Microsoft Flow is at the cusp of being great once the learning curve is tackled and user experience demystified
Chris Carpenter | TrustRadius Reviewer
March 20, 2019

Microsoft Flow is at the cusp of being great once the learning curve is tackled and user experience demystified

Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
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Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft Flow

We are one operating company under a parent company with dozens of OPCOs, and we are in the Life Sciences space. Our agreement with Microsoft is at the parent company level, and the terms of implementation and use cases are exercised at the operating company level. We have migrated from SharePoint 2016 and an on-prem version of Nintex Workflow to Office 365, and our use of Nintex has been discontinued. Many of our low-level transactional business processes, WIP tracking, and approval scenarios were automated in Nintex and now need to be re-created in Flow. We are currently building the plane while flying it.
  • Like all Microsoft tools, Flow does a very good job of shaking hands natively with the Microsoft environment (SharePoint, Windows, IE, Edge, Office, etc..). Flow has been able to use its standing in the Microsoft toolkit to help it pass the corporate IT hygiene tests that competitors don't.
  • With the transition from on-prem SharePoint to SharePoint online, the rules of engagement between external software (like Nintex) and the O365/SharePoint environment have changed. While not as user-friendly as on-prem Nintex and SharePoint 2016, it does have the benefit of cross-platform development within the Microsoft feature team, so feature implementation is not created in a silo.
  • Flow does an amazing job of connecting to data sources from products outside of the Microsoft stables. Flow's data connections can tickle most any source thrown at it and do something to automate the environment.
  • The paradigm for user-friendliness in workflow programs is Nintex Workflow (on-prem) and SharePoint 2016. Anything outside of that is missing the mark. Flow misses that mark, not because the capability is poor, but because the user experience is more developer-centric at times and it can require a verbose and complex set of actions to complete a relatively mundane task like approvals and notifications.
  • Templates need to consider actual work practice. A vast percentage of business processes that are automated look like works in process (WIP) tracking, approvals, and notifications (custom). These need to be foolproof, templatized, beautiful, elegant and a joy to implement. Flow has blank slated the process, not wanting to over-author, but this is one place where it's okay to get prescriptive. Simple containers for approval are okay to flesh out a bit.
  • Initiation and triggering still riding the struggle bus a bit. It's difficult to author a flow to focus on a specific event or item to initiate a flow. Flow wants to start its activities prematurely at times, too. On a few occasions, it has initiated and completed a workflow before the changes to an item have been committed, rendering the workflow to fail. I love an eager helper, but Flow sometimes executes via Fire, Aim, Ready method.
  • It has pushed some degree of user support to the users who are closest to their own processes, and has allowed the burden of support to shift from ONLY IT to business groups for us.
  • There is a better chance for us to get support with a Microsoft product internally than anything else (Nintex, Oracle, SAP, etc...) because of our license agreement.
  • Time will tell how well Flow allows us to re-create the environment we had with on-prem Nintex and SharePoint 2016. It appears that it could, but it is too early to tell how easy adoption of a slightly more technically complex tool will be for our operating company, sister operating companies, and parent company.
Like all plugin type enabler programs, Flow bridges a gap that SharePoint couldn't fill on its own. SharePoint allows for some helpful automation of collaboration, but where it falls short is where Flow has an opportunity to elaborate. On-Prem Nintex and SharePoint 2016 are both the pinnacle of ease of use and user experience, but they are no longer available to our organization. Since it is the survivor, the goal is to learn to adapt and make the platform sing. If Flow gets the triggers and event-based activity sorted out, along with doing a great job of prepackaging some basic critical functionality like approvals, WIP tracking, and notifications, it should be a great addition to the tool kit.
For users who understand basic coding and best practices of process architecture, Flow is a rockstar. Its learning curve is somewhat steep, but not terrible for a relatively tech-savvy non-coder. Again, this is a great tool with piles of connection options to data sources. The actual activity of WIP tracking, approvals, and notifications is what is at stake, and Flow seems to be able to handle it all well.