Tip #880: Exceptions to the Flow vs. Workflow rule

In tip 876 Jerry “I ski on water because there are no hills in Kansas” Weinstock gave us a simple rule about when to use CRM workflow and when to use Microsoft Flow.

Assume for a moment that Microsoft Flow didn’t exist. Can you do what you need to do in CRM with the built-in workflow engine? If so, do it with Workflow. Otherwise look to Microsoft Flow.

In general, I agree that it’s a good rule of thumb. I have several rules of thumb that I live by:

  • Don’t pet dogs you don’t know
  • Don’t spit into the wind
  • Don’t cut timber on a windy day

But like most rules of thumb, this one is not the end of the debate. I would add “… unless it can be done better or easier with Microsoft Flow” to the rule.

Let’s look at two examples: approvals and email notifications.


Can you do approvals with workflows? Absolutely. For example, you can have a Workflow that email somebody asking them to approve something, but you have to do a lot of configuration to enable the approval mechanism and securing the approval field so only the approver can check the box. Or you can just use the flow approval framework and even have people who don’t have Dynamics licenses approve stuff.

Email notifications

In my recent session on business process at CRMUG Focus,  I said clearly that workflow should be the primary agent for email notifications. But there are certain types of email notifications that flow is better at. Like having a notification sent from an email address not associated with a dynamics user, having notifications come from non-office sources like Gmail, real time notifications for people that don’t have server-side synchronization, or if you can use it to create a better looking notification then the standard crm email editor that resembles the design of a 1980’s generic cereal box.

Keep it simple

So the rule of thumb is good, as far as rules of thumb go. My recommendation is understand each requirement before you decide what tools to use, then decide which tool will best meet your requirements and provide the greatest benefit from a functionality, performance, and simplicity standpoint.

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