Looking to save time and effort?

(Who isn't?)

The problem is finding the business automation tools that actually work for you instead of making your life more difficult--without having to go through the seemingly inevitable pain of trial, error, frustration, and deletion.

Luckily, you don't have to. Here's a list of useful automation tools from Work Mobile Forms, a company that helps businesses go paperless by creating flexible forms on any mobile device. (Sounds good to me.)

See if some of the following can make your business life a little easier.

App to App Integration

IFTTT (if this then that)

Just as it sounds, IFTTT performs automated actions that take place when preset user-defined conditions occur. These then trigger action sets called recipes.

Users can set up multiple recipes to perform tasks across 140 channels from Facebook to Instagram to Soundcloud. For example, you could create a recipe that adds any image you create on Instagram to a Dropbox folder.

You can even have the app close your garage door if it starts to rain, as long as you have the right smart-home hardware. (More on that later.)

Similar to IFTTT, Zapier is intended more for businesses that want to automate conditional events without writing their own code. Zapier currently connects to over 300 apps (and counting.)

Users set up events, or "Zaps," by asking two existing apps to talk to each other. For example, an inquiry received on Wufoo can create a new lead in Salesforce. The platform is extremely versatile due to the large number of connectable apps--and you can view multiple Twitter accounts.

Business Services

The aptly named Curata is a web curation app that helps businesses automate their content curation and distribution by identifying relevant content and learning the types of content individual users prefer.

Curata is a versatile tool that integrates with a variety of social media, CMS, and marketing platforms and can automatically produce a range of outcomes like creating a landing page to posting on Twitter.

HubSpot creates a single hub that lets you manage and automate your entire marketing and sales process. They offer a wide range of functions and a comprehensive suite of tools: you can create blog posts, integrate social media with contact databases, manage content and optimize SEO, build dynamic landing pages... and the list goes on.

You can also devise integrated lead management strategies along with intuitive email marketing.

(Yes, I like what HubSpot provides.)

MailChimp is one of the better-known tools for creating email newsletters for client databases, but it also offers a broader range of automation benefits.

For example, you can automate a series of emails to introduce new customers when they sign up on your website or purchase projects, or you can contact existing customers when they visit specific pages on your site.

MailChimp also can create an after-sale email program or handle promotions for specific events over multiple customer segments and lists.

And it's really easy to use.

Intended more for techies, Yahoo Pipes is a useful tool for businesses that wish to automate data mining processes; you can mine information from multiple sources and pull it into various feed formats like RSS or KML.

It's an ideal tool for driving widgets, manipulating feeds, or mashing up data from around the web.

WorkMobile lets you set up mobile forms to collect data from users. You an create data capture forms to standardize employee inductions, complete health and safety checks, collect signatures and payment information from customers, run inventory checks, perform customer satisfaction surveys....

And you can pre-populate forms with data using drop boxes, record audio, add times and Geostamps, photos, diagrams, bar codes or QER codes... plus the system itegrates with a number of other business services and apps.

And you can get rid of all that paper.

Planning and Personal Organization

While a route planning and mapping app might not sound automated, Waze is a community-based driving app that uses real-time information from other drivers as well as static information about speed cameras, etc., to help you determine the fastest route to your destination.

And of course, as you use Waze, you help other drivers, too. You even share your journey so other people can track your progress online.

Wappwolf works with Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box to automate file actions once you place a file in a specific folder in the cloud.

Say you add a Word document to your Dropbox folder for safekeeping... but you want to read it later on your Kindle. Wappwolf can take care of that automatically.

Wappwolf works with audio, video, and image files, as well as apps like Evernote. All you have to remember is to add your items to the cloud--Wappwolf does the rest.

This app takes your to-do list to another level by letting you access tasks across multiple platforms and devices. And you can receive reminders on any device by email, SMS, instant message, Skype, etc.

Plus Remember the Milk can be accessed via Siri and works with Evernote, Google Calendar, Gmail, Outlook, and Twitter.

A location tool is one of the app's cooler features. You can receive reminders based on time of day but also by your location; if there's a task you need to complete in the area, Remember the Milk will let you know.

Phone Automation

Dozens of apps allow Android users to automate their handsets to some degree. Tasker sells itself as a "total automation for Android" and will perform a broad range of tasks when your phone is in different states or used in different contexts. Examples: you can automatically change the lock screen timeout period if you have an e-reading app open; create an at-home phone profile with a specific ringer; apply Bluetooth and notification settings that trigger when you connect to your home Wi-Fi....

Tasker might be the only smartphone automation app you need; check out the seven-day free trial to see if it works for you.

Atooma shares many of the functions of Tasker and has an elegant, user-friendly interface. (An iOS version is in the works.) Atooma is designed to integrate with smart homes, devices, exercise activity, and driving, combining phone automation with wider integration of apps and smart devices.

And it's free.

One drawback of iPhones is the relatively restrictive nature of the device customization (at least compared to Android.) Relatively few apps are available that automate iPhone functions, but Launch Center Pro is a solid option. It works by letting you set up automation routines for tasks you perform regularly on your phone, and integrates with various apps like Google Chrome, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, and Evernote.

While building hands-off capability is easier on Android devices, combine Launch Center Pro with IFTTT and you can create a high level of automation for an iPhone without too many headaches.

If you like this list check out the full infographic from Work Mobile Forms.

And if you have other automation tools you recommend, please do so in the comments.

Published on: Feb 19, 2015
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