Recently I’ve been doing a lot of personal learning during lockdown in the following topics:
- Power Automate (as a starting point to understand flows and automations BEFORE I learn and build any Power Apps)
- Active Campaign (campaign marketing software that uses a lot of automations and in some way glad to learn Power Automate to understand how automations work in marketing now)
- Community Management (especially around strategy for building and managing communities)
- French (with the intention of becoming conversationally fluent and reaching an international accreditation
- Jogging to 5 kilometres (learning form and exercises for better running through podcasts)
Today I thought I’d focus on the Power Automate learning.
Microsoft Power Automate
There’s been a focus in the Microsoft community to look at the MS Power Platform which in itself is a MASSIVE platform consisting of different products that are all aimed at helping automate business process and visualise business data. To be honest, looking into it, my mind was SPINNING out of control. It was simply too much for someone who is non-technical to handle however, it’s exactly built for someone like me. However, my aim is not to become a professional in this, it was to simply understand how I could streamline and automate some of my own business processes that I use in my job as a Community Manager – but also streamline some of the annoying little things – that seem to have become habits over the years.
Some years ago, I dabbled with some basic automations using If This Then That and Zapier. Some automations included, every time I send a tweet, an automation runs in the background that an entry is made into a Google spreadsheet so I keep a record of all my tweets. You get the drift.
However, working for a Microsoft Partner, Adopt & Embrace, we have access to all the suite of Microsoft products so it makes sense to use just Microsoft to learn how to use the above automations with this software. That way, I’m learning as I go, and learning the Microsoft product and automating my own business processes with my own work documents and files and hopefully saving me time.
I’ve been having a lot of fun automating tons of annoying little tasks that have since become habits for me now to the point where if I think of something, the first thing I think about is, “how can I automate this?”
The benefit of automating a business process is that namely it saves you time because you’re not repeating that process. However, it took a while for me to really scrutinise my daily work and come up with WHAT needed to be automated. After all, when you do some tasks without thinking because they’re a habit – but they’re repetitive – how much value do they add to your day? You may as well automate them.
So here’s my process for identifying what these are:
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Forgetting to turn the Out-of-Office on my days off and pissed off I had to log back on to turn my OOO on.
- People asking me for good web resources on MS Teams Breakout Rooms or about MS Teams in general that I was tired sending the same emails out
- People asking me to email them my contact details at conferences and events when I meet them
- Sending a reminder to myself in 10-15 minutes (sometimes I just need a prompt because my husband isn’t reliable as a reminder service).
- Finding great tweets that I need to keep in a spreadsheet or to a Planner board or to Teams for my learning plan (being able to search for them)
- Prompting me to check MS Forms when I send out survey to check results (not to remember to check survey results myself)
- Posting a message to Teams when an email arrives (bah, I hate ccing my emails to Teams Channels – I need these automated)
- Automatically blocking out the next hour in my Outlook calendar
- Button of all your location details to send to NOK or manager (where are you today) – great for travelling and he has your EXACT geo coordinates
- Focus time – creating a counter so that I can focus on writing the book chapter (Pomodoro)
- Notify people if they automatically set up meetings on your days off!!!
- Sending session presentations and slides shows to attendees automatically
Pretty soon by taking note of your entire day, you realise there’s a lot of tasks that can be streamlined and automated. Not to mention tasks that require approvals and the like.
Now That You Have Your Pain Points What’s Next?
The next step is that I started to explore the Connectors and Templates in Power Automate and started dabbling.
First of all though, I used some YouTube channels to work through some of the flows and then basically play around with them. Build them, change the parameters, run them, test them to see if they succeeded or failed. It was basically trial and error.
You can have My Flows or Team Flows. For personal learning and practice, I just basically used My Flows however, these will now be my practice to building out Team Flows which is where they’re more important especially if your flows need a collaborative approach or need to be shared with members of your team.
I’ve got about 30 different flows happening in the background that I turn on and off depending on when I want these to run. Many times, they just run in the background saving me time. I’ve also noticed that there’s heaps of templates that you can use and recustomise (I’ve customised many of them with my own conditions and triggers – and even renamed them so they make sense to me) but if you’re a beginner, stick with the templates because it’s a great way to learn how they work.
Another lesson I learned is “think about your process”. That is, physically write it out on paper as to how you want it to work and where it branches and what actions you need it to do and the conditions you want to work and where approvals need to happen. If you map it out on paper first, you can build it online next – just makes it easier to visualise it.
A Learning Plan for Power Automate
To make things a bit easier, I have created a Wakelet Board where I have curated some of the basic videos I have been using to follow along and build my automations. Feel free to use this as a starting point if you want to know how you can also get started with PA.
I know I started a bit arse end about but I needed to work my flows first BEFORE I considered creating apps. I know many people would start wanting to build apps first (which is great) however, for me, personally, I needed to FREE up some of my time at work (which means, scrutinising the repetitive tasks I did on a day to day basis to BUILD MORE FREE time to learn Power Apps if that makes sense?
It also got my mind thinking of processes so now I can look to my list above and reconsider “what exactly needs to be made into an APP versus just a flow?”
Are you dabbling in Power Automate? What are your experiences so far?
- Create Your Own Personalised Learning Plan with Adaptive Cards to Microsoft Teams
- Learning Power Automate
- One that worked like a dream and helped save me so much time was from Michael Roth who wrote this article Business Cards Are So 90s which I used when I went to Germany for LearnTec and shared the result to my colleagues at work.