A recent customer of ours asked if we had a way to eliminate the need to use clipboard/paper/pens when filling out the COVID-19 screening form, as a way to help reduce the risk of their employees spreading the infection when entering the building. You might be thinking, “I’m sure this can be done online, but it will require coders, servers, and lots of time and money.” I am here to tell you that it is no longer the case. It can be done quickly by staff that knows nothing about coding and requires no more than an Office 365 subscription.*
Follow my journey and learn about the tools we used to help this customer and potentially you.
I started out my career as a coder, so I’ve always preferred numbers and spreadsheets, that was until the day I was introduced to Power Automate (aka MS Flow). With this tool, I was able to drag and drop items to automate menial tasks that used to require me to write hundreds of code lines for hours on end. Since then, I have built many apps to streamline and standardize business processes where none existed previously or still required someone to do them by hand with paper. On top of that, it did not require webservers, backend databases, code repositories, or any of the costs associated with setup or managing them.
I will be running you through a rough outline of setting up a COVID-19 form and Flow. This blog post is not a step by step guide, but rather is meant to show you what is possible with Microsoft’s Power Automate (Flow) in Office 365. For help building automated processes and procedures, reach out to us for assistance with implementing a solution today!
There are three main pieces to this puzzle: a form to fill out, a place to store the data, and an app to parse the results. We will be using MS Forms, Sharepoint Lists, and Power Automate (Flow) to fulfill those needs, respectively. If your business has Office 365, you probably already have these tools available to you. If not, you can get them for a minimal cost of roughly 15$/month + a 365 account pricing. **
A good place to start is developing a series of questions for your COVID-19 form. It will probably be best to word the questions so the ‘bad’ response to any question is always the same. We take this and start building our online form with MS Forms.
From here, we start building our questions; you can even add a company logo to make it look official. We always make sure to have one unique question that ties back to the user/client like their account number, phone, or email that can be cross-referenced with other systems. Before ‘Publishing’ and saving the form, we made sure to make it open to anyone (non-365 users) and print out the bar code to post in your office.
Users could then go online with their personal devices, no longer sharing equipment/utensils and spreading germs. They could even save it to their favorites and fill it out before they came into for the day.
From here, we needed to store all the submissions. We move onto SharePoint to create a SharePoint List. We made a column for each possible answer to the questions from your MS Form. I recommend making the columns one-word names as it will be easier to code later.
Now, we move onto Power Automation. This tool will take the submissions, put them into the SharePoint list, and notify appropriate staff of any concerning answers. The tool has the three items we want to accomplish in a template if we search for the three items email/SharePoint/forms.
We then point each of the objects to where we want it to go then add some logic. I will glaze over the details, as this is just a high-level overview. If you used the simplified variables, they will popup from a list to use.
If you need to add logic, hit the plus and search for the type you need and drag it to where you need.
With the logic in place and the form is published, you should start seeing data in your SharePoint list as people submit.
If you have it sending email on specific criteria, you should start seeing that as well.
From here, you can take the data and run reports at night of who didn’t fill out the form from your staff or the number of people that said ‘No’ to a particular answer. To get started you can follow my colleagues post about another tool ‘PowerBI’.
This was a high-level overview of the steps we used to make a simple form to collect data, but it’s much more than that. You can easily see how this could be extrapolated into other business processes around your office that you waste time doing and are not always followed. We are here to help if you have any interest in automating your business processes or need some help to make this happen. Simply fill out our Contact form to get in touch.
* Depending on connectors and other requirements of your task, additional/upgraded plan(s) may be required.
Here are a few additional bonus tips that I have found out over the countless apps I have built:
After seeing how quickly we could post their form, the customer wanted to get more data and automate more of this process. Here are some of the additional requirements that we were able to accomplish with these tools: