Flow is the latest and greatest application from Microsoft. If you are familiar with IFTTT (https://ifttt.com) then this will be even more familiar to you. What Flow has done is enable me as a user to integrate different systems that have a similar capability that just happen to overlap.
The best and easiest example I can provide is email and task management. Microsoft Flow enables me to stream line my own individual workflow in a way that best aligns with how I do work - not just the standard by which a process or procedure has dictated to me that I should work.
This blog will not just walk you through my own personal scenario, but give you an overview of what it was like building my first "Flow."
Each day I receive in excess of 150 emails, and each day I have a series of tasks that must be accomplished – or at the least SHOULD be accomplished. The steps run a little something like this:
- Get coffee
- Check my Wunderlist to-dos
- Check my email
- Begin working my "to-dos"
- Rinse and repeat
However, with a large amount of email it is realistic and possible that something that someone deems important will get buried especially on those travel days when I am bouncing between airports and on and off planes. Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to integrate important emails or high priority emails into my daily task management?
My current task management app of choice is Wunderlist. It works on all my devices, stays continually synched, and I have offline and online access, and quite honestly it is really simple. Also, when I say "all my devices" it's because I currently use the following:
- Surface Pro Book
- Samsung S6 Edge
- iPad Mini
The great thing about Wunderlist is that it allows me to create contextual to-do lists. I have my personal "honey-dos", shopping and grocery lists, and I also keep all of my Summit 7 action items inside of Wunderlist – prioritized as P1, P2, and P3 – the "P" stands for priority. P1s are my highest, P2s are the next in line, and P3s… good luck if I can get to it BUT it does happen.
Truthfully, no matter how behind I might be the tool does a great job of helping me keep track of what needs to be taken care of first.
Email continues to be the workflow platform of choice – it lets you meld together collaboration and task assignment. However, what it also does is collide both collaboration and task assignment in such a way that things do get lost, forgotten, or turns my inbox into the graveyard of corporate correspondence. Flow and Wunderlist help me tame my inbox.
In order to build my first Flow, I had to access Flow (still currently in preview) from it's website – https://flow.microsoft.com
The interface and login are both pretty familiar, and it is nice to see how Microsoft is standardizing the interface across its apps.
The interface is simple with 3 main options that will let you see your "Flows", browse templates, and learn with some simple explanatory videos and documents. The people icon allows you to dive just a layer deeper, but the main difference is the people icon lets you view your Flow connectors.
In an effort to see what all I could do with Flow, I decided to tackle building a simple Flow from a predefined template. By clicking "Browse" I was able to see a decently sized list of templates ready for configuration. (Note, at the time of this blog there are approximately 35 Flows available for configuration.)
Because I wanted to integrate emails that were sent as important (the little exclamation point) into my tasking I decided I wanted to build a Flow for Wunderlist and email. Here are the steps I took:
Configuring Flow with Wunderlist
Step 1. Select the Template
After clicking the template that I was interested in, I was taken to this screen:
Step 2: Configuration
After clicking the blue "Use this template" you are directed to configure the ability for the template to have access to the necessary services – Office 365 and Wunderlist. The nice thing is that if you wish, you can configure multiple Flows for multiple connections.
Step 3: The details
This is the simple part – it tells you upfront that this Flow begins On new email, and that after a New Email is received it will create a Wunderlist task.
On this screen, you will be asked to enter the specific Wunderlist task that it will create for the to-do.
The title field is configurable. By clicking in it, you can skillfully create a custom title for the to-do item that is being created.
To configure the title, first you must click in the title field, and then click on the specific tags that you wish to include for the title. You can also add text in between the fields to better format the actual title of the to-do.
Note: I specified the P1 list because I wanted all highly important email to create a to-do in my top priority list.
Step 4: More configuration options
By clicking the you are exposed to a whole series of additional options to tailor the messaging, status, recurrence, etc. To minimize the options, just click the again.
The additional options looked like this, but I just kept it simple and stayed with what was not there by default.
Step 5: Are there any more actions?
You will notice at the bottom of the configuration of the action that there is a . By clicking it you will be given the choice to add additional branches and actions for your particular Flow.
Adding a condition gives you these options (notice the If yes AND If no, do nothing)
If you are like me and curious what advanced mode looks like:
If you click Add an action, you will be given the following options:
However, in an effort to keep it simple, I chose not to configure any of these options and kept my Flow as boilerplate as you could get. By the way, the just means cancel or close.
To see my flows, I just clicked "My Flows" and was taken to a pretty easy to navigate list with the relevant actions needed: pause, edit, delete, info.
This is what the final result looked like after Flow picked up my email and created a Wunderlist to-do:
In case you are wondering why each to-do looks different, I made iterations to my Flow to alter the to-do text and the metadata associated with it.
If you have not seen Flow, you should check it out. Better yet, if you can get access into the preview you should give it shot.
Want to know more? Check out our other Flow blogs:
Curious on what all you can do with Flow, check out my other blog here where it is all listed.
Learn the difference between Flow and other workflow tools and where there is overlap. Check back soon for our 3rd blog on this topic being written by Jason Cribbet.
While you wait, check out Jason Cribbet's blog for more info on SharePoint and Flow.