Automation Using Microsoft Flow; Automated Emails

What is Microsoft Flow?

Microsoft Flow is a software tool that is included in many Office 365 subscriptions. It allows people who do not possess the skills of a developer to automate work processes across a variety of services and applications.

For more information visit Microsoft’s official page by clicking here.

How Can Microsoft Flow be Useful?

I first found Microsoft Flow to be useful when it came to synchronizing the Outlook calendar to my Google calendar. I tend to use Microsoft products when it comes to operating my business but I have grown very fond of my Pixel phone and my multiple Google Home devices.

A useful feature of Google Home is that the device will give you a quick overview of your day by referencing the events you have scheduled on your Google Calendar. The problem is that most of the products I use for my business synchronize with my Office 365 calendar. This means that Google Home (Assistant) does not see the events I have scheduled on my Outlook calendar.

I looked into a few options for synchronizing my Google Calendar events with my Office 365 Calendar events. I am by no means a developer. My skill-set falls within network engineering and cyber security. I needed something simple that would reliably perform that tasks I wanted. I found that Microsoft Flow worked well for me.

My Masterpiece

I share custody of my two children. This year they started attending a new school. I do not live in this school district so every other week when my children live with me they are parent pickup.

The last school they attended allowed me to create a color coded calendar that showed the teachers and faculty which weeks my children were being picked up by myself and which weeks they would be riding the bus to their mothers. Their new school however had asked me to send in a letter each week letting them know if the children would be riding the bus or be picked up by me.

While this may sound like a reasonable request in reality I am only human. I am the single father of two children, a highly involved member of the community, I run multiple small businesses and have many other obligations. Even with my “To Do” list certain things slip my mind. Writing these notes happened to be one of them.

When I received a call from the Assistant Principal asking me to do a better job at making sure the letters came in I did what any technologist would do, I asked her if I could send in an automated email. She said that an automated email would do just fine but I soon realized that configuring this would be a little harder than I realized.

My first thought was to use Outlook to perform the task. However, in order for Outlook to send an email the program must be open. This leads to an issue with reliability. I always sign out of my computer and never leave the program open.

My next thought was to use the Outlook Web App within Microsoft Office 365. I quickly learned that as of right now scheduling emails in that matter was not supported. This really surprised me.

Than, it came to me! Microsoft Flow!

Sure enough, with some quick “Googling” I found a very easy flow that would allow me to schedule automated emails. I followed the directions and was easily able to setup the workflow.

This week was the first time it ran outside of my testing. I called my children’s school to confirm that it wen through and they informed me that it worked great!

There are many things that you can automate using Microsoft Flow. This is just one example. If you are looking for a way to increase automation, I highly recommend taking a look at this new product by Microsoft.

Thanks for reading!

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