You’ve probably heard a lot about the increasing push for automation in the IT industry and when you think about it makes a lot of sense. Why waste your time performing repetitive tasks when you can setup a service or system that can do it for you, freeing you up to focus on more engaging activities. You might think that you need specialised skills to even think about setting up some sort of automation for your role or other common business processes but fortunately that’s not the case. Microsoft have a service, formerly Microsoft Flow but now Microsoft Power Automate that is part of Office 365. Most Office 365 licenses include access to this service, so it’s quite easy to get started on reclaiming your time from mundane, repetitive tasks. Let’s take a high level look at it:
What is it?
Microsoft Power Automate (Flow) is a platform where you can create ‘flows’. A flow is basically a workflow – a series of steps that have triggers and actions. You can also include conditions and outputs. It is almost like creating your own small application, except you don’t need to know code.
Types of Flows
There are several ways a flow can be triggered:
- Automated – This kind of trigger is usually based on an external event, such as when a file is created, a user account is created or an email is received. No manual intervention is required to start the flow once you have enabled it.
- Button – You can created a flow that is triggered from the push of a button. You can present this button through a website or even through a mobile app (Power Automate is available on major app stores).
- Scheduled – does it exactly what it sounds like, the flow is triggered on a specifically defined schedule.
Microsoft have provided significant integration with not just Microsoft applications but also 3rd party apps, and continue to add more apps and services every week. In order to utilise this integration, you will need to provide credentials to each service that the flow will talk to. This unlocks a lot of possibilities – you can do things like sync your gmail calendar with your Outlook calendar or save certain twitter posts with a keyword to an excel spreadsheet.
The template gallery
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel, so Microsoft provide a huge template gallery of pre-created flows for you to use. These can help kick start ideas on how you can use the service to make your job, or even your life, easier. Often it is useful to review these templates to understand how flows work and from there you can even break it up and customise it to suit your requirements.
Is there more?
Yes, there is so much more. Power Automate can go very deep with its application integration, utilisation of databases, custom connectors and even use of Azure artificial intelligence services. It has the potential to not only replace common role tasks but also whole business processes. We’ve only just skimmed the surface of Microsoft Power Automate. I encourage you to visit the official learning documentation here. At Starboard IT we utilise flow in many of our business processes and are helping our clients transform theirs. If you’re not sure where to start with this power tool, get in touch with us today and let us take you on the journey.