We started writing this blog a month ago, sharing the story of how Microsoft Power Automate has revolutionised the way we manage simple administration tasks like expense claims and order number approvals. We wanted to share the efficiency gains we have made by utilising this powerful automation tool. A month on, we all find ourselves in quite a different environment – Power Automate is no longer a “gain creator” but a “pain reliever” as the rapid move to remote working requires us all to adopt new ways of working. The paper problem we’ve put off solving in the past now needs to be resolved to make us efficient in our new working environment.

What is Microsoft Power Automate?

Power Automate is one of the tools that make up Office/Microsoft 365. You may well have heard of Microsoft Flow? It’s the same thing. Microsoft rebranded Flow to Power Automate in 2019 to keep its brands consistent.

You can use Power Automate to create automated workflows between your favourite apps and services to synchronise files, get notifications, collect data and more. It enables you to simplify your business processes and manage them more effectively.

How hard is it to use?

Microsoft Power Automate is a no-code solution. You don’t need a technical background to be able to use it well. This has been instrumental in its success.

Out-of-the-box templates provide a quick start. Users can edit these templates with new conditions and steps as needed.

The tool includes hundreds of connectors that allow users to access and use data with a set of pre-built actions and triggers. This means power Automate works well not only with other Microsoft tools but also with non-Microsoft apps, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, and more

Our Power Automate Story:

Back in 2018, we implemented Microsoft Power Automate to replace several paper-based approval systems. At the time we didn’t know how much of a gamechanger this would be, but as it was simple to use, quick to set up, and free with our Office 365 licencing, we thought we’d give it a go.

If you didn’t read our original blog post, you can read it here.

18 months on, we’ve saved 240+ hours across our main approval processes! That’s 6 weeks of time taken off manual processing and able to be used in other areas of our operation.

Where have we found the most value?

Purchase Order Approvals:

Our approval system for company purchases used to be a paper form, with one person able to approve. Often the system would be bypassed in the interests of time. This meant many unexpected charges for our Finance team to chase down, with no clear ownership or approval in place.

Our current system requires the team to fill out a brief web-based form (which they can access from SharePoint or Teams), the data collected gets emailed through to an approver (accessible on mobile or desktop), and with a single click, this gets approved through to Finance with all the information they need. From start to finish this can take as little as 5 minutes.  Compared to the paperwork which often got buried on a desk and could take a week or longer. This has been a significant improvement.

Expense Claims:

Previously we used to have paper forms that were used when members of our team needed to make a personal expense claim. They had to find a copy of this online, print it out, fill in the details, figure out who needed to approve it, put it on their desk, wait for them to approve it and then eventually a signed off a piece of paper would make its way to the Finance team to process.

Understandably, this could sometimes take days and the lengthy process meant sometimes staff just wouldn’t bother making a claim.

Our new Power Automate driven system is simple to use. Our online form is easily accessible from our Sharepoint homepage, and also within Teams. The team fills out the details requested, and when they click submit this gets sent off as an Approval request to the right person. Staff get a confirmation back that this has been submitted, and then again once the claim has been approved or rejected, keeping them up to date throughout the process.

The approval itself gets sent via email and has an “Approve” or “Reject” button that can be clicked in the email, as well as an area to add commentary. We have this set up to then email the Finance team directly with the details they need to process the claim if approved.

Health and Safety Notifications:

Identification and notification of Health and Safety risks, reporting near misses and any incidents are all key processes all businesses need to manage well. Our Power Automate driven process enables all of our team, regardless of where they are, to notify us of risks and incidents that occur with all relevant details captured and sent directly to our H&S team. They then assess this, take any actions required.  This process ensures we are keeping our team safe.

Other ways you can use Power Automate

While we’ve focused on how Power Automate can be used to automate administration processes that were previously paper-based, there are many other ways you can use this tool to improve your individual and organisational efficiency.

Some examples include:

1. Streamlining your emails.  Do you receive large volumes of emails on a daily basis? If so it’s easy to miss the important ones. A Power Automate template can be enabled to send you an alert when a high priority email is received.

2. Share and access business data quickly and easily.  For example, you can use Power Automate to connect Outlook to Sharepoint and get files that are shared via email, to automatically share in Sharepoint also.

3. Monitor brand-related posts on social media. A Power Automate template can alert you via email when there is a brand-related social media post allowing you to respond quickly.

In conclusion

This tool has been a gamechanger for us saving us hundreds of hours and improving our operational effectiveness. With the move to remote working in a COVID-19 environment where paper movements are no longer possible, the benefits of Power Automate are even more apparent.

If you are interested in learning more about Power Automate and how it could be used in your organisation, do join our webinar this Thursday 23rd April 2020 at 2pm. It is free to register and attend. Register Now!