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SharePoint Workflows:
3 flows to automate SharePoint lists​

SharePoint is ideal for bringing your digital workplace to life.

With its features, you can manage your company's documents, communication and services conveniently and flexibly.

But think of the benefits you could still gain by automating these activities.

Find out more in our article!

SharePoint and Power Automate:
How and why to integrate them


SharePoint and Power Automate are among the main tools in Microsoft 365.

The former was developed to enable companies to build their digital work environment flexibly and intuitively.

Users can use SharePoint to:

  • create dynamic libraries with shared files and documents;
  • write and publish targeted news posts and newsletters;
  • give users quick access to corporate services and resources;
  • build sites and pages dedicated to individual departments, dislocated locations, events and special initiatives.

The second, on the other hand, aims to simplify the automation of business processes.

This means giving all people, more or less skilled in programming, the ability to quickly create automations capable of:

  • send notification messages whenever a specific event happens;
  • archive certain attachments without the user even having to open the emails;
  • manage the approval of new content created in a specific library;
  • etc.

If you are wondering what and how many opportunities there are to be had by combining these two tools, don't rely on your imagination.

Read the next chapters.

What is is the ready-to-use corporate intranet, designed to reduce costs and implementation times, thus creating a collaborative and modern digital work environment:

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  • 50+ applications, including advanced search, document management system, push notifications via Teams, personal profile, and FAQ pages
  • 100% integrated with SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365


The points of contact between SharePoint and Power Automate

The first topic to cover in order to understand how to integrate SharePoint and Power Automate concerns the touch points between the two platforms.

By "touch points," we mean the different types of elements to which a workflow can be tied.

In our case, most of the automations bind to SharePoint lists.

The reason for this is very simple and lies in the fact that SharePoint is the manager for corporate content, which is always created, published, shared and archived through its lists and document collections.

Power Automate then connects to the operations center of your digital workplace.

Its workflows tie into SharePoint lists, and it is the dynamics of those lists that constitute the events called "Triggers," which initiate the series of tasks that automate performs.

For SharePoint, there are +10 different Triggers. Below, we list some of the main ones:

  • Inserting a file or item into a list or library.
  • Editing files or items in a list or library.
  • Deleting a file or item from a list or library.

Each of these Triggers can tie into different automations, such as sending custom notifications via Outlook or Teams, or creating a dynamic report with Power BI.

The possibilities are numerous, and we recommend you explore the "Templates" section of Power Automate.

Here you can in fact view the catalogue of pre-configured flows to tie into Microsoft 365 tools, as well as third-party apps.

If you filter by SharePoint, you can discover the most commonly used, ready-to-use automations for its lists and libraries.

Examples of preconfigured flows for SharePoint

Examples of preconfigured flows for SharePoint

As we get to this point, we want to emphasize that it is possible to build workflows that see SharePoint as a stop or even final destination on their journey.

In this case, the Trigger will be external to the platform.

Let us clarify with an example.

With Power Automate, you could build a flow capable of starting with the arrival of emails from a specific sender.

If this were to happen, your flow could perform the Action of saving the attachments of these emails in the SharePoint library that you share with your team or department.

In this way, your corporate archives could be scheduled to update in real-time and notify users with access to the library of the addition of a new document.

That would be convenient, wouldn't it?

Think of the amount of time you could save if secondary manual tasks were handled by your own digital work environment.

You could decrease the chances of making mistakes in managing business materials and information, and in return gain the focus you need to tackle the more strategic tasks of your job.

But before we paint you a picture free of imperfections, let's move on to the second basic topic of understanding how the integration between SharePoint and Power Automate works.

Let's talk about its limitations - and possible solutions to get around them.

The limits of integration between SharePoint and Power Automate

Power Automate makes it possible to build workflows in low-code mode.

This means that even users with little programming knowledge can automate their own and their company's tasks without having to resort to crude or underperforming solutions.

However, there are limitations in the functionality of tools designed to be precise and, at the same time, affordable. And Power Automate is no exception.

For example, workflows have an expiration of 30 days, beginning their own countdown the moment they start.

This limitation should be considered especially for automating processes such as approvals, which are often carried out by relatively long, multi-level structured flows.

If users were to be delayed in responding to the approval request, the flow would likely fail to conclude in time. The result would be suspension of the stream itself.

Unfortunately, should you find yourself in this situation, be aware that you will be forced to manually repeat the entire procedure.

To avoid this inconvenience, we recommend a simple and intuitive solution: divide your more complex streams into shorter, concatenated units.

This way, you can focus each flow on a specific group of approving users and thus avoid having your automations waste your time instead of helping you save it.

Another limitation is related to the unidirectionality of workflows.

In other words, you can tie one element of a platform to several automation flows, but not the other way around.

In fact, each flow you configure within Power Automate can only be linked to one element of a single platform. For example, you cannot tie an automation to different lists and libraries.

The problem then remains the amount of time you would have to spend building the same flow from scratch so that you can apply the same automation to the multiple repositories you and your team work on.

But even in this case, we have a solution to offer you.

Although it is impossible to eliminate the unidirectionality of automations, you can copy or export your custom flows.

To do this, simply enter the Power Automate interface, select the flow you want with the right mouse button, and click on:

  • "Export" to download its contents as a .zip file and import it into other areas.
  • "Save as" to create a clone within Power Automate.

At that point, you only need to enter the references to the new list or library to be associated with the cloned stream and... you're done!

However, if you only need to apply the same automation to a couple of collections in SharePoint, we can point you to an alternative solution to the one just seen.

In fact, you can go to each of your lists and click on "Automate" in the upper right-hand corner. In doing so, you can manually apply one or more of your workflows to the files in the entire collection.

Now, we can begin to explore in more detail the main types of automation that combine SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365's Power Automate.

We present the 3 most popular and used by companies.

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SharePoint Workflows:
3 streams for automating SharePoint lists

Let's cut to the chase and see together which 3 flows are most used by companies to automate processes in their SharePoint Online-based work environment.

The flow for saving answers to Forms

Forms is Microsoft 365's tool for creating intelligent questionnaires.

With its Forms, you can test knowledge and analyze feedback from your communities, from corporate departments to school classrooms.

Among its features, it is worth noting the branching of questions to customize the path of each user and the analyses in the "Ideas" section, which allow you to have an alternative and original view on the collected information.

We will not go into details here.


If you have the curiosity to explore this platform better, we recommend our article Microsoft Forms: how to create smart questionnaires in 6 steps.


We want to focus on how Power Automate allows you to automatically save responses to Forms in a SharePoint list.

To do this, simply follow these steps:

1. Create the SharePoint list that will accommodate the responses of surveyed users.

You must configure the list correctly.

To do this, use its columns: enter as a title (or rather, metadata) the type of information gathered from each of your questions.

For example, you might enter the "Role" column corresponding to your form question "What is your job title?".

2. Enter Power Automate and open the "Record from responses in SharePoint" template.

Find the different preconfigured Power Automate flows in the "Templates" section on the left side of the interface.

To speed up your search, use the top bar and filter by "SharePoint."

You will see that the template we have indicated will appear among the first results.

3. Name the stream and select the Trigger "When a new response is submitted."

This Trigger, or triggering event, will be at the top of the suggested list.

Once you have chosen it, you will enter the flow preconfigured and ready to be customized.

The first thing to do is to tell it which of your questionnaires to link to.

Then enter the name of your questionnaire in both the Trigger and the first Action, called "Get response details."

4. Configure the "Create Item" Action.

Now, you need to tell the flow how to store your questionnaire responses.

Here is how to proceed:

    • Indicate the site where the target list is located. If you cannot find it among the suggested ones, click on "Enter custom value" and enter the URL.
    • Indicate the list where you want to store the responses.
    • Fill in the sections that will open.

These correspond to the columns in your list, and if you have customized them correctly, you simply match each section to the corresponding question.

For example, if the list has the column "Years in the company," Power Automate will propose it to you as the section you should match to your question "How many years have you been working in our company?"

You will see that it will be quite fast and intuitive work.

Power Automate is designed for that.

5. Click on "Save."

Once saved, your flow will begin to perform its task.

However, if the platform does not save the automation within 10 seconds or so, there may be problems.

To figure out what mistakes you may have made, use the "Flow checker" tab (you will find it next to "Save").

This will open a window in which Power Automate will tell you exactly what problems are preventing it from activating the flow.

All you will need to do is correct them and save them again.

There you have configured the workflow to save, organize and analyze on SharePoint the responses and information obtained from your questionnaires.

Remember that our example is only the starting point.

In fact, you can decide to create your automation from scratch and expand it with additional features, such as sending a thank-you email or a notification on Microsoft Teams to signal the arrival of a special response. For example, a 5-star rating for your product or training course.

The flow for archiving email attachments in Outlook

Now that you know how to set up a flow to collect responses to your Forms questionnaires in a SharePoint list, let's move on to the second favourite automation for businesses.

Let's talk about saving your email attachments without even logging into Outlook.

So here are the steps to follow:

1. Create the SharePoint list that will house your attachments.

As we saw in the example related to Forms, you must take advantage of the columns in a SharePoint list and enter key information to store incoming documents in your e-mail.

For example, you could use columns such as "Sender," "Email Body," and "Received Date."

2. Enter Power Automate and create an automated flow.

To create a flow from scratch, you have to click on "Create" on the left side of the interface.

The platform will propose several flow types, but we are interested in the one called "Automated cloud flow."

Select it and you will open the blank design canvas.

Without getting anxious about the blank sheet, first choose the Trigger: in our case, you need the "When a new email arrives" element.

3. Click on "New step" and choose the "Create item" Action.

This will open the window to tell the flow how to store the information in your SharePoint list.

Here's how to proceed:

    • Indicate the site where the target list is located. If you do not find it among the suggested ones, click on "Enter custom value" and enter the URL.
    • Indicate the list where you want to store your attachments.
    • Fill in the sections that will appear.

These correspond to the columns in the list, and if you have customized them correctly, you will simply need to match each section to the corresponding detail of your emails.

For example, for the "Sender" section, select the "From" element; for the "Mail body" section, choose "Mail body," and so on.

4. Click on "New step" and enter the Action "Apply to each."

This particular category of Actions groups one or more Actions to be applied to an entire type of item.

In our case, the Action to save all incoming attachments to Outlook will be applied. Accordingly, select the "Attachments" item to configure the "Apply to each" Action.

5. Select "Add an Action" and choose the Action "Add Attachment."

This will open the window to tell the flow what information from your attachments it should save.

Here are the steps to follow:

    • Indicate the site and then the target list.
    • In the "ID" section, select the "ID" element of the SharePoint Connector.
    • In the "File name" section, choose the "Attachment name" element.
    • In the "File content" section, enter the "Attachment content" element.

6. Click on "Save."

The game is done: your flow is ready to perform its task!

However, if the platform does not save the automation within 10 seconds or so, there may be problems.

To figure out what mistakes you might have made, use the "Flow checker" tab (you will find it next to "Save"). This will open a window in which Power Automate will tell you exactly what problems are preventing it from activating the flow.

All you will need to do is correct them and save again.

There you have created the second most popular workflow for SharePoint.

With this automation, your archives will be constantly updated without you having to open every single email and waste time moving, editing and sending notifications.

Speaking of notifications, remember that you can expand the workflow functionality to send emails or messages on Teams and alert your colleagues of the arrival of new documents.

Not bad, right?

The flow to approve a new document with Approvals

Now that we have seen how to automatically save incoming documents in your Outlook mail, it seems natural to explain how to create streams for approving each new file placed in one of your SharePoint libraries.

This is possible thanks to the involvement of Approvals.

If you are not familiar with it, Approvals is the Microsoft 365 app created to connect users who need to approve new content or who need to be notified about changes in shared repositories.

The new feature that Power Automate introduces in this context is the opportunity to automate the submission of requests with Approvals and changes to documents in case they are approved or not.

If your curiosity has been kindled, we can get started.

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Enter Power Automate and create an automatic flow.

To create a flow from scratch, click on "Create" on the left side of the interface.

After that, choose the category called "Automated cloud flow."

Yes, there is a ready-made template to customize, but we want to explain how to attack that blank design canvas.

This way, you will eradicate the fear of creating without guidelines to follow.

2. Select the Trigger "When a file is created or modified (properties only)."

Now configure the Trigger, or triggering event, of your flow to tell it which of your SharePoint libraries to connect to.

To do this, follow these steps:

    • Point to the site that contains the library you are interested in.
    • Point to the library.
    • Point to the folder with your documents for approval.

3. Select "New step" and then the Action "Start and wait for approval."

Power Automate will offer you different types of approval, from one that depends on the response of the first user contacted to one that has to wait for feedback from an entire group of people.

For our explanation, we have thought about the case where it is the manager of your team who has to make the final judgment. We then continue with the category "Only the first user to respond must approve."

Don't worry: if you indicate other contacts to the stream, these users will also be sent the approval request.

The only difference is that such requests will have a more informational purpose, to see what the group's thinking is and to alert them to the arrival of a new document in the shared repository.

4. Configurate the just inserted Action "Start and wait for approval."

Now, you need to customize the request that Approvals will send to approving users.

Here are the steps to follow:

    • Give the request a meaningful title (e.g., "Approval of a new HR document," if the target folder collects approved forms from this department).
    • Give the email address of the users to be contacted.
    • Insert the "Link to item" element in the "Item link" section.
      This will give the approving users access to the file under review.

5. Click on "New step" and add a "Condition" Action.

Conditions are one of the most distinctive features of Power Automate.

In fact, these Actions allow automation flows to take different Actions depending on whether a Condition of yours is met or not.

In our case, the Condition must create a bifurcation based on the response of the first approving user (as established in Step 3, if you recall).

If the answer is yes, the flow will carry out the Actions in the "If yes" path; otherwise, it will continue along the "If no" path.

6. Set the "Condition" Action you just entered.

Since we are constructing an approval flow, the Condition should be set with the following logical expression: "Outcome" is equal to "Approve."

7. Create the path "If yes."

Here you have to build the path your flow will take if the approving user responds positively.

As always, you can tailor automation to your needs. Below, we list only hypothetical but often used steps:

    • Add the Action "Send an email."
      • In the "To" section, indicate the e-mail address of the users you want to inform of successful approval.
      • Write the subject and body of the email. One tip: Take advantage of Power Automate's dynamic content to incorporate interactive elements into the text, such as a link to the document you just approved.

    • Add the Action "Move file."
      • Indicate the site with the source folder.
      • Enter the "Identifier" (not "ID") element in the "File to move" section.
      • Indicate the folder that contains your approved documents.

8. Create the path "If no."

Once again, here are the steps we recommend you follow:

    • Add the "Send an email" Action.
      • Enter in the "To" section the email address of the users to be informed of the failed approval.
      • Write subject and body of the text.

9. Click on "Save."

Your flow is now operational!

However, if the platform does not save the automation within about 10 seconds, there may be problems.

To figure out what errors you may have made, use the "Flow checker" tab (you will find it next to "Save"). This will open a window in which Power Automate will tell you exactly what problems are preventing it from activating the flow.

All you will need to do is correct them and save again.

We have also come to the end of the third most used workflow for SharePoint.

We hope our explanation has been clear and easy to follow.

All you have to do is open Power Automate, hold our article at the side, and start creating your workflows!

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Giuseppe Marchi


Microsoft MVP for SharePoint and Microsoft 365 since 2010.

Giuseppe is the founder of and one of the leading experts in Italy in all matters related to Microsoft 365. For years, he has been assisting companies in creating their digital workplace environment on the Microsoft cloud, focusing on people's experience.

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