No-Code Automations & Workflows

February 3, 2024

Note: The below section was re-written from my original words by an AI Branding Assistant I built during week 5 of Embark. Read my week 5 ChatGPT post for more insights. The original text is preserved at the bottom.

Updated Post:

In the latest session of our Embark series, we dove into the transformative world of web automations, spotlighting Zapier as a pivotal no-code tool. My journey with automation tools like Zapier and Microsoft PowerAutomate has equipped me with a nuanced understanding of their interfaces and functionalities, enhancing my ability to streamline complex business processes.

However, a critical examination of Zapier reveals its pricing and plan structures as a potential barrier, particularly for those just beginning their automation journey. The limitations of the free tier, which restricts users to two-step "zaps," pose challenges in creating more nuanced workflows, such as a trigger -> Filter -> Action sequence, due to the count of steps rather than actions.

To navigate these constraints for a recent project, I leveraged Zapier's free trial to craft a sophisticated Zap. This automation was designed to streamline my consulting workflow by filtering consultation requests based on priority and directly notifying me of high-priority inquiries via SMS. This ensured immediate attention to critical client needs, illustrating the power of automation in enhancing responsiveness and client service.

Yet, this experience also highlighted the importance of cost-effective solutions. For instance, integrating form requests into my Notion database and leveraging Gmail notifications provided similar functionalities at no additional cost. This reflection underscores the necessity of balancing functionality with affordability, particularly for small-scale operations or those new to automation.

My exploration into automation extends beyond this instance, with past projects including:

  • Developing a Zap that monitors RSS feeds for high-end video card availability, addressing the acute challenge of scarcity by notifying a dedicated Discord channel.

  • Crafting an automation that captures updates to a favored video game, summarizing and sharing patch notes for enhanced player engagement.

  • Utilizing Microsoft PowerAutomate to construct comprehensive project log management systems, encompassing multi-step tasks from automated email alerts based on project status to end-to-end project lifecycle automation.

As we advance to the next session focused on ChatGPT, I remain committed to exploring and demystifying the vast potential of no-code and low-code solutions in empowering businesses to navigate the complexities of modern operations with agility and innovation.

Original text:

Session 4 of Embark introduced Zapier, and the concept of web automations using no-code tools. I've used Zapier in the past, and have used the Microsoft PowerAutomate enterprise automation tool extensively, so I'm very familiar with the interface and purpose.

One major downside with Zapier is the pricing and plan structures. In particular, the free tier plan only allows two-step "zaps". You can have a single trigger, and a single action. The free steps count against this restriction, so for example while a filter step does not cost a zap, it still counts as a step. So on the free plan you cannot set up a trigger -> Filter -> Action workflow.

The Embark ToDo required the filter to be used. I did the free trial to have access to the additional tools needed and built a Zap to do the following:

When my consulting client completes their consultation request web form, filter out low priority requests, text any request that is higher than low priority via SMS to my cell, so I can check in and plan to complete.

While this is generally useful, there are other tools to accomplish similar results for lower cost. I already have my form request submitted into my notion database and sent to my email with no cost. I could use gmail notification settings with a free gmail address to get the notifications I was interested in. I believe Zapier could be used to great affect with much larger workflows, but their cost/zap and limitations seem prohibitive to entry level usage.

Other automation workflows I've built in the past that would apply:

  • Created a Zap that listened to an RSS feed for high end video card updates and notifies a discord channel

    • Video Cards were very difficult to acquire for quite a while so this was very useful for myself and some friends!

  • Created a Zap that listened to an RSS feed for updates to a video game we were playing and posted the summarized patch notes

  • Using Microsoft PowerAutomated, built out project log management tools with many multi-step tasks including:

    • Automated email notifications to project team members based on project status changes

    • Project life cycle automation from Target Leads, into forecast, to active project logs, through to project completion

That's all for week 4! Looking forward to the ChatGPT week 5 session.

Dustin Doucette - 2024