Human-in-the-Loop Automation

Jacob Bank
Jacob Bank

I’ve spent my whole career working on AI-powered productivity and automation tools. My first startup built an AI-powered digital calendar called Timeful that helped you schedule time for your tasks, habits, and projects. After that, I led the product teams for Gmail and Google Calendar, where we built Smart Reply, Smart Compose, Nudging, and many other AI-powered features. And for the last couple of years, I’ve been the founder and CEO at, which aims to bring AI into automated workflows. Needless to say, I'm really excited about the ability to save people time by automating their tedious tasks with AI.

But time and time again, we learned that our tools can do many things for us, but they can’t do everything! The best experiences figured out how to combine automation and AI with a human in the loop to get the best of both worlds - automate the mundane, but keep a personal touch where it matters. And now that I’m fully immersed in the automation world, I’m more confident than ever that Human in the Loop Automation is going to be the key to getting the most out of the next generation of tools.

Automation is great!

We all have to do mundane, tedious, and repetitive tasks every day that drain our time and energy. When I first discovered automation, it was magic! I not only saved a ton of time, but I didn’t have to remember the million little tasks that were crowding my brain.

And best of all, there are a ton of tools out there, like Zapier, Make, and of course, that make it easy for anyone to set up automations with no coding required.

AI will make it 100x more powerful

We’re all amazed by what ChatGPT and other LLMs can do. They can write emails, edit blog posts, summarize notes, and much more. So if you’re building an automation, there’s a good chance that you can incorporate an AI-powered step into the workflow. AI will also make it dramatically easier to develop new automations and make the ones you have more efficient.

Adding an AI-powered step in a repeated workflow
Adding an AI-powered step in a repeated workflow

But not everything can be entirely automated! We all know that automations and AI won’t be perfect. You might be missing a key piece of context, the AI might hallucinate, or you may simply need a person to complete some real world task before the automation can proceed.

What is Human-in-the-Loop Automation?

So how can we get the most out of AI-powered automation tools? We need to add a human in the loop that can add unique judgment, context, and perspective.

Here are a few common types of steps you might want to add:

  • Approval - Confirm that everything is correct before the automation proceeds.
  • Decision - Decide whether to run automation A or B in a given situation.
  • Data Input - Add some context or information that only a person knows.
  • Task - Do something in the real world that needs to happen before the automation can proceed
Human-in-the-loop steps in
Human-in-the-loop steps in

Examples of Human-in-the-Loop Automation

Wondering how these human-in-the-loop steps might actually be useful in practice, here's a quick example of each:

  • In a deal-closing workflow, the manager approves continuing the workflow after a contract has been created automatically. After approval, the workflow continues by sharing the Docusign with the customer and wait for it to be completed
  • When a new customer support email arrives in a shared inbox, a support team member will get notified to decide whether the incoming email is about a complaint or a compliment. Depending on the team member's decision, either a support ticket will be filed in Zendesk or a thank you email is sent to the customer
  • In a customer onboarding process workflow, the Account Executive (AE) for a deal that just closed is asked to provide a link to the deal summary notes document, after which this will be automatically shared with the Customer Success Manager (CSM)
  • In a sales closing workflow, after a Deal is closed per according to an update in the CRM, a task is assigned to the Sales Manager to create a draft of the contract. After this task is completed, the workflow will continue by sharing the draft with the Legal counsel for review.

Final Takeaways

The combination of AI and automation is incredibly excited, and I can't wait for more people to try it out. If I had to boil this whole article down to three simple statements, here they are:

1. Everyone should be using automation. It will save us all a ton of time and hassle.

2. Everyone should be using AI in their automated workflows. It will save us even more time!

3. Everyone should be adding a human-in-the-loop. It will enable you to automate even more across your business and make sure the result is perfect every time.

What will you automate?

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