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Small Business Tool; Microsoft Flow Data Unification (A Step Towards)

Microsoft Flow is a valuable tool to help small business owners take a step towards a "Common Data Model" for their business operations. 


A Common Data Model is discussed further in this article; in summary the benefits of a common data model are:

  1. Enhanced control over your data - ensure currency & accuracy of data is much eaiser as you only have to change the common dataset and the automations will update relevant workflow/practice apps. 
  2. Maximise Automations - Certain Apps have limited APIs, having all your data reliant on a centralised common dataset you will have maximum freedom to set your automation rules around the dataset. 
  3. Easier to Integrate - When on boarding new apps into your workflow processes becomes easier as you only need to establish one integration into the common dataset. 

However small business owners face another challenge. The Common Data Model in an ideal world maybe the best approach, the setup costs on creating and connecting the automations under Microsoft's Common Data Service is prohibitively too expensive for a small operation. Here Microsoft Flow can step in to be the hero for small business owners. 


Recently I have adopted Accelo as my practice management tool to run my Accounting & Advisory Practice.  The reason being it has all the features I require to run practice management for an affordable price. Additionally being a small business owner the time gap between being able to afford a system & needing a system to manage growth is very narrow so I couldn't afford to spend time waiting and testing out PowerApp connections and setting up data relationships. 


There was one problem though, Accelo is really useful tool on one key precondition. My client's email address must be in Accelo!


For most of the time this is not an issue however what if a new prospect or new referral emails me? Accelo will not pick this up risking my ability to provide a timely response thus risking opportunity to pick up new work! This is a risk I couldn't afford, luckily Microsoft Flow solved this for me. Here is how I did this:

Firstly since unfortunately Accelo doesn't have a MS Flow connector in the system and I don't have the time or money to create a connector, I simply exported my client email addresses from Accelo and uploaded them into a Sharepoint List.

 

The Flow starts from here:

  1. When I receive an email, check the email address and see if it matches an email address within the "Accelo Emails" Sharepoint List.  If it does the Flow end here. If it doesn't continue....
  2. Check if the email address was previously added to the "Accelo Ignore Emails" Sharepoint list. If it does the Flow ends here. If it doesn't continue...
  3. Set up an Approval with the options "Accelo Ignore", "Add to Accelo" and "Delay for Task". Also send me a mobile notification this has occurred.
  4. Once recieved a response, if the response is "Accelo Ignore" than this means it is sender who is not relevant for my practice management (e.g. Spam)  add to "Accelo Ignore Emails" Sharepoint list. If the response is "Add to Accelo" this means I have recently added the contact to Accelo so the Flow will add to my "Accelo Emails" Sharepoint list. If its "delay for task" this means I need to add contact in Accelo but want another reminder.
  5. If using "Delay for Task" option the flow will continue, wait 12 hours, then send another approval "Has the email address <emailaddress> been added to Accelo" if I click "Yes" then it will add to "Accelo Emails" Sharepoint list, if I select "No ignore email address" this means I changed my mind and decided email is not relevant for Accelo so it will add to the "Accelo Email Ignore" Sharepoint List. If I selected "Yet but delay" this means I still want the email in Accelo but I still haven't got around to it.
  6. If "Yet but delay" is selected the Flow continues, wait 12 hours, send another approval "Has Email Address <emailaddress> Been updated to Accelo?" If "Yes" add to "Accelo Emails" Sharepoint list. If I selected "No"  then an email will be sent to me to "please review <emailaddress" for Accelo". The flow will end here.

Maintenance check note: Every month I intend to tidy up the Accelo Email Sharepoint list by export and importing into sharepoint. However over time I am hoping to establish a connector to extract the client email addresses direct from Accelo for each Flow.  But as a small business owner, investing an hour to build this Flow has saved me a lot of sanity and stress in ensure my clients email addresses are always in Accelo! 

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Thanks for reading!

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