Automating Processes with Airtable and Process Street

In this article, I am going to explore how to use the combination of Airtable and Process Street to automate processes in a structured and repeatable way within your business. As with earlier posts, I will be working through a scenario which, as usual, will be supported by Zapier connecting the apps together.

What is Process Street

Process Street is an online service which lets you create Checklist Templates with which you can automate processes. Each step of a Checklist can be assigned to specific people and the steps can include forms for capturing data (which can be pre-filled if you create a checklist from Airtable). Use cases for which this is suitable are very diverse - from HR processes to client on-boarding - really anywhere you want to create a procedure which needs to be followed repeatedly. In this post I'm using the free version of Process Street (which is very limited in terms of the number of checklists you can have) but has all the basic features. Additional features such as 'stop processing' where a process stops until a particular step is completed are available in the Pro plan:

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 16.29.25

The app is easy to integrate with using a flexibly set up Zapier interface and we'll see this in action later.

The Scenario We'll be Working On

So that readers can compare this with a previous post which handled a similar process using Slack with Airtable, I am going to base this article on building an Leave Approval process based on requests made by employees using my KasPer Lite Airtable base - which is downloadable from the Airtable Universe. Feel free to download the app if you'd like to follow the article - and you can sign up for Process Street Here.

Note that if you have an existing download of KasPer Lite you may need to add a new Formula field to the Absences Table called ID with the formula RecordID().

Unlike the previous post which incorporated a very simple absence approval, this time were going to include a number of steps - making sure that the leave is correctly checked approved.

The process starts with an employee filling in the Leave request form provided with KasPer Lite:

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I'm not going to cover this part of the process in detail because it is detailed in the previous article "Approval Workflows with Airtable and Slack". If you have an older version of KasPer Lite, you will need to download a new copy or create a calculated field in the Absences table which calculates the RecordID().

The process from here will be very different though in that we are going to use Zapier to create a new Checklist (from a Template) when a leave request is made - and when this is completed the leave will be approved or declined back in Airtable. The first step is to create the Checklist…

Building the Checklist Template

In our process, Airtable is going to supply us with details of the leave (into Process Street form fields) and then we are going to have two steps of approval - HR and then the CEO - each with a link to check other leave in the period - and then, when the checklist is marked as complete we're going back to Airtable to update the record as appropriate.

Here's the Process Street home page:

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Clicking on New and New Blank Template (there are many examples you can use) allows you to give your template a name:

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You then go to the Template editor where you can start adding steps.

The first step in the process is actually just a form with the fields which will contain the leave details from Airtable:

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The unusual elements here are that there is a field for a link to the Leave Calendar - this is going to be a link to a Shared Airtable calendar view which will allow the approver to check other leave occurring at the same time.

The next step is for HR to check they are happy with the leave:

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The only items on the steps 'page' are some text which include the Calendar Link field from the previous step. You can see that the step is assigned to HR.

The link is set up like this (remember to click Cancel when prompted if you want to add HTTPS to the front of the link):

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Following this, we then need the CEO to finally approve the leave request and mark the process complete. We will give this person a very similar page to the HR one but with the additional instruction to complete the whole checklist:

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Note that this is assigned to the CEO.

This would be an ideal use case for using the coming feature in Pro plans which allow you to stop a process at a certain point and only continue when it's completed to there. This would mean, in this case, that the CEO would only get to finally approve the leave once HR had.

Once you're happy with the setup click Save.

Creating the Zap to Trigger the New Checklist

So, when an employee requests a leave in Airtable / KasPer Lite, this will create a new record in a view called For Approval in Absences. We are going to create a Zap triggered by this to add a new Checklist in Process Street:

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Step 1 above is simply setting up the trigger on the Absences / For Approval view. Test this step to get a record to follow on the process…

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  1. I have passed the record ID into Process Street - this is to make the Zap which subsequently updates Airtable. I could have used a Process Street hidden field hereabout thought it would be clearer to show the field for the purposes of this post.
  2. I've picked up the 'Name' field from the Absence to populate the name of the Checklist
  3. I've created a link to the Shared view of the Airtable absence calendar - and added the start date of the absence as a parameter. This means that the calendar will open on the correct month.

When the Checklist is created, users will be sent emails like the one blow to alert them to deal with their tasks:

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 21.57.53

Our Process Street home page is now showing some Checklists:

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Clicking on the card shows the detail:

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Clicking on the Calendar Link displays the Airtable leave calendar (and you can see Louisa's requested leave):

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And this is what a (nearly) completed checklist will look like:

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So, now we have half the process - next we need to create a Zap which will pick up the completed checklist and update the leave request record in Airtable…

Building the Zap to Update Absence in Airtable

This process is quite a simple Zap which just picks up when the CEO Check is completed (which requires the completion of the Approval field):

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and the Airtable action simply updates the Approved field…

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Running this Zap for an approved leave will result in the Leave record being marked as approved. You may then choose to use another Zap (or another step in this zap to inform the employee that the leave is approved.

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So, we now have the complete process…

You may well ask why we need to take this process outside Airtable at all? This is likely to be a matter of choice, but using this approach allows people who don't have access to your Airtable base to interact with the data. I could force this being used for a range of processes.

If you'd like to find out more about Airtable (or sign up for a trial) please click here.

Further details of (or again signing up for a free account) can be found here.

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