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Office 365, Flow and beyond

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Blog header Office 365 Flow

Previously, I talked about the impact PowerApps has in the present and beyond. Today, we focus on Microsoft Flow.

The cloud allures us with the potential to achieve more and keep pace in the modern world. Cloud collaboration platforms are here to stay, and while many are jockeying for position, Microsoft has done well to establish Office 365 in the hearts of many organizations.

In-text Office 365 Image 2Charged with the capabilities to digitally transform organizations through the end-user, Office 365 user adoption has skyrocketed as employees yearn for the flexibility and convenience that the modern workplace provides. It comes equipped with popular services such as SharePoint, Teams, PowerApps, and Flow to allow all users to optimize their daily work lives.

Microsoft Flow

Those who experience using Flow say it helps them optimize everyday communication and organization for them to work better within the modern workplace. Setting up a personal Flow that automates a simple process can help the delivery of automated emails, point individuals to the correct content, funnel notifications into one single place making organization easier.

Workflows were also part of the on-prem world used by both developers and power-users. The flexibility of using out-of-the-box functionality for power-users or a more custom solution by developers made them a firm favorite for all, but SharePoint designer, the tool many used to create workflows, has long been deprecated and Flow could be considered the replacement for workflows.

Flow requires no technical development knowledge and aligns with Microsoft’s long-term vision of end-user driven cloud services. The graphic below shows the decline in interest for SharePoint designer and the rise of Flow over 7 years. I think we can safely assume that Flow is the future.

Flow Trend

Managing Flow

11- time MVP and Core PnP member Waldek Mastykarz wrote an interesting blog on the management of flows. He also acknowledges the potential that Microsoft Flow has for large organizations where IT budgets and resources are somewhat limited.

However, the problem he foresees is that although administrators have several tools at their disposal to manage flows in their organization, those tools cannot dig deep into the construct of those Flows. It becomes problematic when end-users are creating them because you cannot see the build quality of those solutions. Poorly created workflows have the potential to introduce vulnerabilities into your SharePoint environment.

Pay as you Flow

The other important factor is how much Flow could end up costing your organization. Microsoft MVP Jussi Roine has done an amazing job updating the licensing guide explaining the changes, and I will do my best to convey that message, too. Such is the popularity of Flow (and PowerApps), Microsoft has made changes to the licensing. The standard free subscription of Flow allowed a limited number of flows to be run per month. In February 2019, it was communicated users would need a licensing option (flow per user plan) on top of the standard free subscription of Flow to have access to custom connectors.

In-text Image Office 365 FlowMicrosoft Flow per user plan:

Equips a user to run unlimited flows (within service limits) with the full capabilities of Microsoft Flow based on their unique needs for $15/user/month.

In early July 2019, Microsoft announced there would be a second license change coming into effect as of October 2019:

Flow per business process plan:

Enables organizations to implement flows with reserved capacity that serve teams, department, or the entire organization without having to license each end-user. This plan starts at $500/month for 5 flows.

Anyone not opting for one of these licenses could find certain flows connecting to services (premium connector or custom connector) ceasing in function or paying extra for those under the Flow per business process plan.

Going back to Waldek’s blog, he explains for each Flow administrators can see who created it and what connectors the Flow uses. But again, the inconvenience lies in the depth of discovery – there is no easy way to automatically and quickly discover which ones will cost your organization.

Implications of new Flow licensing

Switching to the Flow per user plan allows users to continue using Flow in the way they are accustomed to. And for small organizations under 50 employees, it might be worth it. However, enterprises with a significantly larger employee count and a significantly larger pool of flows may find either licensing plan expensive regardless.

Organizations will need to identify which flows are in action and decide whether they need to be decommissioned or worth fitting the bill for. What we can confidently say is Flow has become a staple for many end-users to optimize the daily business processes.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on whether you feel the new licensing plan will impact your organization and end-users. Please leave a comment below.

Lee Sellen

Lee is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Rencore. He writes about a broad array of topics ranging from corporate, solution and product news to high-level SharePoint and Office 365 governance, modernization and risk topics. Lee is in charge of Rencore's research and reports unit aiming to gain new insights into how users work with SharePoint and Office 365. A passionate writer in all areas, he also covers Rencore events, webinars and other online activities.