How to Get Started with Power Automate Workflows
Released in April 2016, Microsoft Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow) is used by over 350,000 organizations to automate business processes and tasks.
Watch free webinar: SharePoint Workflows for Project Management
A no-code solution with pre-planned templates, the application connects to over 300 data points and publicly available APIs.
Keep reading to learn more about Microsoft Power Automate and how to get started with your first ‘flow’.
What is Microsoft Power Automate?
Microsoft Power Automate is a no-code/low-code drag-and-drop solution that allows users to create workflows to automate repetitive tasks and business processes.
The app is available on desktop, mobile, and Microsoft Teams, and as a browser app.
Users can start quickly with out-of-the-box templates and connectors, which can be customized as needed.
Templates include notifications, copying files, moving email attachments to OneDrive, and approvals.
Use cases for Power Automate are varied, ranging from new employee onboarding to document approval, collecting customer feedback, and managing help tickets.
Power Automate includes over 300 connectors, which allow users to access and use data with a set of pre-built actions and triggers.
Unlike SharePoint Designer, Power Automate works with non-Microsoft apps, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, and more.
For IT teams, the ability to add automation to legacy systems without replacing or configuring those systems is a huge benefit.
Based on your Azure Active Directory, Power Automate is highly secure and easy to audit.
Plus, automation replaces paper-based processes, increasing data protection.
Pricing for Power Automate starts at $15 per user per month, which includes unlimited active flows.
Robotic Process Automation
This capability, available with Power Automate Desktop, allows users to create workflows at scale – without coding.
With a point-and-click interface, a user can record their mouse and keyboard strokes when completing a task. The RPA system transforms this information into an automated workflow, for example, collecting data for a weekly report.
Users can enhance flows with pre-built actions and connectors, and add exception handling to validate flows automatically.
Users can create two types of workflows:
- Attended RPA, which runs when the user is logged in. This is ideal for processes that still require human intervention, for example, approving a vacation request.
- Unattended RPA, which runs when the user is not logged in. A defined trigger starts the flow.
Process Advisor, a new addition to Power Automate, is a process mining tool that provides insights into how people work. Process Advisor maps workflows, finds bottlenecks, and identifies tasks that can be automated.
The tool will figure out which applications your team uses frequently and how to automate key actions, for example, copying data from one app to another.
Process advisor also makes it easier for teams to collaborate with business analysts or administrators to improve processes.
How Does Power Automate Work?
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 triggered. 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, categorized as cloud, desktop, or business process flows.
Cloud flows include:
- Automated, a flow triggered by an event, for example, send an email if an item in a SharePoint list is changed.
- Instant flows allow users to manually trigger a flow from the mobile or desktop app with the click of a button. As an example, easily send a reminder email to your team before a meeting.
- Scheduled, which runs at certain times.
Desktop flows are used to automate tasks on the web or your desktop with Power Automate Desktop.
Business Process flows are based on a defined set of actions to help people complete tasks faster and with fewer errors.
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.
How to create a Power Automate Flow
In this example, we’re going to use a template to post a message in Microsoft Teams when a new item is added to Planner.
To start using Power Automate, log in to Microsoft 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.
Search for ‘Planner’ to find the template.
You may need to sign in to Microsoft Teams and Planner.
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 important information such as the Plan ID, Team, and Channel.
Click Save. That’s it – you’ve created a simple flow to improve team communication.
There are a few ways to validate the flow, including Flow Checker and Test.
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.
Power Automate and SharePoint
Power Automate works with SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premises with the on-premises data gateway.
There are several SharePoint templates to try, such as:
- Start approval when a new item is added.
- Save email attachments to a SharePoint document library.
- Receive an email when an item is added to a SharePoint list.