Automation is a term that is often difficult to grasp. Originally, it meant automation in production or manufacturing in particular. First through assembly lines and then through robots, activities are transferred from humans to machines. But this does not even begin to apply to all companies, especially not service providers, but also to companies that have many digital processes in addition to production.
In this context, automation means that digital processes can run independently instead of requiring human clicks. Data is transferred automatically and is always available in the right place. This opens up an incredible number of possibilities. But what can be automated? What is possible at all? In order to create a better understanding of this, we have collected and present here 10 examples that we have automated for our customers.
In this way, we want to create awareness for everything that is possible. Because automation is definitely not just for big companies with even bigger production lines. On the contrary, small and medium-sized enterprises in particular can benefit from automation. We show what is possible.
A client looking to revolutionise the air purifier market based on the latest technology received support throughout the order process. As the inventor of a breakthrough way to use air purifiers without harmful waste or additives, the goal of providing pure, clean air for the home or office is central. Ultra-free particles, pollutants, viruses and bacteria are filtered out of the air. But as new as this technology is, so is the company's process flow.
At the beginning of the automation, no customer onboarding had been established. Initially, all process steps were done manually. The Shopify shop stood alone and was neither linked to the database nor to the customer and product management. The solution was therefore not only automation, but initially also the implementation of numerous tools: Pipedrive as CRM, Airtable as database, the existing Shopify Store and Lexoffice for accounting.
The goal was to create a seamless, efficient and most importantly scalable onboarding process as the company anticipates strong growth in the future. At the core are Pipedrive and Airtable to capture the different stages of onboarding and modify them through buttons. Depending on the status, different emails with relevant information are then sent.
The Shopify shop has also been integrated with Airtable and Lexoffice to keep track of orders and invoices. Invoicing is now automated and fed directly into Lexoffice from the information in Airtable and Shopify. Finally, inventory management has been implemented in Airtable to provide an overview of stock.
Project management for agencies
An international consultancy agency also asked the question, "what can be automated?" For them, we were able to replace a severely outdated database with a process optimisation including the implementation and integration of new tools. The outdated database was used for almost all processes: as a CRM, for project management but also as a basis for project accounting in the accounting department. But the system reached its limits: New employees needed a long time to get used to the database, the overview had been lost for a long time and the search for the right, relevant data was time-consuming.
The solution now consists of an integration of different applications: Lexoffice for accounting, Plutio for project management, Airtable as the underlying database and DocuPilot and DocuSign for automated quotation and contract creation. The old database was replaced by Airtable, which is accessible via the cloud and can easily be connected to other services. Projects can be automatically created or started within Plutio via a button in Airtable. At the end of the month, invoices due are automatically created with Lexoffice and signing contracts for clients is automated with DocuPilot. Everything is connected to Airtable to keep track of the stage of projects and clients.
By ticking a checkbox, reminder emails can also be sent automatically for existing offers so that potential customers do not forget. If the offer is accepted, there is no need to create the contract manually: one click on a button in the CRM is enough and the rest is done in the background without you noticing.
Customer onboarding for individualised products
We successfully implemented another project for a client who offers customisable catering trailers. These can be requested online and adapted to a variety of requirements. Since the production process is very individual, it is necessary for the customer to provide extensive information at the beginning. This process of gathering information and preparing offers was previously done completely manually. In this case, automation has not only increased efficiency, but also the satisfaction of the employees, as fewer time-consuming and tedious tasks have to be carried out.
The first step is now done via a form that is integrated into the automation and linked to the CRM and the emails. Based on the information in Airtable and in a data store, newsletters are first sent automatically to prospects with reminders after a certain time. In addition, the assignment of customers to responsible sales staff is done automatically, which drastically reduced the time it takes for prospects to be connected to the correct team member.
Here, too, the entire customer onboarding process is accompanied by automated e-mails, so that close customer communication and loyalty are established from the very beginning. If emails are not answered in the first step, reminders can also be triggered by the employees. Either way, all stages that customers are currently in are stored in the CRM as well as in the data store, in order to provide employees with easy access to this information at all times.
Customer administration for financial institutions
A financial house for asset and financing consulting wanted to improve the processes for client administration, which had previously been carried out manually. Until now, relevant client data and supplementary documents such as folders were stored manually on a local server. Filling out the documents and assigning them to the clients was also done manually. Moreover, there was no central system for customer relationship management for all these activities.
The solution is a mixture of Google Mail, Google Drive, Pipedrive and Calendly:
As a first step, we implemented a Google Form on the website of the financial institution, which automatically stores the data entered there in a data store. Subsequently, a separate folder is created in Google Drive for each customer. In addition, a new contact is created in Pipedrive, a cloud CRM. If a sales meeting is now arranged with the corresponding person, the employees only have to enter the date and time in the data storage and an entry is automatically created in the calendar of the corresponding sales employee via Calendly. A confirmation of the appointment is also sent to the customer.
Finally, employees can send an email to a generated no-reply address with a specific code, which will automatically upload the file attachments to the correct client folder in Google Drive.
What can be automated? The entire customer journey for management consultancies
Nautylus is a modern consultancy for marketing, digitalisation and content production. The consultancy supports its clients in developing and implementing new web and marketing strategies and thus helps small and medium-sized enterprises in particular to improve their digital presence.
This is exactly why Nautylus wanted to improve its own customer journey on the website. In particular, the sending of emails and the creation of important documents such as NDAs, GTCs or data protection agreements for projects were the focus. These processes were to be expanded and supplemented by a comprehensive project management system so that recurring process steps no longer had to be carried out manually.
At the beginning, a Google Form was implemented on the website, in which customers can enter their data and thus start the entire process. The information is automatically transferred to a database in Airtable. There, further actions can be initiated via buttons, depending on the project status. A button, for example, triggers a new project in the project management tool Plutio. Based on a template, a new project is created for which the clients are registered at the same time and can thus view the progress of their project and collaborate. Connected to this, a folder is automatically created in Google Drive in order to store all relevant documents there and share them with the clients.
Another button starts the sending of the general terms and conditions, data protection agreement and a non-disclosure agreement, if this is desired. These documents are completed with the master data from Airtable using a template and then sent to the customer for the digital signature. The entire process is accompanied by automated e-mails to keep clients informed about the current status of the onboarding and project.
The sales process for service providers
For a Hamburg-based company that helps professionals find a suitable partner university for a doctorate and supports its customers throughout the entire process of writing and publishing the doctorate, we have significantly shortened the time-consuming onboarding process by efficiently supplementing the existing processes. Above all, the target group includes people whose university career dates back some time and who work in a full-time job.
The sales process had increasingly become a time-consuming process that was not scalable and quickly reached its limits. Onboarding clients and matching them with suitable European universities while ensuring that applicants meet the requirements for a PhD is a lengthy and extensive process. Many documents and records, such as certificates, credentials, proofs and personal documents, have to be obtained.
The first step was the correct connection of the contact form on the client's WordPress website. In addition to sending an email to the relevant employees, the customer's information is stored in a database in Airtable.
Since the ongoing contact with customers is mapped via e-mail, Outlook was also integrated. In this way, potential customers can be reminded of their promotional opportunity after an initial contact and valuable information can be provided at the right time every time.
To ensure that all this information is also available to employees in a clear and intuitive way, the existing CRM Pipedrive was expanded and thus forms the central console for tracking the customer status. By assigning different customer statuses, it is possible to track which phase a lead is in, which next steps need to be taken and it is ensured that no prospective customer is lost. This automates communication for the evaluation and preparation of a doctoral opportunity at one of the partner universities.
Instead of investing a lot of time in repetitive, standardised processes, the company automatically receives the necessary documents and can make them available to the partner universities. The time saved in this way can be invested in a much more targeted manner for the optimal and comprehensive counselling of existing customers and the acquisition of new ones.
Interview preparation for coaches
Another automation had a completely different goal: For a client who offers individual coaching for herself and other networked coaches, we implemented a process that significantly shortened the preparation for these individual coaching sessions. Through our client's website, visitors can book coaching appointments online with a selection of coaches. These appointments are first synchronised from Wordpress directly with the CRM and newsletter marketing tool. Through this data, a billing is created based on the hours and days booked.
But now to the actual, extraordinary automation:
In preparation for the coaching session, coachees have always been asked to record and send in a longer audio recording of themselves. In this recording, some questions are answered and it can be up to an hour or longer. Instead of listening to this recording, taking notes along the way, stopping and rewinding the recording again and again, the recording is now automatically transcribed and made available to the coaches. In this way, the coaches can prepare for their session optimally and efficiently without spending an enormous amount of time on it. This enables them to provide the best possible support to the people they coach.
Improved customer experience for local online shops
We created a very special and unique automation for the Swiss online shop Tomflowers. They were already using automation in some places in the company before. So the question was not so much "what can we automate?" but rather "what else can we automate?" To improve the customer:inside relationship, we thus supported the online shop as follows: Tomflowers makes it possible to order bouquets and flower arrangements online and have them delivered to the desired location, whether office or home. This is done on the basis of a Shopify shop.
Delivery is made promptly, of course, so that the flowers arrive nice and fresh. To create an even better customer experience, we have automated parts of the shipping process. When an order is received, it is prepared by the warehouse staff. Before the bouquet is wrapped and sent, a photo of the bouquet is taken with a team member. This photo is then uploaded and automatically attached to the dispatch notification email.
This way, customers not only receive the information "Your flowers have been sent", but also an attached photo of their own flowers to increase their anticipation.
Questionnaires and huge amounts of data for industry service providers
There is no way around energy efficiency and climate protection. This is precisely what Open House of Energy (OHOE) GmbH from Munich, a service provider for industry and commerce, has recognised. The company supports its partners and customers in improving their energy efficiency. Especially companies that have to comply with strict standards, but hardly have the resources to implement them, receive fast, targeted and realisable solutions for their own energy efficiency from Open House of Energy.
For this purpose, OHOE's internal and external specialists first record the current status of the industrial plants, the energy consumption and the general savings potential. This recording means a highly individual query for all customers. This was precisely the challenge for Open House of Energy: the specialists had to walk through the facilities on site for several hours together with a contact person, answer questions and enter all relevant information.
The first step towards automation was therefore a digitally fillable form that OHOE customers could fill out independently and from anywhere. This extensive form resulted in a huge amount of data for each individual company, which was almost impossible to qualify and organise. It was precisely for this reason that OHOE actively sought a streamlined and efficient solution. Attention quickly fell on the database and table tool Airtable and wemakefuture as a service provider.
The prerequisites for cloud automation were in place at OHOE: JotForm was used for the digital forms, a cloud tool for online forms that enables extensive and individualised questionnaires.
However, the data resulting from the form had to be processed and made available to the customers on a central platform for processing and viewing. Airtable stands in the background as an automated database that collects and correctly assigns all data records. For the visual representation of the data, Stacker was chosen, a customisable user interface based on Airtable that allows clients to access and view their own data from anywhere.
After filling out the questionnaire, the data is correctly assigned and qualified in Airtable. Depending on their own answers, the customers receive a result from OHOE, on the basis of which another, more comprehensive questionnaire is issued. On the basis of this result, various automated e-mails are sent.
If the customers achieve a fixed score in both the first and second questionnaires, the individual proposals for improving energy efficiency are made available in Stacker. These are evaluated by the customers according to their feasibility and efficiency in order to find an optimal solution together. Through different roles and rights, it is also possible for different users to view exactly the data in Stacker for which they are authorised.
This enabled us to automate the entire analysis, provision and evaluation of data for Open House of Energy. The customers can view their results at any time, forward them to the responsible colleagues and potential savings are identified jointly and transparently. This process was a real benefit not only for OHOE, but also for their customers. So what can be automated? The processing, structuring and provision of large amounts of data to exactly the right people.
Project reporting for organisational consultancies
The consultancy sector has to face challenges that many other sectors are also familiar with: time- and personnel-intensive processes increase internal costs, a multitude of agreements are necessary, controlling and KPIs are gaining in importance but also entail additional work. The organisational consultancy IMAP from Düsseldorf solved precisely this challenge through automation.
Strong growth characterised the recent past of IMAP GmbH. However, the IT infrastructure could not keep up with this growth. An outdated local server structure caused discontent and unrest among employees and managers. The desire to switch to a cloud structure quickly led to new possibilities for cloud automation.
In addition to the changeover to a cloud structure, internal KPIs were defined at the same time to create a better overview of projects, performance and utilisation of the entire organisation. But it was precisely these KPIs that needed to be visualised and communicated. The question of what can be automated only arose in the course of the project.
To this end, Podio, a cloud work management application that IMAP was already using, is at the centre of this automation. The employees were used to entering their working hours, project statuses or updates in Podio. However, the data collected there was not being used optimally. In the first step, it was therefore necessary to structure and qualify the previously available data on, for example, orders, employees, tenders and current and past projects. This was done by first transferring the data into Google Sheets. There, all relevant data can be clearly and purposefully prepared. Based on this, Google Datastudio, an application for visualising data, was connected.
Google Datastudio thus automatically creates weekly reports that enable the management, executives and teams to gain a detailed insight into the status of the company. Every week, all employees can see the current status on the intranet homepage. This collected data is discussed in the teams and used for follow-up and continuous improvement.
What can be automated? A lot!
We have tried to keep the previous examples different. Different industries, different companies, different processes - nevertheless, all could benefit from automation. The scope of such a project can also vary greatly: From smaller 3- to 4-step processes to entire processes across departments, many things can be implemented. So the answer to the question "What can be automated?" is actually "So much!". The technology behind it is always the same: various programmes provide us with interfaces, so-called APIs. We control these and let all the tools talk to each other. This is done via so-called integration platforms such as Zapier or Make. In this way, we create an automated data flow without any human interaction.
Both Zapier and Make support several thousand apps from very different areas. However, the benefits of such automation are very similar for many companies:
Gain time for valuable tasks that require human (inter)action, such as: Sales, project work, consulting, business development, marketing, strategy development and many more.
Increasing the productivity and efficiency of the automated processes
High scaling, as the automations run stably and performantly regardless of the data volume
If this post has made you curious and you're asking yourself "Can I automate my processes too?", we'd be happy to find out in a no-obligation initial meeting. Together we will find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable. We look forward to hearing from you. And either way, we hope that after reading this blog post, you have received answers to the question of what can be automated.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.