The real power of if-this-then-that rules

POST by Sharon Wandili

PSSSTT ...

The power of if-this-then-that rules – specifically for task automation in businesses

“Everything works better together” – IFTTT

  • An input determines output is the fundamental principle of if-this-then-that (IFTTT) rules.
  • You don’t need to know how to code to use IFTTT.
  • You could use if-this-then-that rules for both personal and corporate automation projects.
  • Tallyfy helps you with task automation for if-this-then-that rules within your workflows. Get a demo.

We have been following rules ever since we were born. Some voluntarily – others involuntarily.

Why are there so many rules and why do we need them?

For some, following rules can be daunting as they represent some kind of restrictions. However in reality, modern civilization would definitely become chaos without rules and regulations.

Take an example – where everybody could simply do what they want in a marketplace. How long do you think trading will seamlessly go on until everyone becomes a mad man?! A marketplace without order would be absolute chaos. The same applies to businesses. As a leader in an established organization or a long-term business owner, you understand that to the very least a core set of understood rules is critical to help the business operate.

Business rules in their simplest form, are instructions that define or constrain business activities. They were first developed out of the effort to provide the best approach to business operations and not out of technology contrary to what many might think. To date, business rules are often used to help prepare system-flows or procedural flow charts that outline how a business will operate.

Types of business rules

There are three assertion variations from which rules are defined when part of a process:

  1. Structural assertion – where a fact expresses some aspect of the structure of an organization that determines how decisions are made
  2. Action assertion – outlines a set of conditions that have some form of control over the actions of the organization
  3. Derivation – an additional element of knowledge that comes from other key knowledge about the business

Within the assertions above, rules are further defined as:

  • Coordination rules – they put forward a general requirement that must be met for a process to continue. These are general statements like “All required fields must be filled”. These rules help keep a process moving without re-work
  • Qualification or disqualification rules – they are used when it must be determined if a particular subject should be included or excluded in a process. They could be considered as a filtering rule that prevents a lot of wasted time and effort. For instance, this rule could be applied in a vacation request process in the form of if-this-then-that rule where the values of certain fields are tiered to determine which managers can approve
  • Decision rules – they are used when a subject needs to be evaluated and assigned the next step for example approved or rejected. They can also be used to represent related conditional decisions or if-this-then-that logic in a clear manner.

How business rules support decision automation

In traditional automation techniques, business rules are often hard coded directly within process workflows. These techniques however, are usually rigid and may limit a company’s ability to make quick updates. In contrast, business logic presumably changes over time hence why organizations need to remain responsive and agile.

Workflow management software like Tallyfy offers organizations the capability to model business rules independently from automated processes to achieve this agility. Subsequently, these organizations will be able to separate their business logic from process logic.

Workflow management software empowers you to use business rules in an easy to read format for anyone who defines and runs processes in an organization. Moreover, process experts without programming skills are still able to make process updates without involving developers or impacting the core infrastructure in place. This in turn enables companies maintain flexibility while saving staff time spent updating company policies.

This article will be focusing on decision rules – typically referred to as inference rules.

The real power of if-this-then-that rules

One of the fundamental principles of if-this-then-that rules is that input determines output. In other words – if one thing happens, make something else happen automatically. For example – if I arrive at home, put my Android device on mute. If-this-then-that gives you the ability to create rules that your devices will follow. It’s a great solution if you’re looking to automate certain tasks. Moreover, If/Then statements are usually easily to understand in both ordinary and technical language.

Let’s go through a basic employee on boarding procedure in Company X, which is US based. The company went through the hiring process which is typically standard: advertise the vacant position which is open to US citizens and foreign nationals, assess candidate applications, schedule interview rounds, offer successful candidate the job position, candidate accepts offer, HR team contacts legal team for on boarding.

Company X in this scenario, has implemented if-this-then-that rule system in Tallyfy for the on boarding process. As seen in the GIF below, the HR team has different steps that they have to complete in this blueprint triggered by the input options:

There are two procedure plans that have been set out depending on the immigration status of the successful candidate.

  • If the immigration status of the candidate is US citizen
    • Then show plan x
  • If the immigration status of the candidate is Foreign National
    • Then show plan y

If-this-then-that rule

Julie Ink – a book marketing and publishing service company, is a great example of a real life use case that used the power of if-this-then-that rule in Tallyfy to make their new team member on boarding process more seamless. They emphasized that the ability to branch and hide tasks before they are needed is one of the features that really helped them cut down the overwhelming feeling you get with to do lists. Tallyfy provided variable process trees for them based on their inputs which they couldn’t find in other project management tools. Read more about it here.

Middleware move data between apps (using rules). Tallyfy moves tasks between people (using rules).

Among the many automation tools currently in the market, there are three great automation tools that could help business get from cause to effect without much effort. These are IFTTT, Zapier and Tallyfy. All the integration tools are called “middleware” platforms – for example – Zapier, IFTTT, Microsoft Power Automate, etc.

We’ll start by looking at IFTTT. IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) is one of the most simple automation tools. Ideally, you need to set a trigger (if) and an action (do) between two tools that you are trying to integrate. These integrations are referred to as “recipes” or “applets” in IFTTT and each of them have a specific “mission”. For example, you could create your own applet if you would like to automatically wish Karen from Finance a happy birthday on Facebook. Here’s how:

Start by visiting the IFTTT website and sign in with your email address, Google or Facebook account.

IFTTT

Upon creating your account and have signed in, the tool will ask you which apps you often use on the first page. Here, you could select from popular options such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. Afterwards, IFTTT will show you some of its most popular applets presented as cards. You could choose to use one of the existing applets, take on additional steps before activating the applet depending on the nature of the integration.

In this scenario, it’s important to note that each applet is comprised of two important parts: a trigger and an action. Karen’s birthday is the trigger and when IFTTT automatically wishes her a happy birthday on your behalf -that’s the action.

Is there a right and wrong way to use IFTTT? The answer is yes and yes. IFTTT is best used in simple automation because it’s more user focused, making it fitting for home automation and non-complex flows. This therefore means that IFTTT will not be the best tool to use when dealing with more complex workflows.

We’ll now go over the overall pros and cons of the IFTTT platform. Some of the pros include:

  • Simplifies automation
  • Saves time
  • Ready-made applets
  • Free to use

On the other hand, the cons include:

  • Applets don’t always work as expected
  • Limited triggers and actions

Secondly, we’ll have a look at Zapier. It’s widely used as middleware to move data between apps. Furthermore, it’s a tool that helps businesses connect a wide range of business and productivity apps in order to create interlinked functions across these services. It also uses if-this-then-that rule structure where for instance X and Y can practically be any app  in this structure: If X happens, do Y. Automation within Zapier are called Zaps which allows you to combine multiple actions and apps together.

Think about a Zap as comprising of two key elements: the trigger (If this happens) and the action (Then do this). Let’s say you want Zapier to send you the weather forecast every day via SMS. Your first step would be choosing the built-in Weather by Zapier service as the trigger app for example and today’s forecast as the trigger event. The second step would be choosing SMS by Zapier as an action app and Send SMS as the action event. The same approach could be used to integrate Slack and Trello for team collaboration and effective tasks assignment.

Similarly, we’ll go over the overall pros and cons of Zapier as we did IFTTT. Some of the pros include:

  • Creates automated actions between online services
  • Supports tons of apps
  • Multi-step automation
  • Simple to use, but includes advanced features
  • Free level of service

On the other hand, the cons include:

  • No mobile apps
  • No support for Smart Home devices

It’s therefore best to use Zapier when you need a middleware platform that will analyze data, make customer support run smoothly, and organize your emails, documents, etc and not for casual or personal tasks. The difference between Zapier and IFTTT is that IFTTT is gradually specializing in Internet of things (IoT) unlike Zapier. Moreover, Zapier supports multistep chains unlike IFTTT. To read more about the differences between the two, check here.

Last but not least, we have Tallyfy. It’s a workflow management software designed to assist you eliminate repetitive workflows through task automation. Similar to IFTTT, Tallyfy has three main rule types that take the if-this-then-that structure. These rules are trigger on task completion rule, trigger on form field response rule and trigger on approve or reject response rule.  Unlike IFTTT, Tallyfy can handle complex multi-action flows and automate them in an efficient manner for the users.

Besides the on boarding examples with the GIF above, Tallyfy can also enable you enjoy the real power of if-this-then-that rule by integrating with other apps you are using through Zapier. Cowork Inc. (a co working operator) was keen to implement Tallyfy because of the potential to integrate their web forms and CRM with Tallyfy using Zapier. Subsequently, they were able to track the progress of their new member setup process and other processes by marking a step as complete and only triggering the next step to be assigned to someone else only after that step has been completed. Read more about it here.

Ready to automate your tasks using if-this-then-that rules?

You may be wondering whether to use IFTTT, Zapier or Tallyfy to automate your tasks using if-this-then-that rule structure. All three are great tools depending on your needs. IFTTT would be perfect for simple home automation projects like turn on the coffee maker at 7am every morning. Zapier and Tallyfy on the other hand are perfect for professional and corporate automation processes. Tallyfy is perfect when you want to automate tasks between people.

Below are two good examples to help you differentiate between the role of middle-ware and Tallyfy in if-this-then-that rules.

Middle-ware as mentioned above move data between apps using rules. Think about the ton of the email attachments in your Gmail account that you’ve been postponing saving to Dropbox. Zapier can automate this for you, saving you time and effort. The rules could be set such that every time you get an attachment and click on it, it gets automatically saved to Dropbox.

Tallyfy on the other hand moves tasks between people. Alexandria Transit Company is a good example of how purchase requisition approvals could be completed in minutes using if-this-then-that rules. As seen in the image below, If the form field value $100,000 or more or the form field value Professional Services > $60 is selected in the field ‘What Type of Purchase is This?’ then the task ‘Provide Complete Specifications’ is shown.

if-this-then-that-rules

Alexandria Transit Company was able to move from paper-based approval that could take a couple of days if someone was waiting for a director to be available for a signature to being able to complete approvals quickly. Read more about it here.

If we managed to help you decide which tool is the best for your business, perfect! If not, I would highly recommend giving Tallyfy a try because you can probably apply task automation much more easily and quickly than “application integration”.

Is it worth it? True task automation is the first place to start – because it cuts down friction between people immediately at work. Explore the benefits below.

Busywork per person

1 hour

Employees

100

$ wasted per day

-$4400

Design a step-by-step procedure or approval workflow once. Run it a hundred times - instantly.

Design your workflow once - without flowcharts
Launch processes and track each one separately
Ensure tasks never slip through the cracks again

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