One Flow to handle them all - how to subscribe to multiple SharePoint lists with one Flow

One Flow to handle them all - how to subscribe to multiple SharePoint lists with one Flow

At some point - we think hmm how do we save a Flow as a template and deploy it with all our SharePoint site collections…

and did we just create a massive problem down the road where we have all these duplicate Flows…

and how do we manage versioning and changes to them hmm lets have a think and talk about this.

So instead of all that copying. Let’s try a different idea - what if we have One Flow that Rules them all. It handles events from All the Sites and Libraries, all within one Flow.

Depending on what our Flow actually do - this might be a better approach.


Live Tweet

This is a long overdue write up of an idea of two Flow done as a hack over twitter.  It was actually a Saturday morning live-tweet event and some joined in guessing where was John was going with all this.

Multi-Part Series: Deploy My Flow

This is a multi-part series called Deploy My Flow. I want to publish discussing the various ways to deploy Flows across SharePoint and Office 365, between dev, test and production environments. Across lists, sites, and tenants.

  • Export and Import

  • Automate - PowerShell, Flow Management and Flow Studio

  • Power Platform Solutions

  • Subscribe to multiple SharePoint Lists with One Flow

    • Part 1 - SharePoint Webhooks - you are reading this part

    • Part 2 - GetChanges - this was written in so much detail by lsspdev so I will link to his work

Part I - SharePoint Webhooks

A Flow can only listen/trigger from one list, so while in SharePoint as we provision sites - we consider having a way to provision templated Flows to handle each list. 

But let's turn the question around.  Can we have just one Flow to handle multiple lists?
Is it possible to have Flow connect directly to SharePoint's Webhooks and manage events directly with Flow?

 

Why this approach?

  • The Flow triggers listen to and raises events for each individual list or document library. So, out of the box, we can't create one Flow that listens to every list or library.

  • Cloning Flows multiple times has its own challenges:

    • 250 Flow limit (This limit is now 500, you can request a service ticket to raise this number) per account.

    • How do we manage multiple Flows, do we have one master? Does it get exported and imported over existing Flows when we upgrade? What happens with the connections?

    • Can we do these automatically?

  • There’s a lot to discuss, but for this blog post we will focus on a simple pattern

  1. Create a Handler Flow that handles list change events.

  2. Create a second Scheduler Flow that subscribes webhooks from multiple SharePoint lists onto the first Flow.

Reference

We don't start from scratch, we have the excellent materials on docs.microsoft.com from the SharePoint PnP team describing how to attach to SharePoint webhooks via code.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/apis/webhooks/overview-sharepoint-webhooks

We only need to translate this to Flow.

First Create the Scheduler Flow

First - here I’m reading all the lists from SharePoint that’s a document library. Then read the subscriptions on each document library. This end point shows me SharePoint’s webhooks.

TIP: Because I use odata=nometadata a LOT - I end up putting that header into a header_nometa JSON variable and insert it in every Send HTTP Request action.


Create Subscription and handle Resubscription

Next, we check if the webhooks contains has a clientState with the current Flow’s name (Flow names are unique guids).

If not, we create one. The check and filter for ClientState makes sure we don’t subscribe the same event handler to the same document library multiple times. It also makes this “scheduler” flow re-run safe. We can pretty much change the trigger to a recurrence trigger that runs as often as you’d like - say daily.

The Handler

We need a new Flow to handle the document updating. This is the One Flow that does all the work.

Save the Handler Flow and take the HTTP Reques URL back to our Subscriber Flow

And this is the final result - when we run the Subscriber Flow - it iterates through all my document libraries and connects them all to the handler Flow.

Now when documents are updated in these 12 document libraries, my “Handler Flow” will be triggered by SharePoint.

SharePoint webhook subscriptions are valid for 180 days. So at some point our Scheduler Flow will re-run on recurrence and re-subscribe the document libraries. (We can also handle the True condition in the Scheduler Flow to renew webhooks).

Part 2 - Get Changes

We need to go deeper into Get Changes. Your webhook fired, now you need to figure out what changed.

@ISSPDEV couldn’t wait for the next part he went ahead with this. And because he wrote in so much detail - I will basically link to his work for Part 2.

Apologies

This was a live hack in 06/2018 - I actually have three draft versions of this blog post never finished so never previously published. So moving that forward with this first post. 9 months late is still better than never.

#FlowNinja hack 78 - modifying Modified By and Modified time with Microsoft Flow

rodion-kutsaev-59544-unsplash.jpg

In this quick blog post - we talk about how we can tweak the “Modified By” user field and “Modified” datetime field in SharePoint list and document libraries using Microsoft Flow.

This technique follows the very detailed article by MVP Andrew Koltyakov on LinkedIn - he describes how to call it with C#, JSOM and REST. He also has detailed examples of every possible field and what format you’ll need to run this with.

I’m calling it with Flow. So to see the full explanation you’ll have to read Andrew’s article ;-)

Also, before you read any further - please repeat the title of the blog post loudly, really fast 3 times.

Plan

  • Requirements - why do we want this?

  • Call ValidateUpdateListItem method with Flow


Requirements - why do we want this?

  • You have updated a list item - you don’t really want the items to all say “Updated by System Account”.

  • You’ve copied a bunch of files but you don’t want it to all say “Modified (now)”.

  • You want to modify the item but you don’t want to create a new version.

  • You uploaded a file but you don’t want to have two versions when you tweak the metadata.

  • You wanted the update to tell you if the validation fails some SharePoint list item rule (this method will return a validation array object)

I need this. You also need this.

I don’t think we need to explain why you really really need this.


Flow

Here we have an item - modified a few seconds ago by me.

We want to update two values - the Modified By and the Modified (date time) fields.

Note the User is a JSON object that needs to be serialized by string() inside another JSON object.

The modified date is a date value, formatted to the “g” format. This format is usually MM/dd/yyyy HH:MM AA in EN locales. It is DIFFERENT if your environment has different locales. You can use “g” as date time string format to get the correct one for your locale.

Here is when it runs. Notice the Editor field is escaped JSON string.

Result

The modified date is now Feb 18, 2018!

And the user is someone else - my minion Gandalf.

Extra Date Time Note

Here is an example of using addDays(utcNow(), -365, ‘g’)
So this date is a year before right now, with the ‘g’ date formatting string.

https___pbs.twimg.com_media_Dzr4RL3U8AAAEa2.png

Difinity Conference 2019 Auckland - Hackathon Workshop, Flow and PowerApps

I’ll be presenting at Difinity Conference 2019 Auckland on several presentations.

Difinity is the largest Microsoft Data Platform conference in New Zealand. I’ll be presenting two talks - one on Microsoft Flow and one on PowerApps.

dfinity-conf.jpg

Pre-Conf Hackathon/Workshop: Master your inner Flow and PowerApps

This is a whole day workshop covering PowerApps and Microsoft Flow at a beginner to intermediate level, for the Difinity conference - the exercises are tuned for PowerBI integration.

http://difinity.co.nz/pre-conference-workshops-difinity-2019/#CustomConnector

Introduction to PowerApps and Power BI

This session is about two things – it is firstly a thorough introduction about PowerApps, where it came from and where is it going.

And it is also about how the sum is more than the individual parts – when we combine PowerApps and Power BI we can build some truly amazing more interactive reports & dashboards.

How to make everything with Microsoft Flow (advanced)

This is a intermediate-advance level Microsoft Flow session that looks at the very different types of Flow automations that we can do. Whether it is personal automation, enterprise workflows, or developer webservices. Flow is that flexible tool.

Chat!

Those that have met me will know I’m a very chatty person!

I’ll be hanging out at the community booths, so come find me, or tweet me and ask your Flow, PowerApps (or SharePoint) questions!

MS Ignite the Tour 2019 Sydney - MS Flow x2

I’ll be presenting at Microsoft Ignite the Tour 2019, Sydney on two Microsoft Flow presentations.

Microsoft Ignite The Tour - Community Breakout Social Image Template.png

Advancing the Flow - understand expressions in Microsoft Flow

Is a short 15 minute theatre session on expressions. In a short 15 minutes I’d like to cover why you might want to use expressions, and how it opens the entire Flow engine to your command.

Flow for Developers - insane low-code Serverless automation

This is a full hour breakout session where I wanted to talk about what we can do with Flow, at the intermediate to advanced end and the power it opens up to every platform it touches. Whether it is SharePoint Online, Dynamics CRM, PowerApps or Power BI, from Microsoft 365 to Dynamics 365 to Azure. We have 250+ connectors and it is completely bananas for developer productivity.

Chat!

Those that have met me will know I’m a very chatty person!

I’ll be hanging out at the community booths or at the SharePoint Gurus + Valo booth, so come find me, or tweet me and ask your Flow (or SharePoint) questions!

I hope team Office give Delve a second chance

Photo by  Jay Wennington  on  Unsplash

Office Delve was the first product to use the Office Graph – an attempt to surface the nodes and edges of documents and people to build some intelligence.

Office Graph became Microsoft Graph and found lots of developer love.

Delve had to choose how to continue to exist – I suspect the team looked at the usage of how people that actually used Delve and studied how they used Delve.

Disclaimer

Please note - I have no particular inside knowledge of what Team Office is working on regarding Delve. I just wanted to write this, in 2019, because a good friend asked me - hey do you use Delve, do you like it? I am also NOT implying team Office is cutting Delve - as far as I know, they are maintaining it as it currently is. In fact, if I had known what they are working on - I wouldn’t have been able to write this post.

I do know from SharePoint uservoice - that there seems to be some work happening on taxonomy and metadata. So I figure I should write this blog post now.

So how does Delve work?

So a few years ago, I suspect they settled on what they thought was the killer idea – Delve shows you “people around you” and “documents around you” 

They found that if they could show YOU the documents that PEOPLE AROUND YOU are working on – that must be documents you want to see.

Today, that’s pretty much the only scenario that Delve works really well for - if I am looking for the document that I know my colleague was working on last Friday but I don’t know where it was saved.  Delve will tell me.

There was a second feature of delve - Boards and favourites. But as the product evolved around how it is being used - the boards idea takes a dramatic backseat.

How I think Delve should have worked

it should have been the cross Office 365 #tags management system, powered by Search and Graph. Providing a one-stop definition for folksonomy and taxonomy as both a destination, but also the interface where a process librarian owns and curates their tag collection.

 

There was a secondary idea – Delve gave us “Boards” where people can add documents to a board – think Pinterest, but for documents, and people, and office objects. 

So now imagine #usergroup tag shows you emails, documents and people involved with running the monthly company usergroup.

That’s damn useful. Surface it in SPFx search webpart. Use it to show a most recently added documents list or appear in a mega menu. 

What I think what team Office should have built, is to improve and combine

 

  • Improve Delve Boards and combine

  • SP Document Metadata taxonomy tags

  • SP Folksonomy tags

  • Yammer hashtags

  • Teams hashtags

  • Exchange/Outlook hashtags and categories

  • Tags across Todo, Planner

  • Tags across Stream

 

This way – we can surface a collection of documents explicitly labelled with tags – across the entire company. 

Say, if you tag #induction and this article will automatically appear in an #induction board in Delve.  That would have been more magical. 

Or if an OHS #worksafety email was sent and tagged - it would appear in the Delve Board. 

Appoint specific users to own the boards – so they are the tag librarian making sure unsuitable links is hidden from that tag. They own the boards - so they are the curators. They can decide if objects are automatically included, how the objects are sorted, and which objects should be pinned to the top.

I think this isn’t a simple goal - this is the longer path – requiring Team Office to work on some sort of inter-office tag/hashtag/metadata system.   I don’t believe it is possible to implement this across every product and force everyone to use the same list - but I do believe it is possible to aggregate them at the Search results stage and control collections via Delve Boards.

I think it would give Delve a strong reason and a decent second chance at being a unique Office 365 go to destination.  And tie up a lot of loose ends at the same time.

It’s 2019, my hope with Delve Next

is that we will see Me, then Tags (then People) - and the tags are curated boards of content collected across all of Office 365 via every tag and hashtag system we have.