Microsoft Flow is the future of SharePoint workflow.
SharePoint workflow has been with us since SharePoint 2007 and to be honest it really has not improved much since release.
The arrival of 2010 workflows introduced the impersonation step so that the workflow runs in the context of the workflow author rather than in the context of the user. This means that the workflow can perform actions that the user does not have enough permissions to perform.
One of the biggest features missing from 2010 workflows is the ability to perform loops. Looping was introduced with the 2013 workflow engine. It is a shame that the impersonation step was dropped though.
SharePoint now supports both 2010 and 2013 workflows, so at least you have a choice and can select the workflow platform that best suits your requirements on a per workflow basis.
I generally still use 2010 workflows whenever I can as they are faster and use much less resource. You can connect to other systems using the REST API (RESTful application programming interface) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). This is great if you are a developer but will be beyond most users and even power users.
It is interesting to note that even in SharePoint Online, which is notionally SharePoint 2019, there is still only a choice of 2010 or 2013 workflows. Why is this? What happened to 2016 and 2019 workflows?
Has Microsoft stopped development of the SharePoint workflow engine and if so, what is its replacement?
If you are using SharePoint on premises, then you will need to continue using 2010 or 2013 workflows.
However, if you are using Office 365 then you should make the move to Microsoft Flow.
What is Microsoft Flow?
Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service that makes it practical and simple for line-of-business users to build workflows that automate time-consuming business tasks and processes across applications and services.
Flow is not part of SharePoint Online but is a standalone Office 365 app that comes with the following 365 licences; Business Essentials, Business Premium, Education, Education Plus, Enterprise E1, Enterprise E3 and Enterprise E5.
Now you can create workflows that are not locked inside SharePoint but instead they can be started by and interact with an ever-growing number of applications and data sources.
At the time of writing there are well over 200 connectors available to Flow. Here are some of the more popular services that Flow can connect to;
Most of the supported connections are not Microsoft services but are popular line of business, social and cloud storage services.
There is also the ability to connect to data that is inside your organisation.
Microsoft offer many templates to get you started with Flow;
This means that you can begin your Flow from one of the templates and modify it to suit your requirements or start from a blank canvas and build your own.
The Flow app can be access from the app launcher in 365.
You can also navigate directly to the URL https://emea.flow.microsoft.com
From here you can begin creating a Flow either from scratch or by choosing one of the templated.
There are a lot to choose from, so you should find something to get you started.
Flow is also available directly to SharePoint Online users via lists and document libraries that use the modern experience. This is currently the default for SharePoint Online and soon will be the only experience available when Classic gets retired.
After clicking create a Flow the user is presented with a list of templates.
There are 12 in this list with a link to “more”. The link will take you to a list of well over 100 other templates.
Exposing Flow to the user in this way will mean the Flow is being used in your organisation by users without assistance from IT. This is great for the users but may not be ideal for the organisation.
Making it easy for users to create their own Flows will ensure greater adoption for Flow than traditional SharePoint workflow ever had.
Because Flow is so prominent, users will experiment with and use Flow. This means there is a requirement to create a governance plan or update the existing governance plan to cover the usage of Flow, in all but the smallest organisation.
We would be happy to discuss how Microsoft Flow could enhance your processes. Please call 0800 6444 365 or Contact Us today.