If you have a background in workflow with SharePoint you are probably familiar with SharePoint designer workflows. SharePoint designer workflows allow power users to automate basic document or list item-based processes mainly constrained to a single SharePoint site. SharePoint Designer is limited in its user experience and integration capabilities. This is why vendors like Nintex, K2, and many others have built powerful workflow design applications complete with workflow steps that allow integration into other lines of business services.
Times and technology are changing at a rapid pace now in Office 365. Microsoft is no longer planning new versions of SharePoint Designer, nor its commonly dependent forms technology – InfoPath. In Office 365, you’ll find a new generation of workflow capabilities in a product named Microsoft Flow. Flow, together with its mobile app, allows users to automate countless business processes with immediate access to over 100 popular connectors made up of Office 365 services and a growing number of external services.
PowerApps seems to be the replacement for InfoPath for customized front end interfaces to SharePoint lists and libraries. PowerApps comes with a number of useful capabilities, including a mobile app which allows end users in the field to submit data to a Flow/SharePoint Online via a mobile device or web browser. A Flow can be hooked up to the app and automate processes and data management. PowerApps does not only interact with SharePoint data, but any data that is available via a connector.
Hookup a Flow to PowerApps UIs and you can accomplish some very interesting process automation. Some examples might be a help desk tablet app or an expense and time entry app. You are mainly limited by your creativity as to what apps you can build. We will cover PowerApps in more detail in a later blog post.
Types of Use Cases for Flow
To get you thinking of manual processes that can be automated with Flow, Microsoft has categorized some of the most frequently used scenarios in the following:
- Get Notifications – For example, have your team notified of a new sales lead or have your support team notified of a negative tweet relating to your product
- Copy Files – Copy from a service like Dropbox or Outlook online email and save it to a SharePoint Online team site
- Collect Data – Monitor Twitter for specific hashtags and save them to SharePoint Online, an Excel spreadsheet, or SQL Database
- Automate Approvals – Automate the tedious tasks of getting approvals for PTO, expenses, purchases, or content publishing
Flow Execution Limits
There are certain restrictions with Flow that you should be aware of while planning and designing your workflows.
- Flow instances can only run for 30 days. This may be a problem if you have an approval or procurement Flow that cannot be fully completed in this time frame.
- Flow executions limited based on your Flow plan subscription. Usually there is a Flow execution count per user that is added up for a total number of available tenant executions.
- Flow execution starts on a schedule at either 15-minute, 3-minute, or 1-minute intervals based on your subscription
- Access to premium connectors like Salesforce or Mailchimp require Flow Plan 1 or higher ($5/user/month)
Stay tuned for future articles on creating Flows, PowerApps, and other solutions on Office 365.
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