What is Automation in Business?
Automation is the process of setting up a system to automatically complete a task when certain specifications are met. In this article, we will focus on automation in the online world, and the potential for automating all web applications. Today, due to the large number of applications, data, and interconnectivity, the capability for automation in any business has increased exponentially. As remote work becomes more common and companies seek to increase productivity, we are finding that productivity lies outside individuals and, unsurprisingly, in the cloud.
How can companies and startups use Automation?
Companies and startups are using automation to complete tasks instantly that used to take humans anywhere from 5 seconds to 500 minutes, or even longer, to complete. Businesses are finding a multitude of potential uses with automation. If you don’t have a profound understanding of what an API is and how it connects the web, you might want to consider the longevity of your career and how you receive your paychecks.
Entrepreneurs and business leaders should ask themselves: is there any part of your day that feels repetitive? Do you do something once a day, once a week, or once a quarter? If your answer is yes, then that task can most likely be automated. As AI (Artificial Intelligence) rapidly improves, we are finding more and more ways it can be applied. For example, AI can update your website automatically depending on your visitor or tailor a follow-up email specifically to the recipient. Until you use it to run an Airbnb across the world without lifting a finger, you might continue to underestimate how easy and useful automation can be for your side hustle or small business. Big businesses have been doing this for a while, but luckily for you, with technology, we’ve finally reached the point where any individual can utilize the beauty of automation and have a beneficial cost-benefit.
In all seriousness, don’t worry about your paycheck. It doesn’t do any good for your mental health. What we at Toarc United are seeing is that where big tech used to exist to create great efficiencies, they are starting to rotate to security. This is fantastic for entrepreneurs everywhere and for innovation! Why? Because when monopolies allow individuals to create again without disadvantaged barriers to entry, everyone prospers.
What used to take a team and a truckload of cash can now be done with one or two people and a $50 per month subscription to your favorite API integration application. I’ll explain what an API is in a moment, but first, I want to focus on what individuals and entrepreneurs can do with it. With these integrations, smaller single-use-case startups are finding success because they can now plug their platform into other platforms. In the past, if one application/platform didn’t have all the best features, bells, and whistles, you’d have to upgrade and find the platform that provided the best of the best, which would typically come with a high price tag. The question you should be asking is…
Will subscription prices decrease in the future?
The answer is a resounding YES. As explained in the paragraph above, increased competition and simpler platforms will lead to price wars that drive subscription/service prices down. Less horizontal integration means less inefficient coding, resulting in less man/woman power required to keep those complex platforms operating at high efficiency.
What do we mean by horizontal integration? When a company like Microsoft or Google tries to provide you with storage, calendar, email, software, cellphones, games, video chat, social media platforms, search engines, voice boxes that listen to you, and many other things, logically some things start to fall through the cracks. Still not sure? Try searching for “Google Store reviews” and see how they’re doing. Let’s not forget that these giants also control the search themselves, so they’re great at hiding the “bad” on themselves. Don’t get me wrong, the Microsoft suite is great, and it has improved a lot since the 90s, or wait? (In case you can’t pick up my sarcasm, it was sarcasm.)
In summary, what happens when monopolies have to deal with smaller barriers to entry? Companies like Calendly, Zoom, Dropbox, and more reveal that these tech giants might be spread a little thin. Previously, companies had to focus on building out many different use applications for their users, or potentially lose them to a product that has more features. APIs have found a backdoor around the two or three options we used to have (Microsoft and Google) for integrated software applications. The time spent developing horizontally now gets developed vertically. This is great for the end user because while we now have to buy different subscriptions, we can use APIs to integrate our applications and customize their features to fit our “use-case” best. With platforms that have many more capabilities and features within their specific niche (Calendly, Zoom, Dropbox), innovation returns and freedom of choice reigns supreme. With smaller barriers to entry, competition also returns, and subscription prices drop fast.
Why Do Entrepreneurs Need to Know About API Integrations?
Entrepreneurs need to know about API integrations because they can help automate processes and increase efficiency. However, some software solutions, such as Microsoft’s Power Automate, are only offered to enterprises and require an additional cost. This can be frustrating, especially for smaller companies or individuals who are priced out of these tools.
To compete with big tech, entrepreneurs and start-ups, such as Zapier and Make, have already created similar solutions. Additionally, companies like Adobe offer costly monthly subscriptions that only include a fraction of their products and restrict some of the best features.
This article aims to help individuals, entrepreneurs, and innovators navigate through these challenges and learn about API integrations that can improve their business processes without breaking the bank.
You don’t have to pay a big price tag to purchase a suite of software with features you won’t use.
The key takeaway is that you can now find and purchase only the individual programs or software you need for your job, start-up, or project without having to buy the other 10 programs you’ll never use. Platforms like Make (formerly Integromat) and Zapier allow you to link up only the services you actually need. For instance, if you only need Adobe Sign but don’t want to buy an Adobe package, esignatures.io offers a similar software to DocuSign, where you pay only for the contracts you actually send, instead of a monthly subscription. This is perfect for startups that lack consistency. Furthermore, you may not need an Adobe package at all; you may just need to have an e-contract sent out every time you get a new client or schedule a new appointment. This is where vertical integration comes in, offering a simple design with everything you need at a small price tag and no unused subscriptions.
Imagine walking into a new gym, where the front desk worker tells you that a gym membership costs $50 a month. You happily sign up and head inside. However, you soon discover that the free weight area is locked. A gym worker approaches you and explains that this section of the gym requires an additional $50 membership fee, as your entry membership only includes access to the cardio section. Perplexed, you ask, “But I don’t plan on using the cardio section. Can’t you simply remove the $50 entry fee, lock me out of the cardio area, and only allow me to use the free weight area for the same price? After all, the free weights are the only reason I joined the gym in the first place.” The worker apologizes but insists that they cannot do so due to certain restrictions.
This example illustrates the point that large horizontal software companies tend to employ similar subscription models today.
Entrepreneurs should be aware of API integrations because they can help automate various tasks at a low cost. For instance, at least once a week, we at Thoughts of a Random Citizen use a link to our schedule to schedule a podcast guest.
While this may not sound particularly innovative, we were thoughtful in our approach and implementation, which has saved us thousands of dollars per month. Rather than hiring someone to manage our scheduling, introduction information, contracts, and confirmations, we have streamlined the entire process and completed these tasks ourselves without incurring any additional expenses.
What is an Example of an API Workflow?
In this example, we’ll explore the workflow for scheduling a podcast guest using automation. Once we’ve found an amazing new guest to feature on our show, we simply send them a link via Calendly to schedule a session. From there, the automation takes over and the rest is done for us.
The guest chooses a time that suits them best and fills out a quick questionnaire with necessary requirements for our podcast. Once they confirm and finish scheduling (which takes less than 3 minutes), an automated explosion happens on our Make (Integromat) platform.
Make takes note of the guest’s name and uses it to schedule a session on our podcasting platform at the scheduled time. It then includes the newly created session in an email that is already written and waiting to be sent.
A contract is also triggered when the guest schedules on Calendly. The contract includes everything the guest needs (name, email, phone, etc.), and is filled out in the questionnaire on Calendly. All the guest has to do is agree and click sign. (Toarc has already automatically signed via our automation process.)
When our featured guest signs the waiver, it’s automatically placed in our database in a newly created “featured guests name” file. Certain questions on the questionnaire require information about the guest. These answers automatically get logged into specific files in the same database under the same featured guest name file.
The interview is automatically added to Hugh’s (Thoughts of a Random Citizen Podcast Host) calendar. Another automation blocks off specific availability depending on what was scheduled on Hugh’s Calendar.
All of this is done by simply pasting a link for the guest to schedule. What used to take at least 30 minutes to an hour to set up now takes less than one second. The API aspect of this workflow is the game changer. The possibilities for other potential workflows are endless, so let your imagination run wild!
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It allows you to access specific parts of data that are otherwise not being utilized from the backend of most applications or software. API integration and automation have limitless use cases and are essential not only for this article but also for your startup, company, and life.
If you have coding experience, you know that almost everything on the screen, including paragraphs, words, buttons, pictures, and sections, can be singled out and used as data or integrated with other applications. If you don’t know how to code, just know that everything, from a widget to a notification, a hyperlink to the sign-in screen, can be used any way you see fit. The picture below shows the gibberish letters, numbers, and symbols that go into creating the post you’re reading right now.
If you know how to inspect a webpage, you can see that the post you’re reading is full of the same gibberish as the photo above. Yes, behind every screen and pretty thing you look at on a screen is the gibberish above. The best part is, you can pick out specific data to perform repetitive tasks. If you don’t know how to inspect a webpage, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter. Just know that the new wave of innovation is almost here, and you can benefit and control the innovations yourself. We, here at Toarc United, believe that the new wave is coming soon and that it’s coming, in part, because of API integrations.