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What is Microsoft Flow?

This article introduces Microsoft Flow, an essential part of the Power Platform, and how it enables automation tasks.

Automation is an essential part of the Power Platform and enables work to be completed on an on-demand, scheduled, or triggered basis.

There are two workflow engines available within the platform to accomplish these automation tasks. The CDS and Microsoft Flow.


The classic Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps workflows run within CDS runtime and provide support for running real-time (users see results immediately) and background (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.

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 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.

Microsoft Flow connectors

There are 200+ connectors that make it easy for application builders to connect to both Microsoft and 3rd party services, from Dynamics 365 to Dropbox.

The connectors allow Canvas Apps and Flows to easily use API (application programming interfaces) services without any developer knowledge.

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

What are the benefits of Microsoft Flow?

In addition to easily integrating with other systems using connectors, Microsoft Flow designer and runtime support building workflows that have additional capabilities.

For example, imagine if you needed a workflow to run when an Account record was updated and process all the associated Contacts at that Account. CDS classic workflow doesn’t provide support for this.

However, Microsoft Flow has looping constructs that would allow the flow creator to process each of the contacts.

Example Flow triggers

The following is an example of a flow that triggers on-demand when a user selects a record in the user interface and requests running the flow.

While this too could be accomplished with the CDS classic workflow running on-demand, Microsoft Flow offers additional triggering options that allow collecting data input and files from the user to hand off to the executing flow.

image "Image of a multi-step Microsoft flow diagram"

Each of the actions in the flow offers an easy visual designer to set the properties. For example, the following shows a step that is updating a CDS record. Data can be set directly or bound easily to prior steps output.

image "Screenshot of the Rating Value property with a red box around it"

Both CDS classic workflows and Microsoft Flows are packaged as part of a project solution for deployment between dev, test and production environments.

This article is from the free online

Dynamics 365: Using Power Platform Applications

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