SharePoint is a great platform to store and collaborate on documents and content. However, it is not just about the static content. Any business, small or large, depends on business processes. These business processes could range from simple document or form approvals (think vacation request forms) to complicated processes, spanning multiple systems and applications (think hiring/onboarding business process or purchase orders/financial transactions).
Historically, if you wanted to create a workflow in SharePoint, you had to either rely on workarounds (for simple workflows), SharePoint Designer or 3rd party tools. However, there is a new kid on the block you need to pay attention to and that is Microsoft Flow.
What is Microsoft Flow?
Just like many other offerings from Microsoft, Flow is a new app that is part of Office 365 suite. It is included in most of Office 365 subscriptions and can be accessed via Office 365 app launcher. It allows you to automate business processes by building workflows based on certain triggers and actions. For example, once a new entry is added to the SharePoint list – an email can be sent asking an individual to review. Or, maybe when a document is uploaded to the document library, an email will be sent to your manager asking for an approval/feedback of the document.
How is Flow different from SharePoint Designer?
SharePoint Designer is purely a SharePoint-specific tool. However, its workflow capability does not allow for easy interface with other applications. Also, creating a workflow in SharePoint Designer is not something one can do on Day 1. You really need to learn the syntax, all the quirks of SharePoint Designer and spend countless hours debugging and tweaking the code.
Microsoft Flow, on another hand, employs a graphical user interface that allows building workflows almost the same way you would be building them in Visio. What makes the Microsoft Flow unique is that your workflow can interact with other applications like MailChimp, DropBox, Twitter, SharePoint, and OneDrive.
Is Microsoft Flow the replacement for SharePoint Designer?
At some point, I hope so! While SharePoint Designer does have its quirks and limitations, it does allow to build some pretty powerful and complicated workflows on lists and libraries in SharePoint. Flow , on another hand, is relatively new and does not have all the bells and whistles (yet) you would need to build a serious workflow. Where Flow really shines at the moment is the ability to interface with other applications. This is powerful!
How is Microsoft Flow related to SharePoint?
While Microsoft Flow is independent of SharePoint, both are tightly integrated. Let me explain.
Microsoft Flow is part of Office 365
First, as already mentioned above, Flow, just like SharePoint, is part of Office 365 family.
Microsoft Flow is integrated into SharePoint lists and libraries
You can start building flows right from within Custom Lists and Modern SharePoint Document Libraries.
How can I access Microsoft Flow
Via Web Browser
You can access Flow from any custom list or modern document library, via Flow Tile in the Office 365 App Launcher or by going to this URL: https://flow.microsoft.com
Via Mobile app
You can also access and manage flows via Mobile App. You can read more about it here: https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/mobile-ios-launch/
I plan to publish posts down the road on various tips, tricks, and instructions related to Microsoft Flow. In the meantime, feel free to familiarize yourself with these wonderful resources from Microsoft: