How to Implement Application Lifecycle Management for Microsoft Power Automate

For your software development teams to operate efficiently, openly communicate and collaborate, they need a standardized system for lifecycle management of their applications. From governance to development and maintenance, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools drive efficiency through repeatable software delivery.  

Today I’m covering how to implement ALM for the Microsoft Power Platform application, Power Automate, which comes with a few caveats. Don’t worry, I’m going to provide you with the best practices that will help you overcome any challenges along the way.  

First, what is ALM? 

ALM stands for ‘Application Lifecycle Management’ and is used to describe the best practices for taking software from inception to production. The basic lifecycle starts with a development environment commonly called Sandbox where the application is built and tested, but not distributed outside of the developers. Next, the application is moved to a Test or User Acceptance Testing environment. This is for a small subgroup of the users to use the application and provide feedback to the developers who then make the changes in Sandbox, and then push those changes to Test and the cycle continues. Finally, a Production environment is the end-user environment where all users have access to the application. Feedback is gathered from users using the app in the Production environment, but the goal is to have the application free of bugs by the time it is pushed to production.  

ALM with Power Automate 

Power Automate makes automation easy. You can create a flow right away to reduce the repetitive tasks that fill up your day. It is also a tool for enterprise level automation in a system like Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and BC. I will be talking about using Power Automate in this specific enterprise context. 

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM has solutions that allow developers to package their entities, flows, and other tools together so that the ALM process is organized. Power Automate flows have been a tricky part of these solutions because they require data connections. Once a solution was pushed from Sandbox to test, the flows would need to be opened, updated with the correct connections in the new environment, and then saved. This process often caused issues, the least of which being that you are editing a flow that is in a managed (non-editable) solution. Best practice is to make all changes and edits in the Sandbox environment. Otherwise, edits become an unmanageable mess.  

Microsoft recently released an update to connections, called Connection References, that handles this issue by allowing connections to move across environments and the flows simply reference a connection. See the linked article for more details. 

How to update your flows 

The new connection references work for all new solution-aware flows you create. A solution-aware flow is created from inside a solution, not imported from outside solutions. If you have developed like me in the past, then you likely have added existing flows to a solution that did not exist in a solution. Adding these non-solution-aware flows means that connection references do not exist. Luckily there is a solution for this. As posted here by Nagaraja Emmadisetty, you can export the solution with your flows from Sandbox as an unmanaged solution; then import it back into Sandbox. You may need to add existing connection references into your solution once the import is complete.  

Don’t forget to first publish your customizations, then you are free to deploy Power Automate flows in your organization while following the best practices for ALM! 

There you have it: the best practices for applying the ALM process to Power Automate 

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM features developer solutions to enable an organized ALM process; however, Power Automate flows have often proved to be a challenge due to the required data connections. As discussed today, the best practice and smartest approach is to make all your edits within a Sandbox environment first.  

If the steps above didn’t quite get you the results you wanted, or if you just need a little extra guidance, the experts at JourneyTEAM are here to help! 

Get Started with JourneyTEAM 

As an award-winning Microsoft partner, JourneyTEAM has a proven track record with successful Microsoft technology implementations. Contact us for more information on the benefits of using ALM as part of your Power Automate processes. Contact JourneyTEAM today! 

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