Answers: can a parent item trigger an automated change in a subitem?

We see a lot of confusion about using automations between parent items and subitems. To help, I wanted to write a post that offers some insight.

Automations have triggers and actions. For example: “When Status changes to Done, assign Person.” In this automation recipe, the trigger is “When Status changes to Done”, and the action is “assign Person”.

Pretty straightforward. But what if you want the trigger to be a change in a parent item and the action to be a change in a subitem?

First, the general rule is that parent items can only interact with their data and fields. However, parent items can not interact with their subitems or with the subitems of other items.

Let’s take an example. This is our board:

Let’s say that we want to use an automation to let Cassandra and Noy know that we tried the restaurant Cafecitos when the “Tried it?” column changes to the “Yes” label. In this case, we can’t use an automation to notify them. Because “Tried it?” is part of the parent item and Noy and Cassandra are subitems, an automation won’t work here. In this case, our best bet is to write an update on the item and tag Noy and Cassandra.

There’s a whole complicated technical explanation about why this isn’t possible, but I’ll spare you. :wink: The simple explanation is that, while a subitem appears under a parent item, it is a separate entity.

To add to this great explanation, during consulting and training sessions we let our clients know that subitems actually live on a hidden board connected to the parent board. Once you understand how boards and automations work, these limitations make more sense when you consider that subitems are on an entirely separate board (albeit one that is displayed inside the parent).



Thanks for the explanation and insight of how the Subitems actually work!

BUT if anyone is struggling with this exact scenario, of if Monday support gets this exact question often, there are a few simple workarounds:

A. General Caster + Email Integration

  1. Add a Text Column to your subitems and input users emails.
  2. Choose “Show Summary on Parent Item”
  3. This results in the emails separated by a comma, visually.
  4. General Caster can send the results to a separate Text Column on your Parent Item, but you will notice they are separated by a plus sign now. Use this formula SUBSTITUTE({columnname},"+","; ") and now your result will be usable by a Gmail or Outlook built in Monday integration.
  5. Set up your desired automation to email someone based on the trigger and use the column on your Parent item. It will have the emails separated by "; " which will send a separate email to each one.

B. Integromat
*Same steps as above but instead of General Caster, you get the information from Monday via Integromat and run the formula through there. More complicated but you could do more with it including send notifications through Monday instead of emails(but you would still do emails).

@cassandra this is a very helpfu explanation as I’ve been banging my head against the wall on my use case which is very similar to what you have outlined. I now see that the items and sub items are separate entities and that the item entities cannot interact with the sub-tem entity. That being said, shouldn’t everything within the sub-item entity be able to interact? I have a People column in my sub-items “Assigned To” and I have a status column. I want to notify the person in the sub-item Assigned To column when the sub-item Status = Ready for Work. However, when I try to customize an automation, it is only showing me the People column from the Item level (which I thought wasn’t supposed to be possible) and there is no way for me to select the “Assigned To” column. Could you please advise? Thank you.