Power Platform is a suite of business applications that enhance the base functionality of Microsoft 365, providing you with a powerful engine to create solutions that can streamline day-to-day PMO operations and make the most of the tools you already have available in your organisation.

  • Power BI enables you to turn unrelated sources of data into interactive visualisations and surface insights for better, faster business decision-making.
  • Power Apps allows you to build low/no code applications specifically designed to suit your organisation.
  • Power Automate can help you to improve workflows and reduce re-work in your PMO.
  • Power Virtual Agents provides an opportunity to deploy customer-facing chatbots that can take actions on your behalf.

All Microsoft 365 business subscription packages include access to Power BI, Power Apps and Power Automate for use alongside the Microsoft Office applications (and many other Cloud-based services) via in-built connectors. The key is that much of the basic functionality is available at no additional cost to your existing licence.

Perhaps the easiest of the Power Platform suite of tools to get started with – and potentially where you will see the greatest return on your time investment in the PMO – Power Automate helps you to create workflows for everything from individual tasks to full business processes.

It’s all about using automation to be productive, rather than busy.

There are pre-built templates that you can use to get started almost immediately, and once you feel more confident you can use the low-code, no-code guided experience to drag, drop and select the options you need to enhance those templates or to create your own workflows.

You can find Power Automate within the All Apps area of your Microsoft dashboard.

  • Click on the icon in the bottom left of your screen – it will say All Apps when you hover over it with your mouse.
  • You should then see the following page in your web browser; make sure you’ve got the Microsoft 365 section selected.

 

Screenshot of All Apps page
Note that the Power Automate app is NOT available to all users by default; free licenses need to be assigned to individual users by your IT department via the Microsoft Administrator portal.

If you can’t find the icon, it is possible that your IT department hasn’t assigned one of the free Power Automate licences to you.  Either raise a support ticket, or if your organisation operates self service follow the necessary steps to get one.

Once you can see the app, click on the Power Automate icon and you should see a home page very similar to the one shown here:

Screenshot of Power Automate home page
Sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start!

I suggest using the pre-built templates for inspiration and to get used to the Power Automate interface – pick something to explore that will immediately boost your personal productivity.

For example if you get a lot of files emailed to you as attachments, then the Save email attachments to a SharePoint library and receive a notification workflow can help you not to lose track of them.

Useful for collating submissions for governance boards; set up a SharePoint folder where attachments can be saved automatically – get notifications when files are received, then when it’s time to produce the meeting pack they will all be in one place, ready for action by anyone in the PMO team.

I really like the approvals workflows that are available in Power Automate; for example if you’re using SharePoint lists to track things like change requests or decision logs then these templates could help:

Start approval when a new item is added – the approver can view their approval requests in the Approvals Center (accessible via Teams) and over email; once an item is approved or rejected, the item creator is sent an email confirmation.

Start an approval when a Sharepoint list is modified – send an approval when an item is modified in a specific SharePoint list; notify the requestor of approval or rejection.

Click here to see the full range of pre-built templates available online.

Scrolling down the Power Automate home page further reveals some more inspiration for workflows beyond Microsoft 365. Just remember that when you build a workflow that involves multiple platforms, the sign-in credentials that you use for your account with each one (including Microsoft 365) need to be added to the work flow step to be executed, as this allows access to your account to complete the action on your behalf.

As long as one of the steps involves a Microsoft application, you can create a similar workflow using the full range of standard connectors. Click here to see which connectors are available.

What next?

If you want to upskill in Power Automate then the online documentation is a good place to start; there are links to text posts, videos and even free training via the Microsoft Learn platform.  These resources are regularly updated to reflect the latest functionality available, so bookmark them and be sure to check back periodically to keep your knowledge updated!

Top Tip

When creating workflows of any type, sit down with a piece of blank paper and draw a flow chart of the steps you would usually take to complete a task; think about the applications you use, the fields you would complete and the result you would expect to see.

Use this picture as the guide for building your workflow – remembering to get any extra login credentials you’ll need to hand before you start building!

If you’re interested in anything related to the tools we use within the PMO, make sure you visit the toolshed.