Does that sound familiar?
You have made all the possibilities of Excel your own over the years and have worked up numerous Excel files for yourself in such a way that you can't understand how others can't love Excel too.
Or you have just such a person in your team who always relies on Excel and wants to implement everything there, but doesn't find the spreadsheet programme intuitive at all and has to Google how to do it again for every second function.
Spreadsheet tools like Airtable can be real power machines. With countless linked and functionally assigned fields, huge relative databases can be built that can map almost any information. The problem: this should then only be touched by professionals. Because entering new data in the right place without affecting formatting or functions can become a minefield.
But is that really purposeful? Complex tables and databases that can hardly be operated anymore? Ultimately, it is up to you to answer this question. But we think databases and tables should be accessible, intuitive and easy to use for everyone. That's exactly why we celebrate Airtable so much.
The tool promises to combine the power of a database with the familiarity of a spreadsheet and we can't escape that statement. But what is Airtable exactly? How does it work? And why do we use the tool in almost every one of our automation projects?
Airtable is cloud-based, so it can only be accessed via the browser. And best of all, the application has an API and comes with numerous automations. But more on that in a moment. At first glance, Airtable is very similar to familiar spreadsheets. If you start a new table, a so-called base, you have predefined columns there and can format, name and add to them as you wish. You can also create several tables within a base. This is also a familiar function. What is striking, however, is that the view is truly tidy; at first glance, you might almost think that you can implement almost no functions at all:
But appearances are deceptive. Airtable does not want to be a pure spreadsheet and shows this impressively through the different views. In addition to the grid view, there is a calendar, gallery, Kanban, Gantt or even form view for each table. In this way, the platform can be used for a wide variety of applications. The views are supported by numerous filter, sorting and grouping functions, so that the right view for each piece of information can be viewed and also saved.
Airtable calls itself a powerful online platform for creating and sharing the business management tool. And indeed, the tool can do a lot more than simply collect mindless data and create dependencies. Using the different views, you can create your own dashboard that shows all information in one central place.
While databases can get a bad rap among non-programmers for being daunting and difficult to work with, Airtable with Make and Zapier is the easiest and most customisable development you can get. It's colourful, easy to use and allows anyone to create a company dashboard in minutes to store, organise and collaborate on information about anything - such as employee directories, product inventories and even flat searches - without the need for SQL.
We find: Airtable reimagines the database with a user-friendly overview. What's more, over 50 templates including automations for typical company processes, services and applications that we can easily import offer countless possibilities. Thus, Airtable can be used as a company dashboard and database.
We touched on it briefly above and consider this feature a real game changer: Airtable is not only friendly to use and allows everyone to create a corporate dashboard, store, organise and merge information about everything in the company. This is because Airtable already offers automation itself, which can be further enhanced by Zapier or Make.
Because when Airtable is automated, your team can focus on the work that matters. With integrated automations, Airtable lets you select triggers, such as "Entry meets certain conditions" or "An entry has been updated". But also other tools like Google Sheets or Outlook can be linked by such triggers.
This is followed by an action that Airtable executes, such as "Send email" or "Run script". A conceivable example of this would be that the responsible staff members always automatically receive an email when a certain entry has been made in the table. But in addition to these small automated processes, Airtable can do much more.
We get more out of Airtable through automation with Zapier or Make. In almost every project, we use Airtable as a database at one point or another. Why? Because this tool makes it so incredibly easy for us to have qualitatively valuable data automatically entered into the tool and then reused. Here is an example from one of our recently implemented projects:
The company's industrial customers fill out a form online at the beginning of the process. This form is extremely comprehensive and asks for many details about energy saving and efficiency. Filling out this form alone takes some time (with guidance). Of course, it would be possible to evaluate the answers to this form afterwards in a completely untouched way. But with around 60 questions with several choices, we don't want to do that to anyone. That is why we have linked the form to Airtable.
So first, all answers are automatically transferred into a prefabricated Airtable table. Here the process could stop and we could simply rely on the aforementioned clarity of Airtable. But no. Afterwards, the data structured in Airtable is not only automatically evaluated (via predefined scores from 0 to 100), but also transferred to the tool Stacker. Stacker builds on Airtable and offers an even better visualisation of the data. Industrial customers can now log in and view their results. All data from Airtable was synchronised, evaluated and presented in comprehensible formats.
In our eyes, Airtable is currently the non-plus-ultra when it comes to automated databases in the cloud. If you work with data, and we assume this applies to almost all companies, it's worth taking a look at the tool. If you need something more comprehensive, we are happy to offer a free Airtable consultation. We are happy to support you in uncovering potentials, illuminating possibilities and implementing automation.
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.
Arrange a free cloud integration consultation now
Arrange a free cloud integration consultation now
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.
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
We have made a first distinction between iPaaS and BPA here.
We explain the term SaaS in more detail here.
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.