Essentially, Microsoft Flow is an addition to PowerApps and Power BI, built on top of Logic Apps. Flow encourages users to automate their business processes. Although Flow focuses more on users whereas PowerApps focuses more on developers, both share an infrastructure and help people perform functions such as send notifications, copy files, collect data, and set up approval workflows. One of our developers, Duane, gave a great overview of Microsoft Flow back in February, but lots of new features have sprung up since then.
In the most recent Collab365 Live Show, hosts Nick Bratolli and Andy Talbot spoke with two members of Microsoft Flow’s product development team to learn what’s new with Flow. The guys also discussed how Flow integrates with other Office365 applications and what new features we’ll see added to the service in the future.
Here were some of the key takeaways:
- Flow is the successor to SharePoint Designer Workflows, which will stop being supported in 2026.
- The mobile app allows users to invoke buttons, type comments, view approval requests, edit flows, and receive notifications about failures. The app is updated at the same cadence as the website.
- Out-of-the-box approvals allow any user with access to a specific list to have access to an associated flow. This means you don’t have to worry about admin/access privileges.
- Users can contribute ideas for connectors by building their own and submitting it to Flow for certification. Right now, they have about 140 approved connectors (examples include SharePoint, Trello, Yammer, Dynamic CRM, Twitter, and Outlook).
- Flow will stay in the cloud, but you can connect to SharePoint 2012/2016 on-premise, as well as SQL database and any files on the machine you’re using.
- Although Flow does not have any limits/restrictions, the connector you’re using might, and Flow has to honor those limits.
- Users can provide their own credentials, so messages don’t have to be sent from a service email account.
The product development team also presented a demo on how to create an approval workflow for a file in a SharePoint document library:
- Select the desired document and click Flow –> Create Flow
- Create a new flow from either choosing a template or creating your own
- Provide your credentials and save/name the flow.
- Fill out the required information
So, what things can we expect from Flow in the future?
- Out-of-the-box integration with SharePoint
- Easier testing and crisper notifications
- A less buggy, more intuitive user experience
- Integration with CRM
- More options in approval emails besides accept/reject
- Ability to export flows back and forth between Flow and Logic Apps
- More analytic options in the admin center
It seems like Microsoft is dedicating a lot of time and resources into Flow, so it’s worthwhile to check out—especially since workflows in SharePoint will be phased out in the near future. For help getting started, answers to frequently asked questions, guided tutorials, and to see what’s new with Flow, the product development team recommends checking out flow.microsoft.com.