One salient statistic in the shift to remote work over the past eight months is the fact that on average people spend an additional hour working per day versus when they were previously working in the office. We know that people don't necessarily want to be working more, but the change in how people are working has resulted in this shift nonetheless. One way to help people take back some of this time is by automating routine processes to make their workday easier.

The new Power Automate app for Teams makes it more approachable and straightforward for users to automate routine tasks.

Power Automate app for Teams

Simplified flow designer for Teams templates

The new Power Automate app for Teams allows you to build a flow to automate processes using a simplified creation experience. Now by just selecting parameters from a few drop-down menus, you can automate routine tasks for yourself and for your team. The new simplified experience also makes the process of building flows faster for experienced makers.

Automating in Teams - Create Flow

The new simplified designer lets you create flows based on 50 templates, and there are more templates on the way. You can always modify a flow using the full creator experience by clicking on 'Edit in advanced mode'. Also, you can create a flow from scratch, using the button on the top right of the 'Create' experience - all of this right within Teams.

Manage your flows from the home screen

The new Power Automate app provides a simple way to manage your flow in Teams from the home screen. It's now easy to turn your flows off and on, see who they are shared with, what types of flows you have, and see in which Teams and channels they function. From here, you can click right into those flows to modify if needed.

Automating in Teams - Manage Flows

Also, the app still provides you with the approvals management tab from the previous version of the Power Automate app, helping you manage your approvals in one place.

More templates, triggers, and action for quick automation creation

There are a range of new templates available and recently released triggers and actions that allow you to quickly automate many elements in your Teams experience. One interesting new template allows you to schedule 1:1 time with someone and sets up a Teams call. Microsoft are constantly adding more templates, triggers, and actions to expand the ways you can use automation to customise your Teams experience and make your day a bit easier.

Templates Triggers Actions

Adepteq use Teams and Power Automate ourselves and have successfully planned, deployed, trained on and are supporting Microsoft Teams with many of our clients.

If you would like to know more visit our Microsoft Teams or Power Automate page. You can contact us or call on 0800 6444 365.

Power Automate Desktop November 2020 update has been released. Important updates have taken place in this release, including improved productivity, development capabilities and accessibility.

Productivity enhancements

There have been some key updates that enhance the productivity of Power Automate Desktop.

A system tray icon is now available for Power Automate Desktop

Power Automate Desktop now has its own system tray icon, which allows the console to remain closed and still keep the application up and running. Through this icon, you can open the console, immediately stop all running flows, or exit Power Automate Desktop.

System-tray-icon

Runtime notifications are available during flow execution

When you start a flow, a notification popup appears informing you that the flow is running. You also have the option to cancel its execution, which brings up the corresponding popup. Notifications are available as well for flows that complete successfully or throw out an error.

Runtime-Notifications

Changing environments in the console is now possible even when having the flow designer open

You are now able to select another environment to retrieve flows from and work on in the console, without having to close any flow designer you have already opened. This means that you are able to work on multiple Power Automate Desktop flows that belong to different environments at the same time.

For this purpose, the environment that a flow belongs to is now visible at the top right of the flow designer.

Environment in Flow designer

Running a flow from the console is now possible when its flow designer is open

Even if the flow designer is opened to edit a specific flow, you are now able to run the same flow from the console.
In this case, the last saved version of the flow will be the one to run.

Erroneous flows are now properly handled in the console

When the user tries to run a flow which contains design time errors and has been saved as such, the proper indication is now displayed in the console, disallowing its execution.

Console erroneous flows

Development enhancements

Updates that are associated with developments enhancements in Power Automate are also available.

A second level of error handling is introduced in the flow designer

A new action, called 'On block error', is now available to be used in flows, allowing you to handle potential errors that derive from a blog of actions in a single, uniform way.

On block error

This offers a second level of error handling, after the default one which is associated with the action's individual error handling.

Web element images are now captured properly during web recording

While using the web recorder to create a flow on a web page, the images of the web UI elements are now properly captured and shows in the UI elements repository, enabling you to easily identify them.

Web recording images

Command bar icons are now always visible

When resizing the flow designer, the command bar icons at the top (Save, Run, Stop, Recorder icons etc.) are not hidden anymore, but instead their text label disappears and the icons themselves remain available to be used, without needing to expand the designer's width again.

Command bar icons

Power Automate Desktop is now accessible for everyone

Most accessibility related improvements have already been implemented, both in the console and the flow designer, allowing users to work on Power Automate Desktop using the screen reader / narrator, high contrast settings or keyboard navigation without the mouse.

You can sign up for a free Power Automate Desktop trial here

If you would like to learn more about Power Automate, or any products related to Microsoft 365 please visit our website. We are also available to speak to on 0800 6444 365 or via info@adepteq.com.

Phil Cave - Technical Director Adepteq

We received a request to offer a solution to collect confirmations when a new starter has read and understood the company's policy documents. The policy documents are currently emailed to the new starters personal email address as they do not yet have an account in the organisations' Office 365 tenant and they then need to be printed, signed, scanned and returned. This is not a good solution because many people do not have access to a scanner.

My first thought was that either DocuSign or Adobe Sign would be the best tool for the job, but that would mean additional costs and training. They already have Office 365 and would like to use if possible.

To minimise administration and to avoid any security implications I do not want to offer a solution that includes adding the new starters as guest users to the tenant. This would mean that the user has to create a Microsoft account if they don't already have one and this can cause support issues for non-IT literate users. It would also mean that there would end up being a lot of guest accounts in the Tenant that need to be removed at some point.

The solution that I put together is quite simple and uses Outlook, Forms, PowerApps and SharePoint.

Outlook, Forms, PowerApps, SharePoint - Logos

The first step was to create the form. This has only a text box for the user to type their name and a submit button. The form must allow anonymous users because the new starters will not have an Office 365 account. The form settings are shown in the image below.

Microsoft Forms Settings

For simplicity the form that I created only collects the name of the new starter to use as their confirmation that they have read and understood the policies. You could collect as much information as you require, for example, there could be a tick box for each policy included in the policy pack.

Below are images showing how the form looks on a PC and on a mobile phone.

Microsoft Forms Desktop Display - Solution
Microsoft Forms Mobile Display - Solution

When you create a form using the Forms App it will work great on both PC and mobile without you having to do any extra work.

Next, I created a list in SharePoint. This will probably be in the HR team site and will serve as a register of all policy read confirmation. You can see from the image below that I am only using two columns to store the name and date. If the form was collecting more information, then a column would be required for each field on the form.

SharePoint list for confirmations

Next, I created a Flow using Power Automate. The Flow needs to run whenever a response to the Form is received and then add the Form data to the list in SharePoint.

First, create the trigger

Power Automate Trigger - Solution

Then get the response details

Power Automate Solution - Getting Form Response Details

Then create a new list item in SharePoint using the form response(s)

Creating a list item in SharePoint with Power Automate

This is one of the simplest Flows that I have had to create, but it does exactly as is needed. I could easily add some additional steps to enhance functionality, for example, a notification that the response was received could be sent to the HR team.

Now that everything is in place all that remains is to send out the email with policies attached and a link to the Form.

Go to your form in the Forms App and click Share and then copy the link.

Sharing a Form

The link will look like this:
https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=XCrnyHAiJ0uwaTIC3qHxQBx5jwCDZ4JJtd6NGALo3kNWVlZCTlBSWVdQNlA0Ti4u

You can add the link to the email using the insert link options in Outlook.

Insert Link in Outlook - Solution

If you would like to learn more about FormsSharePointPower Automate, or any products related to Microsoft 365 please visit our website. We are also available to speak to on 0800 6444 365 or via info@adepteq.com.

Microsoft Teams can help people and organisations stay productive in hybrid work environments, and Microsoft Power Platform provides low-code custom development tools. the powerful Teams + Power Platform integration allows anyone to create the tools they need to get work done and bring them into their digital workspace. We are excited to share some new ways that it is becoming easier to build, deploy, and manage these custom solutions so you can be more productive!

Easily automate work for users and teams

A new Power Automate app is coming later this year, will make it easier than ever to build automated workflows. The new app will include a robust set of easy-to-use templates for some of the most common automation scenarios for Teams. A simple building experience will allow users to build these flows with drop-down menus and pre-populated dynamic text. Users will also have the ability to start building flows from scratch or edit flows that they've already built.

Teams Integration - PowerAutomate

Manage custom approvals in Teams

Nearly every industry and every business department needs to manage approvals in some form, so Microsoft have announced that Teams users will soon be able to easily create, manage, share, and act on approvals directly in Teams. Users can start an approval from a chat, channel conversation, or from the Approvals app in Teams. These easy approvals are powered by Power Automate and will become generally available in October.

Coming later this year, Microsoft will have integrations with Adobe Sign and DocuSign, to get legal consent or approval of electronic documents from people inside or outside the organisation. Additionally, approval flows from across the organisation can be integrated in Teams with over 350 systems using Power Automate, including ServiceNow, Dynamics, and GitHub.

Approvals in Teams

Build and deploy custom apps and chatbots

Microsoft have announced that the Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents apps for Teams, powered by CDS Project Oakdale, have entered public preview allowing Teams users to build custom apps and AI-powered bots right inside Teams, then easily deploy them to their teams.

The new embedded Power Apps studio allows users to create custom apps with a simple drag and drop approach to add app elements, and these apps can be connected to existing CDS Project Oakdale data tables or new data tables that can be created right inside the studio. These apps can be used on desktop or mobile devices, so everyone can be more productive, wherever they are working.

Teams Integration - Power Apps

Microsoft have also built several Power Apps solutions for common use cases like equipment asset inspections and employee ideas, and made them available in the Power Apps app as well as the Teams app store, so anyone can open and use them right away. Since these solutions are build on Power Platform, they are also highly customisable and can be edited to meet an organisation's specific needs.

Power Apps pre-built app

It is important to keep in mind that Power Apps can also help professional developers accelerate their app development process. To that end, Microsoft have announced that professional developers will soon be able to build Power Platform connectors with Azure API Management and Azure Functions to any Microsoft hosted third-party, legacy, or line-of-business apps. Apps built with Power Apps that utilise these new connectors can then be deployed to users in Teams at no additional cost. These capabilities will be available for preview in October 2020.

The new Power Virtual Agents app for Teams provides a low-code authoring experience to create custom chat-bots. Bots can be built simply by adding questions for the bot to ask, and messages for the bot to send back to the user. While these bots can be simple to build, they remain very powerful. New features such as the abilities for bots to recognise which user they are chatting with can provide a personalised user experience. For example, an employee who queries a bot about company HR policies could be provides with policies that are specific to their region or country.

Teams Integration - Power Virtual Agent

Engage with data in the new Power BI app

An enhanced Power BI app, available in public preview later this year, will make it easy to discover data and quickly create visualisations from Excel datasets within Teams. The app also provides users with quick access to their frequently used reports, example reports from the Power BI community, and commonly used organisational datasets. The app also allows users to send a report that they're reviewing to a chat or channel quickly, even maintaining the filtering and slicing of the report so it is easy to start a discussion with data. Also coming later this year is the ability to search for Power BI content through the search bar. These new features in the Power BI app provide a centralised place for users to collaborate on data and more effectively and make decisions based on real-time insights.

Power BI

Getting started:

These innovations will make it easier for anyone with an idea to build a solution. To get started, open the Power Apps, Power Virtual Agents, Power Automate, and Power BI apps in Teams. Check out the Microsoft Teams + Power Platform Virtual Hub to learn more about this Power Platform integration and the innovations discussed here, including CDS Project Oakdale. The following information sessions also provide an overview of the integration, as well as details on how to start building custom solutions.

We live and breathe Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 and we love it. Whether you want to ask us a few questions about Power Automate, arrange training with one of our experts, or discuss an automation project you are considering, you are welcome to get in contact with us today. It doesn’t cost anything to talk to us, and we are always happy to help.

We are available on 0800 6444 365 or you can send us a message via our contact page.

Recently we had a customer ask us to automate the creation of structured folders with Power Automate for new projects and to also generate and assign a project number. When a user creates a new folder for the project, the folder should automatically be renamed to "UKXXXX - Folder Name". For example, if the user creates a new folder named "Important Project" then it should be renamed to "UK1234 - Important Project". Then a set of subfolders should be created within it, as shown below.

When first looking at the requirements it seems relatively simple, but I soon realised that there was a complication that I had not considered. There is no action in Power Automate to rename a folder.

Before creating the Flow, I created a document library to store the project documents and a list to store the next project number.

I called the document library "Live Projects". No metadata columns are required but I can add these in the future if needed to assist with searching.

I called the List "Next LP Number", it is very simple and only contains one item. The item has an ID of 1. It is probably a good idea to apply some permissions on the list to ensure that nobody can delete the item. The list has a number column to store the next project number. Just add the first item with the number of the first project. As below.

The first step of the Flow is to add the trigger. In this case I used "When a file is created (properties only)". This is because I want the Flow to be triggered when a new folder is created.

Then I created some variable that I will use in the Flow.

'Current Name' is initialised with the path of the folder that has triggered the Flow. This is relative to the site address.

Next the Flow needs to check that the item that was created is a folder and that the folder is at the root of the document library. This bit is important because without the check, each folder in the set that is created later will cause the Flow to trigger again and again and again... I discovered this to my cost, and I will not make the same mistake again.

Checking that the item is a folder is simple. Checking that the new folder has been created at the root of the document library is more complex.

I used indexOf(variable('Current Name'), '/') is equal to lastIndexOf(variables('Current Name'), '/') to check that there is only the one '/' in the string variable 'Current Name. This works well for me, but I am sure there are other methods.

If the result of the condition is False, then the Flow does nothing and exits. If the result is True, then the Flow continues to the next step.

First get the next project number from the list we created earlier.

Now the variable 'job' has been set to the project number, so we have enough information to create the new name for the folder.

The variable 'New Name' is now set correctly, so the project number can be incremented ready to be saved back to the list for next time.

We can now rename the new folder, but there is no action available to do this, so we need to use "Send an HTTP request" as shown here.

Now we can save the next project number back to the list. This is done by updating list item 1 with the variable 'Job'.

All that remains now is to create the set of folders using the "Create new folder" action for each of the required folders. Repeat the action as many times as needed.

That is the end of the Flow, but as usual there is more that can be added. For example, a notification could be sent out to project managers and a set of tasks created to manage the project.

Power Automate is an incredibly powerful application that offers a variety of ready made templates to help you get started.

Read our recent post on the retirement of SharePoint 2010 Workflows here.

If you would like to learn more about Power Automate, or any products related to Microsoft 365 please visit our website. We are also available to speak to on 0800 6444 365 or via info@adepteq.com.

There is no standard handbook for reopening a business during a global pandemic. Each organisation faces the daunting task of minimising risk in conference rooms, factory floors, storefronts, and more to ensure the safety of every employee and customer.

Last month at Microsoft Inspire, the new Power Platform return to the workplace solution was introduced to help customers safely prepare for the return to physical workplaces. Designed for fast deployment and customisation, the end-to-end components provide location readiness and safety tools for facility managers, self-service health and safety tools for employees, and case management tools for health and safety leaders.

The complexities of reopening for business

Organisations across industries and around the world have had to rapidly adapt their existing processes and operations while continuing to innovate, streamline to save costs, and service their customer's needs. Many organisations closed physical locations, shops, schools, and factories per government guidelines. Now, as some organisations begin returning to the workplace, it will be a phased process with employee and organisational safety at its core.

The process will be different for everyone and will require organisations to be agile and proactive, with fast feedback loops of learning, advancing, and retreating. as a result, organisations will need to maximise resources by quickly making data-driven decisions when it matter most to maintain safe work environments. By adapting business workflows and processes to changing needs, organisations can save time and money by reducing risk and streamlining their workplace reopening process.

Return to the workplace with confidence

The Power Platform return to the workplace pre-built solution is a comprehensive, end-to-end set of modules that help organisations plan, coordinate, and manage the return to the workplace with confidence, helping to ensure the health and safety of employees. The solution is easily customisable, with fast deployment, and built on a secure and compliant platform. Together, the modules provide an end-to-end experience for executive leaders, facility managers, employees, managers, as well as health and safety leaders:

Location Readiness: Allows facility managers and task force leaders to determine the readiness of their facilities and efficiently manage their safe reopening by making informed decisions using critical factors like COVID-19 infection rates and safety supply availability. 

Location Readiness - PowerApps

Employee Health and Safety Management: empowers your workforce with self-service tools that help them work safely, confidently, and productively, including a mobile app that lets them check in to work remotely and self-screen before entering facilities.

Health and Safety Management - PowerApps

Workplace Care Management: gives health and safety leaders the tools to actively manage COVID-19 cases, identify hot spots for safety improvement, and import data from third party systems to determine exposure.

Workplace Care Management - PowerApps

Location Management (coming soon): gives facility managers the tools they need to keep locations open safely, helping to maintain a safe environment with tools for monitoring occupancy, health supplies, safety procedures, and other facility-related best practices.

CBRE integrates return to the workplace solution to Host hospitality platform

CBRE, the worldwide leader in commercial real estate services, serves clients by combining local market insight, broad services, specialised expertise and premier tools and resources. To help organisations reopen safely, CBRE is integrating the Power Platform return to the workplace solutions with Host, its powerful hospitality platform that connects the employee to the enrivonments, amenities, and communities that matter the most.

The return to the workplace solution provides an opportunity for Microsoft partners to help and support customers with customisations and deployment. It offers a foundation that partners can integrate and extend to meet unique customer requirements, with the solution available at no additional cost. Microsoft partners can also leverage a set of FY21 offers to help accelerate customer adoption. This includes funding for pre-sales activities that provide customers with insights on the solution value and demonstrate real-world business impact.

Whether you are reopening a store, a factory, an office, or a school, the Power Platform return to the workplace solution helps accelerate workplace readiness. Give people the confidence to meet in person, as needed, with this pre-built solution designed to protect teams and streamline the entire process of reopening the workplace.

Disclaimer

This solution is a sample and may be used with Microsoft Power Apps for dissemination of information only. This solution is not intended or made avaialble for use as a medical device, clinical support, diagnostic tool, or other technology intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or other conditions, and no license or right is granted by Microsoft to use this app for such purposes. This solution is not designed or intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or judgement and should not be used as such. Customer bears the sole risk and responsibility for any use of this app. Microsoft does not warrant that the app or any materials provided in connection therewith will be sufficient for any medical purposes or meet the health or medical requirements of any person.

We live and breath Microsoft 365 and we love it. 

Whether you want to just ask questions about PowerAutomatePowerBI or PowerApps , arrange training with one of our experts, or discuss anything Microsoft 365 related, you are welcome to get in contact with us today. It doesn’t cost anything to talk to us, and we are always happy to help.

We are available on 0800 6444 365 or you can send us a message via our contact page.

Phil Cave - Technical Director Adepteq

Working with dates has never been simple, just look at the issues surrounding the 'Millennium Bug'. There is always the time and date format to consider and then there are time zones. ISO 8601 does help by standardising the date to YYY-MM-DD, so that 2nd of March 2020 becomes 2020-03-02 no matter where you are located. Then there is the time portion, but I think i'll leave that alone for today.

Last week Microsoft announced that they will be turning off SharePoint 2010 workflows in SharePoint Online. This step will cause many organisations a huge amount of effort to identify and rectify where 2010 workflows are being used and then recreating them.

There is little point in recreating these workflows using SharePoint 2013 workflow as these are nowhere near as powerful or future proof as the Flows that can be created using Power Automate.

Power Automate also has the advantage that it is not locked into SharePoint but can work with data from over 300 other systems using the available connectors. New connected are being added all the time.

One of the things that we do at Adepteq is offer annual support contracts for SharePoint Online and also for the entire Office 365 suite. These contracts are stored in our helpdesk system which we created in SharePoint and have been using for many years now. I think we first created it on SharePoint 2010.

Our contract renewal reminders are managed using a long running SharePoint 2010 workflow. Unfortunately, this workflow will stop working in November, so I will have to rewrite it soon.

It is a simple workflow that uses the out of the box action "Find Interval Between Dates" to check how many days are remaining until the end of the contract. If there are 30 days remaining an email is sent to our sales team with a copy to the support team. We can then send a proposal for a new contract to the customer.

Extract from current 2010 workflow

Extract from current 2010 workflow

I shall recreate this functionality using Power Automate. This new Flow will run every night at 1am to check the number of days remaining. If there are 30 days remaining, then a notification will be sent to our sales team so that they can create the new proposal.

Power Automate could be used to create the proposal automatically and send it directly to the customer, but that is for a future blog post.

First create a new Flow using "Scheduled - From Blank"

Build a scheduled flow - Power Automate

We need the Flow to run once every day. Here I chose 3am as the start time but you can start at any time that is convenient, it just depends on when you want the email reminder to be delivered.

Next we need to add a step to get the list items from the contracts lists. You will then need to specify the site address and the list name.

Getting list items from contracts list - Power Automate

You need to remember that by default 'get items' will only return the first 100 items, which is not good if you have more than 100 contracts. To return more than 100 items you will need to go into settings and enable pagination and then set the threshold to a suitable value. In the example below I have used 5000.

Change the threshold for items retrieved from a list

let's initialise a variable to store the number of days remaining for the contract.

Initialising a variable

Now add an 'Apply to Each' step that we will use to enumerate each list item.

Apply to Each

We now need to calculate how many days are remaining for each contract so that we can send a reminder email when only 30 days remain.

This is more complicated than it is in the 2010 workflow because there is no 'Find Interval Between Dates' action in Power Automate. So instead we have to do the calculation using the Ticks function. This returns the number of nanoseconds since 1st January 1601. We need to get the difference in nanoseconds between now and the contract start date, then convert that into the number of days. Finally, take that number away from 365 to give the days remaining until the end of the current contract.

To convert nanoseconds to days we just have to divide by 864000000000.

This is all done using the expression 365-(div(sub(ticks(formatDateTime(utcNow(),'yyy-MM-dd')),ticks(item()?['ContractStartDate'])),864000000000)) Just remember to replace 'ContractStartDate' with the name of the column that contains your date.

Adding an expression

Now the variable 'daysLeft' contains the number of days remaining for the current contract, we can use a simple condition to check the value and take action. In my example below, if there are 30 days remaining an email reminder is sent. If not, then no action is taken. 

Condition example in a Flow

This Flow can now easily be developed further to create a task to the sales team and to follow up if the task is not completed. If the customer decides to renew the contract then the account team could be notified to raise an invoice...

Read our recent post on the retirement of SharePoint 2010 Workflows here.

If you would like to learn more about Power Automate, or any products related to Microsoft 365 please visit our website. We are also available to speak to on 0800 6444 365 or via info@adepteq.com.

Power Automate is an easy and powerful tool that has allowed us to save time and money, boost productivity, streamline every day tasks and share data faster. In a digital world that is always connected and always working, businesses that use Power Automate are not looking back.
It is never too late to get started. 

So what is Power Automate?

These day's there's a cloud service for everything. Power Automate is a user friendly way to connect all of your favourite apps and automate the tasks that you find too time consuming. With the option to create your own multi-step workflow or start from one of the many templates, it's simple to automate what you want.

Why waste time constantly checking emails when you can get a text message whenever an important contact emails you? Automating means you can use your time to work on other things, like setting up a flow that manages your Twitter.  Has somebody mentioned your company in a Tweet? Let Power Automate take care of it with a flow that follows them, sends a nice reply, adds them to a spreadsheet that gets emailed to you for approval and then adds their contact to Dynamics 365.

You can connect to over 100 services and choose from hundreds of pre-made templates, tweak them, or create your own.

Power Automate is part of the Microsoft Power Platform, alongside Power Apps and Power BI. We use Power Automate everyday in our SharePoint development projects. Often in combination with Power Apps to digitise your paper forms and processes.  

How does it benefit me?

How can Adepteq help?

We live and breath Microsoft 365 and we love it. Whether you want to just ask us a few questions about Power Automate, arrange training with one of our experts, or discuss an automation project you are considering you are welcome to get in contact with us today. It doesn't cost anything to talk to us, and we are always happy to help.

We are available on 0800 6444 365 or you can send us a message via our contact page.

London Head Office

Adepteq,
152 - 160 City Road,
London,
EC1V 2NX,
0203 805 4143

Aylesbury Development Centre

Adepteq,
7 Smeaton Close,
Brunel Park,
Aylesbury,
Buckinghamshire,
HP19 8SU
01296 323460

 
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