In our recent post, Microsoft Flow: A Replacement to SharePoint Designer, we looked into the pros and cons of Microsoft Flow and how it stacks up as compared to SharePoint Designer. While, we know that it is an entirely different product because of the cross-application workflows, auto-integration with Office products and expanded personalization options, we also know that confusion exists as to which one is best for individual companies. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Flow and determine ways to decide which solution works best for your needs.

SharePoint Designer

The discontinuation announcement of SharePoint Designer has left many users wondering how they will modify their sites, workflows and web pages moving forward. With no replacement for SharePoint Designer available in SharePoint 2016, some users are continuing to use older versions (note- this is only available to on-prem customers). Using an older version can work short term, however, it does have risks as Microsoft will only offer support through 2026.

Why Microsoft Flow?

Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based software tool that allows employees to create and automate workflows across multiple applications and services without having to reach out to a developer for help. As stated by Microsoft, flow is known as the predecessor to SharePoint Designer, as stated by 

"Microsoft Flow is the successor to SharePoint Designer for many common business scenarios such as approvals, document review, and onboarding/off boarding. It will be the default tool for building business automation in SharePoint moving forward." 

So why the change? For starters, Flow is specific to SharePoint Online and allows users to create cross application action-reaction scenarios. It is connector based which makes it integration friendly and works well with APIs. Customers can easily adopt, deploy and scale with Flow as compared to Designer. 

One additional theory for the change is that Microsoft want to reduce the number of customizations that existed in SharePoint. The amount of support that those customizations require was not going to be sustainable for the long-term and Flow is the way to avoid that moving forward. 

Should you use Microsoft Flow or SharePoint Designer?

One of the main advantages of creating a SharePoint environment is that it can be adapted to the unique business needs of each customer. This, of course, also means that applying one rule to every user is impossible. The efficiencies that some customers have experienced with the legacy system make it worthwhile to continue with integration. Other customers realize great benefits with the newer, simplified solution.

Flow was built in response to the rise in popularity of SaaS (software-as-a-service) products. Every organization is facing constant pressure to do more with less and technology is adapting to fill that demand. Flow is one solution that gives companies the power to select and adopt new tools to improve their own processes. In the past, the cost and complexity of technological advances became a barrier for many businesses. Now, agile solutions like Flow offer the ability to sign up, implement and quickly scale to their own needs.

Clearly, an off-the-shelf product will solve not every problem. In those instances, SharePoint Designer can be leveraged. Just keep in mind that it will require more of an investment and that support for it will not always be available in the future.