Tip #1124: Flow Approvals May Be Exactly What You Need

Back in Tip #880, we mentioned Approvals in Flow. Specifically, we said:

…use the flow approval framework and even have people who don’t have Dynamics licenses approve stuff.

Given the implications of this for Dynamics, it is worth exploring further.

If you have not explored Approvals in Flow, it is worth a review. A unique feature of Flow, they allow a group of people to approve an action. The decision to approve can be configured to be by any one individual or by the group as a whole. The only catch is the people assigned to approve must have their email in the same domain as the account the Flow is running under, but that is about it.

When the Approval action is triggered, an email is sent to the approver(s) requesting their input. They can approve or reject and there is a text box to apply additional feedback. Depending on your email client, this can be done directly in the email. Otherwise, clicking Approve/Reject opens a web page for the approver to log into their AD account and the approval is done from the Flow site. Finally, if the approver has the Flow app installed on their phone, the approval can also be done from there.

So why is this so interesting? Let us consider this in the context of Dynamics. Let us say we need input on a Case or Opportunity by someone in our organisation who is not a Dynamics user (a group of engineers giving expert advice on a Case, for example). What are our options? In the Dynamics stack, the two obvious ones would be PowerApps or a Portal form. However, for both of these it is clear there is a license implication. The approver is interacting with Dynamics data, albeit in a non-interactive way, and they will need a team license or something similar. For an organisation with thousands of non-Dynamics staff, this can be quite expensive.

So does Flow Approvals fall under the same category? Well, it is not as cut and dried. It is quite straightforward to have a Flow Approval trigger from an action in Dynamics, such as the creation of a record (or the ticking of a box on a form). It is also quite straightforward to take the response of the approver and have the Approval step pass that through to Dynamics. However, all the Flow does is send and receive an email to and from the approver. Arguably, the approver is not interacting with Dynamics at all; the Flow is, under the account of the Flow administrator. Even if we consider this a ‘double hop’ interaction, all the approver is doing is responding to an email. Traditionally, emails coming into Dynamics have not had a license implication, no matter how they are parsed once inside.

If we look at the Flow licensing page, it says for all but the free Flow plan, Flow usage is for all company users and connectivity to Dynamics 365 is included in all plans. I know how I interpret this but you will want to check with your local Microsoft contact for an official ruling before relying on it in a production system.

2 thoughts on “Tip #1124: Flow Approvals May Be Exactly What You Need

  1. James L says:

    I would highly recommend anyone looking to implement the flow approval with D365 in their organisation talk with their local Microsoft contact!

    We are a large organisation (100K+ Employees), and recently cameup against the term “Multiplexing” as defined by the D365 Enterprise Edition Licensing Guide. (Page 3. “Any user or device that accesses Microsoft Dynamics 365 —whether directly or indirectly—must be properly licensed.”) – https://mbs.microsoft.com/Files/public/365/Dynamics365EnterpriseEditionLicensingGuide.pdf

    Also: (Page 2. Licensing Requirements for Internal Users –
    You may license access to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 by purchasing a Subscription License (SL) for every internal user who directly or indirectly accesses the service.)

    Note: “Directly or Indirectly”

    We implemented a self service form for our employees to raise queries etc to our payroll team who use D365 to log cases. The self service form was published using a 3rd party app, not linked to Microsoft in anyway.

    Because the cases are created automatically via a service account Microsoft deemed this as a user “Indirectly accessing Dynamics 365”. The suggested work around was to have the online export a file extract on a regular interval and then have a licences user import the records. This was deemed ok because there process was now not automated and the records are being created by a licences user.

    This went to the licencing heads in Singapore for discussion.

  2. Peter Schmidt says:

    There are limits to what you can approve from a licensing perspective. These are documented in the licensing guide. For example to approve an Opportunity he user must have a Sales App licence or a plan licence; a Team user licence is insufficient.

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