Microsoft Flow Getting Workflow Ownership Controls and Gmail Support
Microsoft this week announced of a few new capabilities for Microsoft Flow, its workflow automation tool.
One new capability, out at the preview stage, is the ability to assign team ownership to a flow, which was a top-requested item at Microsoft's "Flow ideas" page. Assigning team ownership to individuals or groups in an organization permits the flow to be accessed should its original creator leave the organization.
A flow created using the Microsoft Flow service is a sort of if-then workflow. It's sometimes compared with what can be produced using the free IFTTT service. Microsoft Flow users get templates to initiate certain actions to take upon an event occurring. Microsoft established Flow as a commercial service back in October, along with PowerApps, although there are free versions. A flow can be used to pull together data or mash up services and applications. Microsoft sees Flow as something that IT pros, developers and even business users might use.
The new team membership preview capability for flows shows up as a "Team flows" option within the Microsoft Flow portal. That command lets membership be assigned or revoked. (The phrase, "Team flows," shouldn't be confused with "Microsoft Teams," which is an Office 365 chat solution.) Members assigned to a flow can pretty much do whatever they like within the scope of the flow. They can remove other owners or even delete the flow.
Right now, during the preview period, it's not possible to remove the original creator of a flow from ownership, Microsoft's announcement noted. In addition, the new team assignment capability will only be available to paid subscribers when it becomes commercially available. Microsoft sells Flow separately, and as part of most Office 365 commercial plans.
The Microsoft Flow service also got some new production-ready enhancements this week. One of them is the ability to manage and share the ownership of custom APIs for Microsoft Flow.
Shared ownership of custom APIs gets invoked using a new "Invite another user" command within the Flow portal. It allows people or groups to be assigned access. It's possible to either grant or prohibit edit permissions for the API.
Microsoft Flow now can connect with the Google Gmail service. It lets users specify actions to take when an e-mail arrives, for instance.
One possible use, according to Microsoft's announcement, is to use Microsoft Flow to back up all Gmail attachments to a cloud-based storage service. Also, task lists can be created for all "important" e-mails, Microsoft noted, among other scenarios.
A service has to be supported by Microsoft Flow to work with it. Microsoft keeps a list of the supported services at this page.
Flow now works with the Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) of Azure Cognitive Services. LUIS is typically tapped by developers to enable chatbots, or applications that can use natural language-like text to interact with users. The new support for LUIS in Microsoft Flow will permit "your apps communicate with people in the way they speak," Microsoft's announcement promised.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.