We at Rubber Duck Digital do a lot more for our clients than building web and mobile apps and the marketing around those app.
One of the most common requests we get is for help with business automation. Both in terms of marketing automation and business processes automation.
In this blog post, we’ll have a brief look at what business automation actually means and how we use different services to save our clients time, effort and money by automating mundane and time consuming tasks to free up time to focus on their core business and goals.
I should point out at this point, that the services and software highlighted in this post are the ones we use most regularly and we are not being compensated in any way for name-checks.
Automating certain processes within your business can save you and your team valuable time. At Rubber Duck Digital, we understand the importance of having a streamlined workflow that allows your business to run smoothly and efficiently. We have the expertise and knowledge to ensure that all of your business automation needs are taken care of, allowing you to focus on what matters most – growing and innovating.
Automating business processes brings a number of advantages to small and medium sized companies, organisations and charities. Not only does it help streamline workflows, but it can also save time and money in the long-run. Automation also allows businesses to make more informed decisions as data is collected and analysed quickly. With automation, businesses are able to make better use of their resources, allowing them to focus on delivering excellent customer service or implementing strategic plans.
One of our long standing clients, Impact Mental Health, is a social enterprise helping people suffering from a range of mental health wellbeing issues.
All of their courses are currently run online using a Learning Management System (LMS) that Rubber Duck Digital launched for them in 2020.
They have to process a huge number of forms and data that helps their team to monitor learner progress as well as giving a detailed insight into the performance of each course.
All the forms were being collected manually and relevant data added manually to disparate spreadsheets either locally or in the cloud. This was taking up about 6 hours a week of manual processing, and of course was prone to error.
What We Did
Forms and data were being manually processed for each course. This involved adding data to spreadsheets and manually uploading PDFs to cloud storage.
Manual processing of data can be prone to error and uploading PDFs laborious and tedious, resulting in team members spending several hours per week on these tasks.
As the Impact site is built on WordPress, we started by building the dozens of forms using Gravity Forms to help speed up the process. With most of our WordPress based applications, Gravity Forms is our “go to” forms builder. It’s lightweight yet incredibly powerful.
We built a custom plugin to be able to pass data from each course, to the relevant forms dynamically so that a single form can be re-used across different courses to keep the workload when creating new courses to a minimum.
Each time a form is submitted, as well as storing the data for processing, a PDF is automatically generated and is stored on the web server. The PDFs are also emailed to the course facilitators for review.
The Cloud Service
As Impact were already using Google Workspaces, we decided to use a mix of Google Drive, Sheets and Docs to store data and PDFs. The processes we have built for Impact could just as easily use any other cloud service like MS 365, Dropbox etc.
Clearly, Impact needed a way to simplify and automate these manual tasks. We looked at two possible solutions:
- Building custom APIs to handle the automatic data updates and PDF transfers or
- Using an API platform or service to act as the API connector between the website and cloud services
As both time and budgets were tight, we opted to go with Zapier for the integration. We’ve used Zapier on many projects over the years, and while it’s not the cheapest, support is good and we’ve yet to find a service that it doesn’t integrate with. There are also some other services to consider, like make.com and a WordPress specific product called Uncanny Automator if you’re working with a WordPress site. As we were already familiar with Zapier, we could build the interfaces pretty quickly, so all things considered, this was the best choice for this particular project.
Now this is what the automated workflow looks like for the first part of the project.
Impact also need to check other data generated as part of each course, for example scores from quizzes, questionnaires and feedback forms.
To automate this, we first create a spreadsheet template using Google Sheets to use for storing the data from various different forms.
The spreadsheet contains a tab/sheet to match to each form based on the form title.
Then, when a relevant form is submitted, the data is then sent to the form using Zapier. The Zap looks for the relevant sheet and then creates a new row to store the data.
All the relevant data is stored and available to the course facilitators to give them oodles of super-helpful data to be able to track a learner’s progress, the overall performance of individual courses and loads more besides.
- The Impact team are now confident that all data is accurate and updated in real-time.
- No more laborious uploading of PDFs and other documents saving TIME and MONEY.
- Realtime data and analytics that can be visualised “at a glance” giving the Impact team real insights into their courses and how best to continually improve them.
This has been one of the most useful and helpful improvements to our BAU processes and has lifted a huge burden from all of usDéanne Clark – CEO Impact Mental Health
We’ll be continuing to add more automations to Impact’s workflows over the coming months, but more importantly, in Q2 of 2023, we’ll finish the build of a complete reporting and analytical BI dashboard built using Google Data Studio to provide more sophisticated and streamlined data visualisation.
If you would like to know more about this project or would like to talk to us about how we can solve some of your digital challenges, please feel free to get in touch.
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