Microsoft Flow - Introduction


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Today’s world is full of collaboration. More often than not, people find themselves working together alongside certain policies or processes. Quality work needs a good hand-holding as well as hand-offs! This is why many organizations and governments have different steps to accomplish a particular operation or activity.

Background of Workflows

If we look at Wikipedia’s definition of workflow −

A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information.

Simply put, workflows are the way people get work done, consisting of steps that require completion in a sequential way. With the exception of first step, each step in the workflow has a specific step before and after it.

Sometimes it is best to look at an example than to get immersed into concepts. For coming across this article, you must have done a few steps

  • Open your default browser
  • Search for Microsoft Flow
  • Click on this article from TutorialsPoint

This is the way you have (knowing or unknowingly) created a workflow to reach the article. Let us take another example of applying for a leave at your organization.

  • Employee sends a leave request.
  • Employee’s manager approves the leave request and updates the HR department.
  • HR department updates the leave data and informs the finance department.
  • After written instructions from HR department, finance department deducts leave balance and pay from paycheck (if applicable).

In this way, workflows are all around us. The rapid advancements in technology have made it immensely important to define and follow certain workflows for an efficient operation of the respective function or department.

While one may argue that the workflows existed since ancient times, the scope of this tutorial is broad in the sense of different workflows that we use to accomplish our day-to-day activities using software. Many times you will find yourself juggling between different software to accomplish a simple task of paying the bills and maintaining an expense sheet for it.

Need of Automating Workflows

According to a research, inefficient workflows can cost up to 30% of your company’s revenue.

It makes sense to automate some of the processes.

Programming a process to run on its own eliminates the need for a human operator, saving company time, money and frustration.

Let us consider an example of leave request from previous section. We said that the employee will request for a leave from manager. He/she will use the email software on his computer. The manager, once approved, will send the leave update to HR department. There will be a HR Management Software (HRMS) to update the leave data on the fly.

Finance department, once it gets updates from HR department, will update their accounting software so that the consolidated data will be sent to the banking software if there are any deductions in the monthly paycheck.

With a simple workflow as Leave request, we can see at least 3 software in picture. Imagine an employee count in the likes of 1000. How cumbersome it will be to manage this workflow on a day-to-day basis? In such cases, it makes sense to automate certain workflows which will be numerously repetitive in nature!

At an organization, almost every department can benefit from workflow automation. Let us consider a couple of examples.

Marketing

Certain repetitive tasks such as sending emails, posting messages on social media can get automated with workflow automation. Your entire social media calendar can get scheduled using some automation software.

Human Resources

Further to the example discussed above, instead of having to enter new hire’s information manually, addresses, employee’s tax details can be automatically fed to the respective inputs by using HR automation workflows.

Consider if you’re working late from home due to a meeting and you know that in advance using your Microsoft Outlook calendar, how efficient will it be, if your colleagues will get to know via email that you’ll be leaving early to take care of it? And this too, without you doing any manual email sending activity whatsoever!

Possibilities with Microsoft Flow

One of the newest editions to Microsoft Business Suite, Microsoft Flow is a versatile tool which can be used to integrate various cloud based apps and services. Say goodbye to those repetitive and time-consuming business tasks -- without the requirement of being a techie or developer!

Using Microsoft flow, one can take the processes that use one or several applications and create automated workflows. It is an online service that allows you to connect various apps and services. There are some Microsoft apps and services as well as some non-Microsoft services.

If you have data being shared between applications, instead of entering it twice, you can automate it with Microsoft Flow.

Consider a very real scenario where you are a brand/celebrity on Facebook or twitter. Imagine that there is a negative post which is going viral. You can very easily respond to these negative posts and manage perception on social media using a template flow.

If you are the user of two different services like Outlook Calendar and Gmail Calendar, you can use Microsoft Flow to add in your Outlook calendar events to your Gmail calendar.

In these ways, Microsoft Flow improves efficiency and productivity to the fullest.

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