Microsoft Adds Team Controls, Gmail Support to Flow

Microsoft is bringing several new capabilities to its workflow automation tool, the company announced this week.

Flow was rolled out as a commercial service back in October, along with PowerApps, although there are free versions. A flow created using the Flow service is a sort of if-then workflow. It's sometimes compared with what can be produced using the free IFTTT service. Flow users get templates to initiate certain actions to take upon an event occurring. 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.

One new capability announced by Microsoft on Monday and now in 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.

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. ("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.

Custom APIs
The 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 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.

Gmail Connection
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 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 Flow to work with it. Microsoft keeps a list of the supported services at this page.

Chatbot Support
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 Flow will permit "your apps communicate with people in the way they speak," Microsoft's announcement promised.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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