Simplifying Microsoft’s complex meetings with Power Automate and Microsoft 365

Apr 2, 2020   |  

Time is a precious commodity, especially for Erinn Rominger.

Rominger runs a set of complex and highly matrixed meetings that Microsoft uses to improve the work experience of its 151,000 employees.

Running these meetings hasn’t been easy. Until recently Rominger had to do it manually, with a handful of handmade templates, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, a dedicated team, and sheer force of will.

“There were 10 to 25 people that may be involved in creating and delivering content for meetings,” says Rominger, a principal engineering PM manager on the End User Services team in Microsoft Digital, the IT and Operations division of the company. “We needed a tool to streamline the logistics and consolidate information in a consistent, visual way.”

Around this time, Rominger saw a demo for Meeting Orchestrator, an internal tool that was originally built for the Office of the CEO that manages and runs complex meetings using Microsoft Power Automate. This enterprise automation tool offers native integration with Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, and the Microsoft Power Platform, all without requiring users to write any code. 

For Rominger, who was manually tracking processes and tasks for her meetingsMeeting Orchestrator was an appealing tool to run complex meetings, all while connecting data across Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Power BI. 

“Meeting Orchestrator makes sure we get the most value out of our meetings,” says Keshav Puttaswamy, partner and director of program management in Microsoft Digital who works on re-imagined employee experiences. “The tool brings everything together and creates a simple way to organize and communicate about large meetings.”

After learning about Meeting Orchestrator, Rominger reached out to Joe Martin, a senior program manager in Microsoft Digital, and his team. She wanted to see if her team could use the tool to plan large-scale meetings and bring content together. Now, she uses it to run meetings in End User Services Engineering.

Using Power Automate and a custom SharePoint framework, Meeting Orchestrator’s flow selects and orders agenda topics for an upcoming meeting, creates Microsoft SharePoint folders with the correct permissions, sends calendar invites using Microsoft Exchange, reminds presenters to upload their content, and creates an agenda for the meetings using Microsoft OneNote. 

“It saves us 10 hours a month of work,” Rominger says. “The churn and overhead about misses or lack of planning, or people not knowing where to find stuff, has been reduced significantly.”

[Learn how Microsoft creates consistent and engaging corporate apps with Power Apps. Learn how Microsoft builds connected solutions with Microsoft Power Automate.]

Developing a user-centered solution

To fund, design, and develop Meeting Orchestrator, Martin partnered with Gregory Kriegler, a client executive at the consultancy Avanade, in a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft.

Martin and Kriegler used design-led thinking to capture requirements and pain points from Microsoft employees who run large, complex meetings. They used that information to develop a prototype of Meeting Orchestrator that could be tested by users.

“The solution has been successful because we focused on creating a compelling user experience,” Kriegler says. “Most of our time was spent working with employees before we started focusing on how to use the technology to make their lives better.”

At the time, Microsoft Power Automate was a brand-new technology, so the team spent a lot of time understanding how Meeting Orchestrator could be used to orchestrate business processes and surface relevant information at the right time. The team ultimately built a solution that connected all the steps of a complex meeting with seven applications.

“It’s a showcase for what happens when you don’t just think about one application, but how you can get the most out of the Office 365 stack as a whole,” Kriegler says.

Freeing up time for strategic work

This user-centered approach paid dividends right away. Instead of running manual processes across several applications, Rominger uses Meeting Orchestrator to build out the calendar for upcoming meetings with slots for different session topics.

“I can already tell you about the meetings we have scheduled two months out,” Rominger says. “We use this tool to make sure we’re covering our whole portfolio and being intentional about how we spend our time.”

The tool has freed Rominger to focus on the long-term strategy of these meetings and to identify topics that need extra attention.

“I’m looking out to future meetings, versus just managing the logistics of an upcoming one,” Rominger says. “That’s much more of a value-add.”

Meeting attendees can also access the agenda, so they can see the most updated version of the schedule, suggest topics, and add content to designated folders if they’re presenting at that meeting. Meeting Orchestrator also sets up presenters for success because there are clear expectations about the structure and topics to be covered in each meeting.

“You want people to show up well,” Rominger says. “Everyone who accesses the tool can see who is in attendance, what topics are covered, and why we’re having these conversations. All of that continuity helps with accountability.”

Meeting Orchestrator also uses Microsoft Power BI to track metadata about current and future agenda topics and to identify topics.

“It gave attendees more tools to answer questions with their boss, and made those meetings richer,” Martin says.

With Meeting Orchestrator, attendees can request new topics for future meetings. Additionally, the tool makes it easy to move topics around or put them on hold so they can be resurfaced in future meetings. Rominger says that Meeting Orchestrator also makes it easy to keep track of on-hold meetings, attendees, and associated files.

“If you have an agenda in Outlook or PowerPoint, you can easily lose track of certain items,” Rominger says. “This way, if a topic was teed up but you don’t get to it, it doesn’t get lost.”

Rominger knows that there are opportunities to improve Meeting Orchestrator. For future iterations, she’s in conversation with Martin and his team about opportunities to make the tool more flexible.

“As early adopters, we get to shape the tool’s development future iterations,” Rominger says. “We have a great dialogue with the team.”

Outside of Microsoft, users can work with Avanade to access Meeting Orchestrator and customize it for their workflows and meetings. Power Automate empowers anyone to connect productivity tools and applications for running meetings or other common tasks using Power Automate.

“This is a great showcase of what can be done when you dream big about how you can use Microsoft technology to make people more productive and collaborative,” Kriegler says. “There are so many opportunities to push the applications and help people achieve more.”

Learn how Microsoft creates consistent and engaging corporate apps with Power Apps.

Learn how Microsoft builds connected solutions with Microsoft Power Automate.

Tags: , , , , , ,