Automated Information Flow using Office add-in, Office 365, Trello and Azure Logic Apps

Background

At Cognit we use Harvest for time reporting. In this system you can also create invoices based on these time reports. When the invoices are created we can send them with a wizard like experience via email to our customers.

So every month there is an information flow where we send an invoice with an email sometimes containing some additional information. This is nice to have archived together so that we can go back and se what was sent, even if we where to switch to another time reporting system. What we also need to do is to send the invoice to our accountant later together with other invoices and financial documents.

To deal with this and other tasks in our daily work we use a kanban workflow in Trello. We use it a lot of reasons, it's simple and easy to understand, flexible, integration friendly and just helps us get stuff done. We use it inhouse and with clients whenever possible. Kudos to Trello for making an awesome tool!

With this in mind I set out to automatate this information flow to support this small but important process.

The Solution

Step 1 - from the Harvest to Office 365 Document Library

First off we simply use the built in support from Harvest to send the invoice to the customer and simultaneously sending a copy to our own mailbox. We then have the email with the invoice attachment sitting in outlook.

From here we use our custom built Outlook Add-In enables us to with one single click(!) save the email and it's attachment to a folder within a document library.

alt The first goal - archiving the invoice and the belonging email together - is now achieved.

Step 2- From an Office 365 document library to a task in form of a Trello card

Then you might think - "Tasks? You should be using Office 365 Planner"! Well, no - we don't use the Office 365 Planner for tasks. Even if the UI looks promising, it is still lacking some vital stuff for easy overall task management.

Anyway - at this stage we have a file (the invoice) that needs to be handled in a document library, but at a later point in time. That file will not be found when we want it unless we assign a task in someway to a person / role to handle this document.

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This is where we are running Azure Logic Apps. The Azure Logic App monitors this document library and if a file is created it creates a Trello task containing a description and a link to the document. This means that even if we have 10 000 documents in this document library - we will still find it since we created a deep link in Trello. This underlines a couple of the points I made in the my "Search" presentation at SSUG last year, among other things:
"Findability != Search", and the a little bit more provoking first slide in the presentation - "Learn to hate searching".

Great! As the person that sent the invoice - I can let that go - I've done my part and it's being followed up in Trello, if a colleague would need to read the email that was sent - it's all there in the SharePoint document library.

Step 3- Finalizing the information flow

Ok, the time has come to send this months invoices to the accountant. We open the trello task(s), open the document library folder, mark the document and add it as an attachment to the email that will be sent to the accountant together with other financial documents.

Done!

Visual Overview

Here is a visual overview of the process and the involved systems:
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Final thoughts

  • Notice how the number of customizations made in Sharepoint is ZERO.

  • Could the flow be built in other ways? Could it be improved? Indeed it could, this is just a sample of a solution where we create business value and a more pleasant work day for involved parties by connecting already existing services and functionalities and adopting it to our specific company process.

  • It's so awesome to be able to use the best of breed of systems connecting them in a decoupled fashion.

  • This little thing is a win for us, but imagine the value you can create in larger companies.

If you have questions or need help supporting your business process, feel free to contact us any time. We love and know this stuff.