Our Power Automate roundup for membership organizations is full of ideas for making life easier for your association staff and members

We’ve been automating processes for associations for years. This post collects summaries and links to our growing archive of automations using Power Automate — the Microsoft business workflow automation tool that is part of our platform’s offering. You’ll find detailed how-to tutorials for setting up automation workflows, a guide to automating your association’s approval process, integrations with Excel, and so much more, all with the help of Power Automate.

One of the things that’s unique about Cobalt and these resources is that we have deep Microsoft experience AND deep association and certification organization experience. There is a ton of information out there about one or the other — but we’ve brought those things together in one place! We can help membership organizations and certification teams see exactly how to take the powerful Microsoft tools used in enterprise commercial industries and apply those to your specific membership and certificant needs. We’d love to connect to show you what Power BI, Dynamics 365, and our refined association software can do for your team and members. Let’s get a quick introduction call or initial product showcase on the books soon!

What Is Power Automate?

By the way … if you’re not familiar with Power Automate, it’s one component of the Microsoft Power Platform. It’s billed as one of the new no-code/low-code applications that helps automate complex workflows and business processes without the necessity of complex development projects. Basically, it empowers most of your team to create new efficiencies in their day-to-day work without needing to get a software developer involved. Along with tools like Power BI (Business Intelligence), it integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft tools you’re already familiar with (Word, Excel, Outlook, Teams, etc.) and thousands of other popular apps and platforms.

A screenshot of the Microsoft Power Automate interface that Cobalt leverages to build association networking tools. The image depicts the "describe it to design it" feature where users enter text to AI and the system creates a flow template, as well as the different flow templates that can be used to connect and integrate to 3rd party platforms. These include Teams, OneNote, SharePoint, Outlook, Excel, and Office 365.

Power Automate is impressive all on its own. But when you start to unpack what tools like our new Power BI dashboards for associations provide, you’ll see how much the Power Platform adds to the expertise your staff has with familiar Microsoft applications like Excel or Outlook.

Before we dig into Power Automate content, we don’t want to forget to mention this webinar from our archives. It covers some Power Automate content, but also brings in other possibilities: The Value of the Microsoft Power Platform for Associations.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive on Power Automate essentials, check out our What is Power Automate post. We’ve included a longer description (without all the marketing jargon!) and five compelling use-case scenarios for how it can help your association or SMB.

Power Automate Licensing

One of the great things about Power Automate is that you may have free access to this tool (even premium connectors!) as a perk of a paid license to another Microsoft application (such as Microsoft 365, with access to Outlook, Excel, Teams, etc.). The cost of a standalone Power Automate license will depend on your individual use case.

Here are some things you could be able to do with a “Basic Plan” (previously known as the “Seeded Plan” and provides ‘free’ bundled access to Power Automate via your existing Microsoft 365 licenses):

  • send voice surveys to members after dues are paid
  • analyze member sentiment from an email and update their satisfaction score in your AMS record automatically
  • automate saving attachments to OneDrive
  • send push notifications for an event (such as an email landing in a shared invox)
  • automate emails to stakeholders in the membership application process

Automating Pieces of Core Association Business Processes

So many associations have made huge investments in custom tools and applications to handle complex or highly specialized business processes. There are inevitably questions about whether to keep those tools, rebuild them, or explore other options in the process of implementing a new AMS or CRM. Our team at Cobalt loves the opportunity hidden inside those challenging decisions.

For one thing, that fits with our strategy of helping association teams use the transition to a new system as a time to look carefully at all their major processes. There are often better, more efficient ways of doing things teams just don’t know about because they’re busy doing their work, or changing is hard, or a dozen other good reasons.

Even better, the expanding possibilities for integrations and automation have changed the landscape for associations. We love finding better ways to minimize headaches or manual tasks without a huge, additional investment or tons of change management. Here’s a great, recent example.

Associations are very interested in using the Microsoft Power Platform to automate business processes. It’s easier for more of their staff to access and use than ever before. It drives down costs and helps team members regain control of their time.

But there’s a lot of value in your staff’s expertise and comfort with older, more familiar tools like Excel. We fully appreciate the importance and staying power of Microsoft Excel.  In fact, we have a saying around here: “Excel Never Dies!”  Excel was born in 1985 and it’s here to stay, but with the Power Platform it’s capable of a lot more than most associations know.

Recently a prospect described to us the agony they felt during a build-versus-buy decision. They used a homegrown Excel tool to handle one of their essential business processes. They’d spent over a decade building and using this tool.  All of their staff had been trained to use it and it worked very effectively … But it required some time-consuming copy-pasting and manual data entry that left them prone to expensive user errors.

They were wrestling between investing in a costly new tool on the one hand … or the risk of an extensive redesign of their current tool. Both options posed a major upfront risk to investment.

Once we understood their real needs, we used our Power Platform experience to engineer a third option. Leave the Excel tool in place. Extract the data they need through a Power Platform and Excel integration on the backend. It will do precisely what they need — and update their system and other downstream data through automation.

No need to retrain their staff. The burdensome, repetitive tasks get automated reliably. And they’ve eliminated the costly manual error factor.

We use these types of approaches for many of our own internal processes at Cobalt! So many of these opportunities are there for any of us to take advantage of — sometimes we just need to be willing to reframe the problem.

Power Automate alone has endless integration possibilities. If you or your crew are seasoned Excel wizards, check out our short Power Automate + Excel Integration overview video!

Automate the Sticking Points in Your Approval Processes

Does your membership application process have some spots that slow things down? You’re not the only association team to deal with that, trust us.

We’ve seen just what a time-saver and headache-reducer it can be to automate parts of the membership application approval process. Our updated post outlines clear step-by-step instructions for setting up a new approval flow with Power Automate.

If you’re an SMB with an approval process set up in your CRM, approval flows in Power Automate will save you a lot of time and effort in one of the most critical phases of the closing new deals. When you automate the approval process, your account executives or staff members will need to send fewer emails. And whoever is approving a pending deal will be able to see everything they need to make a decision right within Teams or their email client. No separate login to your CRM. No additional email chains back and forth. This is efficiency that pays clear dividends.

Get the 2024 AMS Buying Guide

This comprehensive resource covers everything from how to assess your staff and members’ true AMS needs, to this year’s top AMS providers, to what you should ask AMS providers to ensure you’re getting the system you really need. Download a free copy for your team today!

Send Me a Copy of the 2024 AMS Buying Guide Now
Association Management Software 2023 Buying Guide cover image. It includes a large version of Cobalt's logo, the AMS Buying Guide title, and photograph of Cobalt's Washington, D.C. lobby.

Creating a Power Automate Flow

Users who are new to Power Automate might want some help early on in the process of setting up automation flows. We’ve got great news on that front.

First, you can build a Power Automate flow with natural language processing (NLP) or “describe it to design it.” It’s just another way that the application has been refined to accommodate users who aren’t software developers. Creating a new flow for your association process or a Power Automate business process flow is surprisingly simple. And, as you might have guessed, we’ve written a specific resource to help you get started: Power Automate Flow with Natural Language

Secondly, Cobalt has all the seasoned Power Automate and Power Platform expertise you need on tap to help you get started with approval flows. We use all the tools we sell every day. We’re constantly looking for ways that our association and SMB partners can get more value from Microsoft Dynamics 365 and applications like Power Automate. We’d love to connect with you or your team for a free consultation and introduction call

Leverage AI to Read Documents and Input Data 

Ready to dabble in a seriously futuristic tool that can actually reduce your workload?

Power Automate has a major feature built right into it: AI Builder! This emerging AI technology from Microsoft is as good as it gets in the industry. There are two AI models users can choose from to start building and training models that automatically read documents or convert images to text. The best part is how actionable this tool is — just plug the results of the model into your automations to create approval flows or update records. Our AI Builder and Power Automate walkthrough video outlines all you need to get started or understand the value for your team. 

Association Networking Tools to Increase Engagement 

In your team’s quest to keep improving member engagement and the overall quality of your member experience, we’ve got a compelling suggestion — improve your networking solution.

Power Automate plays a central role in this creative integration idea that will make it easier for your members to connect with mentors, a mentee, or others in your association network. Read more in our post: 2024 Member Engagement Strategy: Automate Networking Matches.

The Perfect Moment to Connect with Your Members

Timely, personalized marketing messaging is increasingly essential work for membership organizations and SMBs. You can set up a core business process flow that captures the different stages of your members or customer life cycle. But incorporating the right triggers for critical messaging at critical moments is hard to stay on top of with other priorities.

That’s just another place where Power Automate’s flows can read the data and details and automate the repetitive work you don’t want to think through each and every time. Here’s a very brief take on how you can let Power Automate help you with timely messaging during your membership or customer life cycle.

Essential Power Automate Integrations

Is your team already deeply invested with Microsoft SharePoint? Many teams find it’s a huge help in creating more productive collaboration. A Power Automate SharePoint integration unlocks huge, additional benefits.

When you create an automated workflow process you can detail instructions that control what happens to a document or item after a defined triggering event. The Power Automate SharePoint flows are compatible with many Microsoft 365 apps and third-party connectors. Read more about other SharePoint integrations in our recent blog: Power Automate SharePoint Integrations for Your Association or SMB.

Does your team regularly use Microsoft Word templates? Power Automate can create, populate, and send Word templates with just a little bit of groundwork. Check out the step-by-step guide we created for Power Automate Word Templates.

Connect with a Power Platform Expert

These are just highlights from our growing archive of Power Automate content for associations and SMBs. We have tons of out-of-the-box suggestions and we’re always happy to look at unique challenges that need creative solutions.

Take a small next step for your team and members and schedule a quick introduction call with one of our Power Platform and AMS experts at Cobalt. We want to cut through the marketing chatter and general promises about efficiency and get right to the real benefits for your association.

Connect with a Power Platform Expert

Fewer manual tasks. Powerful business insights. Microsoft license optimizations. Targeted training for your team to use these tools the ways we do every day. Let’s take 15-30 minutes to explore what Cobalt and The Power Platform would do for your team.

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