[21 Days of Automation] Day 13: How to troubleshoot a broken automation in Zapier

21daysofautomation blogbot v 0.2 Sep 27, 2022
[21 Days of Automation] Day 13: How to troubleshoot a broken automation in Zapier

Originally posted by Blogbot on Medium on 7th Feb 2020 

We’ve all been there — You’ve woken up to 25 emails with the following title:

“[ALERT] Possible error on your “Insert details of zap name” Zap!”

And, if you’re anything like me, you may even wake up in a cold sweat now and then expecting a message saying “We need your confirmation to automate 4 billion tasks”. It comes with the territory — Something will go wrong, sometime, somewhere, and you’ll be called upon to act swiftly, with purpose and focus, so here are a few tips to help you get to the bottom of a faulty zap before it ruins your day, and everyone else’s.

Obviously you can just go here to the support page in these cases, but hopefully, the below can be seen as best practices and go-to ideas on how to identify the problem before needing to contact support. The below tips can be looked at as advice, rather than instructions. There are too many things that could go wrong, for this list to be anywhere close to exhaustive, but they’re all tips I continue to swear by when the heat is on.

Keep a cool head

Nobody likes to wake up to alerts about anything. It normally means you’ve screwed up or something outside of your control has screwed up — Either way, action is needed, and you’re the only one who can save the day. It basically makes you a super-hero, and good super-heroes aren’t prone to running around in a panic.

Get as much information about this issue as possible

If you’re the point of contact in charge of this SNAFU, then it falls upon you to identify how and why this has happened, so it helps to have perspective.

If someone has reported this issue to you, directly, then ask them some clarifying questions like “When did the issue happen?”, “What were you doing when it happened?”, “What was the expected behaviour?”, “do they have any relevant record or Identification numbers to hand”? Or better yet, ask them to file a bug report using software which will help you triage this and alert others to the issue.

Use the helpful search features in Zapier

One of Zapier’s most useful features is the search field in your task history. Begin here if you’re looking for a zap that’s potentially buried amongst many others, and you were alerted by something other than Zapier’s emails. Simply navigate to “Task History” and enter any known information about the issue here.

Navigate to the task that stopped the zap

Next, we want to look into the issue more deeply, so we would click into the zap once we’ve found it, and identify the step that went wrong.

Take Action

We now have two options, depending on the situation. If the zap should have run correctly, but there was a race-condition, meaning the target app wasn’t ready, we can click “Replay” at the top right. If however, we’ve identified a potential underlying issue with the zap, we might need to Edit the step or add another step beforehand to prepare the data ahead of the step that caused the error.

When Zapier works. It’s a wonderful thing, so it’s important that you get it working again ASAP, and I hope that these tips save you a bit of time in future.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips and tricks for troubleshooting zaps.