Historically the Microsoft Business Productivity space has largely centered around email, chat, voice, and document management. These functions were implemented via Exchange, Teams, and SharePoint. Business Process Automation (BPA) was supported in some capacity by SharePoint via workflows and InfoPath forms. BPA was challenging to scale due to the need for forms and workflows to be custom developed. This required specific development capability (either in house or outsourced) not just to build but to provide ongoing support. Most business processes change with business needs and custom coded solutions can be challenging to modify without the specific development capability readily available.
At Imaginet we saw BPA in SharePoint adopted in three scenarios:
- Inhouse development capability – Large enterprises have a stable of software development capability. This allowed them to create SharePoint specific development teams to code InfoPath forms and custom workflows.
- Well established processes – Forms and workflows that had been established a long time ago and don’t change were often outsourced for a one-time development to an organization such as Imaginet. Common scenarios were vacation request forms and employee onboarding forms.
- Third Party Workflow Tools – Nintex and K2 offered solutions that sat on top of SharePoint and allowed business users to build workflows via a not code solution. These products have their own license which had to be purchased in addition to SharePoint licensing.
The Office 365 platform has presented a paradigm shift for BPA in the Microsoft Business Productivity space. There are now a suite of tools that allow for rapid, no code solutions for BPA. These tools are especially effective if you have adopted Office 365 as a platform and not just for email and document sharing.
At a conceptual level most of the BPA we have implemented for our clients consist of the following components:
- Capture Data – This is often via an electronic form or some other electronic template that is completed by a user for data capture. Other common starting points are to take a photo of something on your mobile phone and then add relevant data to that photo. Data can be later synced to main app storage.
- Business Logic – The electronic form can help the user complete the form accurately with the use of business logic. This means pre-populating fields, only showing options that are relevant based on the previous input, drop downs or pickers to choose options versus free form text, and dynamically updating the form instead of requiring the user to figure out what to do next.
- Workflow – Once the information is captured a workflow automatically parses the information and sends it where it needs to go. This could include routing information to a person, department, or triggering some other type of system-based action.
- Relevant and Secure Data Storage – Certain data items may need to be tracked or monitored. The workflow may need to create a document from a template and populate it with data from the form. An existing document may need to be updated. For all these actions permissions and data security may apply and may have strict controls to adhere to standards and audit compliance.
- Notifications and Task Creation – People or departments may have to “do something” with the data from the form. Automatic notifications and reminders can go to people and groups so that they know when a task is waiting for them.
- Dashboarding and Management Views – When workflows and BPA is used in any scale, management needs to be able to view what items are in progress and in what stage of the process. Custom views can be configured in SharePoint that display relevant work in progress metrics to the appropriate stakeholders.
- Reporting and KPIs – Electronic forms and workflows via not only improve the efficiency of data capture and business processes with that data, but they also by default make Office 365 a single data source for reporting. Reports and scorecards can easily be automatically generated to display KPIs and shared with Executives in an organization. This is often one of the biggest unforeseen benefits of BPA. Not only does the process become automated, but the ability to have real time data and metrics is created as a biproduct, thus further empowering executives to make data-based decisions.
Streamline Business Process
At Imaginet the primary components of Office 365 that we use for BPA solutions are:
- OneDrive for Business
- Power Apps
- Power Automate
- Power BI
Together, the above components allow for the rapid build and deployment of BPA solutions to your entire organization. As a bonus these solutions can be cloud based or hybrid, and are cross browser, PC and Mac, and mobile compatible from day one.
At Imaginet we encourage you review and adopt all the components of your Office 365 platform to drive maximum value from your subscription cost. The easiest way to do this is to book an Office 365 Discovery session with us.
During this session Imaginet Consultants will conduct an introduction workshop(s) for the Office 365 services and applications that are available from Microsoft as part of the Office 365 platform.
The goal of the workshop is to showcase the types of functionality available on the Office 365 platform to get attendees energized and thinking of the business requirements that could be met by the application of the Office 365 services. We do this by giving your organization a demo of a fully functioning Office 365 environment that is configured to showcase all the collaboration and BPA capabilities. We also discuss current business challenges and/or pain points that your organization would like to solve, and we discuss ways of addressing those challenges with Office 365.
These sessions can be done 100% remote via Teams meeting which leverages voice/video/screenshare/virtual whiteboard. Click the Let’s Talk link below to schedule a session and learn the full potential of your Office 365 subscription.