Business processes – How Microsoft Power Automate can help you to streamline and automate them

Business processes – How Microsoft Power Automate can help you to streamline and automate them

John PhillipsCompany Updates, Product Updates

Business processes allow you to train your teams to perform your company’s daily functions without the need for micromanagement.

This leads to reduced risk of human error, a wider spread of learning and information, improved efficiency and collaboration, improved time management, and generally more time for team members to focus on their key tasks.

If you are the owner of a small business, it also means more time to work ON your business and less time working IN the business and getting bogged down in the daily grind.

In this article, we’re going to cover some business process management software which will enable you to take control via business process automation, allowing you to automate and streamline processes.

Let’s start by looking at how you can automate everyday tasks…

What is Microsoft Power Automate and why should you use it?

Power Automate (previously known as Microsoft Flow) is a cloud-based service within the suite of Microsoft Power Platform products. It allows users to build workflows that automate time-consuming business processes and tasks across applications and services.

There are over 400 connectors to popular services such as SharePoint, Dynamics 365, and Outlook, so you can be sure all your integration needs are covered. Since it falls under the Microsoft banner, it’s the perfect business process automation solution because it integrates with all the Microsoft apps that your business already uses every day.

Microsoft Power Automate capability is included with several Microsoft Dynamics 365 applications such as Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Customer Service, when used with Dynamics 365 data. It can also be licensed as a standalone product, with prices starting from £11.30 per month.

How can Cloud Flows help with business processes?

A Cloud Flow is a component of Power Automate that allows for a series of commands to be carried out either:

  1. on a schedule (for example to send out a weekly report),
  2. on a trigger (such as sending a Teams notification to the sales team when a new lead is created) or
  3. manually triggered by the click of a button (in Dynamics 365 or a Power App for example).

By automating your business processes, you can ensure that steps are carried out in a predefined manner to ensure data consistency and save time. Hundreds of connectors are available to integrate systems such as Dynamics 365, SharePoint, Teams, plus numerous third-party systems such as Salesforce, Twitter, Asana, Dropbox, Google services, and more.

TIP: If you want to use a connector and you can’t find it on the list, it might still be possible to integrate the third-party programme with your flows. It depends if the programme offers an API, which can then be used to build a custom connection.

Using a Cloud Flow, you can set up automated workflows between your favourite apps and services to synchronise files, get notifications, collect data, and more.

For example, you could create a Cloud Flow that notifies you by email when someone sends a tweet that contains a keyword you specify. In this example, the tweet is the trigger, and sending an email is the action.

TIP: A vast array of pre-built templates for common tasks are available to save you time in building your own flows, and they provide inspiration for further ways of improving your business processes.

Classic workflow vs Power Automate Cloud Flow – which one should you use?

It’s worth noting that there are two types of workflow: ‘real time’ and ‘background’. You might see the term ‘classic workflow’ used (also referred to as Classic Dataverse Background Workflows). Microsoft wants Power Automate Cloud Flows to replace classic background workflows, but for real-time requirements, classic workflows are still used because Power Automate doesn’t yet support that functionality.

Existing classic background workflow processes may need to be replaced with flows in Power Automate in due course as Microsoft moves away from the old technology in favour of Power Automate. For real-time processes, where near-instant results are required on screen, use classic workflows, and for background processes, where time is less of the essence, use Power Automate flows.

Next, let’s look at how you can use Business Process Flows within Dynamics 365 and Power Apps for business process management…

What are Business Process Flows?

In order to develop the most effective business processes, you need a way of recording those processes, tracking them and ensuring they are being carried out.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Apps come with a drag and drop visual designer to allow you to build your Business Process Flows digitally.

Business Process Flows are used to ensure that users enter data in a consistent manner and follow the correct steps each time. For example, you might want to create a Business Process Flow to have everyone handle customer service requests the same way, or to require that people get approval for a purchase before submitting an order. You can specify what actions need to be completed before an enquiry moves to the next stage of the pipeline and make a step required, so users must enter data for the corresponding field before they can proceed to the next stage. This is commonly called “stage-gating”.

These Business Process Flows could include anything like processing patients in the medical sector to approving credit card applications in the finance sector. You can also use conditional logic to prompt new steps which may result from different situations. You can find out more about Business Process Flows here, or a more detailed overview from Microsoft here.

What are workflows in Business Process Flows?

Workflows can be added to each stage of the Business Process Flow. Steps such as the creation of new records and the sending of email notifications can all be set to happen in the background, without any extra effort from the user. Real-time workflows can also be implemented to provide instant visual feedback to a user to ensure they’ve completed their job correctly.

See Business Process Flows in action in this video:

Once you have the right business processes in place, managers can easily create visual reports to identify pipeline bottlenecks, great performance, and areas where certain team members might need more help.

Why use Business Process Flows with Dynamics 365 and Power Apps?

Business Process Flows allow for consistency and quality to be maintained. You can configure them to support common sales processes that can help your sales teams achieve better results.

If there is no process for ‘how we do things around here’, then without extensive training it can be hard for new staff to learn the ropes and avoid pitfalls. Business Process Flows can be used to allow for new staff to get up-to-speed more quickly and avoid mistakes that could result in unsatisfied customers. Overall, this is a great solution for business process management.

Where to start when developing your business processes

Start with the customer. Put their journey first by gaining feedback on what their original need or problem was, how they researched a solution, how they expected to engage with the supplier of that solution and what convinced them that your solution was the best fit for them.

Map that journey out in a simple diagram and note the amount of information required at any given point, either from you or through self-serve methods.

All good business processes will enable the customer to move easily between each stage. Once you understand that, you can move on to drawing up the internal process and requirements connected to each customer stage using the Business Process Model and Notation method.

We can help you develop your business processes with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Apps

You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform to build your processes – leave that to us.

We’ll work with your company to:

  • Take a closer look at the current pains across the business processes (such as an approval process which doesn’t get to the right people or a risk assessment which has taken place late due to lack of earlier information captured)
  • Understand the gaps in the process which caused pains in the past
  • Take the time to surface any problems in your current process, because technology will not correct fundamental flaws

Give our experts a call on 01782 916920 to take control of your business processes.

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