Using Microsoft Flow to automate things in SharePoint – Part 1, approving stuff

If you haven’t had a chance to play with it yet, Microsoft Flow is one of the most exciting new technologies spinning up in the Office 365 space.  Unlike workflow in SharePoint it’s designed from the ground up for orchestrating things across systems rather than just basic human approvals in SharePoint.   Flow is in preview right now and my guess is that general availability isn’t going to happen till closer to the end of the year, but it’s such an exciting and transformational technology that in some cases i’m using in production right now.




There are many articles about what flow is and really basic intro stuff, so i wanted to instead focus on some usecases and why i really love what i’m seeing so far.  For anyone who has used SharePoint workflow in the past, the idea of assigning a task that a user had to open up, then have them navigate to the related list item or document to see what they are approving was never an outstanding user experiance.  When having users do this from a mobile device, it’s even worse because i need to pop a browser, login, and then hack around on a tiny little screen.

I had a use case where i needed to have users request permission for specific document libraries and couldn’t use the out of the box sharepoint capability because the site owners were not the approvers.  Instead every library had an approver and i needed a way to get those approvals and dynamicly apply the permissions.

One of the new activities you can perform with Flow is called Send Approval Email.  As you can see below, it’s easy to wire up fields from a sharepoint list item when that item is created and combine them with some narative to craft your subject, recipients, body, and your choices that a user will be shown.



Unlike a traditional task form that forces me to open a browser, this new approval experiance is designed from the ground up to mobile friendly with just an email with the buttons that you design in the user options field.  When a user clicks the button, the response is recorded, the user gets a confirmation page and the flow moves on.  What’s amazing is that when this seems like a really little thing, super simple mobile approval has a huge impact on the user experiance and the rate at which things get approved.




In the next post i’ll dig a little deeper into the rest of the activities i’m using in this flow and the powershell i’m using to actually apply the permissions to sharepoint once the flow is approved.

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