Are Automations Reliable?

Hi Everyone-

I apologize in advance if I am violating any community guidelines by asking this, but I'd like to survey some experienced users.

Are automations reliable enough to trust for essential workflows?

I have built automations for recording dates, moving rows, copying rows, changing cell values, etc. In almost every type of automation, at some point it stops running and I have to go back and manually update things. For example, right now, I have a sheet with 86 rows where a date was not recorded at the end of a process. Yet I have hundreds of other rows where the date was recorded correctly. Because we use this data recording as a metric for productivity in the process, I now need to manually audit every row and manually update the date.

This is not a vent or a rant. I am genuinely interested to learn if my experience is unique or common, and if there is a workaround or better practice that I can follow.

Thank you.

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Answers

  • Malaina Hudson
    Malaina Hudson ✭✭✭✭✭

    @AFlint ,

    In my experience, automations for moving rows or copying rows most frequently occur when the receiving sheet has hit a Smartsheet limit (rows, columns, cells, etc.). Occasionally I see it happen if there is a system blip like the internet service blinks while the transaction is taking place, but the sheet limits have been my #1 culprits. To prevent those gaps - I keep a summary of my archives that shows me a cell usage count compared to a cell limit, then sends an alert when I'm at the 80% consumption point so I can switch to the new archive point.

  • AFlint
    AFlint ✭✭✭✭

    @Malaina Hudson ,

    Thank you for the reply. Would you mind sharing how you set up the alerts for your archives? I use a similar archive technique, but I am not aware of how I could monitor them for fullness.

    I have had similar experiences about the move automations, but recently I have been having a lot of problem with the Record a Date automation on several different sheets.

  • Genevieve P.
    Genevieve P. Employee Admin

    Hi @AFlint

    Is it possible that the disparity you're seeing has to do with the trigger for your workflow?

    Actions that modify a sheet (such as Record a Date, or Move/Copy workflows) cannot recognize cross-sheet formulas or cell-links as triggers. See the bottom note in this article: Trigger Blocks: Define When Your Workflow is Executed

    If this is the case, you may want to set up a Date-Based workflow instead, where the trigger is set to Daily, then you can have Conditions where it checks if the cell is complete and if there's been no date recorded before.

    Cheers,

    Genevieve

  • AFlint
    AFlint ✭✭✭✭
    edited 11/12/21

    Hi @Genevieve P. -

    The automations that I am currently questioning the most are intra-sheet, not inter-sheet. For example, in my most troublesome one, someone checks a box to say something is submitted- the automation records the date this happens.

    The automation will run successfully for a period of time, then it will stop and I need to "reset" it by disabling and re-enabling. Unfortunately, I'm not the process owner, so I'm not in the sheet to see it all the time. I can understand a delay of a few moments, but I had things from 3 weeks ago that didn't run, yet I had things from the day before I posted the question that did.

    Should I just change the trigger to "changed"?

  • Genevieve P.
    Genevieve P. Employee Admin

    Hi @AFlint

    It's definitely unexpected for a workflow to pause for a period of time and then start up again, or need to be "reset" by disabling/enabling.

    Adjusting the trigger to "changed" will only affect when it runs, but it should not change the performance of the workflow. In either case it should record the date when "Submitted" is manually checked.

    If this happens again (where certain rows don't have a date recorded even though they should), please contact Support with screen captures of your workflow, the workflow ID, the sheet URL and screen capture, and identify how the "Submitted" column is being populated.

  • AFlint
    AFlint ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you, @Genevieve P.

    The last few times it has happened I've been so anxious to get it up and running to get the workflow back on track I haven't taken the time to submit to support. I'll try to slow down next time and give them a chance to take a look.

    Thanks for your input to my question.

  • Malaina Hudson
    Malaina Hudson ✭✭✭✭✭

    @AFlint,

    I was actually kind of lazy about it. I have a summary sheet with a column for each Archive Sheet. In that summary sheet, I have 3 columns - threshold, counter, percent of threshold. In my threshold, I've got the max rows that the archive can consume based on row/column/cell usage limits - this is hard coded by me. In counter, I've just done a countif of non-blank cells of my key index field for the archive. Lastly - in the percent of threshold, i just divide counter by threshold. My automation is watching for that percentage to hit 85%, and then I set up the new archive. When the next automation at 95% triggers, I move the archive automation to go to the new archive file.