AI vs Automation: Streamlining Your Work with Smart Integrations

It’s got the industry excited

During the recent MRS Applied Transformation conference panel debate Insights Revolution: navigating new horizons with Generative AI, one of the attendees asked an interesting question towards the end. “ Are you doing all these things to improve productivity or creativity in the industry?” Great question!

Typically we think that in today’s fast-paced business world, efficiency and productivity are paramount. However, with those improvements, I’d argue that you can have both, as efficiency facilitates greater productivity as it enables more time for deep thinking.

So win, win…

We were in a talk specifically discussing Generative AI though. The silver bullet that is exciting and worrying the industry in equal measures. But AI can sometimes be a hammer to crack a nut.  Improvements can usually be obtained without throwing out your existing platforms.

Just for reference, here is a neat infographic that explains the contrast between expectations and reality for AI in an enterprise context.

credits to the author, Gina Acosta:


The terms “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) and “automation” are often used interchangeably, they are distinct concepts with different implications for streamlining your workflows.  The latter can be done far more simply and cheaply with various no-code apps..

Let me expand on the difference between the two.

What is Automation?

Automation refers to the use of technology to perform repetitive, predefined tasks with little to no human intervention. It involves creating rules and workflows that execute a series of actions based on predetermined conditions or triggers. Classic examples of automation include sending automatic email responses, scheduling social media posts, or generating reports from data sources.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

On the other hand, AI involves the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, and decision-making. AI systems are designed to analyze data, recognize patterns, and make decisions or predictions based on that analysis. Examples of AI include virtual co-pilots, image and speech recognition, and predictive analytics.

I’ve sat in several meetings where business owners have asked for help in brainstorming the latest AI tools for their business and the Tech company owners in the meeting have steered them away from AI and told them to look into automations first. While both AI and automation aim to increase efficiency and reduce manual effort, they differ in their approach and capabilities.

The Power of Integrations: Combining Automation and AI

While AI holds great promise for the future, automation can provide immediate benefits for streamlining everyday tasks. And one of the most powerful ways to leverage automation is through integrations – connecting different tools and services to create seamless workflows.

Platforms like Zapier and allow you to create integrations between hundreds of popular apps and services without writing a single line of code.  With these tools, you can automate tasks like:

Client Management:

  • Automatically add new leads from web forms to your CRM
  • Send follow-up emails to prospects based on their actions
  • Sync project management tools with billing/invoicing software

Market Research:

  • Gather data from surveys into a centralized database
  • Pull social media data into a spreadsheet for analysis
  • Monitor online reviews/mentions and compile reports

Campaign Execution:

  • Trigger email marketing campaigns based on lead behavior
  • Post content to multiple social media accounts simultaneously
  • Update ad campaigns based on conversion data

Project Workflows:

  • Notify team members of new tasks in your project management tool
  • Automatically generate contracts/proposals from client details
  • Sync files between cloud storage and internal servers
  • And much more!

By automating these repetitive, error-prone tasks, you free up time and mental bandwidth to focus on higher-value activities that drive your agency and relationships forward.

A cartoon image of superhero zapping

My experience 

My business is in its infancy but I was still able to put 14 different s/w tools into my Zap workspace this week.  So how many more tools does a longer-established or larger business have???!

My automation guy asked why I wanted to get him involved so early into my new venture, as he’s normally called in when processes have been built and workflows need to be streamlined.  I’m a believer in having your end goal in mind; efficiency!.

Tony Hunter, one of the founders of the UK research platform/service Attest (which raised $147m of funding), is one such inspiration for me.  In his February newsletter, he stated that  People in my tech-bubble are talking about a potential future business worth $10bn run by only ten people. This, I think, is infinitely possible’.  Ok, comparing my ambitions and skills to his might be rather far-fetched, but I’m embracing the fact that approaching things cleverly with tech at the beginning leads to greater output value.

So the first step for any company is to connect disparate tools through no-code automation, eliminating tedious data entry, reducing manual errors, and ensuring seamless information flow. This allows team members to spend more time on high-value strategic tasks that drive business growth, and work out the new kind of human support that suits them.

How to determine what’s right for you

While AI holds immense potential for the future, automation through integrations offers a quick and cost-effective way to boost your productivity today. By leveraging tools like Zapier and, you can streamline your workflows, reduce manual effort, and focus on the tasks that truly matter.

When trying to determine whether AI or automation would be more useful for your business, there are several key questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What are the repetitive, routine tasks in your operations? Start by identifying the tasks that follow a predictable, rules-based process. Things like data entry, file transfers, notifications, etc. These are great candidates for automation.
  2. Which tasks require human judgment, analysis or creativity? AI excels at tasks that involve processing large amounts of data, recognizing patterns, making predictions, and augmenting human decision-making. Marketing insights, content personalization, and predictive analytics often benefit from AI and there is a lot of MarTech and  ResTech out there.
  3. How structured is your data? AI systems perform best with large, clean, structured datasets. Automation can handle unstructured data reasonably well through if/then rules.
  4. What is your risk tolerance for errors? Automation follows strict rules with less potential for errors, while AI models have some inherent uncertainty. Risk profiles determine which is more suitable.
  5. Do you need to scale processes dynamically? AI is better suited for processes that need to dynamically adapt to changing conditions, while automation excels at consistently executing defined workflows.
  6. What are your budget and technical skill constraints? Simple automation can be implemented via no-code tools relatively easily. AI may require more investment in data prepping, model training, and specialized skills.
  7. What are your long-term strategy goals? AI has far greater potential for scalable innovation but has higher upfront costs. Automation delivers more immediate ROI for streamlining operations.

By evaluating your tasks, data readiness, risk tolerance, scalability needs, resources, and strategic vision, you can determine where automation or AI will drive more value in the near and long term.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to streamlining processes through easy integrations. A little upfront effort in setting up these automations can pay massive dividends in time savings and operational efficiency.

Sounds good? Would you like to speak to my automation guy? No problem, book a call and we can tell you more and help you do the same.

Need a hand?

P.S. We know it’s not easy to know where to start with this so we offer company workshops to help you map out your current business processes and systems so you can hand over the technical dreaming to us, while you concentrate on your day job.


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