Can you use Office 365 to automate governance?

Governance and compliance are prevalent factors in all organisations. With the increase of cloud technology and flexible working, the way we work with information and data has changed dramatically. From where you store your information through to how you access it (and who can access it) the best practices around governance and compliance are extremely important.

Governance and compliance isn’t just about being protected against data leaks. It’s about how your organisation deals with uncertainty and risk. Varying laws will apply to some businesses more than others; but it’s how the control internally is handled that defines good or bad governance. It almost goes without saying, but the consequences for bad governance practices can be hugely detrimental to an organisation.

Manual processes, and usually are, time consuming, and prone to error. Ultimately, this leads to poor practices and loss of efficiency; an obvious negative result of this is the loss of money. How should companies approach these challenges? Our guide about how you can use Office 365 for business process automation goes into more detail; but let’s for now focus on a scenario involving how you can automate some elements (not all!) of your governance responsibility.

SCENARIO

Alex in the accounting department frequently publishes reports for the rest of the team and the organisation as a whole. The numbers need to be accurate for both reporting and auditing purposes. As she is entering expenses figures for this quarter she’s concerned with errors occurring while having to manually enter such a vast amount of information in several different locations. If the wrong information is entered, it will produce incorrect reports and create a potential auditing nightmare!

These mammoth tasks are just begging for human error to occur at some point. Mitigating human error is something we’re often asked to help with; as the consequences can take even longer to solve if there’s a mistake. Not only do we want to lessen the risk, we also want to make sure there’s an efficient process for Alex and her team to follow when they enter their quarterly report figures.

SharePoint & Office 365’s workflow capability is perfect for this scenario. For starters, if the same information needs to be entered in various places, workflows can be triggered to ensure the information only needs to be entered once – the workflow can do the rest for you! Workflows around an established approval process can also be created, but if Alex has several people in her team collaborating on one enormous document, workflows can be set up to ensure the work gets completed in the right order with colleagues approving said work at designated ‘stop points’ (permissions can be controlled too).

Which Apps should I leverage in Office 365?

  • SharePoint Online
  • Microsoft Flo
  • Power BI

Use Microsoft Flow to create your simple (or complex) workflows, then you use Power BI to report on them

Highlights of this solution

• Establish best practice with the way you control and view your data!
• Where does the data need to be entered? Consider all of the areas where you might need to repeat a process
• Create a workflow where you only need to enter the information once and all of the subsequent areas are updated in real time

You can read more automation solutions offered through the magic of SharePoint and Office 365 here.

We’re keen to offer best practice advice before you start creating workflows. For starters, we’d say that you can’t (and shouldn’t!) automate everything. Some things just need to be a manual
process. Governance and compliance are key to establish before workflows become the solution. You should be able to know where specific data resides in your organisation and who has access to it. SharePoint’s permission features mean approval can be logged before the workflow proceeds further. These ‘stop points’ are essential not just for best practice, but for possible auditing purposes too.

Spending time planning and creating a workflow can save your organisation lots of money and consequence – especially for sensitive accounting information for example. We’d recommend that you visually lay out the workflow into a flowchart diagram before going ahead. Before creating a workflow, ask yourself:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Are the stop points useful?
  • Who does the workflow benefit in the organisation?
  • Why are you creating it?
  • Will the workflow be reviewed?
  • When?

These are things we go over with our clients to ensure they’re making their lives easier as well as being efficient and compliant.

If you’d like to know more, download our guide about automation here, or view our library of guides here.