Capabilities of Flow (as compared to SP Designer)

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Valued Contributor

I think as I understand it Flow is the next evolution of SharePoint Designer Workflows?

 

I have yet to have time to really dive into Flow, but in order to consider eventually upgrading solutions away from Designer, there are a few critical features that I would be looking for:

 

  • Call HTTPS Web Service
  • Variable types like Dictionarys
  • Item-Level Permissions
  • App-Level / Impersonation Steps
  • Workflow Level Logging

 

Can anyone speak to these capabilities being part of the tool?

20 Replies
Not really but somehow yes - for me it is more like an IFTTT approach to enable powerusers to create own mini solutions with a help of some workflow. It's in an early stage but when Microsoft keeps on developing this tool I think we will have a new favorite tool for power users.

In addition to Michael's response, Flow is a new workflow tool that enables business users (through browser or mobile app) to create automation to receive notifications, synchronize files, and get data between your apps and services (twitter, dropbox, salesforce as well as SharePoint, OneDrive For Business and more), be it on premise or in the cloud.

SharePoint Designer still has its space in the SharePoint ecosystem!

Does SPD really have a place moving forward? It's still supported, but it's not gaining capabilities for building workflows for O365 Group documents, Planner, or any other O365 service. It would be a shame if we need to use two different workflow engines in a single solution due to the limitations of each.

With the sheer number of solutions that have been built on it, Microsoft would rue the day if they ever "removed" SPD workflows from SharePoint without accounting for all of the legacy functionality (which is my fear).

 

But you are right, with no more evolving capabilities, it has led us to supplement with tools like Nintex Workflows.

 

I think it definitely has a place though, I am still building new solutions in Designer almost every day.

I agree it's not going away. SPD will be supported for years. I just assume that over time we'll be building more and more workflows via flow. I don't see a scenario of using flow for end user workflows and designer for IT developed workflows. We're just starting to enter a transition phase at the moment, but I assume the large percentage of workflows will be built in Flow in the not too distant future.

Hi folks, Merwan here from the Microsoft Flow team. I think it's fair to say that Flow targets many of the same scenarios that Workflow designer did and we'd like your feedback to make sure that we truly succeed in doing so. However, Flow is not necessarily a "replacement" for SharePoint Designer, it is more of an "evolution." SharePoint Designer will be continued to be supported until 2026.

 

With Flow, our focus is on empowering business users to create workflows for their everyday business needs through connectivity to many services such as SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, O365 Email, Dropbox, Twittter, Trello, etc.  @Brent Ellis - for the capabilities you mentioned, today we support HTTP actions and have workflow level logging, but we are working on identifying gaps such as variable types, item level permissions, etc. Brent and others, if you're available next week, I'd like to do a call with you to get a better understanding of the types of workflows you're building today with the Designer and how Flow can help. 

Mmm...I think the discussion should be also around how Flow will eventually replace SharePoint Online Legacy Workflow and Windows Azure Workflow....any thing you can share? I would like also to know if there are plans to support "State machine" concept in Flow

@Merwan Hade:  are there examples of how to use Flow for the following (listed by @Brent Ellis)?

 

  • Call HTTPS Web Service
  • App-Level / Impersonation Steps
  • Workflow Level Logging

 

Not at the moment, what you can find when using Flow is common examples about integration with Office 365 what includes EXO, SPO, etc.
What is also nice with Flow today is that it has a lot of pre-built connections which make setting up workflows quick and easy. Some of those include open interfaces such as HTTP, Swagger, and Common Data Models, which provides additional flexibility.
Are there any plans to be able to edit Flow as text rather than as a UI paradigm (e.g. like in Logic Apps that I think these are based on)? I find that the UI is very limiting as a Consultant/Developer, as well as not scalable in some situations (e.g. large number of fields returned from a Get operation - scrolls off the page when adding to an Action field, hard to find the one you are looking for etc)
@RichardAngus, We will get the numerous updates from MS flow team going forward. They way MS Flow built for next innovation tool to interact with O365,SharePoint and LOB systems for real time scenarios.

 

Richard, since Flow is designed for business users, we don't expect to add the complete code view functionality that LogicApps offers (Flow is indeed built on top of Logic Apps). However, we will be enriching the experience in the coming months to make it easier to write the same expressions that Logic Apps offer today. We also plan to add a migration path in the future from Flow to LogicApps. 

Juan Carlos, apologies for the delay in response. Do you have some time this week to chat about how you use "state machines" and "SPO Legacy workflows"? Could you please email me directly with your availability? My email is mhade [at] microsoft [dot] com. 

Already sent an e-mail to you :-)...by the way: To me, scenarios that involve the use of a state machine workflow vs. a sequential ones are those where depending on a condition, the user could be redirected to a previous stage a not the next one that is what typically happens in sequential workflows.

Merwan, I'd be curious to know how Flow will support any sort of realistic approval process if it doesn't support state machine workflows. That's the primary way these sorts of workflows have been built, that I've seen. Even in 2010 based workflows that didn't officially support "state machine" workflows, we'd build the workflow to mimic that functionality to support the requirements for a multi-level approval process.

Hi Merwan,

 

I think the flows we have now is based on user level whereas workflows will build by IT admins to build solutions for all users. In future do we see enterprise level solutions using Microsoft flows? I am building lot more workflows using sharePoint Designer in my current and previous projects in various scenarios as specified by @Brent Ellis. I have started exploring about Microsoft flows, f possible; I would love to talk to you.  

 

Edit: I hope we will have more control on governance of these apps. Especially if all users started developing apps then IT support team need to have access all those apps to help them if they have any issues. I saw in few posts we will get an option at Tenant admin level to show/hide the flows. I hope we have this option at Tenant, Site collection, site, and List/Library level to provide more control for admins.

 

 

 

Microsoft flow has new features

 

1. Nested conditional branching

2. Filtering

3. Looping 

 

https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/build-advanced-flows/