How much of your day do you spend performing repetitive tasks that keep you from doing things you’d rather do? Don’t we all have repetitive tasks across multiple applications? (e.g. each time you receive an e-mail with a job application, you save the CV in attachment to a specific folder, and invite a number of colleagues to review the CV and add their comments to the document.)
When you are not a techie, figuring out how to get apps to talk to each other is no option. Or is it?
Enter the world of flow automation services. Flow automation is a set of services that makes life easier by introducing a set of recipes that automate common tasks and interconnect the apps that you use. IFTTT is probably the most well-known automation service, and Zapier is a close second, but since recently Microsoft Flow is in the game too! And best of all: Flow is free when you have a Microsoft 365 or Office 365 account.
To get you started in no time, Flow offers a bunch of ready-made recipes: e.g. ‘Save Office 365 email attachments to OneDrive for Business’, or ‘Get a push notification when you receive an email from your boss’. Once you get familiar with the service you can take it one step further and maximize the return by making your life easier.
Let’s dive into a more advanced flow example to show you how much easier it can make your life!
Invoice handling typically requires a lot of manual actions: processing the mail, storing the invoice somewhere, making sure you pay in time and cleaning up your mailbox. Flow helps you in detecting mails from the vendors you work with. Once detected it either copies the attachment from the mail or downloads the invoice from the vendors platform using the link in the mail. It stores the invoice in a separate folder of your OneDrive for Business (or any other system) for each vendor. To make sure your inbox doesn’t get cluttered Flow then moves the mail to an archive folder. Notice that Flow connects your Outlook mailbox with your personal file storage! If you need a printed copy of the invoice, you just connect to an online print service and add the invoice to your print queue.
Think of what a huge time saver this already is! But what if you want to make sure you pay your invoices on time? Let’s suppose you process your invoices once a month. The process outlined above still requires you to open all folders and to retrieve the invoices one by one to execute the payments. With Flow you can take this one step further and never forget to pay your invoices again! It’s dead easy to append a line for each invoice you receive to a Payments Excel file to create a monthly overview and set the payment date for each line. Consequently Flow can take your monthly overview and check the due dates . If any of the invoices is due, Flow will trigger a notification on your mobile phone. Think of all the time and money this will save you!
The sky is the limit?
Flow is part of a powerful and adaptable business application platform in Office 365. With that platform you can create your own mobile apps (with PowerApps), get insights (with PowerBI) and act on these (with Flow) using a wizard-like interface. Microsoft is extending these services with more advanced technologies that allow you to automate both simple and complex business processes. In many cases there is no more need anymore for expensive third party forms and automation services like Nintex, K2 or AgilePoint. With an Office 365 subscription you already have the powerful services you need.
If you want to learn more about the full stack of automation services that Microsoft provides, then download our whitepaper on Workflow automation. And is you want us to inspire you or get you started then contact us to learn more about our training courses or consulting services. We’d like to get you as excited about the new automation services as we are!