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Written: 16/04/2021 | Updated: N/A

Having just got back from 3 days at the MCT Connect and MCT RL conference, I am looking forward to the conference season. Sounds weird to say it like that. But I guess what I am trying to articulate is that after having had good fun at Ignite, MVP Summit and MCT – all large multi day events, I am looking forward to getting back to speaking at singular day events and user groups where you can kind of rock up, do a nice session, and exit stage left, maybe catching one or two other sessions in the process. Transactional. Light. I am sure many circuit speakers understand where I am coming from. Now, for me, the 2021 conference season kicks off with a trip back to the Reactor where I’ll be speaking with Vesa Nopanen on approvals. We’ve got a lot of demo lined up and we need to try it out for Marathon the week after. But when I was stitching the session together I thought of an idea that I wanted to explore a few months back when I was doing blogs on approvals but never got around to, which was parallel approvals. You see, if you are like me who operates across departments or support multiple business units within a group, parallel approvals are important because approval needs to come from multiple independent stakeholders. Imagine this scenario, I used to be Head of Professional Services where I worked, and when I was designing and developing new Professional Services items I used to need technical, financial and commercial sign off. They wouldn’t make the decision together because they are all independent, and so before an item could be released all the stakeholders would need to evaluate it based on their respective reviews before it could go to market. I know, I know, I still have that blog on Viva Connections to do and that’s probably more relevant and in vogue, but hey I have an approvals session on Tuesday and the completionist in me hates leaving things I meant to cover previously

This blog will cover

  • Creating a Parallel Approval in Microsoft Teams

For the purpose of length, not all actions – such as creating the list, will be covered step by step. Please refer to past blogs in order to do this

Prerequisites

  • Teams Licence, SharePoint Licence, Power Automate Licence (Usually within an Office 365/Microsoft 365 Licence)
  • Apps within App Permissions List in the tenant

Creating a Parallel Approval in Microsoft Teams

The scenario for the approval is as outlined in the intro. I create professional services items and before I go to market I need approval from several departments including Technical, Financial and Commercial. All of these are independent of each other and need to review the professional service item

1.) Before we can start on the flow, the first thing we need to create is a list in Teams from a blank list. This list contains the following columns for this scenario left to right

  • PS Item: the Professional Service Item (Single Line of Text)
  • Code: the PS Item code (Single Line of Text)
  • Attachments: the specifications for the PS Item (Attachment)
  • Cost: the cost of the PS Item (Currency)
  • Days: the amount of time the PS Item takes to deliver (Number)
  • Tech Approval: the approval decision of the Technical Team (Single Line of Text)
  • Fin Approval: the approval decision of the Finance Team (Single Line of Text)
  • Com Approval: the approval decision of the Commercial Team (Single Line of Text)

The List also contains 3 single line of text columns for comments the departments may give when giving their approval

It is important to remember that people in the departments who need to review the item – if they are external to the team – need to have permissions over the list. This can be done by selecting the information icon in the top right and adding them

You could also use List formatting to add cool things like RAG statuses. For example if all three departments approve the list item could show as green

2.) Once the List is complete select Power Automate from the left app rail, the apps menu or add it as a Tab

3.) Select New Flow

4.) Select Create from Blank

5.) Search for and select trigger When a New Item is created (SharePoint)

6.) Select the Team and the Channel from the dropdowns and then select New Step

7.) Search for and select the action Start and Wait for an Approval

8.) Select an approval type. This scenario will select Approve/Reject – Everyone Must Respond

9.) Now is the critical point to create the parallel approvals. Select the + (Plus) between the SharePoint Trigger and Approval Action and then select Add a Parallel Branch

10.) This now asks to choose an operation for the second branch. Search for and select Start and Wait for an Approval and rinse and repeat steps 7 – 9 to create 3 branches, all Start and Wait for an Approval action with Approve/Reject – Everyone Must Respond

11.) Now lets focus on the initial Start and Wait for an approval action. Complete the title (This one is going to be aimed at Technical Review), the members of the Technical Team who will review, and populate the body of the approval action with dynamic content that will let the approver know what is required to review.

12.) Rinse and repeat on the second and third branch actions

13.) Now go back to the first branch and select + (Add New Step) then Add an Action

14.) Search and select Update Item

15.) Add the Team and Channel Name, the List ID and the Title. These are mandatory fields. Now to show the outcome of the approval in the list in the right column add the dynamic content Outcome (Approvals) into the Tech Approval field.

16.) Since we want to add comments too, add the dynamic content Responses Comments (Approvals) into the Tech Comments field. This will change how the Update Item looks

18.) Rinse and repeat for branches 2 and 3 for the subsequent Finance and Commercial approvals. It will look something like this

19.) Save and test the flow at this point. This will essentially complete and populate the list and this may be ok if you want something very simple where you regularly check the list and keep an eye on approvals

The Item is added

The Approvals are triggered and sent to the department contacts who review

They are all individual approved by the departments

Our job is done. The List is updated accordingly. Here the list shows one professional service which passed and was approved by all three departments, as well as another which failed the technical approval with a comment to update. Once updated it can be resubmitted for another approval

We can, of course, go on to refine and extend this if we like, such as notifying all approvers that the PS Item has passed approval and is ready to go to market

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