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Conducting BPM With Microsoft Flow

An article by Shyamal Addanki, Director NA

Let me start with my conclusion. Business Process Management (BPM) tools like FireStart and personal user automation tools like Microsoft Flow complement each other. In fact, they extend each-other’s capability; there is no competition here.

Business Process Management vs. Personal Automation

Unfortunately, I find this is a topic of much misunderstanding from the perspective of end- and power-users. I come across many questions that can be paraphrased as, “Why do I need a BPM tool when I have Flow?


Personal Automation – Microsoft Flow

A clue can be found in Microsoft’s own words to describe Flow: “Create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more.” Flow is a great tool for synchronizing data exchange between apps, whether the end goal is to get notifications, replicate data and files, or simply gather information.

Flow focuses on triggered sets of action; when “A” happens, do “B”, “C”, and “D”. It focuses on data; Take field “x” from “A” and copy it into field “y” of “B”. It can certainly do some transformations (as can Microsoft Excel), document executions, and cleanly end a specific instance of the Flow. Most importantly, it is doing B, C, and D as a user-automation tool.

BPM – FireStart

BPM (which, as a discipline, also includes Business Process Automation, or workflows) looks at the broader picture – what are the requirements we must achieve to attain a specific goal? Often, this could include multiple workflows, whether distinct or interconnected. There could be some automated tasks that read and write data to tables or perform transactions in third-party systems, and some manual tasks assigned to roles across business units in the organization to execute offline and record completion in the system. One broad, multiple-workflow process could span across users, teams, departments, business units, and could span long time-frames. There is no need for linear logic, and there is a clear link to the documented business process.

Combining BPM and Personal Automation

But most importantly – a Business Process could also attach to and trigger a Flow. And vice versa, a personal automation flow could launch a BPM Workflow.

Imagine a cellist playing the cello parts of a symphony all alone; that is Flow. Without context, it is not always obvious what the music piece is. Now imagine an entire orchestra being led by a conductor, following the documented sheet music for the symphony; that is BPM.

Use Case with FireStart & Microsoft Flow: Automatic Payslip Distribution

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