How to Make Automations Based on Attachments Work? Subsequent Actions Trigger Out of Order.

jshrum ✭✭✭
edited 07/04/24 in Smartsheet Basics

I have an update request (#1) that is sent to employee "A," who has to download, update, upload an attachment, and hit submit. I have an automation in which a date is recorded in cell #1 when an attachment is added or changed. This part works fine. When cell #1 changes, an update request is sent to supervisor (#1) who has to download, update, upload an attachment, and hit submit. The next automation is to put a date in cell #2 when an attachment is added or changed. When cell #2 changes, next automation is sent to final approver. This part works fine. I have conditional logic defined on what date cells to populate based on which cells are already populated or blank. This process works very well most of the time, but when Smartsheets is running slow I encounter the following problem… cell #2 is being populated before the supervisor submits their attachment. I've had a similar problem to this with other Smartsheets I've built when using attachments as the trigger. My "opinion" is that the instant an attachment "starts" to load into Smartsheets, it updates cell #1. However, because attachments typically take more time to load than basic text, by the time the attachment "finishes" loading, it is triggering the next automation that another attachment was added, and based on the conditional logic, it updates cell #2. This throws off subsequent automations to include status changes. This makes the most sense as everything works perfectly during certain parts of the day, and drastically bad during other parts of the day.

Suggested ways to address this issue: The easiest way is to create a checkbox and use that as a trigger, which bypasses the issue of the attachment loading delay. This is how I initially created the Sheet and update requests. The "issue" with using the checkbox is that the checkbox field in the update request is placed "above" the upload files/attachment list files/fields. Because we typically read left to right, and top to bottom, after someone uploads the attachment, they visually look at the next item which is the submit button. So, people routinely forget to click the checkbox, which breaks the automations. Would love to see Smartsheets allow customization of the update request, much like when a form is created, so that we can move fields up or down.

Next suggestion is to add a "delay" to triggers when using automations. When building the automation, if we could set it up that when an attachment is added or changed, and the rest of the criteria is met, wait 30 seconds (10, 20, etc) before recording a date (or whatever action is needed next). We need to allow the attachment to hit the Sheet, wait a certain amount of time in which the attachment should then be fully uploaded, then go to the next action.

Talking with other Smartsheet users it sounds like attachment automations cause a lot of issues in general. Would love to hear if anyone has had any luck with fixing this type of situation.


  • Kerry St. Thomas
    Kerry St. Thomas ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is maddening. I've also had similar issues. The only thing I've been able to do is create an intermediary automation that checks the box for the user. In other words, check a box when upload #2 happens. And then delay the automation by making the trigger not "on change" but "when a date is reached" and set it to trigger daily at like 3am - with conditions of "box is checked" and "cell #2 is not blank". Of course you'll have to then add a check on this one so that it doesn't trigger for the same row every day - for example, end the automation by unchecking the box, or creating an additional column to identify IF (checkbox) or WHEN (date) this automation was triggered.

    If there was a "wait X minutes" action for an automation, that'd solve this convoluted workaround. But… well, here we are, in an imperfect world. 😀

    If this answer resolves your question, please help the Community by marking it as an accepted answer. I'd also be grateful for your response - "Insightful"or "Awesome" reactions are much appreciated. Thanks!

  • jshrum
    jshrum ✭✭✭

    Thanks Kerry. Glad to hear I'm not alone and appreciate your suggestion. It is a work-around we shouldn't have to do, but at least it will work. Very helpful. Thank you.