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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