Automation

Accelerate team execution and save valuable time with automated workflows that combine multiple scenarios and actions. Automate repetitive, manual tasks such as approvals, status updates, and reminders. Or automatically move or copy rows from a source sheet to a destination sheet when criteria are met. You can easily create, manage, and collaborate on the workflows using the visual editor.

Automated workflows consist of three components: triggers, conditions and actions.

Blocks and Paths: Anatomy of an Automated Workflow

Building an automated workflow is similar to building a flowchart. You’ll place triggers, conditions, and actions together from a start block to one or more end blocks.

In the workflow builder:

  1. Select the Add button Add button  
  2. Choose what you want to add (condition, condition path, action). 

To conceptualize automation, think about workflows through the following framework: when a change triggers the workflow, if the row meets the conditions you set, then do the action specified.

See the table below for details on what these elements do.

Element Use for
Trigger block The specified date and time, recurrence configuration, or activities in the sheet that set the automated workflow into motion. 
Condition block Used to filter which rows are included in workflow actions on the same path
Action block The type of automation (alert, approval, request, and more) that you want to take place as a result of the trigger and preceding conditions. Details on the different types of automation available can be found here.
Condition path A line that connects blocks to depict different routes that your workflow may take depending on the conditions you set. Your workflow may have a single path from trigger to action or it may have several paths to indicate different actions based on preceding conditions.

Automated Workflow Best Practices

Keep the following in mind as you set up your workflow:

  • Type a name for your workflow in the upper-left corner of the workflow builder
  • Make sure to Save your workflow (click save in the lower-right corner) after set up or after any changes. You can come back and make further changes to your workflow at any time.

Trigger Blocks: Define When Your Workflow is Executed

When creating automation workflows, you can define the criteria that will trigger your workflow. Triggers include:

  • When rows are added or changed
  • When rows are changed
  • When rows are added (this won't trigger for changes in existing rows)
  • When a date is reached

    trigger block

You can enter criteria for the workflow trigger next to When in the trigger block to ensure that only desired changes in the fields you choose will trigger the workflow. For example, you can create a workflow that is only triggered when the Status of an item becomes “Complete”.

Consider the following when setting up your the trigger block:

  • If your workflow is triggered by changes to Any Value then this will include when a cell becomes blank.

  • Actions that will automatically modify the sheet cannot be triggered by inbound cell-links or cross-sheet formulas. This includes Request an approval, Move rows, Copy rows, Lock rows, and Unlock rows. For example, if the Status cell on the row is populated by a cell link with a value from another sheet, changes to that cell value through the cell link will not trigger a workflow that locks the row when Status changes to Complete.

Condition Blocks: Filter What Your Automated Workflows Send

Between the trigger block and action blocks in your automation workflows, you can define conditions to filter which rows will be included in the resulting alert or action. You can also add conditional paths to handle a range of different scenarios for automating actions in one workflow based on the criteria you specify. 

Create conditional logic in a condition block by clicking and to toggle between the two states:

  • Only one condition needing to be met (or)
  • All conditions needing to be met (and) when firing the subsequent actions

click and

For example, when a new IT request ticket is added to a sheet through a form, you can send different alerts and requests to specific recipients depending on the department, priority, and request type specified in the ticket.

Mix And-Logic With Or-Logic on the Same Condition Path

If you want to mix and-logic with or-logic conditions, add multiple condition blocks (for example, one for your and conditions and another for your or conditions) on the same condition path.

mixed logic

The example above requires that the criteria in Conditions (1) be met before the criteria in Conditions (2) is evaluated.  


What to Expect With Overlapping Condition Paths

It’s possible to configure condition paths which overlap—meaning that similar or the same conditions have been defined for different condition paths. In these situations, Smartsheet evaluates conditions from left to right, and actions will be fired for the leftmost condition path (of which the conditions are met). Smartsheet will not fire all actions for all parallel paths of which conditions are met. 

For example, say we have an automated workflow with two condition paths, Conditions (1) and Conditions (2):

Overlapping logic

  • Conditions (1) is the leftmost path and its condition is that Price is less than or equal to 100. (This triggers an alert straight to the Finance Manager)
  • Conditions (2) is to the right of condition path A and its condition is that Price is between 50 and 250. (This triggers an approval request to key stakeholders who are in a Contact cell of the sheet.)

When the workflow is triggered for a row with a Price of 100 or less, the action for Conditions (1) will be fired, because its condition has been met and it’s the leftmost of the two overlapping conditions. (The action for Conditions (2) won’t fire unless the Price is between 101 and 250.)
 

Action Blocks: Specify What Kind of Automation is Triggered

With an action block, you can choose what type of automation you want your workflow to perform when triggered. Use the following table as a reference for the different types of actions.

Use this type of alert or action In this situation
Alert someone

To alert people about key changes in specific fields
To alert someone when they’re assigned to a new task
To know when fields are set to a specific value (for example, a Status dropdown field is set to “Blocked”)

Note: Attachments are not sent with time-based workflows. Attachments are only sent if they are added or updated at the same time as the trigger for the workflow.

Set a reminder To alert people (either based on a Contact field or entered manually) on, before, and after key dates (either based on a date field or manually specified)
Request an update To obtain detail from a work item owner when an item is overdue (due date is in the past and status is not complete)
To automatically seek the latest information from a work item’s assignee once a value changes in a specific field (for example, when the status on a row changes to “In Progress,” request that the assignee update the Start date)
Set up an approval workflow For sign-off from a key stakeholder on a specific task
For someone to approve or decline an item (for example, Director approval on a project proposal to advance its status to Approved or Declined, respectively)
For approval on an item that meets a certain criteria (for example, Finance approval when an item's cost is over a certain amount
Move or copy rows to another sheet To move or copy a row to another sheet when it is marked as complete.
To automatically route incoming work items to different sheets based on characteristics (for example, when the Responsible Department is assigned, move the task to that department’s intake sheet).
Lock rows To prevent further edits after an item has been approved or completed
To prevent further edits after a particular point in time
Unlock rows Provide process consistency by allowing items to be edited only when prerequisite steps are completed

When you add an action block, you’ll choose which type of action you’d like to use. If you select an action type and you’d like to change it, then select the Menu icon in the upper-right corner of the block to change the action.

In the action block of your automated workflow, select Menu > Advanced options to configure which fields are displayed in the alert or request, or Approval status and button name detail for Approval Requests.

Advanced options

Select Your Recipients

Configure the action block to ensure alerts and requests are sent to people who are involved with a specific work item. You can configure them to be sent out to:
People in a Contact field for that row (for example: the Assignee)
Everyone shared to the sheet
People that you manually specify
Members of a channel in a third-party app such as Slack or Microsoft Teams

If you’ve set up an alert with yourself as the recipient, but you're not notified when you edit the sheet, you’ll want to turn on notifications for changes you make. See Adjusting Personal Settings for more information about changing notification preferences and other settings in your account.

Create a Custom Message

You can create a custom subject and body for messages delivered by alert-type and request-type actions to ensure that the recipient has all of the information and context they need to be fully informed or take appropriate action.

See Dynamically Add Cell Data in the Subject and Body of Alert and Request Messages to make your custom messages even more powerful.