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My Impressions of Microsoft Flow: A Developer’s Perspective

by Francesco Marcolini | AxioWorks CEO, Software Architect and Developer

Recently, I had the opportunity to explore Microsoft Flow, a tool that promises to facilitate the rapid development of software applications through an intuitive drag-and-drop user interface. As a seasoned software developer, my initial impressions were mixed, and I feel compelled to share both the highlights and the limitations I encountered.

Initial Impressions

The sleek interface of Microsoft Flow is immediately appealing. It suggests a powerful platform that could revolutionise the way we develop applications by simplifying complex programming tasks. Indeed, my first task was to create a simple flow that updated a SharePoint list based on certain events. This process was impressively swift, taking mere minutes to set up. Initially, I was impressed.

Encountering Limitations

However, as I delved deeper into the tool, the sheen of the user interface began to lose its lustre. A major hurdle emerged when I needed to rearrange some steps in my sequence. Surprisingly, this basic functionality was either non-existent or so well hidden that even extensive searches on Google and through AI assistance proved fruitless. I found myself forced to delete and recreate steps, a frustrating and time-consuming process.

My frustrations were compounded when I removed a column from one of the SharePoint lists, which immediately broke the flow. From my perspective, this is a rudimentary issue that should not occur in a tool designed to abstract away the complexities of lower-level programming. The absence of a straightforward method to resolve such issues without resorting to deletion and recreation of steps was disappointing to say the least.

Beyond Simple Macros

What became increasingly clear was that Microsoft Flow does not significantly reduce the complexity of programming. Despite its user-friendly facade, the tool still requires a deep understanding of variables, control flow, error handling, and other programming fundamentals. This complexity is masked but not mitigated by the drag-and-drop interface, which I found less practical than coding directly in an integrated development environment (IDE).

Implications for “Citizen Developers”

Microsoft Flow is marketed towards “citizen developers” — non-professional developers who can build applications to solve business problems. However, in my experience, the tool still requires substantial development experience to be used realiably. I foresee significant challenges in environments where multiple such flows are created without proper oversight. The management and maintenance of these flows will become untenable.

The Future of Automated Development Tools

While tools like Microsoft Flow and its adjunct, CoPilot, aim to simplify software development, they fall short of a truly transformative experience. They do not yet eliminate the need for a thorough understanding of underlying programming concepts

To draw an analogy, giving someone a tool to build individual elements of a house does not equip them to construct a stable, safe structure. A more effective tool would be one that facilitates building the entire house based on the user requirements, rather than letting the user build its individual parts.


In conclusion, while Microsoft Flow offers some impressive features, it does not yet fulfill the promise of democratizing software development. The tool’s current form is a step in the right direction, but it is far form empowering the average user to create complex systems without a foundational understanding of programming.

We are definitley on the cusp of significant advancements in this field, but for now I’d ask a developer to keep an eye of those flows.

#MicrosoftFlow #SoftwareDevelopment #TechBlog #UserExperience #ProgrammingTools #DeveloperTools #WorkflowAutomation #TechInnovation #SoftwareEngineering #TechnologyTrends

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