Microsoft Flow, a service that lets you plumb together various cloud-based services to construct workflows, and PowerApps, a tool to enable non-developers to build data-driven business apps, are both out of beta and in production today.
Flow and PowerApps join Power BI, Microsoft’s service for reporting and analyzing business data, to make a trio of cloud-driven business tools called the “Business Application Platform.” Power BI lets business types examine and understand their data, PowerApps lets them create new data, and Flow lets them take automated action in response to data. The common feature to all three is that they’re designed for non-developers: you don’t need to learn APIs and programming languages to use these services; you just have to understand the data you’re working with.
Microsoft describes Flow in business terms—for example, monitoring tweets mentioning your company and automatically responding to messages and adding people to CRM systems—but people are already looking at Flow in broader terms, using it as a competitor to IFTTT (“if this then that”). IFTTT allows similar joining together of cloud services; as an example, I use IFTTT to automatically send a tweet every time a story is published to my personal RSS feed. IFTTT is also finding use for connecting together smart home services, with people using it to turn on lights automatically when it starts to rain, for example, or connect motion-sensing switches to other gadgets.