Automation can be an overwhelming concept - where to start, which processes to automate, how to develop an efficient plan. However, reworking existing business processes to run automatically or on a scheduled basis can be a big time and cost saver for a company.
Whether it’s something as simple as running a financial report automatically and saving it in Excel, or pulling data from an ERP and mapping it to a Shopify site, automation eliminates tedious, repetitive tasks that can cost a business hours of work while also limiting human error.
There are many different types of automation depending on the application and business case, but 3 standard examples are automating within an application, basic automation with batch scripts or other simple scripting languages, and more advanced automation with a language such as python:
Many tasks can be automated from within an application, and this is often the simplest approach. With financial reports for example, programs such as QuickBooks offer the ability to run reports on a scheduled basis. Rather than manually exporting a report at the end of every quarter, you could simply setup a scheduled report to export a quarterly report, and even set email recipients.
This could be even more useful for reports that are run more frequently, such as at the start of each week or business day. Simple in-app automation is available in many different programs, and can save you time over the course of a week or a month on repetitive tasks.
Scripting is a type of programming involving generally simple commands. In Windows, for example, a script could be used to copy a series of folders or files from one location to another, or run an application automatically. While this might not seem like a useful tool, there are many other repetitive tasks that scripting can be used for.
If your first task everyday is to go and check your inbox, a simple batch script could be made to open your default web browser and load your email client, like gmail.com. This same script could then be scheduled to run as soon as you login using the built-in tool Task Scheduler.
This basic example could save you time in your morning routine, but, on a bigger scale, using the same tools could enable you to automatically perform other similar tasks, like renaming a large batch of files all at once, or shutting down a program that refuses to close correctly, all without needing to press ctrl-alt-del.
Advanced python automation
For more advanced scripting and automation, a more powerful language is needed. Python can be used to integrate and automate apps with each other. Through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), several different programs can communicate with each other.
An example of python automation could be exporting product data form an ERP and uploading it to a Shopify website. ERPs often provide APIs allowing for applications to integrate with them, although the actual methods of integrating can vary between different ERPs. Shopify also offers an API with many different features, such as adding new products, or updating existing ones. In order for these two applications to communicate, some sort of middleware needs to be put in place. This is where Python comes in.
A python script can act as a bridge between applications, connecting with your ERP to export product data, modify field names from the ERP in order to match fields in Shopify, then upload that data to Shopify. If you often find yourself creating .csv files of product names and fields to upload to Shopify, a python script to automate these tasks could save hours throughout your day for more important tasks.
There are many different forms of automation, from helping an individual with basic tasks to more advanced integration between applications. Determining what is needed for your business requires identifying the pain-points and drafting a strategic plan that addresses each one.
The Aptimized team is experienced in crafting innovative technology solutions that drive success and deliver high-quality results. Contact us today to request a proposal and learn more about how we can help.