Have you ever wished that you could write custom code to automate some mundane task that you have to do every day? Does having to work with the IT team to create a scope of work or write in-depth requirements seem like way too much hassle for your small project? Does your company use Office 365 – or are they thinking of starting? If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” then you are in luck: most Office 365 plans provide access to a product called Flow. Microsoft Flow is a tool that allows users to create workflows with a graphical interface. It can connect together a number of different technologies that in the past were only available to experienced developers.Microsoft Flow workflows can be as simple or as complicated as you need them to be. What makes Microsoft Flow extremely valuable for business process automation is its ability to connect to both internal and external cloud-based sources. Through these connectors, Microsoft Flow gives end users the ability to apply business logic to specific processes without the need for custom code solutions. Below is a list of popular connectors that are currently available for use and included with your subscription to Office 365; a full list of connectors can be found on Microsoft’s website, with new connectors added on a weekly basis.
- Office 365
- Dynamics 365
Microsoft also offers Premium connectors, which help with access to other systems such as Teradata, Workday HCM, MailChimp and SurveyMonkey, for an additional cost.
So far, we’ve talked about what Microsoft Flow can connect to, but perhaps you’re wondering what it can actually do: how you can use it to automate your existing business processes. Well, here’s an example. Recently a customer came to Olive + Goose looking for help automating their current timecard collection process. The customer was using a SharePoint library to collect all timecards, which were in the form of Excel spreadsheets. Once a person submitted their timecard to the SharePoint list, the manager needed to review and approve each timecard before sending an email to the accounting department to let them know the timecards were correct. At the end of the week it was the manager’s responsibility to email each member of the team who had not submitted their time card to remind them to submit it for approval. This process was consuming managers’ weekly time and causing serious issues within this rapidly growing company.
To automate this process, Olive + Goose consultants used Microsoft Flow to create an approval workflow that sends an email to the employee’s manager once a new file is added to the SharePoint library. We also created a two-stage approval process that allows managers to communicate approvals or errors back to employees, and for the accounting department to do the same for managers. With each of these steps the workflow creates an automated follow up email and continually tracks the responses. These responses are completely customizable based on additional SharePoint list values, which gives the customer the opportunity to apply this process to other departments. Microsoft Flow not only allowed the customer to create customized emails, but also created custom tasks for both employees and managers, which helped keep communication consistent throughout the process. Once implemented, this process helped decrease managers’ weekly time spent on administrative tasks by approximately 40%.
If business process automation is something that you or your team has been looking to try, then Microsoft Flow is a great way to get started – and Microsoft has some great resources for helping you take the leap. And if you want to go beyond what the guides and tutorials can offer – say, additional customizations, in-depth training, or hands-on assistance with automation tasks – please do reach out. Our Office 365 specialists are more than happy to help.