Last year, Microsoft announced the release of Flow - a new productivity app specific to SharePoint Online - that allows users to create cross application workflows. For those familiar with SharePoint Designer, Flow is anticipated to be the replacement moving forward. In this article, we look at the pros and cons of this highly anticipated online-specific product.

SharePoint is one of the top business collaboration solutions currently on the market. A recent 2017 edition of The Forrester WaveTM listed Sharepoint 2016 as a leader in Enterprise Content Management. There are many reasons why so many companies are choosing to upgrade and take advantage of it’s capabilities - one of which is the continued expansion online and into the cloud - even for on-prem users.

Last year, Microsoft announced Flow, a new productivity app specific to SharePoint Online, that allows users to create cross application action-reaction scenarios. For those familiar with SharePoint Designer, Flow is anticipated to be the replacement moving forward. We looked into the pros and cons of Flow and below is what we found:

The Pros of Microsoft Flow:

  • Simplicity - The user friendly design makes creating business processes simple to create. Users can choose triggers from a pre-populated dropdown and create workflows quickly and easily. The simple design means the process of building out an entire workflow moves much faster.

  • Cross-application workflows - Whereas SharePoint Designer was designed to work within SharePoint on-prem and was limited to that space, Flow sits across the Microsoft cloud platform and is automatically connected to a wide array of outside cloud solutions (i.e. Twitter, Yammer, Slack, Facebook, Excel, MailChimp, Microsoft Translator, Salesforce, etc.). Users can build automated processes that cross technology boundaries that held them back in the past.

  • 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.

The Cons of Microsoft Flow:

  • Limited Capabilities - Since it is a newer product, performing sophisticated actions in your business processes can be difficult. As time goes by, it can be expected that functionality will improve, but in this early phase, limitations are to be expected.

  • Secondary Flow - A popular feature of SharePoint Designer was the ability to start a secondary flow based off an action of your primary flow. This means that every variation and exception within your logic process will need to be included in one main workflow.  That unnecessarily increases the complexity of building out workflows.

  • And/Or 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.

Despite the current shortcomings, Flow looks to be a game changer. It is impossible not to compare it to SharePoint Designer, however, it really should be considered an entirely new solution because of the cross-application workflows, auto-integration with Office products and expanded personalization options. There are endless benefits that come with migrating to a completely online environment. One of those benefits is the ability to seamlessly update and integrate with new products as they are developed. While Flow is one of the first online-specific SharePoint products, that number is sure to increase in the future.