Microsoft Dynamics CRM has had a native workflow engine almost since inception. For the most part, this has been a great automation tool. It provides a very easy-to-use way to automate simple processes in your CRM database. Also, there is a way to extend the functionality of the native workflow engine using C# and .NET so even if you can’t do something out-of-the-box, it is possible to write some code to get it done. This begs the question: if this tool is so great, then why is Microsoft pushing Flow as a replacement?
There are a couple of major shortcomings when using the native workflow engine in Dynamics CRM.
- The user interface is quite dated and slow. It lacks drag and drop functionality, and it is challenging to make changes to existing workflows if they weren’t designed correctly from the start.
- Perhaps the biggest shortcoming, though, is the fact that you can’t perform lookups and you can’t loop through a list of records. This meant that you can’t easily perform mass changes on multiple records at a time. Workflows always focused on a single record at a time.
- You also can’t operate outside of the confines of the Dynamics database itself. Your workflow cannot facilitate an integration with another system such as an ERP or accounting package.
Microsoft Flow solves these shortcomings in massive ways.
- The user interface is very easy-to-use and supports drag and drop. If you need to insert logic in the middle of your flow that was initially overlooked, it is very easy to add whatever is missing.
- You can perform lookups not only within the CRM database, but ANY other system that has a Flow connector. This includes other online systems and even on-premise SQL databases. The implications of this are staggering, because it allows for you to easily create integrated systems.
Let me outline a scenario that Flow can solve but would be incredibly difficult using only standard CRM workflows. Imagine that you have your Dynamics 365 CRM Online system and you have another system that runs a SQL back end. Now imagine that you want to validate every account that is added to CRM to determine whether it already exists in your SQL database. If the account already exists in SQL, then you want to update the new CRM record to include data from SQL. Using Microsoft Flow, this is not a difficult task to accomplish. You can trigger the Flow to start when a new CRM account is created, then query the SQL database for a match and then, if a match is found, update the CRM account record.
Here is another scenario to consider. Imagine that you want to send a reminder email to your customers 30 days before a certain event, such as a warranty expiration. This was possible using workflows, however, there were some severe limits, and the reliability was not great. This can be solved using Flow quite easily. Simply set up a recurring flow and write a simple query for warranty expirations 30 days from today and then loop through the results and send a professional HTML email directly to the customer. While you’re at it, create an opportunity so your reps know to follow up.
TopLine Results specializes in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Flow. We have an abundance of experience using tools, such as Flow, to accomplish complex tasks in a clear and reliable manner. Talk to us about how we can leverage these tools to help solve your automation challenges. We are only an email (info@TopLineResults.com) or phone call (1-800-880-1960) away.