I had the opportunity at the recent Denver SharePoint Fest to attend Chris McNulty’s presentation on “SharePoint Business Apps”. McNulty, a Microsoft Senior Product Manager, covered a lot of ground, but I want to focus on one area he emphasized – Transforming Business Processes with SharePoint & Office 365.
McNulty presented three aspects of business transformation: Gather, Automate, and Liberate. Though we here at Crow Canyon don’t use these same terms, our Three Pillars of Application Design aligns with the three-tiered concept McNulty outlined. Let me explain:
GATHER – “Capture and manage business data”
In McNulty’s framework, the first step in business transformation is to gather and collect data and files using SharePoint lists and libraries. In more direct terms, this is what we do in our applications when an end user or customer submits a request or ticket – we are capturing and managing data in the system.
Our First Pillar of Application Design is “UI/UX” – a user interface/user experience that empowers and engages SharePoint and Office 365 users. Our goal is an attractive, user-friendly interface that facilitates the gathering of data. If the application design is difficult, non-intuitive, and just plain “clunky” to use, the users will not be inclined to enter in the information or will put in wrong or incomplete information.
Crow Canyon designs user interfaces that people find attractive to use, whether on a PC, tablet, or smartphone, so that users can easily enter information, enabling the application to successfully “gather” the business data – the first step in business transformation
AUTOMATE – “Streamline repetitive tasks and process”
The second step in business transformation, according to McNulty, is to automate business processes. Repetitive tasks especially lend themselves to this kind of automation. McNulty mentioned logic apps, such as Microsoft Flow, as the tools to put this automation into place.
Our Second Pillar of Application Design is “Workflows & Business Processes”, which means Business Process Automation using SharePoint and Office 365. This is exactly what McNulty is talking about in his second step. We use our own Workflow Manager, as well as Flow and custom workflows we write, to drive automation in our applications.
When we talk about “productivity gains”, this is where most of that happens – by streamlining and automating processes, companies can reduce the time and effort it takes to “get things done”, thereby reducing costs and driving productivity and efficiency.
LIBERATE – “Create innovative custom data insights and interactions”
The third step presented by McNulty is to liberate insights and gain actionable information from analysis of the data. He pointed to PowerApps, PowerBI, Surveys, and other tools to accomplish this.
Our Third Pillar of Application Design is “Reporting and Analytics”. Our applications include capabilities both for an immediate, dashboard view of the data, as well as in-depth historical reporting on trends, staff performance, data loads, and other critical information. We use our Report Center and other tools we have written for SharePoint and Office 365 to present these dashboards and reports.
These reports are invaluable for locating bottlenecks in business processes and identifying root causes of performance issues. They “liberate” insights that enable people and teams to find better ways to do their tasks and accomplish their work. Ultimately, the goal of reporting and analytics is to optimize service delivery and drive a continuous cycle of improvement in your organization.
Whether it is called “Gather, Automate, Liberate” or “UI/UX, Workflows, Reporting”, the goals are the same. We want to capture relevant data and files from multiple sources, using attractive, easy-to-use interfaces. We want to streamline and automate processes to drive productivity. And we want reporting and analytics to give us insights that we can use to improve performance and service delivery.
SharePoint and Office 365 have proven to be powerful platforms that allow us to accomplish these goals – and these platforms are only getting better. Why not join Microsoft, Crow Canyon, and many other organizations that are working to “transform business processes” – that is, make your work life a bit easier and more exciting!
— Scott Restivo, CEO of Crow Canyon Software
Slideshow of Chris McNulty’s presentation: “SharePoint Business Apps” (delivered at the Denver SharePoint Fest June 1, 2017).