Microsoft Flow is a great new addition to the Office 365 suite and if you are familiar with services such as Onesaas and Zapier then you will know what its all about. If not then flow is a way to connect different applications together which normally don’t. If you receive an email in outlook you can automatically save the attachments into a SharePoint document library. If someone signs up to your newsletter on your website and you use Mailchip then you can use Flow to add new subscribers to a SharePoint list. If you receive an important email from a client, you can use flow to send you an SMS! The possibilities are endless.
If you dont think this will be useful to you then have a browse through the template flows and you will soon find something that will speed up a job or provide some useful functionality.
Lets take a look around the interface and ill show you how easy it is to create a flow which can send you an sms when you receive an email from a specific email address. This could be useful to you if you are working on a high priority project with an important client. Maybe you want to know if they email you out of your usual business hours so you can decide if you need to respond quickly or prepare some information for the following day. Maybe you want to know if the boss has sent you an email, just setup a flow!
To access Flow click on the Flow app tile from the main screen or the app launcher in the top left corner.
You will be redirected to the flow login page where you click Sign in. Since you have an Office 365 account you are already registered with Flow so click Sign in.
You wont need to enter any login details, the system will automatically log you in. On the main screen there are three main sections, My flows, templates and Services.
The My flows section will list all of the active flows you have setup in your account. There wont be any listed here yet but to get started you can create a flow from scratch or use a pre-built template.
Clicking on templates will list a whole host of useful flows. Setup the mobile application to send yourself a reminder or to block out an hour meeting in your calendar. If you are always busy and on the go then these may be extremely useful for you!
Lets get stuck in and create our first flow which will send out and SMS when we receive an email from a client. You may be working on a super important project with a client right now and you want to know if they email you out of hours. Using a fairly simple flow you can be alerted to their email, read it and decide if you need to respond.
Before we start
For you to send out an SMS you will need to create an account using a service called Twilio. If you don’t know Twilio is a telephony service provider and they specialise in sending text messages on behalf of other applications using their API. You create an account, top up the account with some credit and they will give you a mobile number to use with the service. They also give you special codes which you can enter into the flow settings. When flow wants to send an SMS it will talk to Twilio and ask it to send the message.
Once you have setup your account get started creating the flow below:
Click on My flows then select Create from blank
Give the flow a name and in the first text box type the name of the application which will trigger the flow. In our case the flow is triggered when we receive an email so type email and then select Office 365 Outlook – When a new email arrives.
Select the folder where the email will arrive, this is normally your Inbox unless you have rules which move emails to other folders in which case select the appropriate folder. Now select the email address which will trigger the flow, here enter the email address of the important client you are working with.
Now click Next step where you can trigger an action or add a condition. Conditions are used to trigger different actions, for example you could add a condition which only sends you and SMS if the email is received outside of normal business hours. In this example lets just add an action to keep things simple for now.
So we have received an email from the client and we now want to send an SMS. Type in sms and Twilio – Send Text Message (SMS) will appear in the list. Select this to start configuring the SMS settings.
Enter a name to reference your Twilio account and enter the account ID and access token, both are given to you from the Twilio portal when you login.
Next specify the mobile number to use from your Twilio account and specify your own mobile number to send the SMS alerts to. Enter the SMS text so you know what the alert is about and click Create flow to save.
Click on My flows to display the list of flows you have setup. You should see your new SMS flow and it should be active so all you have to do now is wait for an email from the client and if all is working correctly you will receive an SMS!
Once you have this working you can then improve the flow by adding a condition to only trigger the SMS outside of business hours.
Flow is a great tool in the Office 365 toolbox and you may not realise a need for it now but spend some time looking through the templates and you will be saving time and automating all those little tasks you do in no time!