Posted in Workflow Automation

How to Automate Your Google Apps Workflow Approval and Docs for Increased Productivity

A decade ago, a Google search for the term “cloud” would return images of white billowy objects and weather-related terms. Today? The term “cloud” has taken on a new identity, becoming a vehicle for people and companies to store and manage data on the internet. This has fueled the growth and productivity of expanding organizations—sans a weather icon in sight. 

In fact, cloud-based communication, sharing and organization is pretty standard among modern workplaces. As of April 2019, the cloud-based G Suite (Google Suite) serves five million paid business users and millions more that use it for free. 

But G Suite and its apps are nothing more than a glorified folder and communication system if you haven’t yet connected them to the power of automation. 

Google Apps workflow automation supercharges your organization’s productivity. Imagine an operations infrastructure void of unnecessary delays, personnel bottlenecks, paper filing, overwhelming email threads and chasing around managers for approval. And automated workflows integrated with Google can be applied to many operations processes including:

google apps automation
  • Parent consent forms
  • Liability waivers
  • New employee onboarding
  • Student transcript request
  • Leave request
  • Facilities booking
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Travel Request
  • Purchase order
  • And more…

Here’s the caveat though…Google Apps doesn’t make it easy for the non-techie to create seamless workflows. Creating a Google Apps workflow either involves a lot of headaches and/or deep technical knowledge. 

Here’s the caveat though…Google Apps doesn’t make it easy for the non-techie to create seamless workflows. Creating a Google Apps workflow either involves a lot of headaches and/or deep technical knowledge. 

All is not lost though. In this article, we’ll discuss how Google Apps automation can benefit your organization and what your options are for automating your Google Apps Workflows. 

Speed Up Your Google Apps Workflow Approvals and Processes

You may already be using Google docs and G Suite as a low-cost option to organize your business files and communication. But connecting Google Apps with a touch of automation is the next step to cutting costs and improving productivity. 

Following information from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, copying and pasting, and trying to keep track of long email threads requires a lot of time and management. Here’s how to put some of these manual tasks aside and automate your workflows.

Faster Google Apps Workflow Approvals Using Google Sheets

Connect Google Sheets with Google Forms to automate and speed up approvals. For example, you can set up a workflow to automatically send off a budget for approval to responsible parties and it will also attach your spreadsheet to the email. Note that automatic email sending may require a custom Google Apps Script (see later section).

Create an Interactive Workflow with Google Forms

Using automation, Google Forms let you automatically connect your form data with a Google spreadsheet. For example, if you conduct employee surveys, set up a workflow so that the form data automatically populates an existing Google spreadsheet. This eliminates manual copy and pasting.  

Next, set up spreadsheet notifications that inform your team when anyone makes changes to the data and add columns for managers so they can to indicate approval of specific items. One sheet can take care of multiple tasks at the same time, keeping all of your data and change history in one place. 

Google Forms can also automatically send emails to the requester and/or other parties notifying them of specific actions taken with the form. This does, however, require the setup of Google add-ons such as formMule or working with Google Apps Script (see next section).

When Basic Automation Isn’t Enough…Software Options For Seamless Google Apps Workflows

Setting up basic automation in Google Apps is helpful, but it typically isn’t enough.

One disadvantage to setting up Google forms workflows on your own is that without the ability to assign viewing permissions to select individuals, all parties can see the data in your documents. Google docs does allow editing and viewing permissions but without additional customization, you cannot hide and show data to specific employees. Therefore, automating audit trails and automatically escalating data to the proper channels is not possible without additional intervention of either using Google Script or using custom or third-party software. Let’s talk about each option.

Advanced Automation with Google Apps Script

Google created Google Apps Script to help businesses customize automations that work with their Google Apps. According to Google, “Google Apps Script is a rapid application development platform that makes it fast and easy to create business applications that integrate with G Suite. You write code in JavaScript and have access to built-in libraries for favorite G Suite applications like Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and more.”

Let’s take the earlier example of the employee survey form. Using Google Sheets automation, we know that the form can autopopulate data into a Google Spreadsheet. This is not too difficult to set up. But, if you want to save more time and further automate the process, use Google Apps Script to set up automated thank-you emails that fire after an employee completes the form or send approval emails to managers. 

Google Scripts is not for the typical end user…

Implementing Google Scripts requires a developer who understands how to code in this platform. While there are pre-written scripts available for Google Apps Scripts functionality, spending hours researching the net for the best solution to speed up your processes seems counterproductive. This will especially be difficult for the non-techie as many pre-written scripts will need modification to fit your unique organizational needs.  

In addition, making changes to your workflows (which will occur frequently) becomes tedious because you will also have to find and make changes to the Google Scripts as well, making the management of these scripts an organizational nightmare. Unless you have a technical team capable of managing this ongoing, we recommend considering another option. 

Limitations of Google Scripts

Real-world business workflows are often quite complex. They involve lengthy forms with lots of data, like a purchase order with many line items. Or, sometimes, they have intricate routing and approval requirements that are often themselves dynamic like when the set of approvals required for a purchase order depend on what is being ordered, who is ordering it and the total amount being spent. Oftentimes, documents must be signed digitally and may need to be converted into a PDF, like Federal and State W-4s for new hire onboarding.

Aside from these features, things like ADA compliance, multiple languages, SQL integration are often important considerations, especially for educational institutions, healthcare providers etc. who are subject to regulatory requirements.

It’s not possible to accomplish all this with Google forms and scripts. So, how do you solve these challenges?

That’s where third-party solutions integrated with Google Apps provide the best of both worlds – you can create forms and workflows that meet real business requirements yet save the information to your Google sheets or folders.

Third-Party Workflow Automation Software (All-In-One Solution)

Imagine a world where data flows in and out of Google documents, gets routed to stakeholders and management for approvals, stored in Drive folders, and where authentication and authorization are handled using Google credentials. No coding required. 

This is 100% possible–with a little help from the outside.

If you are looking for this type of Google Apps workflow automation—without breaking the bank or messing with complex coding—consider adopting third-party software. Workflow automation software reduces the complexity involved with this process. Below are the benefits and features of working with third-party software:

GoogleApps-third party
  • Automate accounting HR and other processes by connecting them with your existing Google Apps workspace. 
  • Automatically save form data and documents to Google Drive. 
  • Create dynamic behavior by seamlessly passing, reading and writing data across your forms and documents. 
  • Easily meet complex business requirements such as ADA compliance, PDF generation, SQL integration, , and digital signatures.
  • Secure your employee workflow by using SSO (Single Sign On) authentication so employees can sign into the automated software using their Google Apps credentials
  • And more….

Essentially, software enables you to create automated multi-step Google apps workflows for your entire organization without writing a single line of code.

Already using third-party software? Ensure it integrates seamlessly with Google Apps.

Your workflow tool should enable you to connect your Google applications (Drive, Sheets, Docs, Gmail, Calendar) with your forms and data, giving you the ability to read or write data back and forth without user input. Mobile usage is also important for speeding up workflows, enhancing the user experience and eliminating bottlenecks. 

Custom software

If you have substantial development and budget resources, another option is to create custom software to meet your automation needs. Custom software can mimic the same functionality of third-party software, yet it requires heavy coding and a larger budget. 

Third-party software like frevvo can handle most Google apps workflows; however, if your processes are highly unique to your industry, custom solutions may be the way to go. For example, a property investment firm may want to automatically pull in archived property data when an inquiry comes through. A more specialized (or custom solution) may be the best choice here.

In most cases, however, custom programming is not necessary and should be the last resort. A modern, low-code platform like frevvo offers powerful functionality that’s so easy to use that anyone can simply drag-and-drop to create forms and workflows for the most complex business situations without coding.

Google Forms Workflows Automation with frevvo

If you are considering using a third-party software, let’s take a look at a few ways you can connect your Google Apps tasks with frevvo to automate and speed up your workflows.

1. Sign in with your Google credentials

For organizations that are already using Google Apps, it makes sense to sign in to frevvo using the same credentials.

Since Google Apps acts as a SAML Identity Provider and since frevvo supports SAML, you can easily sign in to your frevvo Cloud tenant or On-premise system using your Google Apps credentials. It’s easier and faster to submit travel requests or absence records if you don’t have to remember yet another password and enter employee information manually.

Follow these easy steps to set up Google SSO.

2. Save to Google Drive folder

One of your employees completes an onboarding form which includes attachments such as a W-4 and other documentation. Typical processes may include reviewing the form for errors, sending to appropriate team members, and saving the document to a company drive—at a minimum. 

But, not with frevvo. With our Google Apps automation functionality, you can set up your workflow to send emails automatically and save the documents to a Google Drive folder you specify. Oh and you also don’t have to worry about user input errors as our forms catch typical errors during the user input process. frevvo’s workflow can also automatically generate the W-4, I-9 and other documents so it’s even easier for users.

Our “Send to Google Drive wizard” walks you through the process of saving your documents to Google Drive.

Save to Google Drive folder

frevvo automatically saves your onboarding forms as well as any PDF attachments directly to your Google Drive. No coding needed.

3. Update a Google Sheet

With frevvo, connect a Google Sheet with your forms and set up business rules which autopopulate the intake data to your Sheet.

For example, this demo form asks for the employee ID, location and extension.

Update a Google Sheet

When the user clicks “Update,” our system will automatically populate your Google Sheet with the data, as shown below. No copying and pasting needed.

4. Create dynamic picklists using Google sheets

What if you wanted to dynamically pull values directly from your Google spreadsheets into a frevvo form? It’s easy with frevvo’s efficient workflows.

In the last section, we pulled data from a form directly into the spreadsheet. Now, we can pull data from a spreadsheet and automatically populate form pick lists

Here is some initial data we want to pull into a form’s pick list:

Create dynamic picklists using Google sheets

Using our business rules, set up a connection between the form and spreadsheet. Using the data above, we were able to automatically update our form with the information in the spreadsheet, as shown below.

Need to update your spreadsheet data in the future? No problem. Simply update the spreadsheet and frevvo will automatically update your form data.

List variations

With frevvo, you can also populate form radio control and checkboxes. Here is an example:

list variations

5. Automate Google Form Workflows

Are you still emailing (or worse, printing) documents and sending them to stakeholders for approvals? We don’t print driving directions anymore and neither should you be chasing down people to approve and sign your documents.

Approvals are necessary to many organizational workflows (think faculty travel requests, student internship applications, purchase orders, employee onboarding, etc.) but they unfortunately can become the bottlenecks that stall progress and rob organizations of productivity.

Whether it’s chasing down people to approve and sign your documents, losing PDFs and attachments in a sea of overflowing Gmail inboxes, or frustratingly trying to handle approvals via mobile device, a lack of automation can be a huge time sink. 

With frevvo’s automation features, your approval workflow is as easy as point and click. You don’t even have to be in your office or check your email. And with Google Apps integration, this time-saving automation will connect with your current Google Suite to create a smooth Google Apps Workflow that happens nearly hands-free (and works seamlessly on mobile). Let’s see this in action: 

Putting it All Together: Google+ frevvo In Action (Leave Request)

Your employee wants to submit a leave request. Typically, this would involve the employee printing out or gathering a paper form, filling it out and submitting it to you for processing. You would then need to verify that these vacation dates are available, and if not, go back to the employee and request different days. If the dates are available, the paperwork needs to be approved by the manager/s and other departments, manually added to a calendar and the employee told their leave is approved. 

This process is long but it can be longer if you need to track down managers for approval, go back and forth with the employee and other department heads to settle on the right days, not to mention the re-printing, emailing, and overwhelming Gmail threads involved with this one transaction.

Automation saves the day. 

With frevvo + Google Apps, this entire workflow happens behind your back (don’t worry, this is a good thing). Here’s what this would look like:

Automation saves the day.

This entire process occurs behind the scenes. The only step requiring human interaction is the actual approval which is a quick electronic signature. Start to finish, there’s no unnecessary bottlenecks, delays, printing, emailing, chasing down signatures, filing or copy and pasting. 

Google Apps + frevvo = Automated Operations Workflows

Marrying the organization of your Google Apps with the simplicity of frevvo forms removes administrative headaches, and within minutes, transforms chaos into calm, with streamlined workflows and processes.

To recap, frevvo’s Google Apps workflow software will allow you to:

  • Automate any process. Integrate it with Google.
  • Enjoy zero-code workflow management
  • Automatically save form data and documents to Google
  • Create dynamic behavior using Google sheets
  • Secure your workflows using Google credentials
  • Get mobile-ready apps connected to Google
  • Eliminate manual data entry with integrations
  • 100% visual customization of business rules and logic

With frevvo’s drag-and-drop form builder, simple interface (no tech knowledge required), extensive knowledge base and world-class support, your organization could be one step away from saving money, time and resources by turning your operations processes into automatic, time-saving machines. 

Want to try frevvo for free? Take frevvo for a free 30-day test drive to see how it seamlessly connects to your Google Apps. Or we’d be happy to give you a free demo so we can show you how frevvo can streamline your unique processes and workflows.

Modern, visual tools for dynamic forms and workflow.