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OOF on steroids using Microsoft Flow

Hey Flow lovers You know the drill, when going away for a couple of weeks for attending the Ignite or Inspire conference or just hanging out with your colleagues. You make your preparation, book a rental, find an hotel close to the fun, draw up some plans and finally, you get going. The second you get into you cab heading for the airport your mobile device chimes. New email.

Someone wants your attention. A customer or a colleague. Or it may be a spam message that has sneaked through ATP, EOP, your custom rules, your own blacklists and finally ended up in your focused inbox. Paying for your attention while you already started to feel the taste of your ballerina cookies and the first Gin Tonic on the airport.

Well, shame on you. You are off and shouldn’t think of email and other types of communication while going away, but sometimes just reading the subject line is enough for realizing that life will be so much easier if you spend some minutes replying to that particular vacation destroyer. Sometimes one well spent minute, on the poolside, save you days of problems a week later.

Another problem when away is the time zone differences. When in the states I can get email during the night and at the time for waking up I already had the second email say, what the hell are you doing? “I am really sorry mister very important, but I was sleeping. Tomorrow I will send you flowers, chocolate, some pizzas and a whole bunch of emails – while YOU are sleeping”

What you need is a robot taking care of the business and do the sorting on incoming email and alert you on the important ones. The perfect tool for crafting up an email robot is Microsoft Flow. You already have access to Flow if you are on Office 365 and as long as your IT-department isn’t composed of rude persons.

Ok, let’s see how I created my robot.

 

Following is a breakdown of all the steps in this Flow.

The first step is to trigger on incoming email. This step will fire up the flow.

 

Next step is to get the current time and convert to correct timezone (where you are located for the moment)

Then we check the importance flag on the email. If the email is something else that “important” this will be true.

When the condition is true, the “If yes” will be executed whick, in this case, means that my robot will reply to the email with the below text saying that I am away. It instructs the recipient about the local time at my location and that they need to resend the email, using the high importance flag if they want my attention. I also tell them that they can send directly to my better half, mister know it all, Christoffer, if they want to.

Then if my customer or colleague resends the email the above condition will be false which leads the Flow to the belov boxes. First of all, the Flow send a mobile notofication to my mobile device giving me the From and en subject of the email. I also get the local time of receiving the email. Just for convenience.

In the next step, the Flow start a new trigger that looks for a reply to the original email. I am sorting on the subject field and I look in the sent items folder. This means that the Flow will halt here until i reply to the highly important email. But wait a minute, will it wait for ever? No, let’s move on.

When using the email has arrived trigger trigger inside a Flow I usually set the timeout value to something meaningful. In this case I will have six hours to reply to the email before my robot need to take additional acion on this email based conversation.

To handle the timeout I use the settings for “run after”. The default setting is to run next step after the preceeding step is successfully finished, but in this case I want to trig the steps if it times out. Timing out here means that I haven’t replyed to the high important email.

 

As I need to have several steps to execute when the new mail trigger has timed out I need to group them into a scope. That means that the “Run after” setting will be applied to all steps inside the scope.

Two actions will execute. First the robot send me a mobile notification saying that I am a useless worker not beeing able to keep up on important email. The second action will forward the email to Christoffer so that someone that is not useless can take action.

When you get back from your trip you can easily disable to Flow by using the Flow mobile app and you are back to normal.

See you in Orlando for the Microsoft Ignite conference! Make sure to follow our roadtrip to Ignite by using the #IgniteRoadTrip on Twitter.

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