Microsoft Flow is an online service from Microsoft that gives you the possibility to build workflows through different web-based services. Since the release of Microsoft Flow mid-2016, the amount of connectors grew constantly. Currently there are over 150 connectors available, and the number is steadily growing. Flow can be combined with almost every Microsoft service such as Dynamics 365, Office 365, SharePoint, OneNote and OneDrive. In addition, tons of third-party services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail, GoToMeeting and even SalesForce are supported. When Microsoft Flow was released, a lot of user asked themselves the question: "When should I use the Dynamics Workflow and when Microsoft Flow?" At first sight, both tools look very similar. However, there are some essential differences, which we would like to explain to our readers.

When should you use the Dynamics 365 Workflow?

1. The entire process is taking place in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM)

The Dynamics 365 Workflow is the better choice when the entire process takes place within Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. The process can be managed centrally in the process editor of Dynamics 365 and a performance report for each individual workflow is available.

2. Real-Time Workflows

A Dynamics 365 Workflow can be triggered synchronously in real-time or asynchronously in the background. Real-Time means the workflow is triggered immediately or shortly thereafter. The background workflow is triggered when the capacity is available without slowing down the system. Conversely, this means that the real-time workflow could slow the system for a few seconds. Use the Dynamics 365 Workflow if you want the workflow to be triggered immediately.

3. Email Notifications

An automatic email notification is probably one of the most common workflows. With the Dynamics 365 workflow creator it is simple to create a workflow that sends a notification to a support employee, for example, if a case is laying around for too long. The email notification could contain a link directly to the CRM-record. With one click the user can open the affected data set.

4. On-Demand Workflows

If you want to give the user the possibility to trigger a workflow manually within an entity, the Dynamics 365 Workflow is without a doubt the right one. The user can trigger the workflow through a button on an entity, presumed that the user has the rights to trigger workflows.

When should you use the Microsoft Flow Workflow?

A Microsoft Flow Workflow can be triggered by almost every Dynamics 365 event. Unlike the Dynamics 365 Workflow, Microsoft Flow was built as an external Microsoft service and wasn’t available within Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. In the meantime, it is also possible to create and trigger a Microsoft Flow Workflow within Dynamics 365.

Flows can be used for scenarios that cannot be easily implemented with a Dynamics 365 Workflow. The following points contain processes or scenarios where, in our opinion, Microsoft Flow has some advantages.

1. Notifications for multiple channels

As mentioned earlier, the Dynamics 365 Workflow is ideally for notifications via email. But with Microsoft Flow, it is additionally possible to receive notifications via SMS. The Twilio Connector for Flow allows it to send SMS notifications to any type of Dynamics 365 event. If users have the Flow App on smartphone or tablet installed, they additionally receive push notifications to their mobile device.

2. Visualized Workflows

The user interface when creating a Dynamics 365 workflow is not really intuitive and visually attractive. This can be a problem for users who are creating Dynamics workflows for the first time or only from time to time. Microsoft Flow on the other hand, has an intuitive workflow editor that shows the flow of the workflow in a more pictorial way with arrows and icons.

3. Granting Authorizations

With Microsoft Flow, permissions can be granted via email, push notifications or the Flow application. The permissions are always given in the same straight forward way. Whether it's PowerPoint, SharePoint, or Dynamics 365. Although it is possible to grant authorizations for a Dynamics 365 workflow, it is not elegantly implemented within Dynamics 365. The person who grants an authorization must be an active Dynamics 365 user and log on to the CRM for authorization.

4. Delete Records

There is no default option in a Dynamics 365 Workflow, which allows you to delete records in CRM. The user's security role determines whether records are ultimately deleted or not.

5. Workflows at Fixed Times or Intervals

Although there is the possibility to trigger Dynamics 365 Workflows belated, it can’t be compared with the possibilities of Microsoft Flow. Microsoft Flow provides a workflow scheduler that allows you to specify the exact time, or at which intervals a workflow should be triggered.

6. Improved Office 365 Integration

With Flow and documents on SharePoint, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or Dropbox, the integration between Dynamics 365 and Office 365 can be optimized. For example, an Excel file with important information can be automatically exported to a Dropbox or to OneDrive as soon as a new contact has been created.

7. Workflows Across Multiple Applications

Many users use Microsoft products in combination with third-party applications. Microsoft Flow has tons of connectors for third-party vendors and allows it to connect to applications outside of the Microsoft environment.

Conclusion

Generally, each workflow should be viewed from start to finish. Do all processes take place within the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement? Then the Dynamics Workflow is the right choice without a doubt. If, however, services outside Dynamics 365 are involved, or even third-party services, Microsoft Flow is the right tool for you.