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17 September 2019

10 helpful tips on automating repetitive tasks

Tim Melis
Media Workflow Consultant bij Catena Company

Anyone who often has to perform repetitive tasks knows that with the use of the right solutions, many tasks can be automated. This can save you enormous amounts of time and money.

Anyone who has been trying to find solutions to automate tasks for several decades may have started out with home-grown solutions such as “Quickkeys” or “AutoIT” to capture and execute screen actions. However, the highly accessible way to increase productivity was also its Achilles heel and often caused problems.

Now, many years later, automation has gained sufficient maturity in the form of robust server solutions that stand in stark contrast to the once popular client-side tools. Several powerful tools are available to all those who want to take steps to perform operations automatically. One such solution is Enfocus Switch, a solid application that after 15 years no longer needs to prove its worth.


What is Enfocus Switch?

Enfocus Switch is a modular workflow solution that allows repetitive tasks to be performed quickly and automatically. Setting up an automation is done in an intuitive and user-friendly application. Through different building blocks, a workflow is put together. Due to the simplicity of configuration, it is always possible to quickly adapt or expand an already existing flow.

Installation is incredibly fast and after a few minutes you can get started. Performing a complex setup or installation of database environments is not an issue. For both beginners and experienced users, the very accessible interface offers enough options to get started quickly. Often sufficient knowledge is present after a few days of training. With or without the guidance of a reseller, results can be achieved quickly. However, often important points of attention are overlooked that can have a significant impact.

We would therefore like to give you these 10 handy tips:


1. Organize your flows

A flow consists of different ‘flow elements’, individual steps that take up tasks and that can be connected to each other. It is important that you build your workflow by placing the elements in a logical order, preferably in maximum 2 directions. E.g. left to right and top to bottom. Flows that are worked out in all directions with overlapping connections quickly become very unclear and create unnecessary complexity. Also provide enough space between the flow elements to improve readability.

2. Use logical names

Logical names can prevent a lot of ambiguity. Give not only your flow, but also your flow elements and connections logical names. This increases the readability of your flow.


3. Use ‘Recycle bins’

One of the powerful flow element types is the ‘Recycle bin’. This element can not only automatically delete files, but also provide a temporary backup in different places in your flow. Do you want to know which files were processed at a certain place in your flow in the last 72 hours? Then add a ‘Recycle bin’ with an option to keep the files in that location for this duration.


4. Error handling

A flow can take on several tasks in succession. Those who build a flow often consider the optimal scenario: I get ‘this’ type of file, and ‘that’ needs to be done with it. But then the flow is put into production, and soon it turns out that the files received are not always identical to what we expected. And so our automation collapses like a house of cards.

A good flow not only performs operations, but also checks that what we received is what we expected. And so it may be that by adding all those additional validations, our flow becomes many times more complex than initially anticipated. It is important to always ask the question: what can go wrong? And include all those scenarios in the flow.

However, ‘Error detection’ is one side of the coin. The other side is ‘Error handling’. How do we escalate any errors? A possible solution for this is to automatically send an email to the responsible person that not only notifies him or her, but also gives an accurate description of the problem.


5. Document your flow

Flows can do their job just fine for years without performing further modification. Over time, it is not always clear anymore what the function of the worked out solutions was. In each flow element, you can add information in the Description field. It is important that this information is always maintained, and that every change in the flow is worked out again in the documentation.


6. Use Switch apps

As we know from other applications, there is also a kiosk available for Enfocus Switch with a nice selection of free and paid modules that add additional functionality. Should additional needs arise, perhaps a solution can be found quickly through this channel.


7. Use scripts

An optional module for Enfocus Switch is the ‘Scripting’ environment. Missing functions, specific issues or additional needs can be solved by writing Javascripts yourself. This module is highly recommended and is almost always included in the standard configuration. The included SwitchScripter application supports the writing and testing of each script.


8. Use API’s and external apps

Those who want to process tasks that use live data from other applications can also turn to Switch. If your ERP, PIM, DAM, … systems have an API (Application Program Interface), then it can probably be addressed via Switch. If your application doesn’t have an API, but uses a database environment such as MySQL or Postgress, then it can be addressed directly. A whole range of graphical programs can also be integrated into a flow.


9. Backup your flows

Building flows can be incredibly fast. However, sometimes working out the right solution takes more time. Taking a backup of a flow when making changes should not be overlooked. Sometimes you want to go back to a previous version and then a backup is super handy. Should problems occur with your server, a recent backup is always a peace of mind.


10. Monitor your flows

“Measuring is knowing.” Enfocus Switch includes by default a web-based dashboard module that can be custom configured. This way, you always have a real-time overview of the status of your files.


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