How many times each day do you or your team members use an application or tool developed by Microsoft to get your work done? From Outlook inboxes to Excel spreadsheets to PowerShell scripts, Microsoft is ubiquitous in the workplace. In fact, you are probably so accustomed to opening Microsoft applications that you don’t think about all the ways you could be automating those tasks.
But you can automate Microsoft tasks easily with robotic process automation, and it can lead to time savings, error reduction, and an overall streamlined workflow. Here are our top 9 tips for Microsoft application automation.
9 Microsoft Office Automation Tips
1. Automate Excel to Avoid Tedious Report Generation and Manipulation
All across your business, employees are copying and pasting data to spreadsheets. We all know how tedious that can be. It’s also risky. The typical Excel document is so riddled with errors that a professor of IT management at the University of Hawaii called spreadsheet errors a “pandemic."
You know who can manage the creation and manipulation of spreadsheets quickly and without mistakes? RPA software robots. Here are just a few things robotic process automation can handle:
Query a database and write the data into an Excel report.
Need a regular report of current information sent to stakeholders? You can schedule this to be generated regularly without any need for manual intervention. This goes the other way too—you can have your software robots read incoming Excel documents and use the contents to update a database as well.
Reformat and organize your data.
Automatically convert your reports to different formats, update data, add new columns, create PDFs, print the reports, and more.
Run existing macros.
Excel automation is typically accomplished with macros, but macros aren’t the best long-term enterprise solution. They can be cumbersome to create and you may end up with your business logic spread across multiple files. A robotic process automation solution can manage your existing macros. You will probably find going forward that a tool with a built-in library of drag-and-drop actions is a more useful way to automate spreadsheet tasks.
2. Automate Email Processes in Outlook or Exchange
Email is critical to so many processes that there’s almost always a way email automation can streamline your operations. For example, you may receive email notifications when files are available for download from a partner website. Continually checking to see if those notifications have arrived takes time. Or maybe you receive emails from customers asking about a shipment status. It’s not only tedious and time-consuming for an employee to see the email, check the status, and reply—the delay could also be damaging to your relationship with the customer.
Within the Microsoft ecosystem, robotic process automation can be used with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange. A few things you can do are:
Monitor an inbox.
Save yourself and your team from checking an inbox manually. There are many ways to use a monitored mailbox to kick off other useful automated processes.
Respond automatically to help desk requests.
You can set up your RPA platform to intercept specific types of help desk requests like new user creation or password resets and deal with them automatically. This takes the burden off of your help desk team and allows them to spend more time on complex problems that require a human touch. Common help desk systems like ServiceNow or Zendesk can be easily integrated into your automated email processes.
Send documents to a document management system or printer.
For example, finance departments generally receive a high volume of paper A/P invoices, and it’s usually essential that they are processed in a timely fashion. You can save time and paper by setting up an email inbox to receive the invoices and automatically route them to the A/P department or a document management system for processing. If you really do need the paper forms, you could have your automation software print the messages and attachments automatically as they come in.
Export highlighted messages and attachments from Outlook.
With a busy inbox it can be hard to know which emails to save permanently.
3. Manage Other Office 365 Tasks with Automation
Whether you are creating new automation or scheduling existing macros and VB scripts, there’s a lot you can do with Microsoft Office/Office 365 tasks and robotic process automation software. Here are just a couple examples:
Generate and distribute documents.
You could take a list of hundreds or thousands of email addresses and send a personalized mail merge email to them on a regularly scheduled basis, or whenever you want at the push of a button.
Merge multiple slide decks together using PowerPoint ActiveX automation and convert to PDF.
4. Simplify User Onboarding and Offboarding by Automating Active Directory
Your company is growing and you’re excited to be bringing new employees on board. But the processes involved in onboarding are complex and often span multiple departments and applications. One key tool in managing users is Active Directory from Microsoft. By Automating Active Directory tasks, you can save a lot of time.
Provision new users.
You can tie Active Directory user provisioning into other onboarding (or offboarding) tasks in a single automated workflow. For instance, automatically create a help desk ticket, provision Active Directory and required business applications, and email the new employee’s manager—all without manual intervention.
Handle change requests.
For example, take care of user password requests automatically. User migration and removal can also be automated.
5. Foster Collaboration by Automating SharePoint and OneDrive
Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful business collaboration platform. The capabilities of SharePoint, including content management, collaboration, search, and business intelligence work together to help companies quickly respond to changing business needs. However, SharePoint can be difficult to navigate for many users, not to mention that maintaining your SharePoint site and constantly uploading and monitoring the status of your documents is extremely time-consuming.
Automating SharePoint or file-sharing service OneDrive makes collaboration and sharing information quick and easy.
Upload and download SharePoint files.
This is especially useful if you have any kind of daily reports to add to SharePoint. Files can also be checked in and out and updated automatically.
Manage SharePoint users and groups.
You could tie this task in with your automated employee onboarding workflows. Provision a user in Active Directory and immediately add him or her to a SharePoint group as well.
Sync OneDrive files to local folder.
As files arrive in your OneDrive cloud account, they can be automatically synced to your PC or server.
See more Sharepoint automation examples on our processes page.
6. Manage Customer Relationships with Dynamics CRM Automation
The easier and faster it is to access customer information, the easier it is to maintain a good relationship with your customers.
Access and manage customer data.
Use RPA to insert, update, or delete entities in Dynamics, or query data with FetchXML.
7. Automate Existing PowerShell Scripts—or Replace PowerShell
PowerShell is a powerful scripting language with a lot of functionality. If you’re already using PowerShell automation to streamline tasks, you don’t have to give it up—your RPA software can manage the scripts and integrate them into your broader workflows. But you may eventually find that transitioning away from PowerShell altogether is the most efficient solution.
Add RPA features to PowerShell scripts.
Even if you can easily write a PowerShell script to tackle the task at hand, your custom scripted automation probably lacks features like automatic notifications and error handling. An RPA platform can take your existing scripts and add a layer of enterprise-class automation.
Automate without PowerShell.
You may be a skilled scripter, but growing your team will be easier if you don’t need to hire PowerShell experts. Robotic process automation can handle any process that scripting can using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
8. Make Your Move to The Cloud with Azure Automation
Automate a hybrid environment.
While most companies are using some kind of cloud solution these days, very few are 100 percent cloud-based. RPA can automate any application, whether it's on premise or in the cloud.
9. Automate Other Microsoft Applications
We’ve only begun to touch on the possibilities for Microsoft application automation and Microsoft Office autmation. Other applications you may be using that can be streamlined with RPA include:
- Microsoft Access
- Microsoft Power BI
- Microsoft PowerApps
- Microsoft Hyper-V
- Microsoft Database Engine
- Microsoft Office