What Automation in Microsoft 365 Can Do For You

Mike Bodell

May 4, 2021

Looking to automate some of your business processes in Microsoft 365? I bet there's some you haven't thought about yet.

In working with customers who are transitioning to a modern workplace, we find that many questions revolve around not knowing what is possible with Microsoft 365. Of course, these unknowns exist in all aspects of a business. In this post we’ll talk about some topics you may be wondering about in terms of process automation and application integration, and how these ideas can make your organization better.

Use Approvals to Shorten the Decision-Making Cycles in your Organization

One of the most common areas of a business that can be aided by automation in M365 is Delegation of Authority, or simply put Approvals. M365 Approvals is something that is built-in to the platform and can be leveraged from almost any tool. Approvals in M365 can be triggered automatically or manually. They can be customized with multiple stages, parallel approvals, customized response options, and can result in triggering subsequent processes or integrating data with another application. Often approval processes are used to facilitate a more passive approach to moving things along within an organization and notifying participants of the results. This enables your team to focus on providing value to customers instead of chasing internal red tape. Microsoft is doing more every day to make approvals more useful by integrating them directly into other M365 platform applications like Teams, making them more accessible and easier to use.

Reduce Manual Tasks and Eliminate Redundant Data Entry  

Data synchronization or integration can also be facilitated using the M365 Power Platform. Whether it is to keep data synchronized in near real-time in different systems or collecting and aggregating substantial amounts of data to feed analytics solutions, there are a wealth of methods and connectors available. You can connect to any data repository, be it a file, relational data store, cloud or on-premise, OData endpoints, and Web APIs. These integrations can be triggered on a schedule when data is updated or kicked off manually by a user. Use M365 automation to move data around and you not only save time, but you also improve accuracy and gain speed and confidence in decision making.

Improve the Mission of your Organization by Creating a Culture of Innovation

M365 also puts tremendous power at the fingertips of users. Personal automation is an area that can easily be overlooked but can have a significant impact because it can be employed for every team member, freeing up great volumes of time across the organization. A wealth of simple Power Automate templates are provided to meet the common needs of employees. This can be a bit intimidating at first, but if you take just a few minutes to review what is in the gallery, ideas start to spark, and you are on your way to focusing on what matters. Bear in mind that letting this go unchecked can quickly result in questions about licensing and governance. To that end, it is important that you get in front of this and have a plan for licensing, end-user training, skill development, and governance.

Create a Plan for Managing the M365 Environment

One of the most directly applicable areas for automation using M365 is IT management and governance of the M365 environment itself. Whether you are considering a move to M365 for your organization or using it already, it is important to assemble a plan for governance and in doing so create automation to facilitate common or frequent IT service requests. In case you were not aware, the default configuration for Microsoft Teams, for example, allows everyone in your organization to create Teams. This can get unwieldy fast if your organization has any kind of size. This is an example of something that usually should have some governance wrapped around it and this entire process can be automated in a way that pushes decisions directly to stakeholders in the organization. Beyond this, simple tasks like user account provisioning and decommissioning, shared mailbox creation, service requests, threat detection, and escalation are just a few more opportunities to consider for automation.

Accelerate Software Development and Delivery

If you have an internal software development team, they are already proficient at connecting and automating things. That said, M365 offers some easy opportunities to connect development teams to internal and external stakeholders. In a few simple steps, you can capture external / customer input or requests, triage them in a tool like Azure DevOps, and send a notification to team members through a variety of communication tools like Teams, Outlook, Slack, etc. This type of automation can be used in combination with Continuous Improvement and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD), helping dev teams to be more responsive and in step with those using their applications.

Automate Channels That Speak Directly to your Customers and Fans Through Social Media

The last thing I will touch on is social media. Social media strategy has become an important component to staying connected with both employees and customers. M365 has connectors for platforms like Blogger, Medium, WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Posting to these platforms can be managed through an internal automated process that requires review and approval of content. These platforms can also be monitored for comments and sentiment to help evaluate your strategy. In addition, social posts and campaigns can be coordinated and managed across all social platforms, but simply created once in the M365 platform.

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