With low coding and seamless integration with Microsoft 365 and Office, Microsoft Power Automate (Flow) is an intuitive solution for automating repetitive tasks and processes and achieving greater workplace efficiency.
Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, is a fully integrated part of the productivity software Microsoft offers as part of its Power Platform includingPowerApps and Power Bto help businesses achieve greater organisational mobility.
But what does it do, exactly?
If you want to streamline manual tasks and automate processes more efficiently with custom workflows, this blog will take you through the basics and explore how Power Automate can assist your business.
What is Microsoft Power Automate?
Power Automate is a simple yet powerful trigger-based cloud solution that enables people to build automated processes and workflows between business-critical applications and services, called ‘Flows’ (a neat tie-in to the solution’s original name before its rebranding in late 2019).
It automates manual, paperless and repetitive tasks like moving files and setting reminders and seamlessly connects the apps needed for everyday work with the purpose to free up valuable time for more important processes and business innovation – so your workers can be more productive overall.
Power Automate offers this capability via a drag and drop, low code user experience and pre-set templates for users to build upon. It also supports hundreds of pre-built connectors to both third-party applications like SalesForce and core productivity software in the Microsoft Stack, such as Dynamics 365, Office 365 (Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Word) and Teams.
What does Microsoft Power Automate actually do?
Think of all the boring, repetitive, time-consuming tasks you must do on a day-to-day basis.
There are tasks to schedule, alerts to attend to, data to gather, social media updates to post, emails to send, and so on. All of this is what Power Automate aims to streamline through convenient automation – and it’s a solution that’s not out of the grasp of non-technical users.
Who is Microsoft Power Automate designed for?
Microsoft has positioned Power Automate as a solution fit for both non-technical and advanced users with technical experience, primarily through its low-code/no-code platform interface.
Your users can record desktop and web actions in a single Flow and edit the desired actions they want to automatically occur with an easy drag-and-drop visual designer.
Each Flow can be built with one of hundreds of pre-built actions that connect to many different applications and systems, such as email, websites, CRMs, legacy terminals, server mainframes.
There are in-built wizards and exception handling that validate whether flows will actually work through actions and scripts, so your automation Flow doesn’t require human intervention (which would go against the whole point of using a solution like Power Automate).
Finally, Power Automate includes centralised logs similar to other parts of the Microsoft 365 software stack showing detailed information for every executed Flow created. If there was an unexpected error, or if the steps of a Flow didn’t quite play out the way you intended, Power Automate makes it as easy to look it up and rectify the problem.
Automating processes for better productivity is an objective relevant for every type of worker and industry, with many across banking, healthcare and manufacturing benefitting from it today (Microsoft has several examples – we recommend reading them for yourself) which is why Power Automate caters to regular business users in addition to developers.
What are the types of flows in Power Automate?
The types of Flows that users can create to automate tasks are divided into three categories.
- Business Process Flows: For when you want to provide the same tailored and streamlined user experience that leads users through defined organisational processes, such as taking them through each step of your organisations invoice approval process.
- Cloud Flows: For when you want a task to be triggered automatically, instantly or using pre-defined schedules. It has three sub-types: Automated Flows that are triggered by an event, such as a social media mention of your company; Instant Flows actioned with the click of a button, and Scheduled Flows for tasks to be automated for specific times.
- Desktop Flows: For when you want to automate tasks on the desktop or Web to do with everyday tools, such as document organisation, email sending, data entry into spreadsheets, or extraction of data from websites to be stored into local files.
Power Automate is constantly evolving, but these three types of Flows cover a good range of typical use cases (of repetitive manual tasks) that can be automated easily and intuitively.
For example, imagine you need to upload a new and important file to a specific SharePoint library every week, and you want your staff to be immediately informed via Microsoft Teams. Users can instead set up reactions to an event in one service (SharePoint) to perform a follow-up action in another (Teams) rather than having to manually switch between the two.
Another example is social media management. You can set up a Flow to automatically action certain processes after specific triggers, such as gaining a new Twitter follower; Power Automate can ensure you follow them, send a pre-set reply, add them as a contact to an Excel spreadsheet for your approval then and add them to your CRMsuch as Dynamics 365.
You can continue to do these sorts of everyday workflows manually of course, but using Power Automate, you can easily set up a trigger whenever a file is uploaded to the channel or a new follower is gained, which then automatically actions the next step (with some setup) for you.
What are the types of Flow templates available?
Microsoft hosts dozens of pre-built Flow templates that your users can leverage to start automating manual tasks fast and easy, and even modify further to fit their specific use case.
Some of the most popular Flow examples hosted on Microsoft’s marketplace include:
- Emailing a user with a lost host? of upcoming Calendar events (scheduled)
- Scheduling a meeting with a message sender (instant)
- Triggering a flow with a Power BI data-driven alert (automated)
Many Flows use connectors to integrate other applications and ensure the automation works as intended; connectors essentially the pre-built link between Power Automate and other services. Everything from Google Drive to GitHub to Twitter is covered, opening up many possibilities.
For example, the native connector between Power Automate and Office 365 lets you access user profiles across the organisation using your M365 account to set up actions using the suite.
Power Automate: How to get started & next steps
Many of the benefits of using Flow for workflows is obvious: Improved efficiency and less tedious tasks to tick off the checklist.
It may not be as well known as its two Power Platform contemporaries or the rest of the Microsoft Stack, but Power Automate is part of many versions of Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365, as well as several per-user subscription plans. There’s also a free version where you can create unlimited flows but only get 750 runs per month with checks every 15 minutes.
If Power Automate sounds like the right solution for you we suggest investigating the 90-day free trial to one of the paid licensing plans
If you prefer to speak to one of our technical team so they can help you assess how Power Automate can benefit your business, then call Lindentech today, or click here to see what our many customers have to say.