web on Chrome (beta versions).A typical use of this automation feature is to link budget notes (in Evernote), with particular financial statement files or invoices from Google Drive.
To setup the integration between Google Drive and Evernote, just follow these steps once:
- Log in to your Evernote and Google Drive accounts from a preferred device
- Choose Google Drive’s icon from Evernote’s editing toolbar to attach a selected file
- A “Connect to Google Drive” notification will appear
- After clicking the icon, it seeks permission for Evernote to access Drive files and requires a one-time authentication
- A similar prompt will appear when copy/pasting a Google Drive link file into Evernote
- In either case, when the “Connect” option is selected, access is granted to Google Drive for all future access attempts
For platforms that do not yet support Evernote-Google Drive integration, files will appear as plain-text links in Evernote. In fact, Google Drive file links added inside a table or a bullet list will be displayed as plain-text links.
8. Clone Tasks Across Teams by Assigning Copies with Asana
Asana is a successful project management and to-do list tool, which helps people assign tasks to a team and follow up on them, by keeping some superior authority (such as a manager) in the loop.
You can use a duplicate command for cloning tasks that you assign to team members in different projects.
However, with multiple members modifying the workflow, there is a chance of something critical being deleted or overwritten. To overcome this problem, Asana can clone tasks across various teams by just assigning copies, without using the duplicate command, in a secret project.
As a project’s manager or administrator, you can create a template that is identical to another existing task, for a different project team.
You can assign a task copy to team members by clicking on the person icon. The same can be done by just typing multiple names to copy, and assign the single task to multiple individuals in a team.
Once a copy is attached, an Asana user doing the activity is added as a follower for that task. In projects, such events are likely to be performed by managers or senior executives who can then stay up-to-date with the progress of those tasks.
9. Create QuickBooks Invoices from Salesforce’s Closed-Won Opportunity
The community-based automation tool, Workato, has great app integration recipes to implement certain automated tasks.
For example, I have successfully installed the readily available Workato recipe, for moving Closed-Won opportunities in the Salesforce system, to Quickbooks’ accounting software as invoices for a client.
You can just click on “Install” to create a copy of the recipe as seen below.
Based on a project’s requirements, a business can configure this recipe and start the automation process. Integration between Salesforce and QuickBooks ensures the following:
- If a customer is not present in QuickBooks, then this recipe searches the Salesforce contacts and creates the customer
- If the opportunity has no line items, then it creates a QuickBooks invoice with one line and updates Salesforce accordingly
- If a Salesforce opportunity contains items, then it creates the invoice with corresponding line items in QuickBooks (if not already present)
10. Integrate Trello with Slack for Automated Messaging
Integrating Trello and Slack can make things relatively easy for your business; if you use the first as a project management tool and the second as a communication tool.
The Trello-Slack integration ensures that every activity in Trello cards gets sent as a notification update to the relevant Slack channel. You can follow these steps to automate the flow of messages in Slack for Trello-related activities:
- Click on the menu option, after logging into Slack
- Select the “Apps & Integration” option, which will open a new page, containing all the apps with which Slack can integrate
- A prompt will appear to seek authentication with Trello and select the Slack channel where updates will be displayed
- It is possible to use an existing Slack channel or create a new one
- A business can then add Trello and decide which events and board notifications Slack receives
The best part is that you can integrate multiple Trello boards with Slack, by simply adding another Trello integration. And, it is even possible to remove Trello integration from Slack.
11. Automatically Convert Emails into Trello Cards
With Trello, the objective is to manage tasks and to-do lists appropriately. However, several emails can contain details about different jobs.
So, instead of creating cards for every email received, it makes more sense to automate the process of converting emails to cards, which are accessible on Trello’s board. To do so, follow these steps:
- Log in to Trello and click on “Email-to-board Settings,” which appears in a sidebar on the board’s right side.
- An entirely unique Trello board email address will show up, which has to be copied and added to an email account
- Emails will be converted to cards from this unique address
- Once an email is received that serves as a task, it needs to be sent manually to the board’s unique email address
- While most of the setup process is a one-time activity, this last step must be repeated every time an email is converted to cards
Alternatively, you can use Zapier and its readily available zaps for the same automation process.
You can use any of these three zaps:
- Create Trello cards from new Gmail emails by adding a specific labels
- Create Trello cards from new Office 365 emails in the inbox or folder
- Create a new Trello card, including a Zapier email address in Cc, while sending a new email with Bcc Zapier
12. Use Evernote to Digitize Business Cards with LinkedIn Information
Meeting with new and potential business clients is a regular activity for all sales and marketing personnel in any company. Apart from making quick notes about what was discussed in the meeting, it also makes sense to take a picture of the customer’s business card.
And, if you take a picture with the Evernote camera, it will be saved to Evernote automatically. Thus, it is possible to avoid using another camera and saving the photo to Evernote later on, which might be a lot of tedious work.
Moreover, Evernote will grab text from a card and search for the business contact on LinkedIn, and find relevant information from its profile.
The business contact’s details from LinkedIn are also displayed alongside normal contact details stored in Evernote, especially if you use a Pro account. Without a doubt, it is always helpful to add more details about a potential client to Evernote.
13. Design a Quick Feedback Process for Business Teams With Asana
With Asana, most businesses are more concerned about getting tasks assigned to team members and following them till completion.
However, another important aspect that helps take projects forward, by improving their way of working, is via quick feedback from team members.
There may be periodic feedback sessions or meetings held by different projects, but it makes sense to track all improvement suggestions and ideas cohesively, that different team members share over a period.
Large groups may have many ideas, and it is impossible to remember them all. Hence, the best way is to let team members choose the best ideas, and then the business needs to go through a selective list of suggestions only.
A project manager can also create a project labeled “Feedback” or “Ideas” in Asana. And, every time a team member has a suggestion, he or she can add it as a task to that project. All the other team members can then like the ideas they believe are awesome — by selecting the heart.
In this way, a project manager or concerned authority can learn about immediate tasks that need attention, and work on them
14. Reduce Time Spent on Identifying Qualifying Leads
For an enterprise, it may be quite expensive to go for a high budget CRM tool, such as Salesforce. But, it’s hard not to miss the functionality and hacks offered by such quality tools, especially when looking for qualifying leads out of the many sales that a business may receive.
Hence, an affordable CRM system, such as Nimble, can be used. Zapier can help extend its functionalities through integration with several different lead generating apps, including:
Also, many zaps can be implemented to get leads from such apps, into Nimble, which is a socially connected CRM, and can thus easily find corresponding social profiles of the leads; that could potentially reveal significant information for a sales team.
So, using Zapier to integrate Nimble with different apps that generate leads, can potentially help reduce the time spent in collecting information about them.
For example, it is possible to use the below premade zaps for Nimble:
- Create Nimble Contacts from MailChimp Subscribers.
- Create Nimble Contacts from new Business Card uploads in FullContact.
- Create Nimble Contacts from Wufoo.
15. Post Full-Size Images on Twitter Via Instagram
Social media marketing has certainly changed the way businesses reach out to customers these days.
I’ve handled several client accounts which required me to post regular updates, especially pictures, on their social media profiles. It was easy to post the pictures on Facebook and Instagram, as they displayed in full size.
However, whenever I tried social media integration for any post updated on Instagram, the corresponding image got displayed as a link on Twitter.
When I used IFTTT to integrate a businesses’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, it suddenly became possible to get a full view of images in the client’s Twitter feed. Yes, by just posting a photo on an Instagram account, the below IFTTT recipe ensures a full image display on Twitter as well:
Share your Instagram photos as native Twitter pictures.
16. Integrating Zendesk Using Azuqua Workflow Automator
Azuqua is another SaaS app integration tool which can be vital for a business that wants to automate its workflow processes at different points.
It offers the Zendesk FLO pack, which consists of several FLOs (these are similar to IFTTT recipes and Zapier zaps), that Zendesk enables integration with a plethora of other apps.
So, the FLO pack can be used to send instant alerts to a business’s support representatives, as soon as any negative feedback or tweet gets posted on the firm’s Twitter page. A pre-built FLO exists for this functionality.
Using this pre-built FLO (as seen above), your Twitter account is monitored for specified keywords. However, you first need to configure the Twitter account:
Any negative tweets identified from particular usernames, or related to the keyword, will result in an email notification getting sent to a support representative.
17. Saving Important Gmail Attachments for Access in Evernote
There are many occasions when employees in an enterprise come across important emails with attachments which they need more time to read through, as it might contain valuable information which requires scrutiny.
And, instead of making employees go through their Gmail account several times, it makes more sense to provide them with a workflow automation hack, which saves an email and its attachment for later access.
The email and its attached file can, therefore, be stored in Evernote as a new note. You simply need to mark the corresponding email message; that must be accessed later, with a “star”.
The below IFTTT recipe will help integrate Gmail and Evernote, by seeking permissions to connect the two:
While using Evernote’s free account, it will ask for how much time you want IFTTT to have access. Once authorized, IFTTT recipe asks for where the starred emails need to be saved.
As soon as you click “Add,” the recipe will be created and available for further use.
These 17 tips come from:
- Personal experience
- Working with different clients
- Helping with workflow automation.
I hope they prove useful in various ways, irrespective of the industry utilizing them. With so many workflow automation tools available, it makes sense to use them optimally, either through easily accessible triggers and actions or by customizing the same.
At the end of the day, all organizations want to save time, by automating tedious tasks. And, time saved can be spent on more productive tasks, that require manual inputs, like strategizing and decision making.
If you’ve used any workflow automation workaround at your company, please share such valuable experiences in the comments section below. Even if you haven’t, feel free to comment on the tips mentioned here and thanks for reading!