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Different Type of Power Automate Workflow and Their Use Cases

  • Featured Insights
  • November 17, 2023

Microsoft continues its success in the RPA space, sustained by its consecutive recognition as a leader in the field by Gartner’s 2022 Magic Quadrant for RPA. Naturally, Microsoft’s Power Platform remains one of the most sought-after product lines in the industry for businesses.

Power Automate, previously known as Microsoft Flow, is an essential component of the Power Platform, which offers businesses a transformative, scalable, and sustainable solution for developing impactful automated workflows that reduce manual labor and save time.

In this guide, we will help you explore the different types of flows in Power Automate, how they work overall, and how to use them so that you can leverage Power Automate to its optimal potential with easy-to-follow, practical examples!

Cloud flows

Automate simple approvals to complex processes using 1000+ pre-built API connectors in the cloud

Business process flows

Automate multistep, guided user experiences using Power Apps and Power Automate

Desktop flows

Automate legacy and modern systems using a visual designer, recorders, and 375+ pre-built actions on the desktop

Cloud Flow

Automated Flows, or Cloud flows, are designed to automate tasks particularly in response to specific trigger events. These flows are executed in the cloud and rely on connections to various source systems, encompassing various services, including Microsoft 365 products (e.g., Outlook, SharePoint, Teams), third-party applications like Salesforce, ServiceNow, and many more.

  • Triggered Events: Cloud flows are event-driven and are triggered by specific events. These events can be from various sources, such as emails arriving in your inbox, new items added to SharePoint, database changes, or HTTP requests.
  • Actions and Conditions: Once triggered, cloud flows can execute multiple actions. You can also apply conditions and control logic within the flow to make it responsive to different scenarios.
  • Integration: Cloud flows offer extensive integration capabilities, allowing you to connect to various services and systems, including Office 365 apps, Azure services, and third-party applications.

Use cases

  • Automation Scenarios: Use cloud flows for automating tasks that don’t require user interaction, eventually running in the background. This includes sending notifications, data synchronization, API-related activities, and more.
  • Event-driven: Cloud flows are undeniably the best choice when responding to specific events or changes in your environment. For instance, triggering an email notification when a critical database update occurs.
  • Scheduled Automation: Cloud flows can also be scheduled to run at predefined times, making them suitable for automating recurring tasks like generating reports, backups, or data exports.

Business Process Flow

One of the best Power Automate Flows, Business Process Flows are designed to guide users through a predefined sequence of stages and steps, ensuring that specific processes are executed consistently and efficiently.
  • Structured Workflow: Business Process Flows guide users through a structured set of stages and steps, helping ensure that a defined process is followed accordingly.
  • Entities and Data: They are tightly integrated with Dynamics 365 (formerly known as Dynamics CRM), making them further suitable for managing customer relationships, sales, and other CRM-related processes.
  • Conditional Logic: Business Process Flows can include branching logic based on user choices, enabling dynamic navigation through the workflow.
Different Type of Power Automate Workflow and Their Use Cases

Use cases

  • Structured Processes: Business Process Flows are ideal for formal and structured processes, such as sales pipelines, customer onboarding, and service requests.
  • Dynamics 365 Integration: If you use Dynamics 365, business process flows are a powerful tool to guide your users through CRM-related processes with a consistent approach.
  • Data Validation: They can be used to enforce data validation, ensuring that users provide accurate information at each stage of a process.

Desktop Flow

Desktop flows automate repetitive tasks in Windows apps and websites by replicating user interactions, formerly UI Flows.
  • User Interface Automation: Desktop flows are a form of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) used to automate tasks within desktop applications and websites. They basically mimic user interactions, including mouse clicks, keyboard inputs, and data extraction.
  • Browser and Desktop Application Support: Desktop flows support both web automation within browsers and automation of actions within Windows desktop applications.
  • User Interaction: They can be configured to interact with user interfaces, extract data, automate form submissions and thereafter, perform any action a user could do.
Different Type of Power Automate Workflow and Their Use Cases

Use cases

  • Repetitive Manual Tasks: Desktop flows are invaluable for automating repetitive, manual tasks that involve interactions with desktop applications, especially when no APIs or integration options are available.
  • Legacy System Integration: Use desktop flows to integrate with legacy systems or applications that lack automation interfaces, allowing you to bridge the gap between modern and older technology.
  • Data Entry and Extraction: They excel in scenarios where data must be entered into or extracted from web forms, legacy applications, or systems without direct API.


Select Cloud Flow, Business Process Flow, or Desktop Flow according to your process’s specific automation needs and characteristics.
  • Use Cloud Flows for event-driven and API-led automation tasks.
  • Implement Business Process Flows for structured, CRM-related workflows and data validation.
  • Leverage Desktop Flows for automating user interactions with desktop applications and websites, especially when APIs are unavailable.
Aspect Cloud Flows Business Process Flows Desktop Flows
Definition Automate tasks in response to trigger events or schedules. Guide users through predefined stages and steps for structured processes. Automate repetitive tasks within desktop applications and websites.
Execution Environment It runs in the cloud. It runs in the cloud. Runs on a machine (on-premise also cloud VMs)with the Power Automate Desktop app
User Interaction Typically, there is no direct user interaction or automated background processes. User-guided with structured steps and actions. Mimics user interactions with desktop applications and web interfaces.
Trigger Events Event-based triggers from various sources, including cloud services, third-party applications, and more. N/A: Triggered by user progression through predefined stages. Scheduled runs come in handy for triggers and manual initiation.
Stages and Steps N/A: Not applicable. Structured into stages and steps. N/A: User interactions build the steps.
Conditional Logic Conditional statements and expressions are used to guide flow logic. Conditional actions can be incorporated into stages. Flow execution is kept under check by conditional logic.
Use Cases Automation of diverse tasks triggered by events or schedules, such as sending emails, data synchronization, approval workflows, and more. Structured processes with prescribed steps, beneficial for sales pipelines, customer onboarding, service requests, and project management. Automating tasks involving interactions with desktop applications, legacy systems, and web interfaces, typically without API support.
Integration Options Integrates with cloud-based and third-party services using connectors. N/A; Focused on guiding users through a process rather than integration. Integrates with the UI of desktop applications and websites, allowing interaction with legacy systems.
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