What is Microsoft Flow: A quick look at Microsoft’s workflow app

Organizations have so many IFTTT tools to use, Microsoft Flow is another one.

Earlier this year, we took a look at Microsoft’s digital workspace app and compared it to VMware Workspace ONE and Citrix Workspace app. In it, I described Microsoft Teams as their workflow app which has a lot of connectors a la Slack, overlooking Microsoft Flow, which is a much better comparison to Sapho and Mobile Flows.

So, let’s take a quick look at Microsoft Flow and what it offers Microsoft users.

(Update 11/04/19: Microsoft announced at Ignite 2019 that Microsoft Flow will now be known as Microsoft Power Automate to tie it better into their Power Platform.)

Microsoft Flow, explained

Microsoft Flow is a cloud workflow service that is similar to VMware’s Mobile Flows and the now-Citrix-owned Sapho. Much like the other two, Microsoft Flow allows IT to create no-code “flows,” which can then be managed via the Flow mobile app (available on iOS, Android, and Windows). Users can easily create their own customized flows, but there are plenty of templates available, too.

Microsoft breaks out flows into four different varieties: automated, scheduled, business process, and button. The first three are fairly self-explanatory but button is for repetitive tasks that require little effort to recreate (e.g., sending a reminder email ahead of a meeting, blocking out the next hour in Outlook calendar, etc.).

Currently, Microsoft Flow has connectors to nearly 280 different applications and services ranging from all the common workflow integrated services, naturally including first party services like Office 365 and Azure, as well as third-party ones like ServiceNow. Some of the connectors (e.g., ServiceNow, Stripe, Zendesk) require a premium plan to use.

While Mobile Flow and Sapho are technically free to organizations through select plans of Workspace ONE and Workspace app, Microsoft Flow can be purchased on its own, if desired. Organizations have three monthly plans:

  • Flow Free, which includes 750 runs per month (a run is whenever a flow is triggered); unlimited flow creation; and 15-minute checks (i.e., the service will poll connected services for updates only every 15 minutes, so some things might not be real time); and not all connectors available.
  • Flow Plan 1, which is the first paid plan and costs $5 per user per month; 4,500 runs per month; unlimited flow creation; 3-minute checks; and premium connectors.
  • Flow Plan 2, which costs $15 per user per month; 15,000 runs per month; unlimited flow creation; 1-minute checks; premium connectors; organizational policy settings; and business process flows 

Microsoft Flow is also available with select Office 365 and Dynamics 365 licenses; it’s a little complicated, so review this PDF for all the qualifying licenses. Additionally, if your organization has PowerApps licenses, you’ll have Flow capabilities already (PowerApps Plan 1 gets you Flow Plan 1 and PowerApps Plan 2 gets you Flow Plan 2).

AI Builder
Power Platform, Microsoft’s low-code development platform for Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow, has an interesting tool available in preview called AI Builder. With this tool, IT can build in AI to Flow (and the others mentioned, too). Some workflow examples include “training” the integrated AI to extract relevant information from invoices and other documentation, thereby saving employee’s time.

Employee experience

At this point, it’s clear that the major vendors all have their own workspace apps and within them, workflow capabilities. But, much like Microsoft not really promoting the Intune Company Portal app (or at least not in the same ways VMware and Citrix are), Microsoft Flow feels ignored—it’s there but easy enough to overlook.

It’s also apparent that workflow apps is a much larger space than we once thought, especially since all these tools boil down to IFTTT, of which there is plenty out there already. Workflow apps tie into the focus from companies around employee experience, something Jack recently delved into in regards to Citrix and VMware, particularly.

We’re going to keep an eye on this space for further developments as it’s an intersection of major trends in the EUC, like automation and employee experience.

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