Microsoft Previews Common Data Model for Workflow Automation

With Microsoft's Common Data Model, Flow users will be able to kick off automated workflows from a greater variety of apps and services.

Microsoft, workflow automation

Microsoft Flow is getting a big shot in the arm with the preview release of the company's Common Data Model (CDM).

In April, Microsoft took the wraps off Flow, the Redmond, Wash., software giant's business-oriented answer to IFTTT and other workflow and task automation services. Instead of reposting Instagram snapshots to various social media sites or controlling a home's smart lighting, the company envisions businesses using the product (Flow requires a work or school email address) to link their various business applications and automate tasks that would typically require manual intervention, like exporting and importing data or cutting and pasting information between apps.

For example, a Flow template can be configured to automatically issue Slack notifications when new files are added to Dropbox. Currently, Flow supports 42 services, including Office 365, Twitter, Google Drive and Salesforce.

This week, Microsoft is adding a big dose of flexibility to Flow by offering customers access to its Common Data Model.

"The Microsoft Common Data Model is an out-of-box business database for storing and managing business entities. The preview is available today as a first-class business database for your flows, with more features rolled out incrementally," Stephen Siciliano, principal group program manager at Microsoft Flow, wrote in a blog post.

In addition to standard business entities, Common Data Model enables organizations to build custom ones. Users can employ the database to extend existing entities or add new ones, added Siciliano. In Flow, the integration allows organizations to capture and store data independently of the data source it is using to trigger a workflow or task.

Another Common Data Model perk is the visibility it offers organizations over their business information.

"With CDM, enterprises can improve operational efficiency with a unified view of business data," Karthik Bharathy, principal program manager at Microsoft PowerApps, wrote in a separate blog post. Fittingly, Common Data Model also integrates with PowerApps, the company's code-less business app building tool.

"Using CDM organizations can analyze unified view of data to figure out the right actions and empower their employees to maximize their results which will lend itself to a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization," continued Bharathy.

In terms of security, data is encrypted at rest. Scalability is achieved by the company's use of Azure Service Fabric and elastic SQL, added Bharathy. Other features include structured metadata, rich data types, auto numbering and cascade deletes, along with an assortment of business data types like address and currency.

In terms of helping Common Data Model provide brisk performance to Flows and PowerApps applications, Microsoft took some lessons from its own ERP and CRM solutions suite.

"The data model is designed adhering to standard database normalization patterns. In cases where we will get a significant performance benefit based on learnings from Dynamics business applications, we de-normalize the data model and avoid complicated relationships," Bharathy wrote.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...