Why Microsoft flow is successor to SharePoint Designer Workflow?

Not long back, when we want to create a workflow in SharePoint, we rely on simple workflows, SharePoint Designer workflow or 3rd party tools. However, there is a new kid on the block where we need to pay attention & that is Microsoft flow. In this article I will discuss about the differences between SharePoint Designer workflow & Microsoft flow. Also the three components of Microsoft flow.

So let’s get started

Now a days, every modern business starts with three factors

Measure How business is going/Calculating Business Growth(Power BI).For more information refer-

Act Once business growth is calculated, the individual will act on the process.(Power Apps)

Automate– After acted on the process you want to initiate the whole process faster.(Microsoft flow)

Illustrates different Power users & Developers

Fig-1-Illustrates different Power users & Developers to make use of products, based on factors like measure, act & automate data using connectors & gateways.

Difference between SharePoint Designer Workflow & Microsoft Flow

Since Microsoft introduced the Workflow Manager in SharePoint 2013, there has not been any additional enhancements to their workflow engine. Compounded with the fact that SharePoint 2016 did not include an updated version of SharePoint 2016 it would make sense to assume that Flow is the replacement for SharePoint Workflows.

1. Interface Compatibility with Applications

In SharePoint Designer Workflow, user needs to learn the syntax, spend hours to debug and tweak the code. It does not allow for easy interface with the applications.

Interface Compatibility with Applications

Fig-2 Illustrates a SharePoint Designer Workflow

Microsoft flow on other hands helps non developers to work smarter by automating workflows across various apps & services like Mail Chimp, Drop Box, Twitter, SharePoint, and One Drive.

For example:-

1. Get Notification:-Every time a new file added to SharePoint you will get an email notification.

2. Copy Files:-Suppose you uploaded one file in one drive then set up a flow so that the file will be copied to SharePoint & will be used by your team.

3. Collect Data:-Set a flow to collect tweets /feedback’s.

4. Automate Approvals:-Set up a flow to approve for vacation by manager request.

I. Microsoft Flow is connected to more than 200 connectors & it uses custom connectors to connect to any custom REST endpoint .Connect to on-premises data using gateways.

II. It provides graphical user interface to build workflows.

Illustrates Microsoft Flow

Fig-3 Illustrates Microsoft Flow

So SharePoint Designer workflow is only confined to SharePoint while Microsoft Flow has the ability to interface with other applications.

2. Templates

As compared to the set of predefined templates offered in SharePoint Designer, Flow not only offers more out-of-the-box options, it also allows users to create their own custom templates that can be shared with the community.

Fig-4 Illustrates templates in Microsoft flow

Fig-4 Illustrates templates in Microsoft flow

3. Licensing

Finally, from a licensing perspective Microsoft Flow is a pay by the drink kind of service (technically pay by the Flow run). There’s a bit of math but essentially you are allocated an allotment of Flow runs per user in your Office 365 tenant based on your plan. Be sure to check out Microsoft Flow Pricing page for up to the minute guidance. Whereas with SharePoint Workflows it’s essentially as many workflow runs as what your infrastructure can support.

4. Implementation Level

SharePoint workflows are enterprise focused solutions while Microsoft Flow is targeted towards the individual. SharePoint workflows are associated to SharePoint lists and libraries or to the site itself. SharePoint workflows are targeted to perform actions on objects within the SharePoint environment for all users accessing the system.

5. Use of Conditions

Flow still uses conditions and actions in the setup process, however the options used in formulating those conditions have been reduced from what is available in SharePoint Designer. Instead of an And/Or logic appearing when multiple conditions are involved, Flow requires an action to be defined between conditions. This can be subverted by creating in Advanced Mode, however that requires learning a new syntax and it also does not allow the user to revert out of Advanced Mode.

So Microsoft flow can be accessed via browser from any custom list or modern document library through flow tile in the office app launcher or by going to this URL- flow can be access and manage through mobile app.

Three Components of Microsoft Flow

The three building block components of Microsoft Flow are as follows:-

1. Trigger

2. Actions &

3. Conditions


Triggers can be defined as a component which starts the workflow. It can be manual trigger or automatic trigger. In automatic trigger flow will start automatically from within another application whereas manual trigger is initiated by the user.

Illustrates a trigger

        Fig-5:-Illustrates a trigger


An action is like copy a file, send an email, create a task in planner, start an approval, update item which occurs as a result of the workflow.

Illustrates an action-1

Fig-6:-Illustrates an action


A condition is something like a False statement. If this happens do this, if that   happens do something else. For example if the user approves an item or a document send an email with approval, if a user rejects send an email with rejection.

Illustrates a Condition

Fig-6:-Illustrates a Condition

So getting back to the original question is Microsoft Flow the direct replacement for SharePoint Workflows? In my opinion No. Microsoft Flow is the evolution of business process management allowing you to build elegant solutions which have the ability to orchestrate data across various line of business applications leveraging clicks and not code. Combined with PowerApps as your mobile/responsive front-end the barrier to creating enterprise applications has absolutely been lowered to where you no longer need a team of developers to create basic applications.

Hope this helps.

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