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16 Best ETL Tools for Your Business – ReadWrite

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Extract, Transform, and Load


Introduction to Top ETL Software Guide

In today’s world, data is the lifeblood of the business landscape. Data contains all of a corporation’s important information. Without this data, companies couldn’t grow and thrive to become what they are today.

An analytics report by Deloitte contains a survey asking companies how data analytics has helped them. 55% of respondents stated that data analytics fairly or significantly improved their competitive positioning.

Beating the competition is only one of many benefits that comes from using data to your advantage. Data also helps improve logistics, drive sales, budget more efficiently, and a score of other positive effects. It all depends on how you use your company’s data.

It’s next to impossible for anyone to navigate through all of their business data on their own. Data is being added and altered every single day. Business owners should look to ETL tools to help them manage and utilize their important data.

What ETL Tools Do

ETL stands for Extract, Transform, and Load. These tools extract data from a source, transform it to the correct format, and then load it into your choice of data storage–a data warehouse. You can set ETL tools to process data in this matter on a scheduled timeframe, or set up a trigger that initiates the cycle. Centralizing the data into a data warehouse is the difficult part and sets the stage for analysis into the inner workings of your organization.

Once you have all the data in your data warehouse, you can use your favorite  reporting/BI tool (Tableau, Looker, etc.) to correlate and analyze all that valuable data to make smart data-driven decisions.

  • ETLrobot for consistent and understandable data extraction
      – Best overall ETL tool for businesses
  • Blendo for data flow management and efficiency
      – Best ETL tool for real-time data analysis
  • Stitch for data pattern identification
      – Best ETL tool for data processing consolidation
  • Xplenty for data pipeline construction
      – Best ETL tool for all levels of tech experience
  • Informatica for powerful data performance
      – Best ETL tool for AI use
  • Alooma for all types of business data
      – Best ETL tool for scalable data processing
  • Talend for its capability to improve data-driven decisions
      – Best ETL tool for uncovering how to increase revenue and save money
  • IRI Voracity for its ability to help businesses better control their data
      – Best ETL tool for fast data processing
  • Etleap for Virtual Private Cloud capability
      – Best ETL tool for Amazon Web Services
  • Pentaho Platform for improving communications between data managers and consumers
      – Best ETL tool for increasing data transparency
  • CloverDX for customized data processing
      – Best ETL tool for financial services and fintech organizations
  • Fivetran for data management and revisions
      – Best ETL tool for pre-built data pipelines
  • Segment for its ability to separate operations and customer data
      – Best ETL too for customer data
  • Elastic for its cost-effective data solutions
      – Best ETL tool for app data
  • Apache Nifi for hands-on functionality and data visualization capabilities
      – Best ETL tool for graphs
  • Azure for reducing overhead business costs
      – Best ETL tool for Microsoft-based platforms

Selecting the Right ETL Tool

When looking at ETL tool options, you first want to determine what you will use it for. Your data is a means to an end, so set a goal you hope your choice of ETL tool will help accomplish. As you go through the list of tools below, ask these questions:

  • What role will the ETL tool play? Do you want it to compile transaction data, migrate application data, or integrate new data from a merger or acquisition?
  • How much data do you need to be processed? Larger amounts of data require a stronger or larger ETL tool.
  • Is there a niche feature that benefits your organization? Only select ETL tools might provide exactly what you’re looking for in terms of sources and target databases.
  • Price is always a consideration.  Find the tool that meets your budget.  Note, many ETL tools require programmers to configure or program which substantially drives up the cost.

ETL tools are versatile and can accomplish these plus many other goals your business has. Once you’ve decided on what you want it to do, you can narrow down your options.

This guide will outline some of the most popular ETL tools out there. While they all have similar functions, some of them are better at certain things than others. Take a look at the individual features that set them apart and see which one best fits your business.

– Best overall ETL tool for businesses

ETLRobot

 

Here you have your own personal data robot to do your bidding. ETLrobot does exactly what it says, extracting your data, transforming it, and loading it to your preferred data warehouse around the clock. Even when you’re not working, ETLrobot is.  Not only is ETLrobot the most affordable tool, but it is also great at de-duplicating data and maintaining a consistent and understandable data format.

Setting up ETLrobot is simple. You decide how you want your data to be moved and it’ll do the work for you. Later, you can add integrations that give your data more worth.  If you don’t initially see a source or target you need, they are good to work with and fast to add new integrations.

– Best ETL tool for real-time data analysis

Blendo

 

Trial and error is a process most are familiar with in the business world. Sometimes you don’t know what your best option is until you’ve tried them all. If you’re not using data, you’re basically throwing darts with a blindfold, hoping to hit the bullseye. Then you wonder how you did it.

Blendo changes that. It helps you manage your data flows, but also helps you identify the most effective use of your data. This real-time analysis takes out both trial and error, and creates a more streamlined process for your business to follow.

– Best ETL tool for data processing consolidation

Stitch

 

A stitch refers to a loop of thread that connects fabric together. Numerous stitches create a final product, like a sweater or a hat. When it comes to data, Stitch uses this approach to connect all of the tools your business uses to create one final product for data analysis.

There are tools for compiling, loading, and analyzing data. This can create a complex thread that is difficult to follow. Using Stitch allows you to consolidate all of your data procession to spend less time gathering it and more time using it for the benefit of your organization.

– Best ETL tool for all levels of tech experience

Xplenty

 

Your data likely comes from more than one source. If that’s the case, you’ll want to be able to integrate all of your data sources to get the best picture of your business. Xplenty helps you build data pipelines to accomplish this.

No matter your tech experience, you’ll be able to build data pipelines with Xplenty’s help. The more you learn about the program, the more advanced pipelines you can build. It’s a way to help you grow alongside your business, for maximum success.

– Best ETL tool for AI use

Informatica

 

If you’re here for the numbers, here are some stats about Informatica. It handles 15 trillion cloud transactions per month, a number that is rapidly going. How is it getting so much business? By proving itself as a top ETL tool which has led it to be the software of choice for 85 Fortune 100 companies.

Something that sets Informatica apart is its use of AI to improve how your company uses data. This approach helps you stay ahead of the curve, making real-time decisions that can launch your company ahead of the competition.

– Best ETL tool for scalable data processing

Alooma

 

Some organizations only need to handle small amounts of data. Alooma is scalable, meaning no matter the amount of data you need to process, their tools will work for you. As your organization grows, Alooma can take on the extra workload.

Just as the size of your data input might fluctuate, so can your strategy. Your level of structure can change depending on what you want to get out of your data, and Alooma can help you quickly make alterations. It can even adjust in real-time to make sure you’re getting what you want.

– Best ETL tool for uncovering how to increase revenue and save money

Talend

 

Your data should be put to use. There’s no use in storing it without a purpose. That’s why Talend focuses on helping businesses discover ways to save money and increase revenue. Data analytics uses the numbers to make that happen.

When it comes to your business, you don’t just want data, you want the best data available. Utilizing poor data could cost you money, and even end your entire operation. Talend provides high-quality data in real-time so that every data-driven decision you make counts.

– Best ETL tool for fast data processing

IRI Verocity

 

Some people are very picky about where their data goes and how it’s being used. IRI Voracity understands that and allows you to control your data at every stage. Those who like a heavy hand on their data processing can get the maximum value out of it.

Now that might sound like a tedious process designed for a select few, but IRI Voracity actually helps you use your data faster than ever. Even with a more watchful eye, its software is able to manage tons of data at a time, helping you get a bigger look without spending hours trying to find it.

– Best ETL tool for Amazon Web Services

ETLRobot

 

The clever name isn’t the only selling point for Etleap. It specializes in Amazon Web Services, allowing you to set up your own Virtual Private Cloud and run your data to your perfect specifications.

Even if AWS and VPC aren’t your acronyms of choice, Etleap has all the data analysis tools you need to get your business moving. You’ll save time and energy with this tool, and reap the benefits of your newfound data.

– Best ETL tool for increasing data transparency

Pentaho Platform

 

Pentaho is a product provided by data solutions company Hitachi Vantara. Pentaho Platform is Hitachi’s data management and analytics program for organizations. Its end goal is to improve the flow of communication between data managers and consumers.

While many companies are looking to use data for their own needs, using it for the benefit of the consumer is also a beneficial practice. Data promotes transparency and boosts trust, both things a company needs to succeed.

– Best ETL tool for financial services and fintech organizations

CloverDX

 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to ETL data processing. Different companies across different industries will want to use their data for different ends. CloverDX keeps this in mind, structuring software to fit the needs of each user.

CloverDX has a number of examples on their site that portray this. Banks need high quality reporting and security. FinTech providers need to handle a lot of data fast. These are two very different approaches, and they can both be done with CloverDX.

– Best ETL tool for pre-built data pipelines

Fivetran

 

Business owners want to worry about what the data is telling them, not how to manage it. Fivetran has all of its data pipelines pre-built for you. Just plug in what you want, and you can worry about the analytics rather than the process.

Fivetran also ensures that everything continues to run smoothly for you. It monitors the integrity of their pipelines 24/7 and makes it easy to make changes to your ETL strategy to get the data you need.

– Best ETL too for customer data

 

Segment

Customer data can differ in many ways from operational data. Segment is your go-to ETL tool if customer data is what you need the most. This helps you attract and retain more customers than ever by using the numbers to perfect your sales and marketing strategy.

Knowing what your hottest product is, how many people leave your website without purchasing, and what your most popular demographic is are all examples of data that you can use to make your business strategy more effective.

– Best ETL tool for app data

 

Elastic

Data is a fairly concrete set of numbers, so where does elasticity come into play? Elastic believes you should only pay for the resources you use. It uses an elastic payscale that tailors to your needs, helping you manage your data without breaking the bank.

Once you start using Elastic, you’ll be able to easily search through and analyze the data you input. You can even take a look at app data, something some developers will be very grateful for.

– Best ETL tool for graphs

Apache Nifi

 

Many people prefer to view their data in customized graphs, just as they did in math classes across the nation. If graphing is your style, look no further than Apache Nifi. It provides a solution that brings your ideal graphs to life, getting you up close and personal with your data.

Apache Nifi is a more hands-on ETL tool. While highly configurable with the ability to build as you please, you’ll need to put in the effort to construct your perfect design. Once you’ve done so, you’ll have the perfect data powerhouse for your business.

– Best ETL tool for Microsoft-based platforms

Microsoft Azure

 

Are you an avid fan of Microsoft products? Here’s a chance to expand your arsenal. The Azure Data Factory is Microsoft’s take at an ETL solution. If you already trust their products, this might be an easy decision for you.

This product is worth more than its name alone. Build your data flows and put them to work with Azure’s goal of helping you cut down on your business’ overhead costs by implementing their software.

Final Thoughts

Data is critical to the future of business. If you’re not using it, you’re already falling behind. While some companies are OK without adapting right now, the rapid shift to technology will force them to adapt sooner than later.

No matter what your data needs are, there’s an ETL tool for you. Companies that take advantage of the volumes of information at their fingertips will have an edge over anyone who fails to do so. List your goals and needs, and analyze these ETL. Watch how data can transform your business.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

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Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data – ReadWrite

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Nigel Cannings


It is probably obvious to most people that certain personal information should be tightly protected — especially bank details, health records, and passwords. The motivation might be to protect us from criminal activity, embarrassment, or just because it is not anyone else’s business. Users should care about data privacy — and the tech industry should safeguard your data.

It’s essential to understand that ALL personal data is now the fuel of the digital economy.

And that means that there is an entire industry worth billions of dollars devoted to finding everything out about YOU. Your friends. Your shopping habits. Where you live and who you live with. Everything is up for grabs and harnessed for one simple reason.  To make it easier to target you with adverts persuading you to buy things you might not purchase otherwise. 

Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data 

We all know about adverts that follow us around the Internet (a process known as remarketing). Many people have stories about how a conversation with someone about buying something or maybe seeing a movie, somehow led to an advert about it.

They are convinced that their phone is listening to everything they are saying. And, your phone IS listening – but not for the reasons you think. Actually, it’s down to the incredible power of today’s predictive algorithms. They probably know more about what you will want to do or buy next than you do. Based on billions and billions of interactions observed from other people just like you.

Some big life and tech industry questions

The big question is: if you know that your “important” information is protected, does tracking matter? Should you care if your other data is being used to track you? Especially if it results in free or low-priced apps that make your life easier or more pleasurable. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Gmail or Uber.

The first issue is simply a very human one. “I’m just not sure that I’m that comfortable with someone having access to everything that I’m doing.” No one reads 1984 and thinks that seems like a wonderful way to live. It just feels wrong.

There are real and practical data issues that need to be addressed.

There is a lot more at play than simply being sold a new appliance. We now know that democracy itself can be manipulated by the very technology that also sells us washing powder.

1960’s Simulamatics Corporation

The idea is not new. It actually goes back to the early 60s and the rise of the Simulamatics Corporation. It came up with the idea of identifying groups of people and computerizing them so that their behavior could be predicted.

The computer power and availability of data was a fraction of that available today. But the idea was there. And if you believe the Simulmatics Corporation, their data and predictions were enough to forecast and swing elections. (For more information on the dawn of this type of data science, read the fascinating If Then by Jill Lepore.)

Cambridge Analytica

Fast forward to the present day, and we are still feeling the effects of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Where the process of mining publicly available data, made it possible to push one country to break with its largest trading partner. And another to elect the worst or best President it has ever had.   

One wryly amusing side story from the Brexit campaign is that contrary to popular belief, Cambridge Analytica had no involvement in that campaign at all, according to a three-year probe by the Information Commissioner.

However, they did find that “there are systemic vulnerabilities in our democratic systems” caused by the availability of personal data. That alone should be enough to make us demand that our data is better protected and regulated.

Things are changing. Slowly. And not always in ways where the motives are entirely transparent.

Convenience – not always benevolent

Take two recent examples – Apple vs. Facebook and Google against everyone else.

Apple vs. Facebook 

In its latest update to its mobile operating system, iOS 14, Apple has released a new security feature that centers around the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers — Look it up — too good to miss).

Oh, Joy!! This is a unique identifier for every iPhone and iPad, which allows advertisers to track the effectiveness of their advertising. Apple has decided to make this an opt-in feature for users. It supplies a one-time pop-up box that asks users whether they want to be tracked by Facebook or not. Verizon has made it so on their phone system — you can opt-out.

On the face of it, it seems obvious, why would you wouldn’t want to be tracked?

Mark Zuckerberg, not perhaps someone you would normally feel sympathy with, says this change “threatens the personalized ads that millions of small businesses rely on to find and reach customers.”

The reality is that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and Apple owns iMessage. 

Facebook sees the changes, not as a way to protect consumers, but to cripple Facebook. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.” 

Google vs. Everyone Else

Google controls the world’s most popular browser, Chrome, and has announced that it is implanting sweeping changes to “third-party cookies.”

These are the nasties that track you across the internet. When your browser knows that you were recently on Site A, looking at a particular product, it can shove an advert at you to tempt you to buy the same thing. 

The proposal is that these cookies will be replaced with a type of group ID. This identifies you as part of a particular “tribe” of people who Google thinks have similar interests. Google will supposedly stop third-party cookies — SOMETIME NEXT YEAR — 2022. They will already have all they need in their data storage by then.

We only have to wait another year for the implementation by Google

It sounds fantastic because third-party tracking is considered to be one of the most intrusive aspects of web browsing. Why? Because it sprays your data around the internet in an unregulated manner, leaking privacy with every new site you visit.

So — after another year — the change will dramatically limit the ability of almost every company on the internet to target specific ads at you. Because they will no longer be able to rely on collecting data second-hand through third-party cookies.  

Best for Google

Except for Google. Who is one of the largest collectors of *first* party data on the internet? Google collects data from your searches through Gmail and Google Maps. If the company’s ability to target you is better, and everyone else’s is worse, surely this means that more money gets spent on Google ads, at the expense of other advertisers?

What both cases show is that it is unlikely big tech companies will act in your best interest when it comes to the management of personal data.

Especially if that personal data is what fuels their bottom line. Is a degree of regulation and perhaps some technology rethinking needed?

Europe has led the way to protect private data — GDPR

Europe has led the way in terms of the regulation of private data, and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is probably the most comprehensive data privacy law ever enacted.

But does GDPR have any real teeth?

It is estimated that $9 billion was spent in preparation for GDPR. For the last calendar year, DLA Piper estimates that fines across the whole of Europe stand at about 114m Euros.

With the enormous focus on data privacy — that fines can be up to 4% of global turnover, it doesn’t seem that GDPR hasn’t quite got into its stride yet.

Data Privacy – Consumer — why you should care. in the

The future of data privacy probably rests in the hands of the consumer. And the willingness of all of us to pay for the services that are subsidized by the money made from our data.

Tim Berners-Lee, famously the inventor of the World Wide Web, has gone on a mission to reclaim personal data with the idea of data “Pods.” These pods put personal data is in the hands of the individual, and are only handed out on a very selective basis. For this to work, we need to rearchitect the internet. And consider how far convenience trumps privacy.  

Think about something as simple as email. Who doesn’t love being able to go on to Gmail and search for email? Or start a new email and have Google suggest whole sentences for you?

All of this connection relies (today) on Google having full access to your data.

What about Alexa? How great to walk into the kitchen, and switch on the radio. But more than 20 times a day, that same Alexa device is activating and sending data to Amazon accidentally: And somewhere in an office block in Romania, someone is listening to it.

To secure our data, we must start to think more about local processing of data. Including searchable encryption and homomorphic data processing. All ways of minimizing data leakage. It can all be done. And we can do much of it right now. 

But it needs someone to pay. For all our talk about how we want our data to stay “ours,” it is our data that is picking up the tab right now.

Image Credit: andres ayrton; pexels; thank you!

Nigel Cannings

CTO at Intelligent Voice

Nigel Cannings is the CTO at Intelligent Voice. He has over 25 years’ experience in both Law and Technology, is the founder of Intelligent Voice Ltd and a pioneer in all things voice. Nigel is also a regular speaker at industry events not limited to NVIDIA, IBM, HPE and AI Financial Summits.

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Technology Isn’t Always Productive – Here’s How to Use it Appropriately – ReadWrite

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Technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s a field of miraculous, magical developments that always have the power to help us save time, do more, and ultimately become more productive.

Right?

Technology Isn’t Always Productive

You might have had some experiences with technology that make you question whether a new app, a new gadget, or a new system is actually adding value to your life.

For example, you might have upgraded to a new project management system that ends up taking twice as much time to use. Or, even more commonly, you might have found yourself endlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed in the middle of an important project.

As a generalized, overarching trend, technology definitely makes us productive.

We’re capable of far more than we were even 10 years ago, and new industries and opportunities emerge every year from new tech. But technology isn’t always productive – in fact, it can sometimes rob you of productive time.

What steps can you take to ensure that all your technology choices end in higher productivity (or at least neutrality)?

Here’s How to Use Technology Appropriately

Outline Your Goals in Advance

Before adopting any new technology, it’s important to outline all your goals in advance. What, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

Many new technologies make vague promises about making your life better, and many consumers end up buying those products because they seem, in some ambiguous way, “better” than what you currently have.

For example, you have the option to upgrade your refrigerator to a smart fridge. But what are you actually hoping to achieve from this upgrade? Do you want your food to spoil less often? Do you want to stay better organized with your food purchases? A refrigerator upgrade may not be necessary to achieve these goals.

What does productivity mean to you?

You’ll also need to think about what “productive” actually means to you. If a piece of new technology improved your productivity, what would that look like? Some technologies automate or simplify some aspect of your job (or life), only to introduce new problems.

For example, you might develop an algorithm that automatically generates a reading list for you – but it doesn’t always work quite right, so you have to sort through the list manually. You’ve saved an hour on task A, but you’re spending an hour on a new task, task B.

The clearer your goals are, the less likely you’ll be to use technology that has a net negative effect.

Rely on Objective Data

When choosing new technologies and evaluating their ability to improve your productivity, you need to rely on hard, objective data. What, specifically, is this improving and how much is it improving it?

This will help you filter out:

  • Cognitive biases. Human beings aren’t very logical creatures. We’re afflicted with a variety of cognitive biases that can distort how we perceive things.
  • Subjective feelings. You might feel like your phone is making you more productive, but the data may say something otherwise. This frequently happens with new acquisitions; we often like to justify our investments and pretend there are benefits when there aren’t any.
  • Claims and anecdotal reports. Tech companies often promote their products by citing good reviews and happy customers. But anecdotal evidence and personal claims rarely tell the full story.

Always Review Your Options in Depth

When searching for new technology, you’ll probably have many options to choose from. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors in almost every imaginable niche, so it’s important to review your choices carefully before making a final call.

Consider these choices for your technology:

  • Features and functionality. What does this product have that other competing products don’t have? Even more importantly, what does it do to boost your productivity?
  • Flexibility and scalability. How much can this product change, grow, and evolve with your company? This is especially important if you’re going to scale your business.
  • Intuitiveness and learnability. How long will it take to learn how to use this system properly? Low intuitiveness can compromise even the best tech investment.
  • Ratings and reviews. When combined with other considerations, ratings and reviews can be valuable in helping you make up your mind.
  • Objective metrics. More importantly, though, you’ll need to look at the numbers. How many hours could this save you? What new tasks will it require?
  • Costs. There may be a new app or gadget that can boost your productivity by 10 percent. But if it costs $10,000 a year, it may not be worth it. Consider the costs as well.

Automate Whatever You Can – but Understand the Limits

Automation is one of the best ways to save time and increase productivity in a business environment. Accordingly, you should strive to automate whatever you can.

That said, there are some limitations to what you can automate effectively. Automation relies on predictability and consistency; in an environment with unknown variables or areas that require human creativity, automation becomes less practical.

Excessive automation can also compromise certain aspects of your business; for example, you might be able to automate all your email marketing and sales campaigns, but it could turn people off for being too repetitive and “cold.”

Minimize Apps

For the most part, you should strive to limit the number of apps you rely on, both to simplify your infrastructure and to minimize time spent jumping between systems.

You can do this by consolidating the functionality of several apps into one, relying on integrations to send data to and from various apps, and by resisting the temptation to buy new apps just because they’re new and look cool.

Set Limits and Restrictions

Some apps and devices make it hard to be productive because they occupy too much of your time or interfere with your life in some crucial way. Accordingly, it’s advisable to set limits and restrictions for yourself, sometimes within the apps themselves.

For example:

  • Screen time. Most smartphones and modern devices have built-in settings and apps to help you track your screen time. You might even be able to limit it. This is especially important for apps and devices that tend to distract you or pull you away from more productive work.
  • Notifications and distractions. You should also be aware that even one small distraction has the potential to harm your productivity for nearly an hour; it takes time to build focus and momentum, and even a seemingly small distraction can ruin that. Turn off notifications wherever and whenever possible and consider closing out apps that might distract you (such as your email account during a busy workday).
  • Communication. Communication is valuable in any workplace or home, but modern technology makes it all too easy to get in touch with someone – even when they’re busy. Don’t drop everything you’re doing every time you get an email, instant message, or request for a video call; use your communication apps intentionally and mindfully.

Measure and Reflect

Rely on a combination of built-in tech tools, time trackers, and other analytics dashboards to keep track of your productivity and your progress. How are you using the various tools available in your arsenal? How much time are you spending on various platforms and on screens? How many hours are you working and how much were you able to get done?

Consistently measure your productivity and observe how it changes over time.

Don’t just assume that a new piece of tech is boosting your performance; try to prove it. If it’s not working for you, consider cutting it and moving onto something else.

If you aren’t careful, a new app, a new gadget, or another high-tech investment can end up working against you, either by distracting you, interfering with your work, or making something you were already doing harder.

As long as you think critically about your new tech adoption and continue to be discerning in your tech infrastructure, you can end up benefitting from new tech.

Image Credit: curioso photography; pexels; thank you!

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach…preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee.

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Top No-Code Tools to Automate Your Approval Process – ReadWrite

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7 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Own Business - ReadWrite


If your business hasn’t automated its approval process, you’re probably losing valuable staff time to repetitive tasks. Approving timesheets, time-off requests, purchase orders, work orders, and more involves processes with many steps. In fact, just the act of sending emails to verify approvals can eat into your staff’s time.

Creating apps that automate your approval process no longer requires a web developer, thanks to the array of no-code tools available. These tools feature easy editors with drag-and-drop functionality that allow anyone to create an app and a workflow that automates the approval process. 

Available at various price points, any one of these apps could streamline approvals and pay off in many other ways for your business.

The Best No-Code Tools that Automate Your Approval Process

No-code tools that can automate your approval process run the gamut from user-friendly options for small businesses to more comprehensive platforms suitable for large enterprises. Whether you’re looking to create one app or want to design dozens that can handle every facet of your business, these no-code tools can help.

JotForm Approvals

JotForm Approvals streamlines the approval process without the need to do any coding. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to set up a workflow that includes approvers, conditional branches, and automated emails.

With the JotForm Form Builder, you can easily build an online form to quickly collect submissions. Those submissions might be timesheets, work order requests, inventory purchase requests, or any other type of request that requires approval.

Once someone completes the approval form, the submission triggers the approval workflow you created. JotForm Approvals makes it easy to track and manage the process, and the automated tasks prevent staff from spending time sorting requests, following up on missing information, and so on.

You can set up your approval process to send automated emails to approvers when they receive a new task. And as tasks are approved, form respondents will receive an automated email notification. 

Approvers don’t have to manually draft and send emails, so they can stay focused on the work of approving requests, rather than all of the repetitive work that goes along with approval.

All approval requests are saved in a central location, further saving approvers time. Information gathered through forms populates a database in JotForm Tables that supervisors and approvers can access for a broad-picture view. 

The database makes monitoring the entire process simple, and supervisors can potentially spot problems and holdups early on in the process.

The JotForm Mobile Forms app, which is available for free on iOS or Android, enables approvers to manage both forms and approval flow from their phones.

JotForm Approvals is free.

Checkbox

Checkbox features a convenient drag-and-drop design that makes for easy and fast workflow automation. This app enables you to create parallel workflows, including reminders, scheduled tasks, and approvals, to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.

Checkbox’s predetermined logic options make for streamlined processes that are accurate and appropriate. Including calculations, digital spreadsheets, if-then logic, and decision-tree logic in your workflows help to avoid holdups and reduces the demand for staff to make decisions and sort requests manually.

This no-code platform is comprehensive. Not only does it handle workflow creation and approvals, but Checkbox also features a calculation engine capable of creating complex rules and logic. 

The dashboard and analytics help you identify what’s working and how to improve your business, while integrations with other tools make Checkbox a seamless addition to your existing business technology and systems.

The template gallery is loaded with templates to save you time and make the automation process faster. You can easily customize templates for common approval situations, like performance reviews, document execution approvals, and expense approvals.  

Checkbox offers a 14-day free trial, so you can experience it for yourself at no risk.

Decisions

Decisions is designed for fast implementation, so you can automate all of your business systems. Its rules-driven automation can pivot with the changing business environment, so you can establish systems that will adapt to shifting regulations, demands, and more.

This no-code platform includes powerful and comprehensive features, so you can rely on it for all of your automation needs. There’s no need to worry about integrating other tools or dealing with compatibility issues.

The Decisions visual designer is user-friendly, relying on graphics so that anyone — with or without coding or IT background — can automate processes. The Workflow Engine boasts more than 3,000 pre-built steps, making it easy to create workflows and processes that automate everything from work orders to vacation requests.

The drag-and-drop interface makes building custom reports simple, so you can access the specific information you need for a project, investor, or meeting. With such easy access to trends and business metrics, this platform can help you address processes that aren’t working and improve those that are.

Decisions goes beyond your typical automation platform with detailed reporting and built-in testing and debugging capabilities. Whether you’re just getting started with automation or are working with complex configurations, these testing options can help to head off trouble before you put a process into place. 

You can even create permanent rule and workflow unit tests that automatically run with any rule changes. This ensures that your processes perform the way you want them to and allows you to spot errors early on before they become costly mistakes.

With its extensive functionality, Decisions stands to save businesses significant time. It’s well-suited for large-scale enterprises looking to automate their approval processes and systems across their operations. 

Pricing starts at $4,839 per month for a single server with unlimited users. Enterprise pricing details are available upon request.

Rindle

Rindle, a no-code automation platform, allows you to build processes that enhance your business and your team. Trusted by top brands like the YMCA and AudienceView, Rindle features an easy-to-use dashboard and versatile capabilities.

With Rindle, you can create rules that will guide each step of your workflow, including your approval processes. The rules are customizable, so you can implement the steps and requirements that make sense for your business.

You don’t have to be a coding expert to work with Rindle. It comes equipped with more than 20 no-code triggers, the ability to use “and” and “or” logic for conditions, and more than 30 no-code actions. This simplifies the process of building your workflow and rules.

The Rindle dashboard resembles a card system like Asana or Trello but with more sophisticated capabilities. While you can still assign tasks and deadlines, the automation you set up can also create subtasks and take over some of the work.

You can use Rindle to create rule-driven workflows for your approval process. Whether you’re sorting emails based on the responses provided or need to ensure that requests requiring multiple approvals get in front of the right people, this platform can simplify the process and make for faster, more accurate results.

The Rindle Professional plan costs $9 per user, per month, while the Business plan costs $20 per user, per month. All plans include a 14-day trial.

Quickbase

Quickbase allows you to automate business processes without requiring any coding. The drag-and-drop visual builder is very user-friendly, and it helps you visualize how an app will function.

With Quickbase, you can upload data from a spreadsheet or by copying and pasting, to create a database. You can then build an app with that data.

When it comes to automating your approval process, Quickbase’s task management is highly customizable. Automated notifications, reports, and approvals can improve efficiency and keep your business operating smoothly, while reducing the time staff spend on standard tasks. 

Quickbase offers a library of templates that can help you set up automated processes, so you don’t have to create a custom app.

The platform also integrates with various popular services, including Box, Gmail, Google Drive, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.

Quickbase offers a 30-day free trial, and there’s no credit card required to sign up for the trial. Pricing is customized; contact the company for more info.

Flowfinity

With the Flowfinity platform, you can create custom apps for enterprise-grade solutions. Top businesses, including Ford, Campbell’s, Pepperidge Farm, and more, trust  Flowfinity.

The visual interface is simple, so it’s not overwhelming, but it’s also highly versatile. You can publish apps instantly, and they’ll be automatically installed to save you time. Dashboards allow for data visualizations so you can monitor your business and app performance.

Flowfinity’s point-and-click editor simplifies the process of building an app. The apps are automatically published for users, who might be in the field or in the office. 

The apps centralize your data, no matter where your users are located, and integrate it with your backend systems. From there, you can create reports, custom PDFs, export the data as a CSV file, or visualize and analyze it right in your dashboard.

Creating an app with Flowfinity helps to facilitate information flow while eliminating manual processes. You can use these apps to automate your business processes, including streamlining the approval process. The result is enhanced productivity and accuracy, as well as time-saving benefits for your staff and business as a whole.

In addition to automating approval processes, you could potentially use these apps to automate many other processes. Features like skip logic, barcode scanning, personalized emails, and the ability to create custom workflows mean there are potentially endless ways to apply these apps in your day-to-day operations.

Flowfinity offers a 14-day free trial and doesn’t require any credit card information to sign up for the trial. Pricing details aren’t available online.

Kintone

The Kintone platform simplifies the process of building the custom apps your business needs. This no-code platform doesn’t require any IT or third-party developer assistance, saving you time and money.

Kintone offers a library of more than 1,000 new apps that can serve as a starting point. The apps are all free and customizable, so you don’t have to build an app from scratch. 

You can create apps to automate your business approval processes, make for easier inventory management and ordering, facilitate time-off request approvals, and so much more.

As you build, you can also explore the wide selection of available extensions, including very popular programs like Dropbox, Evernote, Eventbrite, Gmail, HubSpot, and more. These extensions can increase your app’s functionality, ensuring it works with the other programs you’re already using for seamless integration with your business.

While Kintone makes the process of building apps easier, it also serves as a central dashboard so you can conveniently access all of your data.

Its in-database collaboration option allows you to easily search, read, and join conversations, which helps keep all of your team members on track and up to date. Teams can communicate through threads, in-record comments, user profile walls, and private messages, ensuring those conversations are stored and available when needed.

Accessible on an internet browser, Kintone is also available as an iOS and Android mobile app, so you can always stay connected.

A professional Kintone subscription starts at $24 per month, per user, with a minimum of five users. Discounted nonprofit and education and government subscriptions are also available.

Kintone offers a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card for signup.

Open as App

With Open as App, you can use your existing data to create an app. This platform pulls data from Excel, Google Sheets, or a database, all without any coding needed.

Once you’ve created your apps, it’s easy to manage them through the centralized dashboard. The dashboard gives you control over rights, security, and access settings. Your app will be visible only to you, and you can decide when and if you’re ready to share it with others.

With Open as App, you can automate your business processes, including approvals. It’s possible to automate time tracking sheets, quote follow-ups, approval notifications, sales system updates, and more. The apps themselves, can include automation like push notifications and automated emails, making them extraordinarily efficient.

Open as App helps you design four different types of apps:

  • List apps convert your data into apps that are easy to access both online and offline. Users can update reports and databases, filter data according to specific criteria, and update the data.
  • Dashboard apps make it easy to access your Excel or Google Sheets dashboards right from your phone. Charts update automatically, and you can customize colors and chart types.
  • Calculation apps make it simple and intuitive to use complicated spreadsheets. Formulas from your spreadsheets are automatically added to an app, so other team members can use the formulas and logic.
  • Survey apps make gathering survey information easier and more efficient. With this app, users can quickly fill out survey information on their phones, increasing the response rates.

While you can build a custom app from scratch, Open as App also offers a wide assortment of apps online. They can serve as an inspiration and are available publicly, so you can see what’s possible with Open as App and what type of app might work best for your business.

Open as App offers a free plan that allows you to create one app and share it with one user. The Business plan, which allows you to create 10 apps and share them with five users, costs $106 per month. A custom Enterprise plan is also available.

Choosing the Right No-Code Tools for Your Business

With so many no-code tools available, whether you’re running a small startup or a larger enterprise, you can find a tool that has the functionality and capacity you need. 

Choosing the right tool for your business.

When choosing the best app, you’ll start by outlining the processes that you want to automate and the other potential uses for apps within your business. Many of these tools can help you create apps for all sorts of purposes, so write up a list of potential apps and look for a tool that can help you create those apps.

Many of these tools feature pricing that depends on the number of seats or the number of users.

It’s helpful to review the roles that each employee in your company will play, whether that’s developing an app or using an app. Having this information can help you assess both pricing and value as you consider these different tools.

Automation gives you accuracy, productivity and costs savings.

Keep in mind, too, that automating the approval process (and other business processes) pays off in enhanced accuracy, productivity, and cost savings. While you might invest in a no-code tool to develop the apps you need, remember that it’s really an investment in your business’s success and efficiency. 

Image Credit: cottonbro; pexels; thank you!

John Boitnott

CEO, Boitnott Consulting LLC

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, print, radio and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat. You can see his latest work on his blog,
jboitnott.com

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