Once a company has its intranet set up in SharePoint Online and a collaboration strategy using Teams, this is usually considered the end of the Digital Transformation Journey. But we believe that this is just the beginning of the true journey that brings the greatest return on investment from the Microsoft 365 platform. SharePoint, the Power Platform, Teams, and all the apps included and available in M365 provide the tools and resources for every employee, whether they are technical or not, to empower themselves and their team to improve their daily operations through automation and digitization. We call the functions of enabling these applications and empowering users to utilize them, Business Process Innovation (BPI).
Automating a Manual World
Whereas the classic intranets focused on documents and news, modern intranets can encompass and incorporate data, decision-making, and the digital platform to increase efficiency, minimize errors, and eliminate the mind-numbing day-to-day work that most people must endure. In this day and age, paper forms should be a thing of the past, and manually entering data into a system, when it already exists in another, is a task that should never be assigned to a living human. Hunting down a manager to get their approval while keeping a paper trail of all signatures falls into this list as well.
Unbeknownst to all, Microsoft 365 includes a whole suite of business applications that provide functionality that can fulfill almost any range of requirements for process automation and data management. The real key aspects of BPI are in how to unlock these tools and create a community within the company that allows for self-service, or assisted development of automation resources, that have minimal dependence on IT.
Keys to Effective Process Improvement
- Technology Without Technical Debt
- Low code / no code solutions
- Trusted frameworks
- Low dependency on IT or external vendors for support and enhancements
- Process Improvement from the Ground Up
- Involve the people who use them the most
- Invest in easy-to-use tools for power users and end users alike
- IT should only be there to guide and assist
- Center of Excellence and Champions Program
- Online portal for asking questions, posting ideas, training materials, and examples
- Army of advanced users who can help with troubleshooting and development
- Templates and assets as starting points for mini projects
Technology Without Technical Debt
A full-blown data management system, complete with workflows and dynamic forms, is a wonderful tool for process automation, but often requires months of custom development or an expensive purchase that includes a support system. Any time there is a need for IT intervention, whether it be in the dev or support model, then there is what we call “technical debt.” An ideal system for ground-up development needs to minimize the amount of technical debt to allow for maximum expansion across the company. During a BPI project, we work to provide hands-on training with client teams, including interested power users, to work through an entire workflow application project (usually using SharePoint, Power Automate, and Power Apps), starting from analysis to requirements gathering, all the way through development. This allows a large team from the company to learn all aspects of the process and be able to use that experience to do their own future development as well as assist others in the future.
Center of Excellence (CoE)
We work with our clients to establish a Center of Excellence that serves as the central focus point of the community and is a portal, or resource, where employees can share their successes, ask questions of others, and find answers as well as resources. The CoE should be headed by experienced leaders, and a team of technical associates who have the time, energy, and experience to help spread knowledge and best practices.
- An open group of system experts, power users, and ACM (Adoption & Change Management) (Adoption & Change Management) personnel
- Should have a digital presence (e.g., SharePoint site) and a physical presence (e.g. weekly User Group meetings)
- Lead by example – provide demonstrations and samples of all levels of process automation
- Introducing new tools to the public – they do not know what they do not know
- Define or participate in the definition of governance and compliance policies
- Actively reach out to business units that may benefit from process innovation
Our projects with customers usually involve a few phases which start with assessment, then education, a development project, and the setup of the assets and center of excellence, and usually incorporate the following:
- Champions Program / CoE Creation
- Create infrastructure (Teams, User Group Meetings, Scheduling)
- Process Management Training
- Learn how to use Promapp and how to properly document/map a process
- Workflow / Automation Training
- Power Automate
- Power Apps
- RPA (Robotic Process Automation) / Power Automate Desktop
- Advanced SharePoint usage
- Process Innovation for Pilot Team
- Pick a department or group, with 2-3 processes to automate
- Walk through detailed requirements gathering (with champions and IT support team)
- Walk through process documentation and mapping
- Review completed workflow (best practices, problem-solving, testing)
- Walk through deployment and support processes
We hope you found this blog useful in learning about Business Process Innovation and its various advantages that can drive your organization’s growth. Please reach out to us so that we can put our decades of experience and expertise in Microsoft technologies to help you in your organization’s Digital Transformation journey.