Microsoft Flow versus CRM Workflows: What’s the Difference?

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Edit: Microsoft Flow has since been renamed Microsoft Power Automate, but the capabilities it offers remain the same.


We’ve heard a lot about “One Microsoft” these past few years, a restructuring of Microsoft’s organizational structure that connects together all aspects of the company. By eliminating silos between departments and teams, Microsoft sought to increase communication and synergy across its entire organization.

It’s now offering organizations the tools they need to do the same: among them is Microsoft Flow, which lets you automate processes of all kinds and connect the various applications you use daily, including your Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement or CRM solution, Microsoft Office 365 tools, and even third-party products.


What is Microsoft Flow?

In short, Microsoft Flow lets you create workflows, specific actions based on trigger events. These can be simple notifications when certain people send you an email, or multi-step workflows working connecting several applications. The core functionality of Flow is that it lets you connect all your various tools, including third-party mail services and social media apps.

Anyone with a Microsoft account can access Microsoft Flow, and it is also available with Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (the exact level of functionality depends on your subscription). As a cloud-based tool, it can be easily accessed from the device of your choice.


How does Flow work?

Different types of flows are available: automated workflows are triggered by a specific event when it occurs, buttons can be used to trigger flows manually, and scheduled workflows run at a set time, recurring or not. Flow also provides templates to make the process as hassle-free as possible. In just a few clicks, you can pick the process you need, modify it if necessary, then put it in place. Flow also goes beyond CRM workflows as it can connect processes and applications that are outside the CRM, including third-party products.

From there the possibilities are endless: you can automatically save email attachments to Microsoft SharePoint, request approvals from managers, sync data between various applications, update your SQL databases, and have emails and notifications sent to yourself or other people in your organization, to name only a few examples. This creates a fully unified experience incorporating all tools used across your organization.


What’s the difference with native CRM workflows?

The basic concept behind Flow is the same as typical Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement workflows: both require a specified event to trigger the workflow, and if all conditions are met, a certain action will take place. This then begs the question: when should you be using Flow versus the native workflow capabilities of your CRM solution?

Even though Flow is expected to perform all actions that can be currently done with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement workflows, in certain circumstances workflows might still be preferred. For example, you might opt for native CRM workflow capabilities if real-time actions are required: indeed, Flow processes are triggered every minute to every few minutes, depending on your subscription level. Workflows may also be easier to use if the process requires several “if” conditions to be implemented. For the time being, we recommend discussing with your Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement specialist which would be best for your organization based on your current and future vision.


With more improvements and integration possibilities continuously added to Flow, this tool opens up numerous possibilities for organizations looking to follow in Microsoft’s footsteps and connect their business into one coherent entity. But before you start re-writing all of your current CRM workflows in Flow, take the time to evaluate the process and the actions you require. It may make more sense to keep some in your Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement solution to ensure the greatest level of efficiency for your overall solution.

By JOVACO Solutions, Microsoft Dynamics 365 specialist in Quebec

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