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Scheduling Data Extension Imports in Automation Studio

Many eComm users who send to data extensions might find themselves sending to the same audience on a regular basis, which generally means going through the time-consuming process of manually importing the data extensions to which you'll be sending. For example, the weekly CU Connections send from the Office of the President is sent to nine data extensions every week. In this case (or even for less extreme examples), searching through your list of data extensions and checking boxes to manually import them takes time. The solution? Marketing Cloud's Automation Studio.

What is Automation Studio?

Automation Studio is one of the tools available in Marketing Cloud, just like its companion tool, Email Studio. Automation studio allows you to automate processes and email sends that you complete on a regular basis to save time and let technology do the manual work for you.

Get in-depth details about Automation Studio.

How do I find Automation Studio?

If you're already a Marketing Cloud user, you're probably used to navigating to Email Studio on an almost daily basis. Automation Studio can be accessed in the same way. When you login to Marketing Cloud and land on the homepage, you'll see the familiar Email Studio icon on the left and a new icon called Journey Builder just to the right of center.

Marketing Cloud Menu

Hover over the Journey Builder icon, and then select Automation Studio.

Journey Builder Menu

How do I schedule a data extension to run automatically?

1. When Automation Studio opens, click the New Automation button in the upper right corner of the screen.

New Automation

2. The next screen will ask you to identify a starting source for your automation from two options: Schedule or File Drop

Starting Source
Starting Source Options




3. Click on the green Schedule option and drag it into the open circle.

Schedule Starting Source







4. Next, locate the Import File icon in the Activities menu. Drag and drop it to the activity canvas.

Activities Menu

Activities Canvas

5. To choose the data extension you want to schedule, click the Choose button in the Import File box.

Choose Import File

6. In the Choose Import File Activity window, click on the data extension you want to schedule. You can also search for it using the search tool in the upper left corner. Once you've made a selection, ensure that you see the highlighted message, "Overwrite Data Action Selected." This will ensure that your data extension is set to overwrite so it is always populating with the most current data. When you are finished selecting your data extension, click Done

More than one date extension? You'll only be able to select one data extension at a time. If you are hoping to schedule more than one data extension as part of a group, repeat steps 4-6 until you are finished.

Choose Import File Activity Window

7. To schedule your data extension to automatically import, click on Configure under the Schedule Starting Source.

Configure Automation

8. Enter the parameters for your import schedule in the Define Schedule window. Click Done when you are finished.

Define Schedule

9. Next, save your automation by clicking Save in the upper right corner. You can save in the "My Automations" folder, or you can (when you're ready) create a folder hierarchy to keep your automations organized.

Save Automation

10. Once your automation is saved, you'll notice that the schedule tab has an activity of Paused. Change the activity to Active to activate your automation. A confirmation window will appear to allow you to confirm that you want to activate the automation. Click Activate.

Paused Automation
Active Automation


11. Click Save one more time to ensure that your active automation is saved. 

How will I know if my automation failed or ran successfully?

1. Click the Activity tab in your automation. You'll see a Notification Settings option on the left side of the screen. Enter your email address in one or both of the notification fields. Click Save when you are finished.

Automation Notification Settings

Activate again before closing Since you made a change to an existing automation, the automation activity will reset to Paused. Be sure to return to the Workflow tab to activate the automation and save again before exiting.

What will the Activity tab look like once my automation is running?

Once your automation has run at least one time, the Activity tab will begin to populate with a history of your automation's activity. An example is included below. You'll notice that the average run time of the automation is only 15 seconds - much faster than if you were importing the data extension manually.

Successful Automation Activity

Request Automated Data Extensions for Entire Business Unit

Marketing Cloud senders are required to re-Start Data Extensions before each send to ensure the audience is up-to-date (and CAN-SPAM compliant). If an automation is configured to run all the Data Extensions in a Business Unit nightly, manually re-starting the Data Extensions before each send becomes obsolete. To make this move, eComm specialists can work with the System office to initially configure an automation in each Business Unit and learn to maintain.

The System team will help set up an automation for all Data Extension in a Business Unit (except those determined to be exclude) in the order they are requested. 

1) ECOMM SPECIALIST | Populate request spreadsheet and notify

  • Provide details and determine a launch date.
  • You may need to work with users to determine Data Extensions that should not be included in this project.

2) SYSTEM TEAM & ECOMM SPECIALIST | Communicate process change to affected users

  • Once the automation is launched (step 4), Data Extensions will no longer need to be re-Started manually before sends. Instead, senders can check the Data Extension history to confirm it's been ran recently.
  • If senders re-Start a Data Extension unnecessarily, it's not a big deal; however, we want to avoid a user thinking all Data Extensions in all Business Units are automatically ran when they are not. This might cause a sender to not re-Start a Data Extension when they should, resulting in a send to an outdated audience (and a CAN-SPAM violation).

3) ECOMM SPECIALIST | Turn off all existing notifications within each Data Extension

  • Failure to turnoff notifications in each Data Extension will result in that email address being notified every night.
  • eComm specialists are encouraged to create different folders for Data Extensions that are ran nightly via the automation vs. those that aren't.

4) SYSTEM TEAM | Configure & launch automation

5) ECOMM SPECIALIST | Maintain automation

  • eComm specialists will maintain the automation by adding newly created Data Extensions and troubleshooting any failure notifications (see next two tabs for details).

Data Extensions created after the initial launch of the automation need to be added. Instructions coming soon...

An email notification is sent everytime the automation is ran (nightly) indicating success or failure. On occasion, an automation might fail due to one Data Extension failing which prevents the following Data Extensions in the automation from running. When an automation fail occurs, it's important to troubleshoot the failure and restart the automation until it is successful to ensure audience accuracy. Instructions coming soon...

Coming soon...