Let Business Process Flows support your asynchronous work

I have written about advanced concepts in Business Process Flow for some time now. I also presented about this subject to the Power Addicts Hangout and to the Power Community – Customer Experience Summit. Because of a concept called asynchronous work I think Business Process Flows are still relevant. In this post I explain you why and I give you an overview of the Advanced Scenario’s.

Office work has evolved. No longer are we working full time on-site. During the pandemic I got insight that this hybrid way of working has a big pitfall. How can we ensure people can focus on tasks without being interrupted by calls and meetings? Designing work processes to be asynchronous can be the answer and we can use Business Process Flows to coordinate them!

Here are my Advanced Concept for Business Process Flows:

What is asynchronous work?

Let me start off by giving you the highlights of what Asynchronous Work is and why you should consider it. Tasks of work as a concept can be done individually or as a team. But these tasks of work individually are almost always part of a bigger process. These processes regularly involve different people, teams and departments. For efficiency sake it is important to create processes with the least amount of handovers as possible. However it is inevitable that you can do every process by yourself. Asynchronous work is a concept where tasks of work can be done separately as much as possible.

The benefits of making your processes asynchronous are numerous. Less distraction of communication and meetings will allow employees to hyper focus on their task. It will allow them to get more in the flow of work. It will also help with work-life balance as it does not matter when during your day you finish that task. Personally this type of work allows me to be more flexible. I can bring the kids to school, can exercise during the day and get good productive work in, in the evening when I have the least distractions.

woman sitting in front of macbook
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Asynchronous work come with it’s own type of pitfalls. Your work-life balance might also suffer. Employees might feel forces to respond to messages coming in during the day. Creative work and collaboration could hamper. Tasks could also take longer as they might be waiting on the completion of a different task. Thus for asynchronous work to succeed you have to create, come to agreement and facilitate a process that helps support the process.

How can Business Process Flow help?

Facilitating and keeping track of a process is where Business Process Flow can come in. Business Process Flow is a product in the Power Automate family that will help you ensure a process follows the same steps with manual tasks in between. You can define a set of stages where during each stage various work should be done.

Shows an overview of the Business Process Flow designer.
Business Process Flow Designer

Business Process Flow is one of the tools that has been around for a while now. It originated from the Dynamics CRM product line. As such it is used a lot in Customer Service and Sales scenario’s like: Handling of a service request or opportunity pipeline. The nature of Business Process Flow also allows for supporting asynchronous work. Together with tasks and queues inside Model-Driven Apps it is a great tool to keep track of processes.

Good scenario’s to use a Business Process Flow in.

You can utilize Business Process Flow in processes where different teams or departments have to do work sequential to finish the process. This will allow for coordinating the status of that process and the ability to set out tasks of work in order. For example you can model the onboarding process of a new employee. Where HR adds the new employee to the system and then IT has to set-up his account and prepare his workspace. Depending on the role of the new employee various application managers has to grant them the correct access. And at the end of the process, just before the start date, HR will order flowers to make them feel extra welcome.

Shows a Model-Driven app with a form and a Business Process Flow
Business Process Flow

Another typical characteristic of a process where BPFs can be helpful is multiple iterations or communications. Either between teams or with a customer. If such a process (step) requires multiple touchpoints to do the job you want to keep track of these steps. Keeping track of these steps allows you to pick up the work more easily the next time you get new information. Or someone else could even finish the process for you! A good example of such a process is a service request on more complex products where you have to investigate and gather more information from the customer to identify the root cause.

What you should avoid, however, is to use a Business Process Flow stand alone. You do not want to create a process tracker inside a model-driven app where only the administration of the process is done. Employees do not like to switch over multiple application as this will break their concentration.

Advanced Business Process Flow concepts

What is great about Business Process Flow is that you can utilize all the low-code tooling of the Power Platform to customize the experience. This will help you create the most efficient process. You can for example present all the necessary information on the form for a specific stage. It is also possible to add workflow automation using Power Automate. In my blog I am currently writing about my experience and best practices implementing such low-code logic.

To make my concepts concrete I present to you a case from a business scenario perspective. The company we work at sells high-end machinery and we work at the service department. This department handles all kind of service requests. Resolving these requests is a team effort. And thus we have designed Business Process Flows to help us coordinate.

Currently we are working the “Case of the broken screen”. A loyal customer has dropped their new and expensive phone and his screen is cracked. It is up to us to to resolve this incident to satisfactory of the customer. Around different steps in the process of resolving this case I have been writing posts explaining advanced concepts.

Task groups

If you are already working with complex Business Process Flow you might have already come across the following. Sometimes a single stage has a lot of required fields or tasks before you can go to the next stage of the process. This will result in a fairly large BPF stage which almost look like the entire form! I have a solution for this I call “Task Groups”. A concept which help narrow down the BPF stage and utilize the entire form. See the following blog posts:

Download of the example solution here.

Shows a recording of how the Business Process Flow behaves with the new component. After we entered all required information the icon changes from a red cross to a green checkmark.
BPF stage with custom controls in action

I love to highlight the possibility to add Code Components into your Business Process Flow Stage. This makes them that much more easy to work with.

Approval Flow inside a BPF Stage

A great way of bringing in that extra pair of eyes towards the process you are working on is an Approval Flow. You can create automation inside a Business Process Flow Stage with the push of a Power Automate Cloud Flow button. Within that Cloud Flow you can bring in all the tools available within Power Automate, such as Approvals! Here I present to you a solution how I like to set-up Approvals inside my processes:

Download of the example solution here.

Shows an animated gif where in the case record we call the Approval Flow inside a Business Process Flow. And that after a refresh of the form the case is updated with the information from the Approval Flow
Approval Flow inside the Business Process Flow in action

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