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The Power of Automation

This article introduces the power of automating tasks, and how the Power Platform enables a number of business processes.
Hi, I’m Mark and I’m here with Julie. And we here to talk about automation in the Power Platform. Yes, it’s what gives the platform its power. So, Julie, starting with options, what type of automation do we have? At the highest level, we have business rules, classic workflow, Microsoft Flow, end business process flows. Each of these offer great automation on their own, automation in many different sizes actually, but they can also be combined to use each one as part of a bigger process, using the best they have to offer to combine and give users an optimised and consistent experience. So there’s different sizes of automation? Oh, of course. So let’s take business rules, for example.
You have simple math available, maybe you want to show and hide some fields and so on, those are pretty small containers of automation. Then it gets bigger to a business process flow. On its own, it’s a simple way to guide users through the process you’ve defined to help them better and more efficiently succeed at their task at hand. Classic workflows can be small such as an email notification on a record ownership change. But when you add them to a business process flow or use custom actions, suddenly their impact increases. And with Microsoft Flow and the hundreds of connectors we have available, I’m not even sure we can define a single size definition of the potential impact of flow as automation.
Wow, that sounds like we can pretty much accomplish anything here with these choices. Well, yeah, just about. All of these animations are available to the functional consultant and do not need a developer on hand to implement. Not that there’s anything wrong with developers, but they tend to be more expensive resources. And when you add that to the potential long-term needs of maintaining a code base too, it’s a better choice, in the long run, to have a functional consultant do more of the work without code when it’s available. So on the project, how do we decide what automation to use and for the business requirements? Oh, that’s a great question, Mark. Sometimes it’s quite straightforward.
For example, you have users tending to customers and need to have them follow a repeatable process. You’ve worked hard over years of doing business and know what works to close the deal. You have put in place a business process flow. Even if the process ebbs and flows a little bit based on some particular data needs along the way, with branching, you can have your users follow this predetermined path, go off and do a few extra things, and return to the business process and wrap it up. When it comes to combining the automation, it takes some planning, but I say use what each is good at and combine them together. So can we use them together? Well absolutely.
If you have a business rule with a scope set to entity, once that condition is met, regardless of the form or the location, the rule will trigger and you will see those effects. So when the user is going through the business process flow, for example, on an entity form, it’s just seamless. Add a real time workflow that triggers on the exit of a stage in that business process flow, then you gain the power of the workflow engine to complete more things to make your users experience even better. So you mentioned planning these automations. Can you elaborate on that? Oh, there are many ways to do the planning, but really only one wrong way. What’s the wrong way.
The wrong way is no planning at all. Some planning is better than no planning. So more about the right way of planning. Well, starting with the smallest one, again, for a business rule, think about scope. Will this need to happen even if the trigger happens via other automation, not just directly from the user interface? A business process flow will really impact the user’s experience. It really defines the user’s experience. So map it out, draw it on a whiteboard, practise it as a user. I like to also say that workflows can be used for good or for evil. The good ones do what they need to and nothing more and the evil ones create loops and orphan records.
So plan for your outcomes. Use child workflows where it makes sense. And as far as Microsoft Flow is concerned, planning is even more essential because you are likely involving an external system and knowing the impact to your data is so important. Hey, thanks for that. And thank you, Mark.

Why should we embrace automation?

By automating actions that would normally be completed by users manually, we can help them be more productive.

Automations can take repetitive tasks and do them for the user, leaving more time for the user to focus on their primary goal which might be closing a deal or closing a service case.

Automation can help ensure consistency. For example, while the user could do the repetitive tasks you’ve automated, they might not consistently perform all the steps to accomplish the task.

Often when users perform the same tasks over and over again, they take shortcuts that they feel accomplish the same thing. Automation doesn’t take shortcuts!

Business Process Flows

Automations, such as Business Process Flows, can help guide the user through a business process like closing a sale. These flows break up complex processes into stages, each having its own milestones that can track and guide a user to the end goal.

Other automation can be built to help integrate the Power Platform application with other internal systems and even external providers. Using Microsoft Flow and the available connectors you can build automation that spans multiple systems.

The Power Platform

The Power Platform has multiple capabilities that provide the ability to build automation. In this course, we will be covering the following automation capabilities:

  • Business Rules
  • Workflows using the classic Common Data Service for Apps workflow engine
  • Workflows using Microsoft Flow
  • Business Process Flows

Business Rules

Using Business Rules, you can build automation that runs client-side in model-driven forms. These same rules can also be configured to run server-side enforcing the rules for all uses of the entity.

Business rules package up common tasks like setting a field required when another field has a specific value and allow them to be enforced without having to write code. Rules are defined using a visual editor.

Business rules can also be used to set default values as well as perform basic formulas on entity data for use in the rule. These rules are all created without code that could need to be maintained or expensive developer resources.


The classic Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps workflows run within the CDS runtime and provides support for running real-time (where users see results immediately) and background (where users see results eventually when it completes) workflows.

Existing Dynamics 365 deployments heavily use these capabilities to deploy automation as part of projects. For real-time workflows, this workflow engine is the only way to implement this style of automation in the platform.

For automation that can run in the background, newer deployments also have the option of using Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is an online workflow service that automates events (known as workflows) across the most common apps and services. Microsoft Flow differs from the CDS classic workflow engine by using connectors to work with the different services that are available.


There are more than 200 connectors that make it easy for application builders to connect to both Microsoft and 3rd party services; from Dynamics 365 to Dropbox. These connectors allow flows to easily use API (application programming interfaces) services without any developer knowledge.

Custom connectors can also be configured to allow the use of API’s that aren’t covered by the public connectors.

Interactive with users

Business process flows are used to track a business process that might involve up to five different CDS entities and help guide the user to completion of the process. Most commonly, business process flows are interactive with the user in model-driven apps like Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Service or your own custom model-driven app.

You can simply use the out of the box provided flows or create your own to match your unique needs. You can automate the assignment of a particular process to a record or allow the user to manually control which processes are active. You can even have multiple concurrent processes running against the same record supporting concurrent business process needs.

Solutions built on the Power Platform rarely use just one of these automation capabilities but will use multiple of them. When used together, users of the app can be most productive. In some cases, more than one capability can fit how you would implement a business requirement.

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Dynamics 365: Working with Power Platform Automation

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