How to Get Started with Power Automate Workflows
Released in April 2016, Microsoft Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow) is an easy way to create workflows across apps and SaaS services.
A no-code solution with numerous pre-planned templates, Microsoft Power Automate connects to over 270 apps, including SharePoint. The application can be used with SharePoint On-Premises with the on-premises data gateway.
Keep reading to learn more about Power Automate and how to get started with your first ‘flow’.
What is Microsoft Power Automate?
As explained above, Microsoft Power Automate is a no-code solution that allows users to create workflows.
Out-of-the-box templates provide a quick start; users can edit these templates with new conditions and steps as needed. Templates include notifications, copying files, moving email attachments to OneDrive, and approvals.
Microsoft Power Automate includes over 300 connectors, which allow users to access and use data with a set of pre-built actions and triggers. This means, unlike SharePoint Designer, Power Automate works with non-Microsoft apps, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, and more.
The goal is to streamline your daily activities, both within and outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.
Pricing for Power Automate starts at $15 per user per month, which includes unlimited active flows.
Re-branded from Flow to Power Automate at Microsoft Ignite 2019, the tool is part of the Power Platform.
The Power Platform refers to three Microsoft Products based on the common data service (CDS) : Power BI, PowerApps, and Power Automate. Power BI is a business intelligence tool. PowerApps is a low-code solution for custom app development.
The Power Platform allows anyone, regardless of their technical knowledge, to access and use data without coding knowledge.
In addition to a new name, the roll-out of robotic process automation (RPA) to Power Automate was also announced during Ignite 2019. This capability, called UI flows, allows users to create workflows at scale – without coding.
With a point-and-click interface, a user can record their keystrokes when completing a task. The RPA system transforms this information into an automated workflow. UI flows are currently available as a preview.
Power Automate Workflows
Power Automate workflow, or flows, are based on triggers and actions.
- A trigger starts the flow, for example, receiving an email from a key project stakeholder.
- An action is what happens once the flow is trigged. This can include creating a task when an email marked as high-importance is received. A flow can have one or more actions.
There are five main types of Power Automate flows:
- Automated, a flow triggered by an event, for example, send an email if an item in a SharePoint list is changed.
- Button flows allow users to manually trigger repetitive tasks from the mobile or desktop app, for example, sending a reminder email to your team before a meeting.
- Scheduled, which run at certain times.
- Approval flows, used to manage approvals for key documents.
- Business Process flows, based on a defined set of actions. These flows guide users through key processes step-by-step.
The Approval and Business Process flows are located under ‘Action Items’ on the Power Automate homepage.
There are three ways to launch a flow:
- Start from scratch with one of the workflows listed above.
- Use an existing template
- Select a connector.
It’s worth noting that Power Automate is not as mature as SharePoint Designer, so you may wish to use the latter for more complex workflows.
As mentioned above, Power Automate can connect with and use on-premises data using a data gateway.
How to create a flow
To start using Power Automate, log into Office 365 and use the app launcher to open the program.
From the homepage, you can:
- Get started quickly with templates.
- Check available connectors.
- Manage your flows.
- Create a new flow.
Let’s create a flow using an existing template. In this example, we’re going to create a task for high priority emails. This could be useful for staying on top of urgent requests from project stakeholders!
You can use the search bar to find a template or click the Outlook.com icon on the homepage to view existing flows.
Next select the template called ‘New Task for High Priority Emails’.
Sign into Outlook.com and Outlook tasks with your Microsoft account and press continue.
On the next screen, you’ll see how the workflow is constructed. Power Automate is a highly-visual tool, simplifying the management of workflows.
Here, you can add extra information such as email sender, subject filter, and a date for the task reminder.
Save and test the flow.
The next time you receive an email marked as high-importance, a task will be automatically added to your calendar.
In the image below, a task, ‘Power Automate Article’, was added to my calendar from a high-importance email.
You can also customize the flow by adding new steps with actions and triggers.
At any time, you can check the status of a flow under ‘My Flows’.
In this area, it’s easy to:
- Edit individual flows
- Share flows with a team member
- Check the history of a flow.
To see more details on a flow, simply click the name of the flow.
How can you use Microsoft Power Automate to easily create workflows for your project? Here are some templates to consider using. Remember, you can customize an existing template or build a flow as needed.
- Get a push notification when you receive an email from a manager.
- Copy important emails to OneNote.
- Save Outlook attachments to OneDrive.
There are several SharePoint templates to try, such as:
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.