Celebrating anniversaries with Power Automate

A very common requirement is to remind people about anniversaries. In a business this could take the form of birthdays or commencement dates. It could, however, just as easily be any sort of event that happens on a certain date.

Previously, I’ve shown how to:

Send recurring tweets using Microsoft Flow

However, in this case, instead of simply rotating through a list of posts we want to match today’s date to a date on a list and then broadcast the message that corresponds to that date entry.

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The starting point for this process is to create a reference list containing the dates and details you wish to share. I recommend that easiest place to do this is in a SharePoint list, as shown above. Of course, this list can contain as much detail and additional columns as you wish, but for this, I’ll keep it simple and just have two fields. It is important that you have at least one column (here Dateoption) that refers to the current year in which that item will be displayed.

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For simplicity, I have also configured my date column in the SharePoint list to exclude time and display in standard format as shown above. There is nothing stopping you using Date & Time if you wish, it just makes the filtering a little more complex later in this process.

You’ll then want to create a Power Automate Flow that looks like this:

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It all starts with a Recurrence action that will trigger this process once a day like so:

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If you select the Show advanced options in this action like so:

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You can set an exact time when this Recurrence action will be triggered (say 10am). However, since this example is a daily anniversary, we only need to trigger it at any time during the day.

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We now need our process to determine what the current date is and we can do this using the Current time action as shown above.

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Next, add the Convert time zone action. There are two reasons for adding this action. Firstly, the Current time action returns today’s date in UTC which may cause issues if you are not in that time zone like me. Thus, I want the current time BUT I want it as a local value (i.e. to reflect the actual time in Sydney, Australia), thus the Source and Destination time zone field settings.

The second reason for the Convert time zone action is so the time value is in the right format for a comparison test later on in the process. Thus, the Format string field should be set to yyyy-MM-dd as shown.

Now, I need to add the Get items action to actually go and look at what is in my SharePoint list.

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In this action I enter the Site Address and List name, however I also expand the advanced options to reveal the Filter Query field as shown.

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The Filter Query field will limit the items returned by this action to only those that match the filter. Thus, I want the returned items to only be those that match today’s date, which I have correctly formatted and stored in the Converted time action result. Thus, I want to compare the date field from my SharePoint list (here Dateoption) to the Converted time result. It is important to note that I have enclosed Converted time result in single quotes (‘) to convert the value to a string for comparison. It is very important that you do that, otherwise you’ll get errors when your Flow runs.

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With the values that the Get Items action returns you’ll need to perform a number of steps. For this you use the Apply to each action as shown above.

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In the case of this example, I’m simply going to post the text from the Title field in the SharePoint list that matches today’s date into a chat message as shown above. Again, this action could be anything you want, in fact, I’ll talk about how I use this with Twitter later on. For now the expectation is that if there is a match in the SharePoint list for today’s date, then the text for that entry will appear in a Teams chat message.

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We need to do one more thing before we are finished here. As this is an anniversary calendar, we want to increment the current item for today and have it reoccur on the same date next year. To do that we use the Add to time action as shown by adding 12 months to the result date we have determined as shown above.

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Before the new date can be added back to the SharePoint list it needs to be formatted correctly. This is achieved using the Compose action as shown using the following expression:

formatDateTime(body(‘Add_to_Time’),’yyyy-MM-dd’)

You’ll notice that that date format yyyy-MM-dd is the same as the one we set in Convert time zone action earlier.

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All that remains is to use the Update item action to update the item in the SharePoint list with the new date entry just composed. As shown above, the same SharePoint site and list is selected, along with the item ID and Title but the Dateoption field is set to contain our new formatted date output from the previous action.

You can now save your Flow and run a manual test.

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If I look at the chat in my Team I see the expected message that matches the item Title field in the original SharePoint list.

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Also looking at my original SharePoint list I see that the date of today’s item has been incremented twelve months as shown.

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One of the ways that I use this process with Twitter is to regularly post anniversary dates around ANZAC participation from World War One, which are taken from my site ANZACS in France.

The idea is that that the Flow checks this list of dates and then tweets out the text in the Title field if there is a match. Then it increments the PostDate field twelve months ready for next year. You’ll also see that I have added another custom column that records the original date of action just so I can filter and sort easily. Feel free to follow @ANZACSIF to be reminded of these dates.

As I initially mentioned, I believe there are plenty of applications for this type of process in a business. The most common ones I would suggest are for staff birthday and anniversary reminders. The great thing is that with Power Automate it is easy to modify this process to suit whatever need to have. It also makes it easy to edit the events and more if you need to because all you need to do is modify the SharePoint list that this process uses.

The possibilities are endless thanks to the Power Platform.

Power Automate ODATA filter failure when field named ‘Date’

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So, I was doing some testing with a new Flow in Power Automate. What I wanted it to do was, at a recurring time each day, look for today’s date in a list of SharePoint items and then display other values from any matching record in a Team’s chat. To prototype this out I created a very simple list with two columns, as shown above, Title and Date. Remember, the Title field is generally created for you by default when you create a basic SharePoint List.

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In Power Automate I used a SharePoint Get Items action as shown above to get the information I wanted. To filter down to the data I used on ODATA query like:

Date eq ‘2021-12-31’

to test. Problem was, as shown above, I was getting no results that were feeding through to the next Apply to each action that followed directly after.

There were no errors indicated in my Flow. I tried a number of different format options and so on, trying to work out what the issue was.

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The issue turned out to be the name of the field – Date – I had created in my SharePoint List! Once I created a new column called Dateoption with the same format, and entered the same data into it and removed the offending Date column, it successfully filtered data as expected and passed the result to the following Apply to each action as you can see above.

The moral of the story is that you should probably avoid naming your fields with any ‘reserved’ programming commands like ‘Date’ as I did. Make it something unique like ‘Datefield’ or whatever. Just don’t use a common term like ‘Date’ as I did or you might struggle to troubleshoot as I did here.

Hopefully, this will save you wasting the amount of time I did to solve this that you can better spend on creating your Flow!

Power Platform product release

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I am please to announce the inaugural product release from the CIAOPS Patron Power Platform Community:

Power Automate Drink Ordering System

This is a PDF document that takes your step by step through creating an automated process for bulk ordering of drinks. This solution was developed to solve the challenge or ordering many drinks at events, however it could be used for much more mundane things such as preparing complimentary drinks when guests attend a business.

This project can also be seen as a great way to start learning the Microsoft Power Platform by creating a real world process using Power Automate (Microsoft Flow). The information provided run to over 130 pages and includes screen shots and easy to follow instructions.

To celebrate the release of this inaugural product, it is being offered at a special 75% discount which you can take advantage of here:

https://directorcia.gumroad.com/l/lDekX/foundation

This special offer is available for the first 25 purchases! So if you are interested in getting your hands dirty with the Microsoft Power Platform, here’s a great opportunity to get started.

Look out for more projects coming soon from the CIAOPS Patron Power Platform Community.

Getting Message Center information into Teams

Recently, I wrote the following article:

Syncing M365 Message Center to Microsoft Planner

which took you through the process of getting Message Center information into Microsoft Planner. as good as that it is, the best place for that information should really be in Teams. The reason? With Teams people can ‘chat’ about the topics which adds far more value for an organisation in my opinion.

The good news is that it is very easy to not only sync messages with Microsoft Planner but also have them displayed in Microsoft Teams. It is all accomplished using Power Automate.

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Create a new Flow and use the When a new task is created trigger as shown above. You’ll then need to configure this trigger action to point to the same Microsoft Plan into which you have already set up to sync with the Microsoft Message Center.

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The next action should Get task details as shown above. You’ll need this to actually read the notes from each task, which contains the details of each item from the Message Center.

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In my case, I save the Description field from the task into a string variable using the Initialize variable action as shown. I then use a number of separate Compose actions to search and replace text inside that variable to tidy up and format the Description field for posting into a Teams chat.

For example I remove the /r/n characters and replace them with the HTML line feed tag </br> using the following expression:

replace(variables(‘description’),decodeUriComponent(‘%0D%0A’),'</br>’)

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Once I have the Description field formatted the way I want it then I use the Post a message (V3) action as seen above. The Title of the new task from Planner is the subject of the thread and the body is my now nicely formatted Description field, which is the data from the Message Center item.

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You can see the result in a channel in Microsoft Teams above. Now others can easily add their reactions, comments and generally collaborate far easier than within Microsoft Planner.

I think having the Message center information delivered to Microsoft Teams make a lot of sense since it is a place more people will be spending more of their time generally. However, getting the Message Center information into Microsoft Teams still requires the sync configuration to a Plan first. However, once that is done, Power Automate allows you to achieve just about anything!

Using Defender for Endpoint API and Power Automate

I recently detailed:

Using Defender for Endpoint API and PowerShell

to produce this type of output

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which is all well and good but does lack some flexibility when it comes to output as well as being something you need to manually initiate. There is way to deliver more using Power Automate.

To do this you’ll still need to complete the initial steps from the previous article and create an Azure AD app in the destination tenant and save the access information. This basically allows access to the destination tenant to extract data. However, now, rather than embedding that sensitive information inside a public script and having the credentials ‘in the open’, they can be securely stored in Azure Key Vault. This will provide a secure repository for the Azure AD app credentials while still allowing them to be readily accessible by service like Power Automate. To use Azure Key Vault you will need a paid Azure subscription.

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In a nutshell, we want to create a basic Flow in Power Automate like that shown above. In this case it is initiated manually but it could just as easily be triggered on a schedule using the Recurrence action in Flow. Next, the required parameters are grabbed from the Azure Key Vault.

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When you are building this Flow, if you see a dialog like shown above, it means you don’t have a Power Automate license that includes the ability to use Premium connectors like Azure Key Vault and HTTP. Licensing the Power Platform is beyond the scope of this article but, if you see that dialog you’ll probably need to purchase a stand alone license of Power Automate to gain access to the required premium connectors.

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You construct the HTTP action as shown above, using the parameters from the Azure Key Vault to access the Azure AD app via the API URL:

https://api.securitycenter.microsoft.com/api/machines/SoftwareVulnerabilitiesByMachine

that will return a list of vulnerabilities exactly like the PowerShell script did in JSON format.

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After parsing the JSON output from the HTTP action that executes the API request, the results are mapped to a simple SharePoint list as shown.

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Thanks to the magic of SharePoint, you get results that look like the above, which is vulnerabilities by machine, or

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vulnerabilities by severity above, thanks to the ability to easily sort lists in SharePoint.

You’ll also notice that conditional column formatting has been applied to to highlight the severity. Yet another benefit SharePoint lists provide.

So the basis of all of this is an Azure AD app with the appropriate permissions inside a tenant that you wish to obtain information from. From there you can use an API request using PowerShell or Power Automate or whatever, to pull the desired information. The easily way to format that information is to send the results to SharePoint, as done here, to slice and dice as well as display the information any way you want.

This output could as easily have been sent to Power BI, Power Apps, an email, or any other service in Microsoft 365. That’s the benefit of using the Power Platform and things like Flow to get the information. Now the possibilities are endless.

A few important point to note about this:

1. You are in control of the permissions and credentials for obtaining the information using the API. You are not surrendering or trusting these to a third party to access the source data.

2. Credentials are save in Azure Key vault which ensure they are secure and access is controlled by you.

3. You can use this technique with just about any API to import information. All you need is the API URL and the appropriate permissions inside the Azure AD app.

4. You can extract information from multiple tenants into a single source tenant if you wish, you are not limited to just pulling information from the tenant where the Flow was created.

5. The extracted data can be mapped to any Microsoft 365 service. Here it was to SharePoint as that is the easiest, but it could just as well be sent to any Microsoft 365 service. This provides a huge amount of flexibility.

6. You can modify, enhance, extend, etc the Flow at any stage to suit any changing needs.

7. The Flow and the process it executes lives inside you Microsoft 365 tenant and is subject to all the compliance and security options that Microsoft provides here.

8. You can trigger the data extraction to happen on a scheduled basis of your choice with Flow easily.

I see lots and lots of benefits of using this process to regularly pull information from any tenant on just about anything and report it in what ever way you wish. It puts you in control of the whole process, and most importantly, the security of executing this, which in a world moving to zero trust, is a huge benefit.

Hopefully, this will inside you to start playing around with the possibilities when it comes to API and Power Automate.

Need to Know podcast–Episode 253

FAQ podcasts are shorter and more focused on a particular topic. In this episode I speak about some automation options that are available in the Microsoft Cloud.

This episode was recorded using Microsoft Teams and produced with Camtasia 2020

Take a listen and let us know what you think – feedback@needtoknow.cloud

You can listen directly to this episode at:

https://ciaops.podbean.com/e/episode-253-automation-optiona/

Subscribe via iTunes at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/ciaops-need-to-know-podcasts/id406891445?mt=2

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ciaops/need-to-know-podcast?refid=stpr

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.

Resources

FAQ 16

CIAOPS Patron Community

@directorcia