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Go with the Flow. An introduction to Microsoft Flow.

Published: 10/18/2018 Author: Mark Collins

What is Microsoft Flow?

Kiefer was fortunate to see Microsoft Flow and PowerApps at the Microsoft hosted “Future of SharePoint” event in San Francisco, CA on May 4, 2016. During this event, Microsoft representatives talked about the importance of SharePoint power users learning to use Flow and Power Apps since they would be built-in with SharePoint. It was immediately after that event that Kiefer team members started to discuss how we could get on the Flow and Power Apps bandwagon. We are well established as a go-to partner when it comes to digital business process transformation, so it would be critical that we not only learned Flow and Power Apps, but we needed to become experts in the technology. 

Despite a delay in Flow and Power Apps availability in the Microsoft Government Community Cloud (GCC), the Kiefer team started using Flow and Power Apps internally. We used Flow and Power Apps to manage our employee training and development plans. Finding an internal application that could be improved through forms and workflow was simple and it gave the entire Kiefer team the ability to kick the tires and think about how the technology could be used to solve problems for some of our clients.

This spring, we used Microsoft Flow and Power Apps to build workflow solutions for common state and local government business workflows. The simplicity of the tools and the ability to connect to over 200 different services made Flow and Power Apps a viable tool for workflow automation and optimization.

What is Microsoft Flow?

In a nutshell, organizations can use Microsoft Flow as an online workflow service to automate events (known as workflows) across the most common apps and services. Microsoft Flow also allows you to manage data either in the cloud or in on-premises sources like SharePoint and Microsoft SQL Server.
You can use Microsoft Flow to automate workflows between your favorite applications and services, sync files, get notifications, collect data, and much more.
For example, you can automate these tasks:

  • Instantly respond to high-priority notifications or emails.
  • Capture, track, and follow up with new sales leads.
  • Copy all email attachments to your OneDrive for Business account.
  • Collect data about your business, and share that information with your team.
  • Automate approval workflows.

The Common Challenges with Legacy Workflows

Legacy workflows will often share common characteristics that contribute to a sluggish process. Here are some things to look for;

If your current workflow doesn’t support automatic notifications

Your workflow should notify a team member when action is required. If you can’t notify reviewers/approvers, your workflow can likely be improved. Many organizations have multiple staff members that have a role in a workflow. They may be a reviewer or an approver.

A common use of Microsoft Flow is to receive notifications. For example, you can instantly receive an email or a push notification on your phone whenever a sales lead is added to Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.

If you can’t tell where documents are in the review/approval process

Many organizations are unable to pinpoint where items are in their review process. This can lead to missed deadlines, lost documents, and inefficiencies.
Kiefer has helped clients manage workflow from an easy to read dashboard. Workflow analytic can also help organizations identify bottlenecks in their current process.

Microsoft Flow allows users to see their “flows” and track where items are in the workflow process.

If your critical business workflow is paper-based

Many organizations rely heavily on paper in their workflow. Signatures and physical “sign-offs” require paper. Kiefer is helping clients transform their current process and enabling organizations to manage workflows digitally. Seamlessly, critical documents can be reviewed and approved electronically.

Flow is a powerful and easy to use tool that can support digital business process transformation. Automating and optimizing processes by eliminating manual, paper-based processes can significantly reduce the length of your process and reduce the amount of time people spend in the process.

Flow is Going Mainstream

Rumor on the street is that Microsoft Flow is coming to the Government Community Cloud (GCC). This is big news. There are a wide range of workflows in the public sector that could be improved using Microsoft Flow. With Office 365, Flow provides state agencies with an easy to use platform and integration with the broader set of tools in the Office 365 suite. There is now an opportunity to automate and optimize the critical workflows that are not within the purview of IT, including processes that are oftentimes managed by a small and overburdened workgroup. These processes are also the ones that are critical to the business but may not impact a large number of users. This will oftentimes result in losing priority. Flow can be used to address these areas of the business quickly.

How Kiefer Can Help

The Kiefer team is ready to work with agencies that are interested in Microsoft Flow and Power Apps. Before anything, we’d want to show you a demo and provide you with a use case for Microsoft Flow. Before attempting to improve a workflow, we highly recommend that your organization spend time with our consultants. We can help you map your workflow, identify opportunities for improvement, and make recommendations on how to optimize and automate. We also will consider Microsoft Flow and a variety of tools that could be used to improve your workflow.




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