These are the slides from my recent presentation on the automation options available in Microsoft 365.
The most important take away I believe is that we live in a world dominated by software. This fact is highlighted that:
There are plenty of reasons not to focus on software as a success path but that major reason to is simply the opportunity it provides, especially if most others believe it is all too hard.
It is important remember that software is a skill not a talent. This means it is something that can learned and improved continually over time. There is no such thing as a born developer. Some may have a higher aptitude to software development than others but that doesn’t means it isn’t something you can develop and learn.
As you ponder the worth of automation, have a look at all the simple processes you repeat continually throughout your day. Why is that? Why are these not automated? We live in a world of abundant technology. Most people carry a computer with them that is more powerful that the one that landed on the moon, yet it seems we all have less time to do the things we really enjoy. Why is that? We have allowed technology to master us, rather than using software to make it do our bidding.
The place to start with Microsoft 365 automation is on the desktop. Applications like Word, Excel, and so on contain the ability to record processes via macros and replay these quickly and easily. In fact it will actually convert these actions into code that can be further modified. Every Office application has a huge set of tools to assist with automating processes.
Although tools like SharePoint Designer have now been depreciated they are still available to use. If you are doing work with SharePoint, especially migration, it is important that you have some idea about the workflows SharePoint Designer creates and how they can be maintained.
Third party services like IFTTT and Zapier provide the ability to connect to Microsoft 365 services. One place that I use IFTTT is to save a backup of each of my blog articles directly to a OneNote file I have saved in OneDrive. I use Zapier to automate my free SharePoint email course offering.
The important consideration here is that the automation does not have to be purely focused on a technical outcome. It can be used in many places inside a business, including marketing.
The Microsoft equivalent of tools like IFTTT is known as Microsoft Flow. It allows to connect to both Microsoft 365 and third party services and map a process around these. The great thing about Flow is that it can integrated to includes on premises resources as well as be extended. More power is also available with tools like Azure Logic App and Azure Functions, which can be easily integrated into Microsoft 365.
Introduction to Microsoft Flow
Automation is also available in Microsoft Teams by utilising either the built in bots or even going far as to build your own. You will also find that Teams has a Flow bot that you can incorporated. This shows you the power of the power of the Microsoft solution via the integration of tools throughout the stack. Delivering automation for a business through a services like Teams makes a lot of sense as many of your users are already here most of the time.
The automation tool that most IT Professionals should be focusing on without doubt is PowerShell. Unfortunately, this seems to be the one that garners the most resistance and there is no doubt that getting started with PowerShell can be challenging. However, there are options like Azure Cloud Shell that make this much easier and also allow you to access PowerShell through a browser or even a mobile app.
The way forward with PowerShell is to use it’s ability to integrate and take advantage of the Microsoft Graph. This avoids the need to load multiple cumbersome service modules. If you are looking to invest your time in PowerShell with Microsoft 365 then you should be investigating how to take advantage of the Microsoft Graph using it.
As a final point to consider, I’d recommend you take a look at the following video from Daniel Pink, especially at this point (from about 29 minutes in):