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A Stanford IT Team Built Time-Saving Workflows During an Efficiency Competition

By Joey Blanco · January 12, 2018
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No matter how tech savvy you might be, odds are you'll eventually need some help with your computer. At Stanford University, the Computer Resource Consulting (CRC) team within University IT supports students and faculty, admin units and labs, and even other IT groups.

CRC is one of Stanford's cost recovery services, designed to ease the financial costs of running a school or department within the university. As such, CRC Director Brad Immanuel runs a lean but talented team. They get more done with limited resources by using app automation tool Zapier.

"The project team was using Zapier to track the number of appointments made," says Brad. "When we saw how powerful the Zaps could be, we knew we wanted all of CRC to give it a try." Zaps are workflows connecting different apps. Multi-Step Zaps connect multiple apps in one workflow.

Zapier enables us to spend less time preparing the reports and more time analyzing and improving our service.

Brad Immanuel, Director of CRC, Stanford University

In sharing Zapier with CRC, Brad hatched an idea: A ZapAttack. "We wanted to encourage the team to explore and learn Zapier through play," Brad explains. CRC's ZapAttack was a team-wide competition, where each member could submit a Zap of their own creation and the team would vote on the best in its category. With categories like Best in Show, Best Tools for Tech, Rube Goldberg, and Funnest, CRC mixed building better workflows with the fun of automating anything with Zapier.


Text New Appointments to Your Team

CRC's appointments are booked with scheduling app Appointlet. Different employees are assigned to the appointment, depending on the type of appointment booked. While employees would be notified by email, if you're out in the field helping clients, your inbox isn't the first thing on your mind.

The winner of the ZapAttack's Best in Show award, Philip Bailey, created a Zap to instantly notify team members via text message. At the same time, Philip's Zap updates a spreadsheet in Google Sheets that tracks appointments. All of this happens instantaneously, once a client schedules a new appointment.

Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the Zap:

First, CRC receives a new appointment from Appointlet. With that new appointment's information, Zapier's filter looks for the assigned CRC team member. If it's assigned to Philip, in this case, the Zap moves on to the next step and creates an Office 365 event with start and end times and requested services.

Next, the Zap sends Philip a text through Zapier's SMS app. Finally, the Zap updates a Google Sheet with the appointment details.

With just one automated workflow, Philip ensures his teammates are immediately notified of new appointments and has their Google Sheet updated.

Try out different pieces of this Zap for yourself:

Send Automatic Notifications from Google Sheets to Slack

Sometimes, it's the simplest ideas that contribute to smarter work, like automatically tracking inventory. Out in the field, CRC uses different adaptors to connect computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, and more. As they leave adaptors with clients, monitoring inventory is essential to providing seamless and timely service.

CRC stores their inventory data in Google Sheets where each tech updates the spreadsheet as they use an adaptor. Techs and managers would check the spreadsheet to see levels to reorder supplies. Not an immensely time-intensive task but a tedious one all the same.

For the ZapAttack, IT Specialist Stephanie Ricardez built a simple Zap to automatically notify the team of inventory levels. Using Zapier's own Schedule app, Stephanie has Zapier look up inventory levels on a regular basis in Google Sheets and send a message in Slack.


"One of the most significant themes from the ZapAttack related to filtering information," Brad says. "That way, a tech in the field is alerted to the important things."

With the ZapAttack, Stanford's CRC team helped each other be more efficient and effective in their work. Inventory reports are generated, techs receive notifications in the field, and it all happens automatically.

"Zapier saved me from having to hire a data integrator and saves us several hours a week in preparing our data," he explains. "Our techs are saving two to three minutes per ticket on over 22,000 tickets a year. That adds up, fast."

What's your story? Tell us how you use Zapier to do more. You can also read even more customer stories and find new ways to improve your workflow and productivity.

All images courtesy of Stanford University.

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Joey Blanco picture

Joey Blanco

Joey Blanco is the founder of Zapier's video team. When he's not working (and even when he is, let's be honest), he's listening to pop-punk, dreaming of dinosaurs, and snuggling his dogs.

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