I’ve been talking to some friends, colleagues and fellow Dynamics 365 CRM experts lately about the difficulty in moving from a standard CRM Workflow mindset to Flow. And while there is ample documentation and training materials for making Flows using Power Automate, there seems to be a lack of materials for the absolute beginner. So here’s my first Flow 101 blog article! I thought we could spend some time walking through Power Automate at a very slow, introductory level.
Tip: Sign up for a free trial environment so you can play around – the best way to get comfortable with something like this is to play.
Where to build a Flow in Power App
- Navigate to make.powerapps.com and select the environment for your Flow.
- Select Flow on the left-hand side (highlighted below)
- At the top, select New flow.
What type of Flow should you build in Power Automate?
- Template: Start from an existing template. This is an excellent option to familiarize yourself with how Power Automate works!
- Automated cloud flow: a flow that triggers on an event and performs actions automatically.
- Instant cloud flow: a flow that is triggered by a user clicking a button (oftentimes this is used from a mobile device).
- Scheduled cloud flow: this flow is scheduled for a specific date/time.
- Desktop flow: the robotic process automation (RPA) arm of flows. Use drag-and-drop actions or recordings of your desktop flows and run repetitive tasks automatically. Difficult to describe – check out this video to see a great use case!
- Business process flow: Same as what we know and love in Dynamics 365 CRM systems!
Anatomy of a Flow
A flow is made up of:
- Triggers: what causes the flow to begin.
- Actions: what is automated once something meets the trigger.
- Connectors: a wrapper around an API that lets systems talk to Power Automate. A series of pre-built actions and triggers to help build your automations.
If we put this in traditional CRM Workflow language, a trigger is like a conditional.
With traditional CRM Workflows, we are largely limited (using out-of-the-box capabilities) to performing actions just in the CRM system. Power Automate extends those to reach far, far beyond the confines of just CRM. It’s very exciting when you start to think about everything you can automate. No longer are you chained to Scribe, KingswaySoft or others – you can start to easily build out connections between different software without deeply technical knowledge. How? By using connectors. A connector is something takes an action of performs a trigger from one system to another.
So many connectors! How do I get started?
Tip: Design your flow on a whiteboard, etc. BEFORE you start to build!
I think the most difficult part is designing your flow. There are close to 500 connectors that are Microsoft-certified for Power Automate. Sometimes, you know exactly what to use. Other times, you have a goal in mind but not a specific vendor. Here are two resources you can use to help design your flow (before you build!):
- Microsoft documentation for Connectors: Best when you know the vendor.
- Connector Review: Best when you know use case, but not a specific vendor.
Microsoft Learn: A good starting point
If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Microsoft Learning path for Power Automate here.
The learning path walks you through an overview on Power Automate, then provides a number of exercises to practice using Flow:
- Create your first flow
- Learn to use the Power Automate mobile app
- Receive text and email notifications from flows
- Copy files with flows
- Create recurring flows
- Send an email when a tweet is posted
- Create team flows
The exercises are good use cases to get started building your flows.
Next articles coming soon!
Stay tuned, we will walk through the following over the next few weeks:
- Building an automated cloud flow
- Creating an instant cloud flow
- Making a scheduled cloud flow
- Working with Power Automate templates