Microsoft Flow Basics & Approval Workflow Improvement Project
This article shows a simple approval system using Microsoft Flow and the blueprint of the system. By seeing an actual operation, you’ll understand more about that concept and basics.
Problems of current approval workflow
Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma, Black Belt.
Today’s topic is from this request.
“Is there any way to improve our current approval workflow?” Haruhisa-san, thank you very much for your request.
He also wrote specific problems of his current approval workflow.
1. We cannot track how far along our applications have gone in getting approval.
2. When approvers are out of the office, the application process will stop there.
3. We also wonder if we need all those approvals in the first place.
Typically, many Japanese companies still have these issues. If you have these issues too, there is a solution.
Microsoft’s next generation services, PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
In fact, Microsoft has prepared this effective solution with Office 365. By combining PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and SharePoint, you can quickly build a customized system for each company’s individual needs.
PowerApps is software that even non-IT technicians can use to create mobile apps. I made a video about the software, so please check it from the link above. ⇒ “What’s ‘PowerApps’? Will it become mainstream in Process Improvement?”
Microsoft Flow is a completely new technology that can connect more than 200 IT services in the world with each other.
That concept is a bit difficult to understand, so I created a simple approval system using Microsoft Flow and I’ll show it to you first.
Case Study: Approval workflow using Microsoft Flow
Here is my scenario: use the existing application forms and automate only the part needed to get approvals.
This is the app I made with PowerApps. You would take a picture of your application form to apply. As an application type, let’s select IT Department Approval. After entering this application budget, the submit button appears, so just tap it. Then, you’re all set.
First, an immediate supervisor will automatically receive an approval request email. This time I registered my email address as my boss and IT manager, so I should receive the request email twice.
I’ve already received the request as the immediate supervisor. It has the applicant’s information and a link. By clicking the link, the photo I took of the application form appears, so supervisors can decide whether or not to approve it.
Let’s approve it this time. Return to the email and you’ll see ‘Approve’ and ‘Reject’ buttons under the link. Click the ‘Approve’ button.
Then, the next approver will receive a final approval request email. This time I received the request email as an IT manager. Let’s approve this too. Since this is the final approval, the applicant will receive an approval result email and this workflow will end. (See the image below.)
Let’s return to the app and tap the ‘Application History’ button here. Then, you’ll see the list of the applications you used. You can select an individual application and see the current approval status, so you can follow up on it if you need.
Surprisingly, even with such a system, you can make it in a short time.
A Blueprint of this approval workflow
Lastly, I’ll show you a blueprint of this approval workflow. The database that stores all of the information in the middle. Here I made it in Excel and saved the file on Microsoft’s cloud service, OneDrive.
However, when used on a large scale, Excel’s operation becomes unstable, so it’s better to consider doing it other ways such as with SharePoint or Common Data Service.
When you open the app, it brings up only the application history data that belongs to the mobile owner from the database, and you can see it in the ‘Application History’ screen.
When you tap the Submit button in the ‘Application Screen’, the application form photo and application contents are saved in Excel in OneDrive and the application number is sent to Microsoft Flow, then the approval workflow starts.
Microsoft Flow will first access the Excel database to get the information needed later, then automatically send application approval emails to an approver based on the application number.
When the approver clicks the Approve or Reject button, it’ll record the response in the database. Also, it will change the next action based on the response.
Since you can automate with Microsoft Flow in conjunction with social media such as Twitter and so on, you can make totally new process improvements with it and PowerApps.
I’ll continue to cover the topic of Microsoft Flow and PowerApps in future videos. In the next video, let’s work together to make today’s approval workflow system.
“See these other popular articles.”