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Old School Blog: “Flow through my eyes” – Flow

Today we are going to write an old school standard blog. Not a short trick to solve a problem but my current opinion about flow, the good, what is useful and what can be improved.

The power of Flow

Every day I am amazed how Flow can solve a problem that used to require hours of encryption in no time. And this across different platforms! We hear our technical Microsoft 365 puffing over a connector that they have to encrypt for a combination of 2 platforms. Dynamics 365 CRM and Dynamics 365 Business Central are a good example of this… They used to be used to create a mapping, to compare code, to be in constant communication with each other,…

In short, a lot of work that the arrival of Flow will save them. An organization that has a Flow expert in house can easily save a lot of hours on development. Let’s not even talk about the combined power that Flow radiates together with PowerApps. Applications that used to be custom-made (for example a layer on Business Central, or an invoicing program, etc.) can now be made easy with PowerApps and Flow ensures that the data arrives at its destination. And this without or little knowledge of coding languages such as C++, Java, CSS, HTML, JQuery, Javascript,…

Accessibility

The accessibility of Flow for end users is also unseen. It seems very simple, with a few blocks to hang together, can I save my attachments from my received emails in SharePoint? YES, it is possible! The simple flows can be made by the end-user himself and it saves them a lot of work by figuring out which step (or even better: template) they need from the FlowStack. Making those little Flows, which make their lives a lot easier, can trigger them to switch to the bigger work.

What if I want to do this, can I do it this way? Simple questions that make the user think about bigger things. Without realizing it, they start to reason, see new things that are possible and that can be of great value to the company they work for. Employees are going to look at their day-to-day tasks in a different way, which will give them new insights into their job.

What is useful?

What is useful and what is not, this is a question I have every day. Is it necessary to provide a flow for every action? A good conversation with the Key Users can provide you with a lot of clarity about this. In Flemish, we have a good saying for this: “Is it worth the salt? This means that the effort we put into a flow will pay for itself. And then we have to look for alternative solutions. However, flow cannot solve everything either.

A good example of this is when a choice has to be made as to whether data is stored, processed, passed on or duplicated. We already have our data in place X, we want to copy it with flow to place Y, where we have an overview. After processing the data we can then save it from place Y to a fixed location at place Z. Then we have to see if everything can be done in place X with the necessary operations there. Flow is a miracle cure but don’t sprinkle it around too generously.

Clarity

A flow that is less than 20 steps or actions long is readable. In the meantime, I have found some “hacks” that make building longer flows a lot easier. These are just a few of the hacks in a row.

Think about whether everything in an Apply to Each needs to be what you need for the rest of the flow. An Apply to Each makes the flow a lot less readable, especially when you are dealing with a nested Apply to Each loop. A solution can be to complete the necessary steps in the Apply to Each and then continue with the rest of the flow outside the loop.

Use variables! These can be declared at the beginning of the flow and you can reuse your entire flow. When you have completed a “Get Rows” or “List Records” action, the flow will automatically apply an Apply to Each. Write your variable with the value coming from the array. Then you can still use your value from the Apply to Each loop in the variable.

Just like with the Apply to Each loop, try to limit the number of steps in a condition statement. Certainly, a Condition in a Condition will cause your screen to navigate as if to see the entire flow.

Last but not least Copy – Paste. Will you use an action a lot? Click on the 3 dots of your action and choose “Copy to Clipboard”. Click on add a new step, find my clipboard and choose for your step that copied it. This saves a lot of time!

The minorities

Despite all my praise for the software that is Flow, I still have worse points. So your cursor always moves to the beginning of the field when you delete a dynamic field, even if there is text in the field. Sometimes a little curse word escaped from my mouth when I clicked next to a course by mistake and my formula that I spent 15 minutes building it (was complex) is gone! AAAAAARH but there’s nothing else to do but to start over, Flow do something about it?

Also seeing and not seeing connectors is something that can be commented on negatively. You start a flow with Common Data Service as a trigger, but then you can no longer select actions, come to flow really? Just switch to the Dynamics connector.

The biggest underlying force

But one thing cannot remain unsaid, or unwritten in this story. The greatest strength of all is his community. Do you have an issue or are you stuck developing your flow? No problem, ask your question to the community and you will be helped in no time. Flow is a powerful tool, which amazes me every day what the possibilities are. But I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the possibilities yet, this target will extend exponentially!

If you have any questions about Flow, or if you just want to share some knowledge, you can always send an email to info@svenpauwels.com. You can also write down your comments about Flow in the comment box!

Thank you for reading this blog and continue the good flow.

1 Comment

  1. IT must realize that part of governance is this great opportunity – go talk to your business. Find the super maker that is helping with adoption, and able to put together business plans that will include a maintenance support fee to IT. Stop being “free support” ( see my previous blog post ) and start being part of value generation in your business. An emerging trend is that the internal super Power Platform maker joins the IT side of the business to be that navigator. Governance and adoption tools (I have a list near the end) support the quest of this navigator. Business pays IT to support and maintain more Power Apps and Flows.

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