Are you ready for collaborative apps?
- Posted on August 26, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
A lot has happened over the last three years, and regardless of whether you are a field service, office, hybrid or frontline worker, Microsoft Teams has introduced the potential for enhanced work productivity and communications in ways no other platform has ever done, and has become the ‘Platform for Work’.
The technology was already emerging, but the pandemic accelerated corporate adoption of Teams. Today, more than 270 million active users are benefiting from a platform where they can share information, chat, collaborate, communicate and work more productively. Still, they are only using less than 30% of the true potential of Teams.
The real gains come when we start to automate common workflows or redesign processes that use the collaboration and communications fundamentals of Teams to drive increased productivity. Whether it’s enabling a field service engineer to service two more energy utility clients each day, an airline to turn a plane around 15 minutes faster, or a logistics company to deliver 5% more packages each day and save fuel in the process, these workflow solutions can be enhanced using the productivity capabilities of Teams and Power Platform, known as collaborative apps.
It sounds great, right? Millions of previously siloed process and procedures tied up in legacy platforms like Lotus Notes and Oracle Forms or in manual, paper-based processes, are now accessible in one place. They are enhancing collaboration, communication and process automation to enable colleagues to work together to get more work done.
The question is, are YOU ready for collaborative apps?
You probably are, but first things first.
Building production-ready workflow solutions on Microsoft Teams
Let’s assume you’ve invested in Microsoft licenses to enable collaborative apps to exist within your ecosystem. In most cases, projects spin up to identify workflow-enabled processes and the optimal solution to improve the situation. Process steps are defined and brought to life as a proof-of-concept collaborative app using low code functionality within Power Platform and collaborative controls – a Power Apps Model Driven application that allows users to build custom collaborative experiences that can be surfaced right in Teams without switching the context from app to app. So far, so good.
However, to truly maximize the potential of Teams and collaborative apps, we need to ensure the complete ecosystem of workplace infrastructure, security and user adoption are considered and implemented. From the device to the cloud, our new collaborative apps need to be ‘production ready’ for use in the real world.
An end-to-end approach to true workflow optimization
Avanade has a structured model to define, deploy and manage collaborative apps and maintain the function, relevance and effectiveness of these applications over time. The following graphic summarizes our end-to-end approach for collaborative app definition, deployment and management:
Put simply: Don’t fall into the trap of solving workflow optimization ‘app by app’. Whilst rapid prototyping is necessary, you should focus on an end-to-end collaborative apps factory model that defines, maintains, supports and, over time, decommissions old apps.
Also, consider the data that collaborative apps create, reuse and modify. Integration with the system of record – such as CRM or ERP data from Dynamics 365 or other data stored in a structured SharePoint environment – will add more value and drive further productivity to your employees. It will be more readily adopted when the data the app presents to the user is structured and formatted for mobile working environments and automatically rewritten to the system of record in real time.
Given the investment you will have already made in the licenses, Avanade’s deployment of this factory approach through our Productivity Studio service can provide an ongoing production line of new app innovation. It also provides the environment for full utilization of licenses and the support needed to build communities of best practice. When employee communities are engaged in app design, they will more readily adopt new working practices and embrace change because they feel part of the solution. They will also be more apt to feed ideas for improvement downstream. As consumers of the apps, they are closest to the processes you’re trying to automate.
Avanade used this approach to help establish a ground-breaking Modern Workplace Center of Excellence at a large European energy company challenged with the design, development and change management for over 7,000 applications. The community-connected center is now proactive in delivering workplace and business solutions with Power Platform, Teams-based applications and Microsoft 365.
5 key considerations to get started
- Put user requirements first when considering the design of collaborative apps.
- Look at the bigger picture: What other workplace optimization and workflow automation needs to be considered when designing the app environment? Not all Power Platform apps on Teams need to be collaborative; some may simply use Power Automate to speed up a complex task.
- Think about the system of record and the data you need to access.
- Consider how you can use Viva Insights to get real telemetry data from your employees and the automated processes needed to drive further productivity improvements.
- Finally, to design the whole ecosystem in a way that adds real value to your employees, your solution must span from device to cloud and be secure and production ready.