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November 29, 2018

Encouraging Workforce Innovation With Microsoft Flow And PowerApps

Posted By
aureus tech systems

There are millions of frontline workers around the world. They interact with customers. They are actively implementing business processes and procedures. They see how decisions that are made at the top truly work. This part of the workforce has the ability to offer businesses a valuable perspective. They know first-hand where the bottlenecks are, where resources are wasted, and what makes employees and customers unhappy. For this reason, companies need to utilize them. When frontline workers are empowered to make suggestions and create change, business process after business process can be optimized.

Empowering Your Users To Fuel Digital Transformation

The idea that frontline employees cannot contribute to a company's digital transformation is antiquated. There are now powerful tools available that allow individuals who have no background in technology to funnel their experiences and knowledge in a way that can produce significant change. Take Samit Saini as an example:

Mr. Saini was able to enhance productivity and reduce resource-use with an app that he created without any training. All it took was a little work and the fact that he had a comprehensive understanding of the daily challenges that employees at his level faced—a perspective that no engineer has. Mr. Saini saw what tasks were wasting time and effort. He, alongside his co-workers, were able to test the app, which provided much more valuable insight than any hypothetical ever could. Finally, Mr. Saini's initiative allowed his employer to create a new avenue for personal development across the workforce. All it took was the provision of a few simple Microsoft tools.

What Is Microsoft Flow?

Microsoft Flow is the key to automation that businesses everywhere need. Apps can be integrated with the program to allow any number of repetitive tasks to be automated. This includes important notifications, file synchronization, and data collection. Programs like IFTTT and Zapier can accomplish a similar outcome, but for those already using MS 365 deploying Flow is more straightforward. Not only does it already exist in the MS 365 tenant, but because of existing accounts and permissions users can immediately start using the program.

How Can The Workforce Use Microsoft Flow?

Microsoft Flow has seemingly limitless options. Just about any task in the workflow can be automated. This includes:

• Making announcements in Teams when Salesforce successes happen.

• Saving Outlook attachments to a OneDrive location.

• Sending custom emails when new SharePoint files are added.

• Creating new tasks for flagged emails.

• Saving hashtag-specific tweets to SharePoint lists.

• Syncing Trello with MS Planner.

• Sending timed reminders.

• Providing the day's weather forecast for each employee's current location.

• Installing app buttons.

• Initiating approval when new items are added to the workflow.

• Receiving push notifications for various actions.

• Providing approval and follow-ups through email.

• Sending out daily top stories from a news outlet.

This is just a small sample of the automations that are possible with Microsoft Flow. If someone in the workforce has an idea for automating an action, Microsoft Flow can likely accommodate it.

Getting Started With Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is not difficult to learn. The company provides a comprehensive training document that walks users through building two unique flows. This training module can show beginners all of the basic concepts of Flow and illustrates to experienced Flow-users how the various concepts are connected. The information also covers what tasks users can expect to automate. Then it starts by showing where users go to both create and execute their flows and offers a short tour of the Microsoft Flow program itself. Finally, it sends users onto the next step of creating their first flow.

Microsoft PowerApps

This tool is a platform that allows users to build any business app that they can dream up. The tool itself requires very little to no coding knowledge in order to successfully build an app. Instead, the platform utilizes Excel functions to build and run apps. However, if a business finds that a specific app is useful at this scaled-down level, or could be useful if scaled up, they can have developers expand the app to be fully functional. Additionally, businesses can customize the apps they already use. This means that organizations can personalize their Office 365, Dynamics 365, SharePoint Online, and more so that it expands the usability of the apps across the workforce.

Getting Started With Microsoft PowerApps

Microsoft offers guided learning paths for their PowerApps tool. They provide hundreds of blogs that cover every topic a new user to PowerApps will need in order to fully understand how the platform works and how they can build a strong, robust app for their organization. The information spans from details about platform updates to how to build specific features into a PowerApp app, among countless other topics. The blogs are broken down both by date and by topic.

Encouraging Workforce Innovation

Making these tools available to the workforce is only the first step in empowering them to innovate and help the business to digitally transform. The second step is realizing that many employees are happy working with the status quo and do not feel the need to expand their abilities.

The third step is to take this understanding and make it the foundation for encouraging involvement in innovation and enabling those who show interest. This could include explaining to them that innovations are not just big, flashy changes, but also minor changes to products, processes, and the business model. It could also include encouraging them to change their perspective on mistakes and accidents, looking for potential innovations in these mess-ups. It could even be motivating the workforce to be dissatisfied with business processes and systems and then funneling that dissatisfaction into innovative ideation for potential fixes.

The final step in pushing for workforce innovation is supporting the employees who are striving for innovation. This can come in the form of executives making themselves available for innovation mentoring sessions or a weekly office meeting where innovators can meet to collaborate with each other and IT.

Innovation has never been and will never be easy, but Microsoft tools are allowing companies to get their frontline employees involved, providing new perspectives and a renewed passion for change and optimization.