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13 December 2016

Microsoft Flows – Better Than Workflows?

Office 365 iconMicrosoft has recently rolled out Flow, a service that eventually will replace the SharePoint 2010 and 2013 workflows. The new flows have many benefits, but I have also found a problem that organizations who intend to use Flow should be aware of.

Automate business processes
Microsoft Flow iconFlows, as well as workflows, are excellent when you want to automate time consuming processes that need to be performed repeatedly. They are often used for notification sending, but flows and workflows can also calculate time, archive list items and perform many other tasks that would have been tedious and time consuming without them.

Usability
Workflows are limited to SharePoint. Even if there are reusable workflows that can be saved as workflow templates, the most common type of workflow is intended to be used in one list or library only. It cannot easily be re-used in another app.

The new flows, on the other hand, can be used extensively with various services. They are not even limited to Office 365 applications but can also be connected to social media, Dropbox and more.

Creation
SharePoint Designer 2013 iconWorkflows are created in SharePoint Designer, while flows are created in the browser and need no extra installation. The service site, flow.microsoft.com, can be reached from the Office 365 App Launcher, and flows can also be created directly from within SharePoint.

For both workflows and flows, the creator sets trigger, condition and action. But flows use templates for the creation, and that makes them easier to build than the workflows.

Storage issue
Microsoft Office 365 User iconThe only important Flow drawback I have noticed concerns the storage. While workflows are stored in the SharePoint site where they were created, flows are stored in the personal account of the user who created them. This might be good for personal flows, but it creates issues if a user who has created flows for the organization leaves his/her position.

To avoid future problems, any organization that decides to automate business processes with flows should make sure to create a special user account for flows. If this account is used for creation of all flows but the personal ones, you can take advantage of the Flow benefits and handle situations when a user account is no longer available. The special account also helps when it comes to managing potential costs in cases of high volume flows.

Flow Tips articles
We currently have three Tips articles about Flow. In the first article I show how to create a product decision flow, and after that I expand the flow to add a status update on Facebook. Such an expansion would not have been possible with a workflow! In the third article I create a flow that sends a reminder e-mail.

Below you can watch the first demo, and in the kalmstrom.com Tips section you can learn more about Microsoft Flow.


By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer
kalmstrom.com Business Solutions