Serving as a core component of Microsoft’s Power Platform, Power Automate (known as Microsoft Flow until a rebrand in late 2019) makes the transformative power of scalable automation accessible to people with minimal digital skills. Despite this relative ease of use, there’s plenty of depth on offer, so it’s far more than just a beginner’s tool.
If you’re thinking about offering it as part of a resale package (or already have it in your lineup and want to encourage your clients to make better use of it), then you need to have a solid understanding of how it works and what it can be used to achieve.
In this post, we’re going to cover the basic process of using Power Automate, then cap it off by considering how the simplicity of that process can be emphasised as a selling point. Let’s begin.
Choosing a flow type
Every task sequence created in Power Automate is called a flow, and there are five distinct types of flow (though they’re all fairly similar). Users must first decide which flow type (or types) they need to serve their purposes. Let’s look at the available types:
- Automated flows are triggered by defined events. You set out the conditions and leave them to execute as frequently as those conditions are met.
- Button flows are triggered by user action. You line up the actions and tie them to a button, allowing you to execute the defined sequence whenever you choose.
- Scheduled flows are triggered by times or dates. You choose a time (or times) at which the sequence should execute, or specify the regularity (e.g. once every two days).
- UI flows reproduce user interface actions. When connectors aren’t available, you can record UI events to manually trigger when needed. By calling a UI flow as part of one of the previous three types, you can have it execute in whatever circumstances you need.
- Business process flows are carried out manually, step by step. You define a series of actions that people can follow when needed, ensuring operational consistency.
As you can see, this selection makes the automation process extremely accessible. Once they get to grips with the basics, anyone — even someone with no meaningful technical expertise — can understand (and successfully implement) these flow types.
Using connectors and templates
Next, we need to go over a couple of terms that are extremely important in Power Automate: those terms being connectors and templates. What do they involve? Here’s a breakdown:
- Connectors allow flows to connect to programs, mobile apps, and relevant services, making them completely vital. A user might choose the Eventbrite connector to automate elements of event management, for instance. There are currently well over 350 connectors available, and the range is steadily being expanded.
- Templates are exactly what you might expect: predefined sequences serving specific purposes that just require you to add in the details. For example, a template might be “Send customer survey email” and task the user with defining their ecommerce CMS, their email service, the terms of submission, and the content they want to be sent.
It isn’t necessary to start with a template, but there are so many available that there’s a great chance the user will find one that roughly fits what they’re trying to achieve. If there isn’t, they can simply create one — it’s simple enough to choose from the actions for each connector.
Monitoring failed flows
Flows created using templates will generally work flawlessly, but problems can arise due to issues with connectors or — more likely — the services they connect to. A software developer can release an update to their API that temporarily breaks integrations, for instance. Due to this, it’s important to keep track of flow success (particularly in the beginning).
The Activity page (accessible from the notification center) provides a clear list of flows that have recently been triggered, and will show when a flow has failed. The user can then read more about the nature of the failure and take action to resolve the problem. To further increase clarity, there are also opt-out flow failure emails that are enabled by default.
Getting into the code
As noted earlier, a core goal of Power Automate is to make automation accessible to those lacking coding skills — but sometimes it’s useful (or even important) for a user to delve into the code for verification purposes. This is actually very easy: entering the menu for an action or trigger will provide a “Peek code” option showing the JSON code.
This doesn’t allow editing, though, as that would run counter to the goals of the program. Editing flows at the code level is only possible through exporting them, editing the files externally, and importing the updated files — or through using a third-party software tool that integrates with Power Automate. It isn’t advisable, though.
Selling the potential of Power Automate
By far the biggest reason why modern companies overlook the potential of automation is that they don’t understand how simple it can be. They envision needing to bring in developers to produce incomprehensible workflows that cause as many problems as they solve.
This is what makes Power Automate such a great tool to sell. As soon as someone uses it for the first time, they’ll understand the power and utility at their fingertips. Due to this, the best way to introduce it to your clients is to offer a demo: you can create a flow in real time and run them through how it works. Do this well and they’ll soon be eager to try it themselves.