5 Ways to Use Power Automate to Improve Your Projects
Automation, the use of software to complete tasks with little human input, can transform project processes.
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Think about how much time you spend answering emails, finding information, remembering to remind your team about upcoming tasks!
Now, imagine how your day would like if these tasks were running in the background with little to no input from you.
Keep reading to learn more about a no-code automation solution that anyone can use: Microsoft Power Automate.
Why Use Automation for your Projects?
Automation, the use of machines and technology to complete tasks and processes with little or no human input, can save significant time on your projects.
Approvals, task reminders, tracking deadlines, vacation requests, purchase orders. There are multiple project processes you can easily automate.
Automation is suited to well-documented processes, helping to reduce errors and rework.
Automation is also ideal for teams using multiple tools to manage their work. With the right processes, you can pull information together from different sources to create a single source of truth.
This way, your team can use the tools they prefer whilst you maintain visibility and control over progress.
As teams work remotely, automating project processes will help you to track work and improve communication without adding more administration work.
Automation makes it easy to keep tasks on track, manage documents, and ensure your day runs as smoothly as possible.
What is Microsoft Power Automate?
Microsoft Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow) allows users to create workflows to automate repetitive tasks.
Users can start quickly with templates or build custom workflows from scratch – no complex coding is required.
Simply select the template you need, complete the information, and go!
Power Automate includes over 300 connectors, which allow users to access and use data with a set of pre-built actions and triggers.
Power Automate works with Microsoft and non-Microsoft apps, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, and more.
Pricing for Power Automate starts at $15 per user per month, which includes unlimited active flows.
Access Power Automate in the Microsoft 365 app launcher, as a mobile app, or using the new desktop version.
How Does Power Automate Work?
Power Automate flows are based on triggers and actions.
- A trigger starts the flow, for example, receiving an email with an attachment.
- An action is what happens once the flow is triggered. In this example, the flow will copy the email attachment to OneDrive. A flow can have one or more actions.
There are five main types of Power Automate flows:
- Automated, a flow triggered by an event, for example, send an email if an item in a SharePoint list is changed.
- Instant flows allow users to manually trigger a flow from the mobile or desktop app with the click of a button. As an example, easily send a reminder email to your team before a meeting.
- Scheduled, which runs at certain times.
- Business Process flows are based on a defined set of actions.
- UI flows, used to record clicks and keystrokes and automate the execution of tasks. UI flows leverage robotic process automation (RPA).
Read on to see how to use Power Automate templates for project approvals, documents, reports, tasks, and productivity.
These examples don’t cover the full range of available templates or custom flows, so do spend some time exploring the options in the Power Automate library!
Power Automate: Approvals
Use to: Manage approvals for documents, forms, travel, vacation requests, and more.
Throughout your project, you’ll need to get approval from stakeholders or other departments, such as finance, to move work forward.
A manual approach to approvals – and reminders – is very inefficient.
Automating approvals combines human input with background workflows to ensure you get what you need quickly.
Power Automate supports five types of approvals and custom approvals:
- Single: The approver can respond via email, Power Automate, or the mobile app.
- Sequential: Pre-approval is required before the final approver can agree. For instance, a purchase order above a certain amount may need pre-approval from your finance team before stakeholder approval.
- Parallel: Multiple people are required to give approval and approval is independent of other approvers.
- Everyone: All assigned approvers have to agree but any approver can reject the request.
- Add attachments to approval requests.
To deploy an approval flow, simply search for an approval template or create a custom flow.
Approvals are tracked in the ‘Action Items’ area. Here, you’ll find approvals created by you or shared with you, and the history of your approval flows.
Power Automate: Document Management
Use to: Store documents in a central location and track the creation of new files.
Storing documents in a central place is key to collaboration, especially for remote project teams.
However, not everyone will remember to use your document library!
Using Power Automate templates, you can easily:
- Move files shared via email attachment to OneDrive or SharePoint.
- Move files between SharePoint libraries or within OneDrive (accounts and folders).
- Copy new files from your computer to SharePoint.
- Sync files from Google Drive or Dropbox.
This way, you’ll always know where to find the files.
On large projects, it’s easy to lose track of new files or changes to existing files. Use templates to automatically track the creation of new files or to trigger an approval workflow for new items.
Power Automate: Power BI
Use to: Create and share project reports.
Power BI and Power Automate are part of the Power Platform from Microsoft.
Power BI is a business intelligence tool used to transform data from various sources into interactive reports and dashboards.
As covered previously, project managers can use Power BI to report on the timeline, ongoing tasks, and late items.
Power BI also generates powerful portfolio reports, giving senior executives real-time visibility into risks, resources, and timelines.
Power Automate is often used to refresh the datasets behind Power BI reports and to send alerts if a data threshold is exceeded.
In terms of projects, you can combine Power Automate and Power BI to:
- Update reports if a SharePoint file is updated.
- Create and share reports via OneDrive or email.
- Create a task from a Power BI report.
For more ideas and uses, see the Microsoft Power BI Community.
Power Automate: Task Management
Use to: Deliver work on time with automated reminders and posts or emails about new tasks.
Power Automate templates for task management work with Microsoft Teams, Planner, To Do, OneNote, and SharePoint, and non-Microsoft apps like Trello.
Using these templates, you can automate various elements of task management such as sending reminders, notifying team members of new tasks, and creating recurring tasks in Planner.
You can also create tasks from flagged emails and receive a daily digest email of outstanding Planner tasks.
It’s worth noting these options are not a replacement for task management or project management software, for example, BrightWork.
The aim is to keep track of assigned work rather than plan tasks and subtasks and create dependencies.
Power Automate: Productivity
Use to: Manage your time and stay on top of your to-do list.
There are numerous ways to use Power Automate to reduce your daily ‘busywork’ and create more time to spend with your team.
You’ll find templates under ‘Productivity’, ‘Notifications’, and ‘Events and Calendar’, including options to:
- Keep track of project tasks in Planner with daily emails and notifications.
- Get a daily email of upcoming meetings.
- Manage your calendar with automated time-blocking.
- Create a OneNote page for meeting to record notes and minutes.
- Get a push notification when you receive an email from a manager.
- Copy important emails to OneNote.
- Send a reminder in 10 minutes, for example, drink water!
Automating repetitive tasks can save time, increase productivity, and improve project outcomes.
With Power Automate templates, you’ll have more time to complete your work and help your project team.
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.