I’m just as excited as you about this. Frankly, one of the hardest parts about working at Airtable is not being able to tell folks about these kinds of features until they’re available to all. It’s also a dream to be able to get a first look, provide feedback and even give webinars about these features (cough airtable.com/webinars
But, this newsletter isn’t about Airtable or all the cool stuff we do but more of a look at how this fits in the no-code landscape. So stepping back from Airtable automations per se, and looking at the landscape broadly, in app automations is nothing new and is only getting started.
Obviously, you can look at Zapier, Integromat, Automate.io which a lot of software – including airtable – have offloaded all of its users’ automations needs to (until that is, now, to an extent – more below). More recently though, many applications have created their own in house automation suite. Examples include Asana automations
, Github actions
, Monday automations
, typeform connect
etc. In fact, the build-your-automation-in-your-tool game goes way back, Salesforce has no less than 4 potential alternative tools you can use to automate stuff (approvals, process builder, workflow and Flow Builder
That said, none of these in-house automation suites are replacements for automation tools. The latter’s goal is to connect all of your team’s disparate tools. That means integrating into every possible applications. The more integrations, the better! From an automation tool’s perspective: the more tools you use the better!
On the other hand, one of no-code’s goal is to reduce the amount of software you use
. The need to integrate some apps is acknowledging that no-code won’t replace all
software. Some workflows begin, end or happen in part somewhere else and should be accounted for directly in the tool. It is not about connecting to all
tools but to those that core users request most frequently in ways that correspond to this tool (versus all tools for automation tools).
It’s also acknowledging that “if this then that” type workflows are part of a tool’s jobs to be done. If a tool’s goal is to reduce time folks spend on working to work, then, well, it should also remove the manuals steps throughout its own workflow!
I understand why folks see these features as replacing automation tools in that what you use them for can overlap (send an email when this happens!). However, more broadly, they rely on different assumptions. One assumes an ever expanding toolset (that’s not wrong!) and the other hopes for an ever decreasing one (hopes!).
I expect every no-code tool to eventually incorporate some form of in-app automation (and some form of platform but that’s a topic for another newsletter). And what’s great is that new apps vying to be the next no-code platform without the resources to build their own automation features just yet can lean into Zapier until they do. If their value proposition is strong enough, starting with folks who love your tool so much that they’ll also use Zapier isn’t limiting.
Sometimes we can get our cake and eat it too!