There’s a reason the global business process automation market flew past $6.6 billion in revenue last year: Mundane, monotonous tasks are an enormous time sink. Employees spend nearly a quarter of their time on repetitive chores, according to Smartsheet, and about 60 percent estimate they could save six or more hours a week if at least a few of those activities were handled by intelligent machines.
Workplace startup Coda’s aiming to solve the problem with Automations, a new feature rolling out today that enables time-saving contextual triggers. After a brief pilot, Coda’s making it available to all users.
“We designed Automation with flexibility in mind,” Coda wrote in a Medium post published this morning. “You can, in essence, make your doc a responsive, customized app, for whatever your use case.”
For the uninitiated, Coda — the brainchild of Microsoft and YouTube alumni Alex DeNeui and Shishir Mehrotra, who met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as undergraduates — is a kind of canvas that blends spreadsheets, presentations, apps, and documents in one. A one-tap presentation mode lets you view any doc in full-screen, like a PowerPoint. And a powerful programming language allows you to quickly embed tables and graphs, or elements like calendars, buttons, and sliders.
Automations are a bit more UI-centric. Without having to write a formula or type a line of code, Coda users can program rules to modify rows, tables, and more within Coda docs, or perform actions through connected third-party services like Slack and email. (Think emailing a weekly agenda to yourself, scheduling a recurring text message with meeting reminders, or automatically assigning folks with whom you’re collaborating to a task or spreadsheet.)
In practice, it’s a little like flows in If This Then That (IFTTT), Zapier, and other web-based task-automating platforms. Automations live in the eponymous Automations panel within Coda on the right-hand side of the screen and have two parts: When, which indicates the timeframe during which the rule will run, and Then, which specifies what the rule will do.
The sky’s the limit, really. A team at New York media company Cheddar used Automations to notify team members when assigned articles changed hands in the editorial process, and an on outdoor programs instructor for a retailer tapped them to make an automated timesheet.
“Tasks like taking notes, setting proper context for a project, and keeping plans up to date … move a project or team forward,” Coda wrote. “Usually, to do any of this would require writing a script … [but] today’s launch is all about helping makers put those small yet critical tasks on autopilot.”
Coda’s still in beta, with a general release pegged for the first quarter of 2019 — testing began in October 2017, three years after its founding. But it’s been gaining features at a steady clip, like Coda Packs, which act as a bridge between Coda and external tools like Gmail, Greenhouse, Intercom, Figma, Walmart Shopping, and GitHub, to name a few. (Packs can pull in Instagram images, YouTube videos, or other media, plus data about stocks and weather, or perform tasks, as well as pushing information out to apps like Slack and Twilio.)
Competitors abound — QuickBase and Airtable come to mind, the latter of which closed a $100 million funding round on Thursday — but with $60 million raised to date and an impressive list of backer that includes Greylock, General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, Coda’s poised to make a splash in the coming year.