How to create a process with the tools in Microsoft 365
By automating your processes, you can make them better, safer and faster. An easy way to do this is to use the built-in tools in Microsoft 365. Here's how, based on a real-life example
Some processes work better and others work worse. That's the way it is in any business. In this blog post, we'll focus on the ones that are working worse and how you can make them more efficient with simple means using the built-in tools in Microsoft 365.
When building a process in Microsoft 365, the end goal is a user-friendly app that takes the user through the entire process in a simple and intuitive way. With a well-defined process and a customised app, the person using the app never has to wonder what to do next. It can only be done one way and only moves on to the next step when the previous one is done.
The benefits of building apps for your processes are many:
- Standardisation - You make sure that everyone in the business is doing the same thing.
- Security - Building an app that is tailored to a specific task reduces the risk of making mistakes.
- Flexibility - You can easily adapt the steps and make changes as processes change.
- Ease of use - By presenting only the information and choices required by the task, the tool can be used by staff with less computer experience.
Which processes can be made more efficient?
There's no limit to how simple or how complex you can build processes this way. You can build a holiday application app, but you can also build a flow that takes you through the entire HR process, from recruitment to offboarding. One tip is to start with processes that work less well and require a lot of manual intervention. If you still have processes that rely on pen and paper, you should definitely consider taking those first!
The alternative to building your own apps in Microsoft 365 is to buy pre-built solutions. The advantage of traditional purchased solutions is that you don't have to spend time mapping and defining your processes. The disadvantage is that you are likely to end up with a solution that doesn't quite fit you and is harder to change afterwards.
Let's build a contract management app
To illustrate what we mean by building a process in Microsoft 365, let's look at how a contract management app could work. It's something we see a lot of companies need. It can also be a difficult nut to crack because there are many different types of contracts and many people are often involved.
In the app, we want employees to be able to upload their contracts along with all the necessary information. Then we want automated reminders to be generated when the contract is about to expire.
The tools we use to build the process are Power Apps, Sharepoint and Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow).
We build the app in Microsoft Apps
The app is built in Power Apps, i.e. in the user interface that the end user encounters. The app is used to make it simple, intuitive and process-driven. The data is retrieved from and sent to a data source, such as a Sharepoint list.
This is what happens in the contracts folder: the user is presented with a document library with different types of contracts. Which ones are displayed depends on the rights the user has. The app is used to upload the contract along with information on when the contract expires, who is responsible and when a reminder should be generated. By requiring that the contract number has the correct number of digits and that all fields are filled in, the risk of errors is reduced.
All data is stored in Sharepoint
Sharepoint is the library itself where the data is stored along with the associated attributes.
This is what happens in the Agreements folder: the Sharepoint list stores the agreements together with the information entered by the user. Anyone in an administrative role who needs to see the whole picture can work with their own views, for example to see all contracts that will expire within a year.
Automation and triggers are built in Power Automate
Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, is the automation engine that connects the different parts and makes them work together. It's also where you set up the conditions/business logic for your processes and can build advanced approvals and more.
Here's what happens in the contract app: once the user has entered a contract in the app, Power Automate starts working behind the scenes. Power Automate inserts reminders into the owner's calendar and sets rights based on what has been entered into the app.
Building a contract management app was as easy as that. Want to learn more about how you can use the built-in tools in Microsoft 365 to build processes?
Contact us and we will tell you more.