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Sep 27, 2021

A Primer on Integromat

If you’re not already using Integromat, you’re wasting countless hours every year.

Every good ops manager has a stack of their favourite tools that they utilize in their day-to-day work. Most probably have some combination of Google Sheets, Slack, Typeform, Notion, Airtable, etc.

Knowing how to wield these tools well helps you increase leverage in your productivity and output. For example, Google Sheets helps you run data analysis and create pretty charts more efficiently than you would on your own (i.e. with a calculator and graph paper). Slack enables real-time collaboration without forcing you to be in the same room with others.

Mastering these individual tools is great, but it’s only half the battle. Knowing how to use the tools AND how to connect them together to automate your processes - now that’s pretty magical.

Source: Giphy
“I love doing repetitive tasks”

Said no one ever. But ops people do a ton of repetitive tasks. A lot of our job is building and executing processes. Over and over again.

In my early days on the Driver Ops team at Uber, I used to get driver candidates to sign up using an online form and text them individually to set up an onboarding interview over the phone. The process wasn’t super streamlined and it would look something like:

  1. Set up a Typeform so that the submissions show up in a Gsheet
  2. Look up the Gsheet every so often to check for new submissions
  3. Copy and paste new candidates’ phone number into my phone
  4. Text them to see if they’d be available for a quick chat
  5. Back-and-forth texts to figure out a time that works for both of us
  6. Put in a calendar invite for myself as a reminder

Each of these steps would take anywhere between a couple minutes up to 10 minutes. So taking the average, that’s like 5 minutes per step x 5 steps = 25 minutes. Then you multiply this by the number of drivers I had to onboard and how many times I ran this process in a year. And we quickly get to tens of hours wasted in executing super repetitive, low-value add tasks.

Luckily for us, Integromat can help automate the entirety of a process like this with built-in logic of when to start, proceed, and stop. Leveraging Integromat gives you back time to work on more important and meaningful tasks, like improving your meme game.

Source: Giphy

What is Integromat?

Integromat is a workflow automation tool that “lets you connect apps and automate workflows in a few clicks” and “move data between apps without effort”. It allows users to create workflow automations (called Scenarios) that execute certain actions when a trigger condition is met - basically an if-this-then-that workflow, removing the need for human intervention to take a workflow from “this” (step 1) to “that” (step 2).

So using the Uber Driver Ops example above, you could automate the workflow like this:

  1. When there is a new submission in Google Sheets (a trigger),
  2. Automatically text the candidate with a Calendly link so they can pick an available slot (an action)
  3. Automatically send a calendar invite to myself (another action)

This is a relatively simple scenario, but you could make it fancier by adding more conditions and actions - like a) checking to see if the phone number is legitimate and if not, falling back to the candidate’s email address instead or b) sending myself a Slack notification any time steps 1, 2, and 3 are carried out.

It sounds like Zapier. Which one’s better?

Yes, Integromat is similar to Zapier (pronounced zap-ear, rhymes with happier) in that they’re both workflow automation tools that glue together different apps. I feel like a lot more people have heard of and use Zapier, but my favourite tool Integromat hasn’t yet taken off outside of the no code circle.

But really, if you want to gain some truly awesome automation superpowers, you should go with Integromat. There are 3 main reasons for this:

1. Better value for your money

Integromat’s free plan is amazing and more than enough to get you started. What I really love about Integromat’s tiered pricing system is that the free tier is basically the same as other paid tiers other than a cap on usage, with virtually no other feature restrictions. So you can sign up and use it for free, until you’ve hit the generous usage cap of 1,000 operations per month. And if you reach that cap, it will mean that you’re finding a ton of value in the tool. Then you can upgrade to the next tier at $9/month. (By the way, if we assume you make $100K a year + work 50 weeks at 40 hours/week, you make $50/hour and Integromat has to save you 10.8 minutes of your time to be worth it.)

Integromat’s pricing plan / Source: Integromat

In comparison, Zapier’s free tier gives you only 100 tasks per month, 5 scenarios (or Zaps, as they’re called on Zapier), and single-step Zaps only (i.e. limited to 1 action per trigger). So a lower cap on usage on multiple fronts. The deal breaker for me, though, is that with Zapier, you don’t get custom logic (“if a happens, do x; if b happens, do y; otherwise, do z” type scenarios) until you upgrade to the Professional tier, which costs $49/month. This is a pretty significant feature lock that will restrict you from building automations that are foolproof and address all edge cases.

Zapier’s pricing plan / Source: Zapier

2. Built for complex workflows

Integromat’s UI is much more visual - allowing you to literally connect the app-dots together. And as mentioned, it allows you to build complex, multi-step and conditional workflows even on a free tier.

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Connect the dots (apps) / Source: Integromat

Zapier, on the other hand, started out supporting linear logic only and only recently rolled out Paths, which allows you to branch workflows based on a conditional logic. But not only is this functionality locked until you start paying $49/month, but you can apply conditional branching only to the last step in the workflow (i.e. no multi-branching).

So an automation scenario like the one below would really only be possible on Integromat.

(To be clear, I’m not saying it’s a good idea to build a workflow with over 800 modules - auditing this for any errors would be a nightmare.)

3. Higher ceiling for automations

In addition to being able to handle more complex workflows, Integromat has a higher ceiling on what types of automations you can build. It has several built-in functionalities that I’ve found really useful:

  • Error handling: The whole point of automation is so that you can set it, forget it, and work on higher-value tasks. If there are known errors in your workflow that occur from time to time (e.g. a form submission record missing a Name field), you can design your Integromat scenario to handle that error automatically and continue processing instead of shutting down.
  • Regular expressions: Regular expressions are like Ctrl+F on steroids. They come in super handy when you’re trying to find a phrase or a string of characters that you know the pattern of, but not necessarily the value. For example, if you were asked to find every email address mentioned in a 100-page document, you couldn’t do it with a Ctrl+F because you wouldn’t know what the email addresses are. But you know what email addresses look like (i.e. some combination of letters and numbers, then an at sign, then more letters and numbers, then a period, then some letters) and you’d be able to extract all strings in the document that match this pattern. In the context of Integromat, regex is super useful in parsing scraped data and emails.
  • Making custom API calls: This is a bit more advanced. But If the default triggers and actions available on Integromat don’t address your needs, you can also build customized API calls on Integromat. This way, you’re not limited by the constraints put in by Integromat. Making API calls isn’t something that you’ll likely use everyday, but a good back-up option to have.

In my view, the only downside with using Integromat vs. Zapier is that the learning curve might feel steeper with the former. But that’s precisely because Integromat is more powerful and allows you to do much more. If you’re still on the fence, I recommend that you give Integromat a try with some simple automations and work your way up slowly.

A simple automation example

The best way to learn is by doing, so let’s build a simple automation scenario together.

Let’s say that you regularly get lots of emails with attachments that you have to download and save. Perhaps it’s automatically generated invoices that you have to store in a folder, or maybe it’s PDF receipts that you have to file an expense report for at the end of every month. Instead of having to download each attachment individually, you can automate this task using Integromat.

Automatically save email attachments to GDrive / Source: Integromat

This automation tasks just 3 steps to implement:

  1. Watch emails. Integromat checks your inbox every so often (set to whatever time interval of your choosing) to see if you’ve received any new emails. You can set Integromat to check for all emails or only those emails that meet certain conditions (e.g. only from a specific sender or only emails containing the phrase “Here is your receipt”).
  2. Iterate through attachments. In case there are multiple attachments to a single email, the Iterator “iterates” through all attachments. If you knew for a fact that there would only be one attachment per email, you could skip this part. The filter (the flask icon between steps 1 and 2) filters your emails from step 1 to only progress those emails with at least 1 attachment through to step 2.
  3. Save in Google Drive. The attachments from your emails are saved in a Google Drive folder, designated by you.

And there you go, in three easy steps, you’ve automated a task using Integromat! If you’re interested in creating more automations, here are some more templates on simple scenarios you can set up.

Takeaways

  1. Integromat empowers you to automate most of your workflows so you don’t have to keep doing repetitive tasks.
  2. Compared to similar services like Zapier, Integromat has more friendly pricing + more powerful capabilities.
  3. Setting up a simple automation is relatively easy and you can learn as you go.
  4. You should get on the Integromat train right now!

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