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Automation standards for Microsoft Power Automate

Follow these standards to create reliable, maintainable, and secure automation flows while promoting collaboration and consistency among colleagues.

When creating and using flows in Microsoft Power Automate, it's important to follow best practices to ensure efficiency, maintainability, and security.

Please read and consider the standards before using automation so you and your team can approach process automation holistically and strategically. This will maximise the benefits while mitigating potential risks and challenges.

Process selection and evaluation

1. Identify and prioritise processes

Identify and prioritise the processes that will benefit the most from automation, based on factors such as frequency, complexity, potential for cost and time savings, and impact on student and staff experience.

2. Consider the benefits

Consider the benefits you will potentially gain by using automation. Some examples include:

  • reducing manual work on repetitive processes
  • reducing human error
  • streamlining approvals
  • reducing manual data entry
  • maximizing the use of available resources

3. Lead with business needs

Lead with business needs and avoid automating just because you can.

4. Evaluate the scope

Evaluate the scope of the automation. If it goes beyond your respective Faculty (i.e. has university-wide application) contact the Digital Data and Technology (DD&T) team for advice.

5. Engage stakeholders

Involve and notify key stakeholders of any change to a process that will affect them as a matter of courtesy and good communication. Ensure their buy-in, gather requirements, and address concerns early on.

Process optimisation

6. Use Lean Thinking principles

When considering using automation, use Lean Thinking principles (Eliminate, Simplify, Automate) to approach the process in order to plan where automation is most appropriate.

7. Check processes

A flow should not duplicate a process that already exists. If a similar process using different software already exists at the University, you should not use automation to create an alternative solution. Use what is already in place.

8. Consider the best tool

Consider the best tool for the process you wish to automate. For example, could you use Excel or Bookings for your use case? If using student data, it should almost certainly be built in SAMIS.

Developing, testing and documentation

9. Plan in time for testing

Test for as many possible scenarios as you can to ensure flows function as expected before deploying them.

10. Naming conventions

To help with readability and organisation, ensure that Power Automate flows are named as per the recommended naming convention - ‘FAC Dept Project (Flow Type)’.

For example, 'SCI Phys Send Daily Status Report (Scheduled)’.

Likewise, solutions, actions, variables and triggers should all be named as per the recommended conventions. See the Power Automate Naming Convention document in the Power Community of Practice SharePoint for guidance.

11. Check limits

Check the limits for actions you are using on Microsoft Learn, especially when handling large sets of data.

Security and governance

12. Data protection

Consider information security carefully, including GDPR, confidentiality, and your responsibilities for data or information leaks as detailed within the University's Data Protection Policy.

13. Contingency

Plan for the unexpected. If the flow is business critical, ensure you have a plan in place if your flows stop working as expected.

Maintaining and continuous improvement

14. Document your workflows

Document all your process automation workflows and ensure guidance is shared with the relevant team members. Include their purpose, inputs, outputs, and any dependencies, to facilitate understanding and maintenance.

15. Monitor your automated processes

Microsoft will automatically turn off a Power Automate cloud flow that fails repeatedly or is not triggered after 30 days of inactivity. This is to prevent inactive flows from consuming resources unnecessarily. For this reason, implement mechanisms such as regular calendar reminders for monitoring, measuring, and continuously improving your automated processes, based on performance metrics, user feedback, and changing business requirements.

Using Power Automate with your team

If you are considering using Power Automate for a process, you must request approval first in order to avoid duplication of work and to aid collaboration and consistency across teams.

If you're a member of staff in Humanities & Social Sciences you should complete the form so your Faculty Super User(s) and Director of Operations can review, provide feedback, and approve.

This is currently being trialled for Humanities & Social Sciences staff only.

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