Fintech Automation Blog

Introduction to Web-Based Automation

general automation process web-based apps workflows zapier Aug 11, 2021

by Mark Anthony Figueroa



In the past few posts, we’ve covered:

  1. What this blog series is about: Getting started with simple, cost-effective web-based tools and automation to save time performing administrative tasks.
  2. Process and Workflows
  3. Process Management Tools
  4. Schedulers
  5. Creating a JotForm
  6. Email Quality of Life Tips

Feel free to go back and review the previous posts at your convenience. Today we’re finally going to discuss automation: What is automation, how does automation work, how should you use automation for your small business, and why you should automate sooner rather than later.  

In our upcoming posts, we will go into specific ways you can use JotForm to automate data-entry and certain tasks. 90% of the automations we use and provide revolve around our data-gathering process in our favorite form builder: JotForm.

Our JotForm templates are designed to be automation-friendly. They include comprehensive conditions for rapid operational use.

Each of our forms includes a comprehensive video series on how to edit and use the form. While most of our forms are primarily used by Financial Advisors / Planners, Consultants and Attorneys there are some that are non-industry specific and the others can be customized further using our JotForm training courses. Purchasing the form will enable you to book a discounted Coaching Session with us to help you edit/modify the form for your specific needs if you need additional assistance.  

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or reach out to us at [email protected]. We’re here to help.



There are tons of complex definitions that delve into the technical aspects of it, but in a nutshell, all you need to know to get started is that automation is the processes of making technology do things automatically. 

For example: My cat is an automated alarm clock. At 6 am sharp, regardless of the season, he jumps into bed and licks my forehead. I never have to set him, and batteries are not necessary (though he does leave behind fairly large depleted batteries). 

He is indeed the cat of tomorrow.

On a serious note, an automation could be something as simple as having your booked meeting automatically populate on your calendar and creating a contact in your CRM at the time of booking, or something complex like automatically creating a contact record in multiple applications, tracking and tagging the contact at every step of your client lifecycle and sending automated email campaigns based on the tagging. 

You can safely and effectively automate most things. The best tools for your automation needs depends on what process and in which application you want to automate in. 

We will touch on using other applications within the automation sequence, such as Calendly, Acuity, Your email inbox, etc. For automation tools, this blog will focus on Zapier, but will touch on others here and there.


Why Automate?

  1. Consistent processes
  2. Consistent client experience
  3. Efficiency
  4. Procedural Cohesion 
  5. Organization

Asking why you should automate is like asking, “Why should I use the timer on my oven when I can just stand next to it while my dinner cooks?” 

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that standpoint, that view would be fine for the Modern, Stone-Age Family. 

Unfortunately, we aren’t in the Stone Ages. As uncertainty continues to grow due global crises, political unrest and a general collapse of the global economy, we can at the very least ensure some crucial operations can run from remote locations without putting people or processes at risk.

The entire purpose of setting an automation is to have commonly-used systems perform tedious but crucial tasks. That said, I want to reiterate that it is not an absolute necessity and your business certainly does not need a process, workflows or automated tasks; however, implementing automation will help you to more efficiently maintain or scale your business.

So now that we’ve got JotForm set up, integrated and added to our email templates, how do we determine what automation tool we need to use?


Web-Based Automation Tools that connect with JotForm

Zapier - Great for multiple unique automations. Excels at a la carte automation. - Great for batched automation processes. Excels at Static Workflow Automation. - Similar to Zapier. Also excels at a la carte automation.

If This Then That (IFTTT) - Similar to Zapier. Excels at extremely custom automation and offers very affordable pricing. 

Integromat - Zapier for developers or engineers. Affordable pricing.

Microsoft Flow aka Power Automate - Automation within and between Microsoft Apps.

There are also a plethora of desktop RPAs out there. Many offer months or year-long free trials to get acclimated to the system. We will not cover these throughout the course of this series, but let us know if this is something you would like for us to explore.

With so many options, why do we recommend and use Zapier?

Zapier integrates with 95% of what our clients use and most of the applications we use. We are certified Zapier experts who offer business automation services and consultations.


Automation Dos

  1. Have a documented process in place. Without a process, it is very difficult to identify where and how tasks can or should be automated. A documented process does not have to be a 3-ring binder with 1000 laminated pages. It can be something as simple as a Google Doc with high level bullet points.

Note: Later on in this blog we will touch on process and task management tools. If you have no process, it is a great time to put it on paper. We’ll show you how to transfer it into a responsive, easy-to-use digital medium.

  1. Write an outline / walkthrough of the very specific desired outcome of your automation sequence.
  2. For example: I would like an automation sequence that uses the form submission to add them to your CRM (since it is the most important data), creates a unique Google Folder, adds the contact to Mailchimp and generates applicable tags for automated email campaigns.
  3. Consider the applications you’re using and identify what they can integrate with. Most applications have a features or integrations page with information on what they interact/ connect with. Just because automation tools exist, it does not mean that an application can integrate with the tool. If your app has an open API, there is usually documentation that an expert can use to configure a custom integration for you.
  4. Expect the automation process to be iterative. It will not be perfect the first time. That’s fine. You do not need perfection, you need function and reliability.

Expect occasional disruption in your automation. It will likely happen every time an application receives an update.

That is not to say that the tools are unreliable. To put it into perspective, using a 3rd party platform to create an integration between two applications is the same as using a professional middleman to communicate with someone else. The service is reliable, but sometimes there’s traffic, sometimes the middleman falls asleep from being overworked and sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason for the disruption, but a connection needs to get reset.


Automation Don'ts

  1. Do not set up an automation sequence without research. It’s an exciting topic, but if you jump into something like Zapier and try to do all of these “neat” and cool things without reading the instructions first, you will get discouraged.
  2. Most automation tools are simple to use, but you have to review some general documentation. Depending on what you seek to automate, there will be instances where you have to get creative with the implementation (which is where we come in), but generally speaking most simple 2 to 4-step Zaps (Zapier automations) have templates or can be set up relatively quickly.
  3. Do not implement an untested automation.
  4. Do not set up overcomplicated automations that will disrupt your organization if one piece fails. Instead set up multiple small interdependent automations that will not cripple your operations. This will enable you to isolate, identify and fix issues rapidly without interrupting your business.
  5. Do not think automation is a one-time solution. Something will always fail. Automations on web-based applications function because the applications can be configured to “talk” to each other. An update in one application used in an automated process can disrupt the entire sequence.
  6. DO NOT START BIG with automation. You will need to test every new item and ensure it works. The bigger you want to go, the more testing you will need. A quick, simple and verified automation can be improved over time, whereas a complex setup will require specific outlines and instructions for usage and troubleshooting.
  7. Do not try to automate anything that requires editing, review or a personal touch. Email templates are better, more efficient alternatives.
  8. Do not create an automation you cannot explain to a 5-year-old. Before you automate anything, always write out / discuss what you want the sequence to produce. As a general rule of thumb, if you cannot explain it, it will fail.

Next Post

In summary, automation can only be implemented into an automatable process. That means a process has to exist in the first place. There are many tools, specialists, experts and developers that can assist you in creating an automation so long as they know what your goals are. In the next series of posts we will take a look at Zapier. Using the form we created, we are going to automate our Initial Contact / Cold Lead Workflow. When someone fills the form, we will have their data go into a Google Sheet, create a lead-specific folder, create a contact record in Wealthbox and add the contact to Google Contacts. 

Thanks for following the series. If you’re a newcomer, please share your thoughts and feel free to look at the previous article. 

If you found this helpful, like, comment and share. Chances are there are many people in your professional network who would benefit from this information, so don’t keep it a secret. 

Also feel free to think of creative uses for some automations. Consider what applications you’d like to carry out specific actions. For example, when a specific colleague sends an email referring someone to you can have a sequence that generates a draft of your Referral Response Template.

The next post will be up the Wednesday after next, as usual.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. We’re here to help! Shoot an email to [email protected] or click here to see our form templates for sale.

Each of our forms includes a comprehensive video series on how to edit and use the form. While most of our forms are primarily used by Financial Advisors / Planners, Consultants and Attorneys there are some that are non-industry specific and the others can be customized further using our JotForm training courses. Purchasing the form will enable you to book a discounted Coaching Session with us to help you edit/modify the form for your specific needs if you need additional assistance.

This blog is written by the Sphynx Automation team to help DIYers use web-based apps.

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