When opening up Power Automate, you’ll be asked if you want to created an automated cloud flow, instant could flow, scheduled cloud flow, desktop flow, or business process flow. Let’s break down what each type is and when you would use it.
There are 3 types of cloud flows you can build in Power Automate (automated, instant or scheduled). If you came to Power Automate wanting to automate something you do in a cloud service (i.e. one of these 600+ connectors here ), then you’d be looking at using cloud flows. Cloud flows have the flow building interface as below:
Which type of cloud flow should you pick, then? The difference between the 3 cloud flows is the type of triggering action.
Automated cloud flow
These run automatically based on an event happening in a cloud service. E.g.
- A blog is posted
- A tweet is posted
- You get a new email
- Someone submits a response to a form
It lets you decide what your triggering action should be.
Instant Cloud Flow
This is a flow that is manually triggered. So rather than waiting for an event to occur in a cloud service (e.g. a new email arriving in Outlook), it is initiated by the user. This includes:
- Pressing a button in a Power App
- Talking to your Power Virtual Agent and it calls a flow
- Pressing a button in the Power Automate app or website
- Pressing a button in a Power BI report
Scheduled Cloud Flow
You would use this if you would like to set a time and frequency for your flow to run on it’s own. The triggering action is based on the schedule you specify. You might use this for situations such as:
- Sending a monthly report to someone
- Turning on your smart home devices at the same time everyday
- Scheduling a message to be posted in Teams
- Scheduling a tweet to be posted
These are built using the tool Power Automate Desktop. You can download it for free on Windows 10 and it is preinstalled on Windows 11. It is a tool to enable robotic process automation (RPA). Think about tasks you do on your desktop of perhaps a website. It could be a use case such as:
- Updating an Excel spreadsheet
- Entering details into / performing tasks on a legacy system (an old-school application you have on your desktop with no API to connect to other, modern systems). Could be something you use for invoice processing, sales orders, managing HR or customer information.
- Executing commands in CMD
- Getting clipboard text
- Interacting with email messages from IMAP or Exchange server
- Executing SQL statements
- Downloading a file from a website
- Using File Explorer
- Opening an application
- Running PowerShell script
Check out my post here for more about the difference between Desktop & Cloud flows, and how you can use both of them together.
Business Process Flows
Business Process Flows (BPF) are exclusive to Dataverse. With these flows, you are building out stages in a business processes for a Dataverse table.
BPF can be used standalone for users to follow a business process. However, most often BPF are used in model-driven apps, such as in the screenshot below.
You would use BPF for situations such as:
- You are building a model-driven Power App
- You want your users to follow a process on how to manage and close support cases.
- You want to guide users on how to work on an opportunity in Dynamics 365 Sales.