Microsoft is preparing to launch a new tool, which it says "makes it easy to mash-up two or more different services". Microsoft Flow is described by the company as "a service for automating workflow across the growing number of apps and SaaS services that business users rely on". Details of Flow were first spotted by Twitter user WalkingCat (@h0x0d).
Flow is similar in concept to IFTTT ('If This Then That'), which allows users to create 'recipes' to automate tasks triggered by predefined events, changes or actions on web services. For example, you could set up a recipe that automatically sends you an email whenever a particular person posts something on Facebook.
Unlike IFTTT, though, Flow is aimed primarily at businesses and other organizations, such as schools. Microsoft's Stephen Siciliano, Group Program Manager for Flow, offered these examples of how he's put the new tool to use so far:
- Boss alert!
My manager emails me a lot, but with all the email I get, it's easy to miss an email. Luckily, it's very easy to create a flow that sends me a text message whenever my boss sends me an email.
- What's happening on Twitter?
My friends will tell you I'm not very adept at social media, so to help me keep on top of it, I'm integrating Tweets with a tool I am familiar with (Excel). I have a flow set up that searches for tweets about Microsoft Flow and saves them into an Excel file that I can review on my own time. You can even save tweets to SQL, as covered in this blog post.
- Getting files to work
I use OneDrive for Business to store my files, but sometimes I want to easily get the files to SharePoint so my colleagues can see them. I was able to create a flow that copies files from a OneDrive for Business folder up to my team's SharePoint site.
- Approve This!
We have been working on some blog posts to help you understand and get started with Flow, and we wanted to be sure that all of the posts were reviewed and approved. We created a simple approval workflow.
Microsoft has put together dozens of Flow templates to help users get started, including examples such as these:
- Copy files between OneDrive and Dropbox
- Archive tweets to OneDrive files
- Send a message on Slack when my manager emails me
- Copy Salesforce leads into Dynamics CRM
- Post to Yammer if new tweets match with hashtag
- For new GitHub issues, send a Slack notification and add a card in Trello
- Create a to-do item in Wunderlist for important emails
- Send me an email when a new list is created on MailChimp
As you've probably gathered from those examples, Microsoft Flow features extensive support for third-party services. Microsoft says that Flow is launching with connections to over 35 different services including:
- Google Drive
...and more, including - of course - Microsoft's own products, such as Yammer, SharePoint, Wunderlist, Azure, OneDrive, Dynamics and the Office 365 suite. The company says that more services will be added every week.
The Flow website is already live - albeit with plenty of broken links and incomplete pages - and social media accounts have also been lined up. It looks like the new service will be launching soon, so expect an official announcement in the very near future.
Underlining the fact that Flow is intended primarily for organizations rather than consumers, Microsoft will require those wishing to use the tool to sign in "with a work or school account" only.