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Microsoft Flow Connector?

asked on February 14, 2018 Show version history

I am wondering if Laserfiche has looked at creating a certified Microsoft Flow connector that could talk with an on-premise Laserfiche installation?

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replied on October 24, 2019

Hi @████████

One of the biggest problems with Flow right now is how Microsoft are managing permissions and ownership of Flows.

For instance, if an individual built a Flow that was watching a shared email inbox for flagged items that it then added as a line item to an Excel document... everything would work, until the person who owned that Flow left the organisation.

This is what makes Flow quite popular with individuals (they’re in direct control) – but it is also the reason why it isn’t used more widely within larger organisations as from what I understand you can’t have a Flow running as a service for a department without an individual account (or the IT Manager) ‘owning it’. More specifically there is no central “Flow” server. IT Managers I’ve spoken to have a love/hate relationship with Flow because of this. As far as I’m aware (and I only have limited exposure via user/client requests) Flows can’t yet be centrally managed in any type of intuitive way yet.

But if we’re talking about taking it to the next level with Laserfiche integration, the game changing would happen if it were possible to:

  • From Flow -> Laserfiche: Use a Flow to Store a Document with Metadata, Start a Business Process with Variables, or Start a Laserfiche Workflow with Variables in a Laserfiche instance.
  • From Laserfiche -> Flow: Use a Laserfiche Workflow or Laserfiche Forms Process, to start a specific Flow.

From Laserfiche -> Flow would open the floodgates on the potential possibilities... as Levi mentioned earlier, it could for example, allow a “Booking Form” submission from Laserfiche to trigger a Flow that sends an SMS using a phone number variable captured during the submission. I feel like this is a big selling point for Laserfiche because Laserfiche Workflow could act as the “central” delegated authority to starting and owning business critical Flows.

From Flow -> Laserfiche things get a little more interesting. If it is limited to an ‘all or nothing’ type of integration, it won’t be very useful at all. However, if it is possible to control which users (thinking a LFWorkflow User account) have Flow -> Laserfiche access, this could again, be hugely useful for taking any Office 365 content as part of a business process and pushing it into Laserfiche’s array of inputs.

Lastly, some other things to consider about Flow:

  1. (F2L) Organisations have a limited amount of flows before they are charged. Using Flow to check an “Email Inbox” for example can rack up a lot of flows very quickly depending on the way it is set up. Additionally, if someone were to drag and drop 1000 files into a Folder watched by Flow, again, improperly set up this could cost an organisation 1000 flows against their monthly quota. Finding ways to optimise the amount of Flows that are actually used (by instead using LF Workflow to do heavy lifting) could again, be a huge selling point for LF & Flow integration.
  2. (F2L) I imagine there would need to be some degree of access rights pass through to ensure Flow is only accessing repositories, workflows or business processes that it has permission to see/access. 
  3. (L2F) The Laserfiche to Flow integration would likely require a Laserfiche service account (consuming an O365 license) to be set up in order to get Laserfiche to talk to Flow. I can’t imagine this being a deal breaker given the potential benefits though.

I’ll update this thread if I come across any other potential use cases / or hear any specific feedback that might be relevant. Also, if anyone has a better understanding of the above feel free to correct/append.. I'm by no means the Flow expert in our organisation.

Many thanks to you and the team for considering this integration!

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replied on October 28, 2019

Just an update with a use case that came across my desk this morning..

Health & Safety Management (Hazard Registration) using Laserfiche Forms.

The specific use case presented was simplifying the 'Laserfiche Workflow' requirements by instead using Flow to add a line to a shared Hazard Register Excel Spreadsheet. While technically possible with Laserfiche Workflow, the reason why Flow was mentioned is that when we had to switch from the Forms Process Modeller to the more "complicated looking" Laserfiche Workflow, users were immediately put off and it became "too hard looking". They don't feel as empowered when they're not fully in control of the process.

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replied on October 29, 2019

We struggle with the balance between solutions that anyone can implement and work on and solutions that we have to schedule a developer to code and work on. 

I'm in the camp that we can't really drive a culture that embraces change and Business Process Automation without enableing as many users as possible to create and manage their own solutions.  Ideally, that means everyone (or at least one user in a department) really needs to be capable of solving the problem at the least complicated level. Sometimes those solutions aren't elegant, but they get people in the system working with the tools and creating. 

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replied on October 21, 2019

Thought I would see if Laserfiche has put any thought into this request?

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replied on October 22, 2019

Just chiming in to say that an official viewpoint on this would be appreciated from Laserfiche. Historically a tight Microsoft partnership has been a key selling point for Laserfiche in our markets. Externally we're being asked about Planner / Teams / Flow native integration - but internally as a heavy Office 365 organisation we too would like to see Flow integration.

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replied on October 22, 2019

Hi! Could you share more about what sorts of use cases you'd consider most important for such an integration?

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replied on October 22, 2019 Show version history

Hi Tessa,

For myself, I see using MS Flow as a sort of fast way to integrate with other services that have setup MS Flow Certified Connectors. So for example, if I wanted to use an SMS notification service. I could send that to flow who would pass it to any of the other SMS vendors they are working with. Another idea is to write some information to a google calendar, or drive. 

I would think from a business standpoint LF has a lot more to gain by partnering with Microsoft. They are doing all the leg work vetting these third party groups. One connection with MS opens up a ton of possibilities.

From a record-keeping standpoint using LF is a must for our organization. It's just a bit rough when I'm thinking of creating a workaround by emailing data out of Forms or Workflow and then using MS Flow to monitor the receiving email account and convert that data. I guess we could also write the data to a SQL server and then monitoring that to move to kick something off.  It's just extra pieces to troubleshoot. 

I would think a workflow widget would be all that is needed. 

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replied on October 22, 2019

I would think a workflow widget would be all that is needed. 

replied on October 23, 2019

Thank you very much for the additional information, Levi! I've passed it along to our integrations team to consider in our prioritization. 

Others who are interested in this feature: please feel to elaborate on any use cases you have so that we can continue to adjust priorities based on your needs. 

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replied on October 23, 2019

I would echo Levi's comments, especially the fact that Microsoft is already building and maintaining lots of different integrations that could be utilized if we just had a way, preferably a Laserfiche supported integration, to pass data back and forth.

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replied on May 16, 2019

I'm interested in this as well. I might open up some interesting possibilities. 

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replied on October 28, 2020


I was just checking in on this. I just took an App-In-A-Day training for Microsoft and a few things struck me. 

One, I feel the setup in forms is still way easier to digest and understand. There was a lot of light coding that went on and I don't see a person with no coding experience navigating that setup. 

Two, The licensing structure for LF is vastly superior.  Microsoft has additional fees for everything you want to do. I think that the a-la-cart approach stifles innovation. Because you are having to worry if you need to go get approval to set something up.  

Three, I would still really like to see if we can get a LaserFiche Connection for Microsoft. In their Flow program, they have options for monitoring data in tables that seem like a better option than setting a Workflow to be constantly running. 

So for example, we have a business office workflow set to monitor for changes every 15 minutes. It kicks off and runs a stored procedure to check for changes and then evaluates. 

It would be more ideal to have a connection with Microsoft and set a Flow that does this constantly and kicks off the LF Workflow when something happens. They control the data source, it makes sense that they have better access.

I can see some reluctance because there might be fear that people will just go whole hog on MS automation. But as I mentioned above their licensing cobweb makes that a hard and cost-prohibitive solution. Also, their app design system has serious weak points that are baked into the overall design. 


Maybe there is a better way to design our WorkFlow? 

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