One of the great things about the Microsoft toolbox is all the ways you can use different tools to save you time. Automation is a great thing and the more we use it, the less we have to do the little mundane tasks. We all find ourselves doing these things. Let’s take a look at a common thing that I have seen in more than a few companies now.
John needs to submit a request and have it approved 2 different teams before it can go for the final approval. sounds like a normal thing right? well this would entail emailing the request then tracking down the people. Might have to remind them a few times or try to catch them when they are not in the office. Oh no! you forgot to submit the document with it. Looks like we are going to start over.
Now this scenario is probably an oversimplification but similar things do happen. It can cause anything from a hassle of resubmitting something to needless meetings with various team of people to sort everything out. So let’s say John submitted the request but forgot a document.
- John prepares request
- John submits request
- Bob receives request and sees the missing document
- Bob emails John
- John emails Bob
- Bob reviews request but still has questions
- Meeting with Bob and John
- Bob approves request
- Scott gets request
- Scott has questions
- Meeting with John and Scott
- Scott approves request
- Mathew receives request
- Mathew emails with Bob and Scott
- Mathew still has questions, and calls a meeting
- Meeting with Bob and Scott
- Mathew approves request
- Mathew emails John
- John does a happy dance since his request was approved
So this only took 18 steps to get the response back to John. How much of this could have been automated though? To be fair, not all of it. Let’s take a look at the automated version.
- John fills out form, form requires the missing document to be attached before submission.
- Bob and Scott both receive an email, teams message, and mobile device notification of an request waiting approval
- Bob approves request on mobile device
- Scott approves request in MS Teams
- Mathew receives an email, teams message, and mobile device notification of an request waiting approval
- Mathew reviews request and approves
- John receives notification that his request was approved
There are a lot of assumptions here, but this gets the idea across. 18 steps vs 7 steps. Microsoft forms is available with Office 365 subscriptions and can be used to build out the request with questions and reminders of what to submit. You can even attach the documents and have them sent with the request. Then we are moving along to using a Power Automate flow.
This flow would trigger when the form is submitted
This one is sending a text notification and then sending an approval process. Once both Bob and Scott have approved, then another approval is triggered. When the approval is triggered it will notify teams and email of the person that has to approve.
You can even customize the approval options, and they can provide feedback. This works great when combined with things like SharePoint. I have used this same process for several different scenarios, Most recently I did this for a new hire process for an HR department, and for job applicants to answer questions before being interviewed. This allowed for more information to be conveyed without the need for time consuming meetings.
What areas of your work could you automate? Would this work? Does it fit your work style? It doesn’t always make things easier, that is one of the pitfalls you have to watch out for.