Embracing the Cloud: Navigating the Storm of Workflow Automation
Sep 26, 2023
At CTG, we have a long history of automating business processes and implementing workflows. Our experienced team of SharePoint and Microsoft 365 engineers has been helping our customers for more than a decade to transform manual processes into workflows both with native Microsoft technology and 3rd party solutions like Nintex for SharePoint and are now helping these customers to transform these legacy investments to the cloud.
While building our experience and expertise in business process automation and migrating existing workflows, our engineers faced numerous challenges. While navigating these challenges, we learned that transformation is not just about shifting and adopting a new technology. Let’s look at some of the challenges we have been navigating during these transformation processes.
Knowledge is Key
One of the primary challenges lies in understanding the scope of your transformation or migration. A detailed overview or inventory of your investments in the context of process automation should be the single source of data. Having such an overview or inventory helps you with some very important considerations and decisions that need to be made. These include the identification of the processes that have become obsolete and the ones that are still accurate and relevant.
It also helps you discover the owners of the processes. Knowing the owner of a business process (both from a functional and a technical point of view) is key during a migration process.
Furthermore, an inventory also allows you to identify high-profile workflows, because you have the data to surface the actual usage of all your flows. You know which workflows are used most frequently. These are probably the ones that are the highest on the list of priorities in a transformation or migration.
Last but certainly not least, this inventory should always be kept up-to-date. From our experience as integrators and partners from customers that are venturing in such projects, we found that the combination of data collection scripts and a Power BI dashboard is best for such inventories. It gives you the flexibility to adapt the frequency of the data collection, the look and feel of the dashboard and the amount of information that is required.
Communication - The Road to Success
In the past years, we learned that any transformation or migration project, done from an isolated 'IT' island, without reaching out to the business, is setting sail for fail. There are several reasons for this.
To transform or migrate a process, you need to understand it. Unless you are the actual owner of the process, chances are that you are not aware of all the small details that are important and that drive it. The people that have this knowledge are most likely scattered throughout the organization. This reiterates the importance of having an inventory of the actual owners of your processes.
Another reason is that most migrations or transformations are driven from the IT department, because of technology shifts or management decisions. Process owners rarely drive such projects. In general, they just want their workflow to do what it was designed for, and they don’t care about where it runs. It just needs to work. Process owners that are not involved in migrations are often very hesitant towards change that disrupts their flow of work.
It all comes down to open and honest communication. Make sure you involve all stakeholders in your transformation journey. While it seems like an unnecessary change to them, you can turn this into an opportunity. You might have evolved as an organization, but processes didn’t evolve accordingly, and a migration might be the ideal moment to rethink your process and finetune if needed.
Our team of engineers at CTG understands that the ability to talk to business process owners is the key to success. They insist on talking to the owners of existing workflows to try to understand the process behind it and make sure that the result lives up to the expectation of the owner.
Adapting to the Shifting Technological Landscape
Next to inventories and clear communication, the reality of differences in technology when transitioning or migrating between them is also a huge challenge for organisations. For example, everyone who is familiar with Nintex for SharePoint knows the concept of a Flexitask. This is a task where you set up all the possible outcomes, define escalations in case the task is not completed on time, and define delegations where someone can delegate the task to someone else. This can be done from a single action in a workflow using one and the same configuration window for that action. Achieving this functionality in Power Automate or a native SharePoint workflow is quite a challenge.
It's important that anyone who’s embarking on a transformation or migration is aware of this. You will not have the luxury of having a 1:1 mapping. You will have to produce complex workarounds for simple things.
And it’s not just a matter of technical boundaries. Especially in the cloud, there are also restrictions and limitations that are amplified, and enforced by policies and regulations to ensure the protection of proprietary data and personal information from both employees and customers.
Adding to the complexity, we almost always have to deal with the reality of undocumented workflows. The lack of comprehensive, up-to-date documentation makes it difficult to understand the intricacies of existing automations and their alignment with the underlying business processes. Deciphering why a workflow was designed in a particular way becomes a puzzle, requiring profound knowledge of the actual business processes driving the automation.
If you combine this with an existing process that has existed for several years and where the original owner is no longer available to talk to, you know this is a challenge.
For this reason, our engineers make sure that when an existing flow is migrated, proper documentation is created. We can’t change the past, but we can surely prevent this from happening in the future.
In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that organisations embarking on this transformative journey do not underestimate their significance. The path to the cloud is not just a technical migration. Success requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses not only the technical aspects, but also the human elements of change. Despite the challenges and obstacles, the destination is worth the journey. If your organization is ready to move to the cloud and you have invested heavily in the automation of business processes, why not work together with a partner that understands these challenges and has first-hand experience with them?
CTG is your reliable partner for business process automation. Whether you are venturing into Power Automate or Nintex Automation Cloud, we have the experts, we have the experience. Let us help you transform your business.