Now that you have a working understanding of your workflow’s goals, the recurring steps to accomplish that goal and your workflow’s stakeholders, it’s time to design your system. A system that will hold all of your workflow’s information and let you orchestrate your work in one place.
In this guide, you’ll learn step-by-step how to build that system in Airtable.
You’ll learn how to:
- Create a single place to orchestrate your work
- Structure your system to define the relationships that power your workflow
- Get the information you need for your role in the workflow
Organize your system
Workflows require keeping on top of a lot of information. Unless it’s properly organized and accessible, it can easily become overwhelming! In the previous step of this guide, you outlined the information required across your workflow and organized that information into groups—lists of similar information. It’s now time to translate that work into Airtable.
In Airtable, you can organize the information for each workflow in a base. Every base is comprised of tables, one for each group of similar information that you outlined in your workflow. For example, you might have tables for projects, assets and clients.
Within each table, you’ll add records. A record represents one item in the group, and it captures all relevant information for that item. For instance, each record in your projects table would represent a different project and each record in your clients table would represent a different client.
→ Create the tables required for your workflow including one table for every key group of information. You can reference the groupings you created in the previous step in this series. Then, add records to every table to capture all of the items in each grouping.
Track your workflow’s details
You’ve organized your tables to hold the groups of information in your workflow, now it’s time to add in the other important details your team needs.
There are dozens of details to keep track of: each of your projects has a due date, owner, and a budget while your assets have dimension specifications, a designer, and more!
In Airtable, details of each item on your list are kept in fields. And fields come in a variety of types depending on the information you’re tracking. For instance, the budget for each of your projects should be captured using a currency field type while due dates use a date field. You can add as many fields as you need to track all of the information required for your workflow.
Here are some field types that are common across workflows:
- A single select field lets you tag each record according to pre-selected categories, such as status, priority, or size.
- Attachment fields can capture relevant documents, images or videos, such as contracts, proofs, and assets.
- Date fields let you track important dates for each item in your list, such as project timelines, asset due dates or contract start & end dates.
Airtable includes over 25 different fields types to choose from, such as URLs, currency, checkboxes, emails, phone numbers and formulas, and you can use as many field types as needed to structure all the details of your work.
You should create fields for all of the details you mapped out under each group of information. For example, the web agency might organize their tables and fields like this:
→ Add the necessary fields in your tables to satisfy the information requirements of your workflow. You can refer back to the mapping you created in the previous step. Feel free to experiment with field types—if you find a field type that better matches your requirements, switching is easy! Once created, fill in your new fields with the correct values for each record.
Create your relationships
Concepts covered: linked records.
Now, your tables don’t live on their own. In fact, they’re probably deeply intertwined! It could be that each of your assets is related to a project and each project is tied to a client. Every workflow has its unique set of important relationships.
In Airtable, not only can you manage different types of information in your records, you can use the linked record field type to associate records together capturing the dynamic relationship between them. Linked records let you bridge tables to show that a record in one table—a project for instance—is related to a record in another table—a client.
Before you can add linked records, it’s important to take a moment to understand your workflow’s relationships. In the web design agency workflow, you can see that assets are related to a project and projects are associated to clients.
Once you have identified important relationships for your workflow, you can add them to your system using the linked record field type. To associate two records together, create a linked record field in any table. Since the relationship goes both ways, it doesn’t matter which table you create it in.
For example, if you want to associate a project to its respective client, you can create a linked record field in the projects table linking to the client table. Now that you’ve associated the two tables, you can click on the + from either table, and you’ll see all of the records from the linked table. You can then associate records together, for example linking the right clients to the right projects.
→ Your turn! First, create the linked record fields that represent your workflow’s relationships. Then, associate relevant records together. Now your Airtable base reflects the dynamic relationships in your workflow in addition to all of the details it requires!
Get the information you need
You now have a system—your Airtable base—to organize and orchestrate your work. However, you may not need to see everything, every record and every field, all the time! Different information can be relevant at different moments in your workflow. It’s important that you and your stakeholders can quickly access the information needed for their respective role in the workflow.
In Airtable, you can specify what you see and how you see it using views, and you can create as many views as you need to group, sort, filter, and visualize your work for different needs. The views toolbar gives you a few options: filter down to relevant records, hide unnecessary fields, sort to a preferred order, and group similar records together.
For example, a project owner for the web designer agency could create an ‘In progress’ view that filters out completed projects and shows only the fields necessary to prioritize projects.
Or if you’re a designer you can home in on assets due in the next two weeks so nothing gets missed.
Note that views are simply different ways to look at your information; filtering out a record in one view does not delete it from the table, and grouping, or sorting one view will not change other views. Additionally, the views are all referencing the same underlying records; updating records in one view will update that information across all views.
There are also other options in addition to grid views —you can visualize the information in a way that’s a right for you using different view types, such as Kanban, Calendar or Gallery views.
→ Create the views necessary for your workflow. Create as many or as few as you need! In a following chapter of the series, you’ll learn more about leveraging various view types to collaborate with stakeholders.
You’ve taken 3 key steps to creating your system in Airtable:
- Designed your tables and fields to capture all of your workflow’s important information
- Added views to get the information you need
- Created a single system to orchestrate your workflow
In the next part of this series on workflow design, you’ll learn the six design decisions to validate that you’ve created a base that accurately matches your workflow.