It's time to get with the flow, The Microsoft Flow
There's something incredibly satisfying about bringing together two digital platforms, that were once siloed, without having to go through a developer or an IT whiz. If like me, you too want to rid yourself of having to log a ticket with IT just so you can automate a workflow between two applications then I strongly suggest you acquaint yourself with Microsoft Flow.
I've got the power
An application within Office 365, Microsoft Flow allows you to create automated workflows between your favourite apps or digital services. With Flow, you can trigger notifications, automate file copies or gather data simply by setting some basic commands through your browser, desktop or mobile devices. For example, you could gain a deeper understanding of your brand's social media presence by creating a Flow whereby anytime your brand was mentioned on a social channel, that data would be instantaneously copied into an Excel report which could then be reviewed daily, weekly, monthly or whenever you wanted a snapshot of your social footprint. If the report required regular sharing with the same stakeholders, say the head of marketing, digital and content, you could include, in your Flow, a command whereby the report gets sent to those three individuals by nine o'clock every Monday morning.
The beauty of Microsoft Flow lies in its simplicity. The user interface is designed to be intuitive and you need not have a background in coding or developing for you to successfully execute a workflow. In fact, Microsoft provides you with a multitude of templates to facilitate the set up of genuinely helpful automated flows. Microsoft Flow's compatibility with non-Microsoft products also adds to its appeal by expanding its use across a variety of services and operating systems. So, if you wanted to create a flow between leads that were generated from an event and Dynamics CRM (or Salesforce/any other CRM) you could do this easily using Microsoft Flow.
And, if for example, your business uses bespoke, in-house applications and you wanted to pass data between them and other apps, all you'd have to do is get one of your IT developers to write a custom service for you and you'd be all set to create new flows (full disclosure: you'll probably need to log a ticket for the 'getting a developer to write a customer service' bit).
Those familiar with Microsoft products, especially Azure, might be thinking, "well, what's the difference between Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps"? The best way to answer that is to think of Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps as integration apps that solve different types of connectivity issues between separate systems. Microsoft Flow is your family doctor that helps you deal with a really bad headache, while Azure Logic Apps is the neurosurgeon that takes out the tumour that's lodge in your brain: both are doctors and are invested in your health, but the problems they are addressing are rather different. The great thing is, however, both Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps are configuration-first integration services, meaning they make it easier to build processes and workflows between various SaaS and enterprise applications. Microsoft flow is built on Logic Apps and they have the same workflow design and connectors, so if a Flow ever gets too complicated or you need to add quite a bit more detail to it, your developers can easily take control of the flow and morph it into something more technologically rigorous. The upshot of this is that if a flow you've created ever becomes mission-critical, you won't need to abandon it simply because your business' needs have outgrown your technical capabilities. Microsoft Flow is for the average office worker, Logic Apps is for the IT experts, both, however, serve their purpose and are incredibly useful.
Microsoft Flow helps you save time, organise your day better and turns you into a more efficient employee that is able to work smarter, not harder. Make yourself a flow that triggers an SMS notification every time the big boss emails you, set yourself a flow that triggers an approval process (including reminder emails) every time a new piece of work is ready for review, and make another flow, while you're at it, that automatically publishes your articles on LinkedIn and Twitter the second you hit publish on your CMS.
If you'd like to know more about how Microsoft Flow can help make your day easier, talk to us today.
Words by Camilo Lascano Tribin