Announcing Approval by Zapier

  • 11 November 2020
  • 23 replies
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Announcing Approval by Zapier
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TL;DW -- today we're soft-launching a new app on Zapier called "Approval by Zapier" which allows you to insert an Approval step in the middle of your Zap, halting each task until a human (you, or a colleague) clicks the "Approve" button in your Approval Inbox.

TL;DR -- Check out the demo video here (it’s also embedded at the bottom of this post): https://youtu.be/JxcOLUuKLck

Hey folks, Bryan here, I'm one of the co-founders and CTO of Zapier. I'd like to introduce a new app / feature I've been working on at Zapier for the last few weeks called "Approval by Zapier". I hope you'll find it helpful for your business processes, and I encourage you to give it a try and provide feedback. I'll be continuing to improve it over the next couple of months. Here's a little background:

Zapier's mission is to democratize automation. We want automation to be more accessible to everyone, regardless of their technical skill or knowledge of APIs. However, it's clear that not *everything* is fully automatable. Sometimes you really need a human to render a judgement or make a decision before you continue an automation or workflow.

That's where "Approval by Zapier" comes in. With it, you can change any Zap into a semi-automated process simply by adding an Approval step anywhere in your Zap. Then, as tasks start running, you can monitor your Approval Inbox and click "Approve" when you'd like a task to continue, or "Reject" in order to halt that task.

The way the Approval step works is that preceding steps will run like normal, while those after the Approval step are dependent on someone clicking "Approve" in order for them to continue. You can choose which fields you'd like to display in the Inbox, showing only those that will be most helpful in deciding whether to approve the task. The Approval Inbox (where all your tasks pending your approval will wait) is a private, but shareable link — perfect for sharing with colleagues (even if they don't have a Zapier account!).

Some of the reasons you might want to use an Approval step and Approval Inbox today:

  • HR / IT: employees may make a purchase request, vacation request, etc. but the department needs to manually review and approve it before it can continue.

  • Marketing: team members may submit social media posts that are manually approved later by the marketing team before being posted publicly.

  • Sales: lead forms come in and need to be reviewed, perhaps only Approving the best leads after a manual review.

  • QA: submitted items like transcriptions are proof-read for quality before continuing.

  • Customer Service: customers may make requests for discounts or refunds that need to be manually reviewed by a representative before approving.

  • ...and so much more!

Known limitations as of mid-November 2020:

  • Editing the data in Approval Inboxes isn't possible.

  • Viewing all tasks across all Approval Inboxes isn't possible, so you'll have to look at each Approval Inbox individually.

  • Moving Zaps with Approval steps between teams, folders, or users may cause errors.

  • Getting automatic alerts for pending Approvals isn't possible (though you could add an SMS, Slack, email, etc. step before the Approval step!).

  • Rejecting a task will only skip subsequent steps that use data from the Approval step.

At this point, we're all but guaranteeing bugs and odd behaviors on this soft-launch of Approval by Zapier, so we encourage folks to report any issues they encounter and experiment a bit before using it widely. If you have suggestions on how to make this more useful for you or your company, please share them as well!

To provide either feedback or suggestion, you can fill out the https://zapier.typeform.com/to/ejIlcZUe form.

I hope you enjoy it! -bryan

 


23 replies

Userlevel 7
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Very very cool! Excited to try this out. Thanks @bryanhelmig 

Userlevel 7
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Awesome! Looks really great!

One potential concern, so if you downvote it, it’s marked as “halted”, which other actual errors are also marked as “halted”. We even have monitoring zaps set up to alert us when zaps are halted.

It feels like an approval that was manually declined is less of a “halt” and more of a mixture between “filtered/declined” of sorts.

This approval process will result in us having many errors in a sense cropping up, when declining an approval manually shouldn’t really be seen as an “error” of sorts?

Curious too if there’s a way to get an aggregated inbox of all approvals, or if each approval action is a separate URL. If the latter, it would be cool if we could also have one “master” inbox of sorts across the entire account as I can totally see having 5-6 different inboxes and losing track of them easily.

Super excited to try this out and thanks for adding an awesome feature @bryanhelmig + team! :)

Userlevel 3
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Once your zap reaches an approval step, does. it send me an email with a link to my “inbox” or do I need to manually check this “inbox” everyday?

Userlevel 5
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@AndrewJDavison_Luhhu let us know what you end up using it for!

@alex thanks for the feedback, definitely will look into this for the future!

@Matt the default behavior is silence, you can of course add an Email step before the Approval step. So the example from my video might look like this: Typeform → Email → Approval → Twitter.

Userlevel 3
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@AndrewJDavison_Luhhu let us know what you end up using it for!

@alex thanks for the feedback, definitely will look into this for the future!

@Matt the default behavior is silence, you can of course add an Email step before the Approval step. So the example from my video might look like this: Typeform → Email → Approval → Twitter.

I guess the extra “email to me” step is just another for Zapier to cash in on. ha ha :wink:

Userlevel 5
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@Matt while sending common notifications like emails, SMS, etc. are certainly not free, it’s more about launching an MVP and seeing what folks request vs. delaying the soft-launch to build out lots of features ahead of time.

That said, we can definitely explore some notifications, I know some folks are already interested in browser or mobile push notifications. Is that preferable over email? What about Slack? SMS? Frankly, we’re not sure, so you tell us!

Userlevel 3
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@Matt while sending common notifications like emails, SMS, etc. are certainly not free, it’s more about launching an MVP and seeing what folks request vs. delaying the soft-launch to build out lots of features ahead of time.

That said, we can definitely explore some notifications, I know some folks are already interested in browser or mobile push notifications. Is that preferable over email? What about Slack? SMS? Frankly, we’re not sure, so you tell us!

I see email as the lowest common denominator. SMS, push, browser, I see those more as fluff.

Userlevel 1

 

That said, we can definitely explore some notifications, I know some folks are already interested in browser or mobile push notifications. Is that preferable over email? What about Slack? SMS? Frankly, we’re not sure, so you tell us!

This is awesome! I recently built out a workaround for a manual approval functionality which ended up being pretty bulky, so this is very timely. We’re sending automatic SMS and Email notifications to customers at multiple stages of the production process, but we want to double-verify that the project has reached those stages before sending the messages (lest we appear fools :sweat_smile: ). It’s a very mobile retail operation, so SMS or push notifications would be most helpful for our use case.

Userlevel 3
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Very nice.  Now I need to think of a few places to try this out.

Userlevel 3
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@Matt while sending common notifications like emails, SMS, etc. are certainly not free, it’s more about launching an MVP and seeing what folks request vs. delaying the soft-launch to build out lots of features ahead of time.

That said, we can definitely explore some notifications, I know some folks are already interested in browser or mobile push notifications. Is that preferable over email? What about Slack? SMS? Frankly, we’re not sure, so you tell us!

Why not output two or three links in this module which we can use in any next step. Option 1, option 2 and option 3. Then we can decide what and how to display in an email with a button or on a website or a Slack message.

Even better, bind the whole thing to a path module and let use decide what to do after option 1 (approval), option 2 (decline) or option 3 (your wildest imagination… or just delay for another day).

This brings the approval out of the Zapier account. Which is also important. Why should others go in to my account for approval within a business process. With the option above this would be awesome for quote approval by leads, invoice approval for finance, etc.

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

Just trying this out now - Love it!

Userlevel 1

Hi folks, I’m Todd, a product designer at Zapier.

Thanks for the feedback above - that’s helpful for us as we evolve this app!

I’m also curious to hear how you’ve used Approvals (or wanted to, but couldn’t for some reason). If you have a moment, I’d love to hear about what you’ve built.

Drop a note in this thread, or grab some time on my calendar.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Userlevel 1

Hi Zapier Team!

 

Firstly, this is AMAZING, such a great add on! But I did have a couple of questions I hope it’s okay to post on this thread.

I’m currently trying to create an approval process where there are 2 people approving the process. How do you think, if possible, this can be created into a zap. (For reference, current zap: Google Sheet: A few Find steps to get the right details of the approvers and the subject person involved » Email with details + link to inbox to provide approval » Approval)

My second question was that it seems like the inbox is displaying all requests that have come through, is it possible to create a unique link for the inbox containing the one request? I’m checking as some information within the request itself might be confidential and we don’t want other receiving the request for approval email to go in there and approve and see other department’s/team’s requests.

 

Lastly, will adding a path after the approval step allow me to one: Complete action if approved or two: notify requestee via an email step if declined?

 

Thank you in advance!

Userlevel 5
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I’m currently trying to create an approval process where there are 2 people approving the process. How do you think, if possible, this can be created into a zap.

Not possible today, but a great idea and one we’ll explore!

My second question was that it seems like the inbox is displaying all requests that have come through, is it possible to create a unique link for the inbox containing the one request?

Also not possible today, but related to the first -- more assignment and permission configuration is a great idea and we’ll explore it!

Lastly, will adding a path after the approval step allow me to one: Complete action if approved or two: notify requestee via an email step if declined?

Not possible yet -- I’m actually working on this one though. I’ll post here when it becomes available!

Userlevel 1

I’m currently trying to create an approval process where there are 2 people approving the process. How do you think, if possible, this can be created into a zap.

Not possible today, but a great idea and one we’ll explore!

My second question was that it seems like the inbox is displaying all requests that have come through, is it possible to create a unique link for the inbox containing the one request?

Also not possible today, but related to the first -- more assignment and permission configuration is a great idea and we’ll explore it!

Lastly, will adding a path after the approval step allow me to one: Complete action if approved or two: notify requestee via an email step if declined?

Not possible yet -- I’m actually working on this one though. I’ll post here when it becomes available!

Amazing!! Thank you!

 

 

Userlevel 3
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@Alex.Mc It’s not possible using this module yet. You could build a system in which you send emails which contain approval links (1 for each option) which call a Zapier webhook. Then build a zap with webhook trigger and a path which will determine what route to follow based on the URL parameters.

The risk with this is that anyone with the email can do the approval, so it depends on what kind of approval you are trying to accomplish and how secure the email system is you are working with.

A bit more complex, but as an alternative, you could send an email with a link to a self generated Google Doc which was generated with the correct user permissions and containing all the data and approval links. Then after approval delete the Doc to keep things neat. That way you leverage Google authentication.

Userlevel 1

This is super awesome, Bryan, thank you.

We’re an educational institute, and we’re trialling this for the approval of enrolments into vocational programs.

Unfortunately, after approving or denying an item in the inbox (and the thumb turns into a tick/check mark) nothing further happens (whether an item is approved or denied).

The Zap History says:

Waiting
Delayed

And when the Approval inbox is refreshed, the items are there again with their thumbs up and down still waiting to be approved.

Any thoughts on what we can do to troubleshoot? I’ve tried approving from two different browsers.

Kind regards,
Paul

Userlevel 5
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Hey folks! Wanted to share an update here -- I just shipped a change addressing two common pieces of feedback:

  • The UX around clicking the 👍and 👎in the inbox has been greatly improved -- it now behaves more logically and provides a short undo time period.
  • We changed the default behavior of clicking the 👎-- it no longer does that weird halted error that didn’t stop the zap, instead it behaves like a filter: the entire Zap stops. However, if you’d like it to continue, you go to the Zap setup you can adjust the behavior!

Please share your general feedback here or in the form, and if you are having specific issue with a Zap -- please reach out to support: contact@zapier.com!

Userlevel 4
Badge +3

I’m currently trying to create an approval process where there are 2 people approving the process. How do you think, if possible, this can be created into a zap. (For reference, current zap: Google Sheet: A few Find steps to get the right details of the approvers and the subject person involved » Email with details + link to inbox to provide approval » Approval)

@Alex.Mc - not sure if you’re still struggling with this but if you would like two people to approve the process sequentially you could just use two Approval Steps

Trigger - Send Approval A link to first approver - Approval A - Send Approval B link to second approver - Approval B - Action

Will there be a feature at some point in the future allowing users to see which requests have been approved or rejected in the past by looking at the inbox without having to chase the steps following the approval step to find that out?

Userlevel 2
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Hi @bryanhelmig 👋🏻 I’ve finished my first Zap where I needed Approval by Zapier and it’s very helpful for us in approving Instagram posts. However, since we need to approve a lot of requests while on the go, I found the mobile UX could really use some responsive love 😬

Right now it’s almost impossible to quickly check all items, even more so since we need to select/copy/open in new tab the generated image for approval (see attached image). Is this something you could build upon? Thanks! 🙏🏻


 

 

Userlevel 7
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Hi @jphorn!

I’ve added your feedback to our internal system where we track feature requests and bugs for apps :) 

Userlevel 1
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I did not even know this existed. I was just playing around with JotForm’s approval the other day.

 

This could be fun!

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