SharePoint and Microsoft Flow – Part 1: Automating Business Processes

Microsoft Flow and Automating Business Processes

As technology progresses, more and more companies are relying on automated business processes within SharePoint. Microsoft Flow connects with hundreds of services and with recent enhancements, it provides the capability not only to customize Flow Templates but to share them in the Microsoft Flow Template Gallery with the public (the world) by exporting them or keeping them private within your organization by importing them into your organization’s private Custom Flow Template Gallery. Through this type of worldwide and corporate collaboration, the extensive gallery helps to create and modify flows based on approved and contributed flows, thereby preventing the “re-inventing the wheel” cycle. They can also be used as a learning tool where the flow can be reviewed to see how it was created so that it can be modified to your organization’s needs.

The Office 365 Flow engine automates tasks between Office 365, SharePoint, and third-party services whether they are on-premises, in the cloud, and even if they are not part of Microsoft’s catalogue.

Who can create and edit Flows? If the Flow connects to a modern list or library, then anyone who can add or edit the modern list or library will have the ability to create Flows from the Flow drop-down menu.

What is the Microsoft Flow Template Gallery?

The Microsoft Flow Template Gallery features hundreds of Flows that have been created by Microsoft that are available to be reviewed, used, or modified to create a customized flow for your organization. There are flows that have been created for SharePoint, OneDrive, Office365 Outlook, Twitter, Dropbox, Yammer, and more (in fact, a total of 226 unique services!). 

The Gallery also features Flows that have been created by the public. These Flows are submitted to Microsoft and are then reviewed and are either approved prior to being added to the Gallery Collection or rejected and deleted from the pending for approval list. This is truly a global effort to collaborate by bringing, featuring, and sharing the most useful fluid Flows from around the world. There is bound to be one that you can use as the launching point for yours, or perhaps, you could use it as is.

There are many types of Flows that are grouped in collections, including flows for sales and marketing, receiving on-the-go information, improving productivity, streamlining and improving the HR process, easing software development, automating tasks that occur in the classroom, and more.

There are five types of Flows:

  1. Multi-step Flows: perfect for repetitive tasks;
  2. Approve Requests: create, use, and share approval workflows that provide the opportunity for process requests with quick responses;
  3. Conditional: make decisions in your workflow when certain conditions are met (if this happens, then do this);
  4. Utilize On-Premises Data: connects you to on-premises data and cloud-based services; and
  5. Security: prevent data breaches by customizing and/or using built-in data loss prevention policies.

Each Flow is triggered by either an action or by a connection. There are eight SharePoint Triggers in Microsoft Flow including actions affecting an item or file, such as when it is created, deleted or modified, and when a file’s properties are created or modified. Examples of services that can act as triggers include emails, completion of forms, information entered in a table, or the use of a hashtag.

The templates in the Gallery will already contain the trigger (the connector) to trigger the workflow for one or more actions with optional conditional or transformational functions. Conditional functions will cause an action to occur only when something is true while the actions consist of the work that the flow performs. In SharePoint, there are 29 actions available within Microsoft Flow that allows you to create and update files, extract data, use this data, and more.

Because Microsoft Flow connects with hundreds of services, it is important to search for the SharePoint templates only. An image of all applicable application connectors will be visually displayed on the template page. In addition to the search function, there is the ability to refine the search further by employing the filter options to view flow templates of certain types such as notification flows, data collection flows, etc.

By integrating Microsoft Flow with SharePoint, the capability to schedule Flows to run at different time increments for each action allows greater customization for the flow. You can also action all the items at once and this is quite convenient when actions are based on a date field.

Sharing Microsoft Flow Templates

There are two options to sharing Flow templates that you create. How you want to share depends upon whether you want to share with the world-wide Microsoft Flow community in the template gallery or strictly within your organization in its own customized template gallery.

There are two scenarios for sharing flow templates. The first is to create, export, and submit the flow to Microsoft. If the flow is accepted after being reviewed, it will be uploaded and will be available to the public in the Microsoft Flow Template Gallery. If your goal is to share with the world, then this is where you want it to be featured.

The second is to create, export, and submit the flow to your organization’s Custom Flow Template Gallery. To maintain data security, or keep proprietary connections secure, flow templates in your organization’s Custom Flow Template Gallery are only accessible by users within your organization.

The Flow Template Gallery, whether publicly shared or shared internally, is part of the organization’s system to encourage collaboration and creativity with users investing their time to create innovative solutions. By integrating various applications, such as Yammer, users are able to provide and receive communications from other users, especially feedback on flows to help improve and streamline them.

In the next instalment, Building a Flow Resource Community, we will discuss the importance of creating and supporting a Flow Resource Community for the users in your organization. We will also look closely at the resources and layout that should be included in the Flow Resource Community. We will also delve deeper into the process of creating and submitting custom flow templates to the Microsoft Flow Template Gallery or to your organization’s Custom Flow Template Gallery.

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2018 By : Mike Maadarani   

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