Power Automate is a next level tool in the Office 365 kit that can help with automating a lot of previous manual and repetitive tasks. There are thousands of possible combination of applications, triggering events, actions to be taken, and dynamic interfaces to be applied. Learning the ins and outs of creating and using Flows through Power Automate can take a lot of learning. Fortunately, getting the basics down is fairly simple. Any user can start adding simple automations without needing any special expertise or coding experience.
In this article we are going to go through some very basic steps of creating a flow through power automate. As you familiarize yourself with what is possible, you may get inspiration for flows to improve your workflows. Let’s get started so your innovative ideas can begin to flow.
Where to start when creating a flow
Office may suggest flows from various applications, but the surefire place to start is at flow.microsoft.com or go to your office.com dashboard and navigate to Power Automate.
On the left, you can click on plus create. There are three main ways to get started creating a flow. The first is start from blank where you can create a new flow from scratch. This requires that you know what you want to do ahead of time including what will trigger the event, what action will be taken, which applications need to be involved, etc.. If you have that knowledge, this is the most flexible way to get exactly what you need.
Alternatively, if you want to start with some ready to flow automation, the next section provides templates to get you started. Most templates aren’t a one click process. You will still have choices to make and may need to connect applications. When starting out and getting an idea of what you can automate, this is a great place to start.
The third starting point is choosing a connector. This is best when you know at least one of the connectors you want to be involved in the flow. While there are a few common ones on this page, clicking all connectors will give you more options. Browse or search for any Office 365 or third party application to get started.
Granting permission to connectors
While setting up your flow, each connector or application will need permission to be accessed by Power Automate. Even the Office 365 apps may say invalid connection when you first try to use it in Power Automate. If you experience this, there is a simple fix. Click on the dot dot dot, and then the account in question. You may need to log into whatever service is used in the connector. Then you will be all set to use this in future flows and automations.
You may see this error or a request to connect at any stage in this process. Be prepared to grant that access and log into any accounts that want to be connected. If you are using multi-factor authentication on any of these, make sure you have your phone handy.
Setting a trigger or schedule
No matter which option you choose there will have to be a reason for the flow to start. One option is to set an automatic trigger which will start the flow when Power Automate detects an event happening, such as a new video is posted.
If you want more control, a manual trigger can be one click on your end to start the multi-faceted flow in Power Automate. This may also be referred to as an instant flow. For example you can create a shortcut in a Teams channel message to schedule a meeting with a person who posted there.
Enabling this flow has a lot of backend processes, but from a user experience, it’s simple. Under the more options section in the message options there will now be a button to schedule a meeting.
Another common option is to make a scheduled flow. This flow doesn’t require a trigger. Instead, it will fire off at the specified time and interval. You may use this to set reminders in Teams for yourself or a channel, or to have a specific task created in Planner on the first of every month. Either way, you can set the schedule with the recurrence step pictured below.
As you learn more about Power Automate, you’ll find there are a lot more triggers, conditions, and steps to consider for this first step. For now, we are just working with the simplicity of the above options.
Your flows may be multistep or a single if-then process. The more granular you get, the better you can have flows work for you and your business processes. This may involve multiple connectors, variables, and yes some coding knowledge. However, for this article let’s start simple and just give a few examples of additional steps.
We can add a step to the first example of adding a video to YouTube to make it automatically post to a Teams channel. Click plus new step, and you will be asked to add an operation. Search for Teams and see a few options including post a message in a chat or a channel.
Even the two step flows need input. For this one, it asks how you want to post as, a flow bot or make it appear as if it is coming from a user. You also have to select from chat or channel. In this example, we are selecting channel.
This will bring up more entry fields including specifying the Team and channel and what you want the message to say. Power Automate will make suggestions for dynamic content which can be especially helpful. Having the title and link to your video posted is a lot more powerful than a mere text notification. Select from the options given or create your own.
Click save when done.
There is so much more to explore in steps you can add, but let’s get that mental reward from seeing our flow in action.
Run the flow
Many of the flows you create you can test by clicking the button in the top right corner. This works better for certain flows than others. If you have a scheduled or instant flow you can run the flow easily from Power Automate. For our example above, let’s take a look at the results after we post a new tech tips video to YouTube.
If you don’t like the way it looks, go back to power automate and go to My Flows to make adjustments. Some edits like font changes are simple, while others may require a bit of finesse either with the flow process itself or just a bit of cosmetic coding.
This article is only showing the very small tip of the iceberg when it comes to Power Automate. This tool can save a lot of time, reduce error, and improve your overall processes, but some of its most powerful features will take additional learning to master. In the meantime, explore the simpler and prebuilt automations to help improve your work flows.
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