Cloud computing has had, arguably, the biggest impact on how 21sy century’s business organisations work. The scale of change brought by cloud computing and consequent automation is that the battles of business are being fought on grounds of technology, and not only the quality of products and services. The modern enterprise is nothing compared to how things were done from a Business Workflow stand point, let’s say, 10 odd years back. Enterprises have already been able to automate hundreds of labour intensive administrative and workflow related processes. The kind of productivity improvements this brings is massive for any sort of business.
Error free execution, super quick task completion, proactive and highly insightful updates, faithful and super fast reporting, and even self governed improvements – all these factors make modern workflow automation tools the real levers of competitive edge for companies. As a decision maker for your business, you have literally dozens of cloud based services that help in automation of business processes. By intelligently integrating these tools with each other, and mapping more business processes on them, enterprises and SMBs can automate more and more processes, benefiting from tremendous cost and productivity advantages. Next up, let’s go through some superlative cloud based tools that help you achieve workflow automation.
SharePoint is Microsoft’s renowned web based collaborative platform that primarily works as a document management and storage management system. This cloud based service allows businesses to store their data online, and comes with advanced search, retrieve, archive, manage, and record functionalities. SharePoint is designed to deliver enterprise content and document management functionalities in a manner that helps them comply with different legal, process and information management requirements. It can be integrated with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, and delivers benefits such as real time document collaboration, data encryption, and of course, secure storage. SharePoint’s enterprise search feature delivers a one-stop information search mechanism, allowing employees to connect with colleagues, find information about important documents, and access internal web pages. The high degree of integration and customizations makes SharePoint a power-packed solution for workflow automation around tasks related to data creation, archiving, retrieval, and management.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s file hosting service that lets personal and business users store all kinds of files and other format of data in the cloud. These files can then be synced to a computer, and can also be publicly/privately shared from the OneDrive dashboard. In its Wave4 update, Microsoft has added the functionalities of uploading, creating, editing, and sharing PowerPoint, Excel, and Word documents from within the web browser. These features make OneDrive a very powerful file storage solution, leveraging the power of cloud computing, and automating several document sharing and collaboration dependent processes with business departments. OneDrive also offers mobile apps for all major operating systems, helping business users remain updated on progress on shared content remotely. Also, because users can embed Office documents in web pages using OneDrive, it helps business users quickly move on the process chains without creating new documents and sharing with groups.
Microsoft’s Office 365 is a suite of business services, delivered via cloud computing SaaS model. These services include productivity improvement software, document management, cloud storage, and business communications. Office 365 lets business users access Microsoft Office apps on different operating systems via Internet. Also included are Skype business communication services, email and social networking services via hosted Microsoft Exchange Server. Integration with Yammer lets enterprises and businesses manage in-house social media. Office 365 for businesses also includes Lync services, Office Online (for online accessible Office apps), hosted Exchange, and SharePoint. Businesses can check out the different Office 365 subscription plans, made to ensure that there’s a suitable resource package available for your business needs. Office 365 is among the most massive enablers of workflow automation by delivering some of the best Microsoft services to businesses.
OneNote is a free form information gathering tool, particularly great for business workflow automation because of strong multi user collaboration functionalities. Users can add their handwritten notes, graphs, drawings, screenshots, images, and audio content to OneNote files. Then, these files can be shared with other business users online, enabling super quick automation of processes depending on data collection and collaborative research. By placing the OneNote file in a shared folder, or placing it in your Dropbox or OneDrive folder, you can allow collaborative access to colleagues, and quickly organise the unstructured information into meaningful outputs. Microsoft has made mobile apps for OneNote available across platforms, enabling business users to use the tremendous note taking functionalities on the move.
Microsoft Teams combines advanced functionalities around workplace instant messaging, notes taking, attachments, and meeting management into one tool. In terms of its functionalities, it’s a competitor to Slack, a highly popular cloud powered workplace communications management tool. However, Microsoft Teams is more focused at enterprise business users, and is even bundled as a free service with Office 365 subscriptions. With Teams, organising meetings, conducting quick and effective group chats, and archiving important chat messages is a breezy affair. If you use other Microsoft Office cloud powered workflow automation services discussed above, you can easily collaborate on documents right from the Teams chat interface. Ad-hoc 1 to 1 and group calling also make it an enabler for workflow automation.
Power BI is Microsoft’s business analytics solution; it has been quickly gaining a lot of ground in BI services, primarily because of the advanced interactive visualisations, along with self service business intelligence capabilities on offer. This enables end users to quickly create reports and highly sophisticated dashboards on their own, without relying on on-house IT to help them out. Delivered as ‘Software as a Service’, this cloud based analytics solution offers data warehousing capabilities such as data recovery, preparation, and processing, via a user friendly and intuitive interface. This helps end users quickly experience the real benefits of data analytics, as they always have ready dashboards to quickly create reports, share with collaborators, and take decisions.
The cloud based solutions discussed above have been at the forefront of enabling business workflow automation in the recent past, and are good to continue transforming business automation for the times to come.
Mauricio Prinzlau is the lead Cloud expert at Cloudwards.net, a data and user feedback driven comparison engine for cloud storage, online backup and VPN apps and services. In addition, he also loves producing educational videos and reviews to help people get the best services for their needs. Get in touch with him on LinkedIn.