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Jaime López
Jaime López

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If you use SharePoint, you need to know Power Automate

I had been working with SharePoint Online for almost 2 years when Power Automate came on the scene. At that time I was not aware of the impact it would have but I did glimpse its importance. Microsoft bet on making different services in the cloud for features that did exist in the SharePoint On-Prem versions. This was the case with Power Automate (or Microsoft Flow at the time).

Then, the importance of Power Automate became clear. It will be the service to develop and execute SharePoint Online workflows and much more. It will be the tool to run workflows independently of SharePoint Online. Power Automate has become a key part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem nowadays.

SharePoint Online and Power Automate guy

So, SharePoint Online and Power Automate go hand in hand today. And they will continue to go hand in hand in the future. They both have a natural interaction whereby they leverage each other.

In this article, you can find the benefits of knowing Power Automate. Additionally, I list the available triggers and 4 workflow types you can develop.

Benefits you can obtain

In other words, knowing Power Automate is important because it allows you to enhance and extend SharePoint Online functionality. From a business point of view, Power Automate enables the automation of business processes, the streamlining of tasks, and the improvement of employees’ efficiency.

Here you can find five reasons that will make you understand the importance of knowing Power Automate:

  • Enhanced Automation: Power Automate enables you to design and develop custom workflows. You can automate tasks such as document approvals, notifications, and data integration. And, the most relevant part, is directly within SharePoint Online.
  • Process Optimization: You can optimize business processes within SharePoint Online. You can automate tasks to reduce manual intervention so, human errors in the end. These processes can be completed faster.
  • Integration Capabilities: Microsoft services and third-party applications can be integrated thanks to Power Automate. You can leverage this capability to connect SharePoint Online with other systems and services, facilitating data exchange and synchronization across different platforms.
  • Custom Solutions: You can build custom solutions to extend the SharePoint Online capabilities.
  • Value-added Service: By incorporating Power Automate to your knowledge, you are offering additional value to your company.

SharePoint Online triggers

Triggers are the fundamental piece of Power Automate workflows. These determine the starting point, so they must be chosen correctly. In regards to SharePoint Online, items and files activities launch the workflows:

  • Items:
    • on creation,
    • on modification,
    • on deletion,
  • Files:
    • on upload or creation,
    • on modification,
    • on deletion,
    • on Syntex tagging,
    • on retention period ending.

As we can see, they are all focused on the data, i.e. the information stored in SharePoint Online lists and libraries. No trigger occurs at the time of the creation of a site, list, or library. Nor when permissions are granted or removed on any of them.

Flow types

I created 4 categories for the kind of workflows involved in the use cases. Some use cases can be defined using only 1 of the types, but you can include and mix them to provide a solution.


Notifications are the easiest workflows in terms of business complexity. The purpose is to send a message or inform a person or group of people.

We can start the workflow when something happens in SharePoint Online using the triggers above. They will allow us to collect information about the event like the item or file involved. Then, let's organize the information to create a message to send. And, finish with an email, chat, or any other kind of message to the receiver.

Another option is to run an automated workflow. We can develop it to execute on Monday mornings, or Friday afternoons, or other type of frequency. Then, run the same actions to create a message and sending in the same way as before.


Perhaps, the most common SharePoint Online use case in Microsoft 365 world. Content approval (news, pages, or files) is a business process that exists in 99.99% of companies. Human Resources and Internal Comms departments are the main requesters of this type of workflow.

The workflows always start from a news page, modern page, or document update. The workflow will gather the information to create the approval message. Then, the approval action is used to send a message to the corresponding person. The workflow will remain on hold until receiving a response. After the approval or rejection response, the workflow will end.

You can include as many approval steps as you consider necessary. Remember to combine it with notifications. The users involved in the approval process want to know the status.


This is the least common case. The goal is to make modifications to items in lists or documents in libraries without user interaction. Another goal could involve item creation or deletion, depending on the business needs. For example, update the categories column of a document based on its content. The user is not in charge of setting the corresponding metadata to the document.

The workflow will start automatically every morning at 7:00 am. It will read the content of a file in a document library and obtain its topics. Then, set up the categories column with the topics gathered. And, perform this for every file in the library.

Remember to combine it with notifications. Authors will want to know the changes made. You can also combine it with approvals. Authors or content curators will want to confirm the topics obtained.


Integration means to combine two or more things. In this case, Power Automate is able to combine SharePoint Online and one or more data sources. The goal is to get data from external data sources and set them in SharePoint Online lists or libraries. Or, to provide SharePoint Online list and library data to external data sources.

I won't explain the steps of a workflow of this type because is very similar to the previous one. However, I want to provide an example where the company stock market value is obtained to update a list. An automated workflow can make an API request to get the current stock market value. Then, create a new item or modify an existing one in a list.

Now, the value can be displayed on the intranet home page or elsewhere.

Wrapping up

Power Automate is the best complement tool for SharePoint Online. It empowers it and makes it great. Knowing its capacities and abilities is crucial for people working with SharePoint Online.

It's key to know the SharePoint Online triggers available in Power Automate. This knowledge will make it easier to define the use cases. Besides, understanding the four kinds of workflows will let us guide the users when defining the use cases.

Top comments (2)

wyattdave profile image
david wyatt

Great write up, thank you. With the tight integration I would also flip it and say, if you use Power Automate, you should know SharePoint

jaloplo profile image
Jaime López

Thanks for your comment, @wyattdave

You are right. I think knowing about SharePoint is important if you are a Power Automate developer. However, less important I might say. You have other data stores like Dataverse, or solving business processes without SharePoint in it.

Anyway, it's always something great to know more and more techs.