How PowerApps can streamline your business

Inconsistent, cumbersome and slow. These are just some of the words we regularly hear when discussing business processes and workflows with clients. So why are many businesses still using spreadsheets or physical paperwork to manage their processes?

A poorly managed business process can have many negative impacts on your business including revenue and time, both of which can affect the growth of your business. Employees can become increasingly frustrated when a process becomes too labour intensive for little reward, impacting employee morale. Other risks include the lack of governance which can lead to colleagues not following a process correctly, and the lack of technology investment from a business.

Many businesses are unaware that included in their Office 365 subscription there are tools to help alleviate many of the employee frustrations mentioned above and can help improve time management whilst saving on costs. Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow have been developed to take previously labour-intensive processes and turn them into more automated workflows that can allow a business to become more streamlined and efficient.

Microsoft PowerApps

Every business operates at least one process that they wish was digital. Whether that be for expenses or leave requests, but a regular issue that we come across is that many ‘off the shelf’ solutions don’t fit with their requirements.

Microsoft PowerApps was developed to allow businesses to create their own app solution that can work with their business. You have the power to sync up processes that once would have been manually updated. Your app can integrate with data that you may already have in SharePoint, SQL and Dynamics or can be a standalone application.  

Microsoft Flow

We come across many businesses who still use paper-based processes to start an order process or a create a new product. Fundamentally, the processes do work but they are slow and are prone to errors – let’s be honest, it’s very easy to misplace or avoid a step with a piece of paper – and are not fit for purpose is 2019. But with Microsoft Flow, the number of errors can be significantly reduced.

The building of a new automated process has never been so easy and can be built to suit your business requirements. You’re able to create a flow that adheres to a strict order of steps, individuals or teams can have multiple alerts notifying them when they are to complete their part of the process, allowing complete visibility of a projects status.

Streamlining has never been so important to businesses. It can save both time & money, but more importantly, it can demonstrate how technologically advanced you are against your competitors. By having better processes and automation, you’re able to speed up the development of your product(s), have them shipped to customers quicker and build a happier and more productive workforce. All of these combined will help lead you to a more successful business.

Valto have been at the forefront of helping businesses improve their processes and workflows by building PowerApps and automated Microsoft Flow solutions. All of which have led to more streamlined organisations.

Valto Top Tips – Microsoft Teams Praise

As Office 365 specialists, we aim to give you all the best hints and tips from the wide range of apps available. In this video, we show you how to praise a colleague in Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Teams & Azure Upcoming Changes

Microsoft recently held their annual tech and development conference at Orlando Florida and there are a lot of exciting changes coming to the Microsoft platforms. We’ve summarised a few of the key developments in our blog post and what we’re most excited about.

SharePoint Online

Intranet

There are a huge number of features coming to the platform these range from functionality, branding and mobile improvements. A few of the upcoming changes can be found below.

  • Branding – Improvements to the layout options including the ability to add a header, footer and mega menu.
  • Personalised Web Parts – That will show information tailored to that user rather than generic information for the whole company.
  • New Web Parts – Countdown Timer, Events Roll Up
  • Improved Mobile Capabilities – Accessing Documents, News and Information from the SharePoint application

OneDrive Mac

Microsoft’s fantastic OneDrive on Demand tool allowing for users to sync live copies of SharePoint Document libraries to their PC without consuming storage (effectively replacing file shares) is now available in Beta for the Mac platform. This has been one of the most requested features for Macs for Office 365 and will be a huge step forward for Microsoft and Macs.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft are investing heavily into their Microsoft Teams platform. Here at Valto we’re huge fans of Microsoft Teams and have been deploying this for many organisations and applying our best practices and governance. A few of the key announcements can be found below.

Background Blur

This fantastic feature will make remote and home working much easier and potentially less embarrassing! Microsoft have released a video demonstrating the capabilities of this below.

Teams & SharePoint Integration

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are already integrated allowing for Teams to display SharePoint sites within the app and visa versa.

 

The new changes will bring much deeper integrations allowing for Lists, Libraries and Web Parts to be displayed within Microsoft Teams directly. More bots and connectors are being worked on to allow for News to automatically be displayed within Channels and Teams. More details from Microsoft on the SharePoint Blog.

Recording Meetings & Stream

Another brilliant feature we’ve been making extensive use of at Valto is the ability to record meetings and have the videos automatically sent to the attendees at the end of the meeting. 

This will be extended further in the future to use Artificial Intelligence to automatically detect actions and create meeting minutes that can be used following the meetings.

Replacing Skype for Business

New tenants will no longer include Skype for Business and will be given Microsoft Teams by default. On top of that, new tools have been created to migrate existing tenants to a Teams Only environment.

Microsoft Azure

Windows 10 Desktop in the Cloud

One of the most exciting announcements for Microsoft Azure and the Modern Workplace is the new capabilities of being able to launch a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud. In other blog posts predicting the future of the Cloud and Microsoft we talked about the ability to use a mobile device to replace your PC with a dock and monitor. Having the ability to spin up a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud brings this further to reality.

There are a lot of organisations out there that use thin clients and don’t have a requirements for running a desktop 24/7 this new functionality could potentially save enterprises a lot of money.

Office 365

Artificial Intelligence

This is a big focus for Microsoft at the moment as gleamed from the Microsoft Inspire and Ignite Conferences. There is a huge focus on delivering AI that will improve the modern workplace. A lot of the current announcements are about building the platform for this including,

Office 2019

With Office 365 you always get the latest version of Office features as they are rolled out. Microsoft have released the latest on-premise version of Office to the general public which contains a lot of the improvements of the Office 365 version.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Top 10 Tips

We’ve been deploying Microsoft Teams since its inception for a range of clients from SMEs to Enterprise and developing a set of Microsoft Teams Best Practices that can help your organisation with Microsoft Teams implementation. We’ll soon be launching our Microsoft Teams Governance Whitepaper for free. To keep you going in the meantime we’ve got our Microsoft Teams Best Practices Top 10 Tips.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #1 – Replacing SharePoint Team Sites

For organisations that are ready to start with Teams straight away and are embarking on a SharePoint Project the default deployment is to create Microsoft Teams for the users within each team or department. This provides all the functionality of SharePoint and the enhanced capabilities of Microsoft Teams. As part of the build and architecture we scope out the required teams and deploy these as part of the roll out. We help organisations adopt a proven governance and control plan for the deployment of Teams. Look out for our Microsoft Teams Governance White Paper due to launch soon.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices SharePoint Page

Microsoft Team SharePoint Page

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #2 – Naming Standards

One of the challenges when rolling out Microsoft Teams in a larger organisation is the creation of a Team also creates an Office 365 Group which requires an email associated with it. Many organisations already have group email accounts such as Finance, Sales, etc. so when creating a Microsoft Team these may conflict with the group. Having many email accounts with similar names can also cause confusing. We recommend that a prefix or suffix be appended to the creation of all Microsoft Teams for example Finance could become Finance Team and Sales would become Sales Team. This naming standard will prevent issues and confusion with similar sounding email accounts and ensure that finding these teams later will be much easier.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Duplicate Warning

Microsoft Teams Duplicate Warning

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #3 – SharePoint Intranet Hub Sites Configuration

Teams are very easy to navigate and find within the Teams Client and Web however there are still many organisations that rely on SharePoint as an intranet or central access point. Every Microsoft Team by default creates a SharePoint Site that is associated with it. Its important that while users can easily use Microsoft Teams that users can still access this through SharePoint. With the new hub sites its possible to create a central hub site and link the existing Microsoft Team SharePoint sites to this hub site. Hub sites provide users a central area with consistent navigation and branding as covered in our previous post on this.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices SharePoint Hub Sites Navigation

SharePoint Hub Sites Navigation

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #4 – Managing Teams

Defining and creating the architecture design for Microsoft Teams is an important factor in success and adoption. Many users we’ve worked with have highlighted issues where they are unsure which Microsoft Team they should be using especially when users have created multiple teams for their department or group. However, the power of Microsoft Teams is still the ability for users to create a Team where they feel this would be worthwhile or there is a gap currently. By defining a simple structure that covers all of the base teams, any externally shared teams if required and by creating a centralised SharePoint site that is easy to navigate and training the users on this will simplify the experience.

Some organisations with this in place are then happy for users to create Microsoft Teams on an ad-hoc basis without any approval process however for many of our enterprise organisations a key control is having an approval step prior to a Microsoft Team creation. We have created an automated system using Microsoft Flow and SharePoint that can simplify the Microsoft Teams request process.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Request Form

Microsoft Team Request Form

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #5 – Chatting Thread/Replies

Within Microsoft Teams a key step for user training is the ability to have threaded conversations. Its often a step that is missed from the users training and adoption that can vastly improve the user experience. Threads allow for users to contain all of their conversations around particular topic within one area and allow for users to reply and keep everything contained. It’s a simple but overlooked step in our training process that improves the overall user experience of Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Conversation Threads

Microsoft Teams Conversation Threads

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #6 – Fun Stuff

Depending on your organisation there are a number of settings that can be enabled or disabled these include the options for disabling emojis, memes, GIFS and stickers and increasing the strictness of the GIF searching within the platform. Many organisations may enjoy the fun components of Microsoft Teams whereas other organisations may find these are inappropriate for their workplace. Working with the management teams in the organisation to understand what is an acceptable level and tweaking these settings is another key step in the adoption and removal of a potential barrier to utilising Microsoft Teams in the business.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Fun Stuff Settings

Microsoft Teams Fun Stuff Settings

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #7 – External Sharing

Microsoft Teams Best Practices External Access

Microsoft Teams External Access

If your organisation is using Teams successfully and would like to involve other organisations such as clients or partners then enabling the guest functionality for Microsoft Teams. Again, this should refer to your Microsoft Teams, Office365 & SharePoint Architecture design as to which Teams will be shared externally and any naming standards they might follow. External Sharing can be a fantastic way of integrating your clients and suppliers into your organisation and streamline your processes and flows with them, it can also show that you are leading the way with technology and impress the people you are working with. We’d recommend that as an organisation you get used to using Teams internally and then trial the external sharing before rolling out across the organisation.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #8 – Automatic Bots & Posts

Microsoft Teams is all about sharing information and collaborating better. We’ve found great success with organisations by identifying automated points where sending information to a Team is very useful. An example of this would be when invoices are sent or paid from applications such as Xero or Sage that they automatically notify all of the relevant people. We have configured an automation that posts in our Customers Team when an invoice has been paid or becomes overdue. Identify where your teams get asked many of the same questions and see if a Bot or Flow can be created to automatically provide the information to the relevant Team.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Xero Bot

Microsoft Teams Xero Bot

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #9 – Tabs

Microsoft Teams can be extended even further by including any tabs for other applications you might use and become a one stop shop application for your organisations Team. Include relevant 3rd Part Web Applications, Planner, a Wiki, PowerBI or any other tab that would be useful for your Team and provide a centralised area for all users.

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tabs

Microsoft Teams Tabs

Microsoft Teams Best Practices Tip #10 – Additional Resources

Finally, our last tip on the Microsoft Teams Best Practices is additional resources that will kick start your Microsoft Teams project!

TALK TO US

Our Microsoft Teams Best Practices are constantly evolving, and we’ll update this post regularly with any new tips. If you’re interested in architecting your Microsoft Teams with Best practices from the get-go call now on 03335 779 009 or Contact Us and chat with one of our Microsoft Teams specialists.

Business Automation with Office365 Flow

Microsoft Flow is a Microsoft Office365 product that allow members of your organisation to create and automate workflows across multiple applications. These automated workflows are called “Flows”.

Flows can be created from scratch through a simplistic drag and drop interface without the need to know how to write code. You can also choose from hundreds of templates to get you started creating your own Flow logic.

Flows are most commonly used to trigger notifications or automate tasks your employees may be carrying out manually. For example, if an email was received in the accounts team shared mailbox with the subject containing “Purchase Order” you might have a flow store the email and attachments directly into a SharePoint folder then email a notification to the sales manager.

Amongst the thousands of possibilities, here is some examples of automation using Flow:

  • Request Manager Approval on Document
  • Get mobile push notification when receive email from VIP
  • Get daily weather reports delivered to email and phone
  • Track Facebook wall messages in an Excel Sheet or SharePoint List
  • Save Comments on Instagram posts to Excel Sheet or SharePoint List

In this blog article we will demonstrate how to harvest all tweets from Twitter that contain a certain #HashTag.

At Valto we work on many projects with Marketing and Communication departments from a wide range of organisations. A common issue we come across is these departments having a lot of “manual” processes for gathering data about what their customers are saying about them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

Knowing what customers are saying about your organisation in a public platform is vital for several reasons. It will let you know what your customers are happy about, but more likely they will make known what they are unhappy about. The most popular platform for sharing feedback about a good/bad experience of a business is Twitter.

This article will show you how you can harvest all tweets that contain keywords or # related to your organisation and then store them inside a SharePoint Online list.

  1. Create a list inside your SharePoint Online intranet.
  2. Create the following fields:
    SharePoint List
  3. Click on the “Flow” tab on the ribbon and select “Create Flow”
  4. On the template selection pane on the right-hand side, scroll down to “Save tweets that include a specific hashtag to a SharePoint list”Microsoft Flow Template
  1. You will need to make sure Flow is connected to your SharePoint site and twitter account. Then click continue.
  2. You will then see the flow editing screen. First enter the search text you want to use to find tweets you wish to Harvest. In this example we have chosen to find any tweets that contain the hashtag “#Valto”. This will work for any word with or without a hashtag.Flow Tweet
  1. Next select the content that will populate each field as shown below:Microsoft Flow
  1. Click Save Flow at the bottom of the screen then Done at the top of the screen. This will have now published your Flow.
  2. Now from any twitter account post a tweet containing you chosen search word for example “#Valto”Valto Twitter
  1. Go back to your SharePoint list and within a few minutes you will see the post appear.SharePoint List Example

This process could be expanded to include notifications to members of your organisation, so they can react quickly to tweets containing explicit or negative wording for example.

There are many other twitter attributes of the tweets we have harvested we could also include in our SharePoint list for analysis afterwards such as:

  • How many tweets that user has favourite previously
  • How many people the user followers
  • How many friends the user has on twitter
  • What native language the user speaks
  • How many tweets that user has made in the past

All this information can start building a picture of the demographic of the users that has tweeted. For example, using this in analysis you could determine if this tweet is in fact from a genuine user account or perhaps it is a spoof account from a competitor.

If you have any business processes that you feel could be streamlined or made completely automated, please get in touch.

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood
SharePoint Specialist
T:  03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Office365

When speaking with new clients, we often find that although they are paying for Office365 for some or all their employees yet not taking full advantage of everything Office365 has to offer. On average most businesses are only benefiting from around 40% of what the Office365 suite of products has to offer.

This article aims to give you top tips for getting the most value from your Office365 subscription and outline some key functionality you may not be aware of.

1.   Compliance – GDPR Policies

25th of May 2018 is the official date when all businesses must be GDPR complaint. This is proving troublesome for organisations as they must completely re-think how to categorise their data in accordance to the rules and regulations to ensure their business is complaint.

What you may not be aware of is the Security and Compliance features that Office365 has built into it to assist you in categorising and applying automated rules to data you have stored inside of Office365 to ease this process.

A great example of this is “Labelling” data and then applying automated actions based on that label. It is possible to create multiple Label types and in our example below we have created a “Personal Data” label that we wish to apply to specific documents within SharePoint Online.

First, we create our label within the Office365 Admin Centre and document what the label shall be used for.

GDPR

We can then configure the settings to carry out automatic actions dependant on specific logic. This may be to ensure that certain documents are retain for a specific amount of time. If this was customer information we may need to delete the data after a specific time.

Personal Data

Once we have created our labels we can then start applying them to our document libraries within SharePoint. We can either bulk apply a label to every document or specifically choose a label for individual documents.

In the example below these two documents have been labelled as “Personal Data” meaning the documents cannot be deleted for 7 years in accordance to the labels rules we have created.

SharePoint Library

2.   Security – Multi Factor Authentication

We have all heard horror stories about businesses being “hacked” or “Cyrptolocked” which is essentially when someone gains access to your IT infrastructure and maliciously damages your data or holds it to ransom.

Security

Unfortunately, this type of attach is becoming increasingly popular as the hacking software is now readily available to purchase to attack businesses. Often businesses only take the threat seriously once they have been attacked and forced to pay on average between £4,000 – £10,000 or lose all their data.

There are multiple things businesses can do to protect their server environments but often forget about securing Office365 from potential hack attacks.

The best way to prevent something terrible happening to your data in Office365 is to prevent the hacker ever being able to get into your system. To this you will need to enable “Multi Factor Authentication” for all your users.

This means whenever one of your users logs into Office365 they must also authenticate from another device such as their mobile phone. This can be achieved with:

  • A code texted to the user.
  • A phone call that requires the user to press a number.
  • An app on their phone that requires them to press “Approve” when prompted for authentication.

This ensures that a hacker cannot use an employee’s account to login unless they have that employees mobile phone which is highly unlikely.

Multi Factor Authentication can also consider where the user is logging in from. This means your users may only be required to Multi Factor Authenticate when logging in remotely which is anywhere other than the office, as hackers will be trying to login remotely.

3.   Collaborate on documents with real-time co-authoring

Gone are the days of waiting for a colleague to complete their section of a document your team I am collaborating on before you can work on the document. No more backwards and forward emails with different versions of the teams document. When you and your colleagues want to collaborate on a document, you can use real-time co-authoring to see everyone’s changes as they happen.

As you can see in the example below, you will be able to see who is editing the document and in real-time what they are typing into the document.

Co-Authoring

Co-Authoring Collaboration is a simple three step process:

  1. Upload the document you wish to collaborate on into a shared document area such as OneDrive or SharePoint Online, so others can work in it.
  2. You invite people to edit it with you, so they receive an email with a shortcut URL to access the document.
  3. When they open and work in the document in Word 2016, Word Online you will see each other’s changes as soon as there are typed into the document.

4.   Extranet – Free External Users

Business often need to collaborate and securely store documents with external parties such as suppliers, consultants or customers. Previously this would be a difficult process to manage which would often evolve third parties emailing copies of documents back and forward into shared mailboxes.

However, by enabling the external sharing features within SharePoint Online your company can quickly configure a SharePoint “Extranet” which is an online portal that third parties can log into and upload/download any documents that are required.

You do NOT have to pay for external user’s licenses. It is free for external third parties to access you Office365 tenant.

This could be used for a customer portal that allows your customers to download your latest product materials or even a supplier’s portal that allows third parties to upload documentation for a procurement process.

Extranet

5.   O365 Video – Microsoft’s Answer To YouTube

Office 365 Video is a great video streaming product within Office365. It offers a YouTube style portal where users in your organization can post and stream videos.

It’s an excellent place to share videos of company-wide communications or recordings of tutorials, meetings, inductions, or training sessions.

Office365 Video

Office 365 Video allows you to produce collections of videos which is useful if you are creating a training course. Video displays a thumbnail image of each video on the site. You just select a thumbnail to view a video or use the search functionality for relevant content.

6.   Do not attach files, link to them instead

If your usual way of sending a document to a colleague is by sending it as an attachment in an email this can lead to issues of document duplication and colleagues having different versions of the same document.

To eliminate this issue happening you can send a link to the file instead. This will appear to the end user just like an attached document. However, instead of them having a copy version they will have a link directly to the original document.

Outlook Link

When you use OWA to share files stored on OneDrive for Business, recipients in the To: and Cc: lines automatically are given permission to view and edit the file. But it’s also easy to change the permissions on the file directly from the email message.

Manage Permissions

7.   Office365 Form integration with SharePoint Online

Office365 Forms is a product you may already be aware of to create basic forms, surveys and questionnaires. However, it was noted by Microsoft that is don’t work very well being a standalone product. Taking that onboard Microsoft announced at the end of 2017 that they will be integrating Forms into SharePoint Online.

They will be making it easier to integrate Office365 products such as Forms, Power BI, PowerApps. This means instead of interacting with these products individually Microsoft will be rolling out new web parts for each product to create a seamless experience for end users within a SharePoint Online intranet.

Forms

8.   Flow “Send for review” in every SharePoint library

For those who have yet to use this product, Flow is Office365’s workflow designer which will eventually be the successor of SharePoint Designer.

SharePoint has always had “Out of the box” workflows and had the ability to create more complex workflows with SharePoint Designer.

Before Flow can truly take over from SharePoint based workflows it must re-create the “Out of the box” workflows that have previously be available for SharePoint lists and library’s.

It was announced at the end of 2017 that Microsoft intend on rolling out a basic “Send for approval” Flow.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft are building a basic send for review flow into every SharePoint library, so you don’t have to custom build one.  Users can route a file to another user for feedback and review.  Built with Microsoft Flow and integrated with the Flow approval centre, signoff Flows are trackable in SharePoint as well as the Flow admin consoles.

9.   Flow Launch Panel – Manual Start Button

On the topic of Flow improving its functionality to include options that have been available through SharePoint Designer, it has been announced that a “Launch Panel” will be added to lists and library’s using Flows.

This means you will be able to start a flow manually through a button on the ribbon rather than using triggers such as “on item creation” or “item modified”, but these automatic triggers will still be possible.

It was also announced that a user can pass values from an item into the Flow before it is triggered.

Flow

In our example above, a “Request new equipment” flow might ask you to select a desktop, laptop, or a tablet, and send that selection to the team responsible for handling the request. You are prompted to enter information in a panel that opens directly inside a list or library.

10.   SharePoint List – Column Formatting

SharePoint lists can be tailored to support almost any content or business solutions need.  But until recently it has not been possible to format columns.

Microsoft have recently introduced new, low-code capabilities that open custom formatting. This can be used to show RAG Status, Conditional formatted colours or icons, KPI, and much more.

SharePoint List

 

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood

SharePoint Specialist

T: 03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD