How Microsoft Power Platform can automate your manual processes

 

By Katarzyna Brancewicz

 

In a fast-paced, data-driven world there is no time for manual, error-prone activities. However, many of us still stick to them because it seems like there is no time to think of any improvements or we are afraid of change. Imagine how much your business could grow if all tiresome and time-consuming tasks were to be optimized and automated, so you and your employees could focus on more challenging tasks and expand your company further.

 

It might seem that automating processes in your company will take an endless amount of time and lots of money, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true. In this article, we’d like to show you how we used Microsoft Power Platform integrated with SAP to help one of our clients in process optimization and automation.

 

Before we move on, there is one important thing to mention. We shouldn’t automate any processes if they’re not optimized. Before thinking of technology, we have to ask ourselves whether our business process is already optimized and doesn’t contain any unnecessary steps and bottlenecks. Only after this analysis and, if needed, process improvement or re-design we can focus on implementing the technical solution.

 

Problem description

One of our clients contacted us with their very manual and time-consuming process of approving additional transportation costs.

Their company received invoices for the transport of finished goods, which later were downloaded from the ERP system and analyzed by the member of the logistics department. For selected invoices, the employee was emailing a request to some suppliers to provide a detailed list of additional costs incurred (e.g. extra cleaning, delays, trailer cooling). Before agreeing to pay the invoice, they had to ask various employees within the organization to verify if the costs presented are reasonable. Depending on the decision provided, he entered into a discussion with the carrier or ordered a payment. Finally, the logistics employee was entering the information of the additional cost into the accounting system and the entire process ended.

 

The original approval process – lots of effort and manual work

 

As you may expect by reading the above description, the process was not only time-consuming but also not monitored and properly audited. It was very difficult to track the progress of each invoice. Both approvers and carriers had to be contacted via phone or e-mail and sometimes needed to be pressured for the decision or additional information. Adding the workload for all the transportation companies, the amount of time spent on these tasks was continuously expanding along with our client’s growth and the increasing number of invoices received in the system.

How we helped our customer with MS Power Platform?

After our business analysis and discussions with the client, we decided to leverage Microsoft Power Platform and specifically, the model-driven app, Power Automate, SAP connector and Dataverse to fulfil all provided requirements.

 

The main technical benefits of this solution are:

 

  relatively short time of implementation,

  automating repetitive and manual tasks,

  consistent look and user experience across all model-driven apps,

  responsiveness, and

  the fact that Microsoft Power Platform is a common solution across many organizations and it’s very likely that your company already uses some of its components and has required licenses.

 

This is what an improved and enhanced process looks like:

 

The improved approval process – majority of the process is automated

 

Let’s split it into components:

 

  1. Getting automatically the SAP data by using SAP connector in Power Automate flow. All new documents are automatically added to our PowerApps app built on.

  2. Each new document is automatically assigned to a proper carrier, who can access the item anytime, fill in the cost breakdown information and send it for approval. Thanks to Business Process Flow in the model-driven app, only required information is filled. Data quality is ensured by built-in validations.

  3. Approval process is fully automated based on the cost type and can be done in parallel by different departments. The higher the amounts, the more approval levels the item has. Approvals can be integrated with MS Outlook and MS Teams.

  4. If costs are rejected, the carrier receives an immediate e-mail notification.

  5. Approvers receive daily e-mail notifications about documents pending their approval.

  6. When all costs are approved, the document is automatically posted to SAP by using SAP connector.

  7. Entire process is done in a standardized and secure way, with proper role-based access. Thanks to enabled history, we can easily audit the changes.

 

After this implementation, everything is done via a low-code PowerApps model-driven app. Enabled Business Process Flow helps to standardize, secure and make the process easy to follow. It shows users exactly what information they need to provide and when, and thanks to role-based access all users see only their own data. With this automation and thousands of documents each year, we can save a lot of money and time.

 

What are the benefits?

  1. All the documents in the scope of the process can be easily tracked in the application. Logistics employee no longer has to search for them in the accounting system, analyze and download them.

  2. Entire process can be easily monitored thanks to the audit history and activity logs, which meets the auditing requirements

  3. All users can quickly see what is the status of their documents

  4. Automatic notifications are sent if there is any action to be taken by any of the users

  5. Back-up structure is easy to maintain as all the needed information, comments and status of approval are easy to find in the application

  6. Time effort is significantly reduced by automating manual tasks which could lead to reducing operational costs

  7. Postings are done automatically after the approval process is completed which reduces the possibility of manual errors

  8. As data can be easily accessed in Dataverse, it’s simple to create informative reporting in Power BI, a different Power Platform component.

 

Power Platform has many components that can, relatively easily, improve your work. Thanks to the long list of available connectors and the possibility to create custom ones, you can move beyond Microsoft applications and automate activities related to completely different software.
 
 
Read more about implementing Microsoft solutions on our blog.