Microsoft currently offers two popular LCNC automation tools: Power Automate and Logic Apps. Both require no or low-code and can help streamline repetitive digital processes. The correct one for your scenario will depend largely on the use case you have. While in principle they accomplish the exact same thing, Power Automate is excellent for individual tasks, while the more complex Logic Apps world is best suited for company-wide automation. What’s clear is that using the right one at the right time will empower your organization to accomplish much more. This article digs into the differences of both and spells out the best use case for each.
About automation in general
First of all, let’s talk about automation in general. To me, automation is a low-hanging fruit with high-value. High-value in terms of providing ROI within the digital workspace. This is something we can easily do nowadays, and there are so many things which can be automated. The concept of automation is far from novel. We’ve been using digital tools to automate things for a very long time. We can argue since the late 1940 with the big mainframes… but realistically over the last 10-20 years as automation tools have become much more prevalent. The fascinating thing is that as we’re digitalizing more of these processes indefinitely. Over the last 18 months we’ve been forced to digitalize more processes than ever! It’s more of a reality now that we can take more of these processes and actually automate them. The improvement and the enhancements in the low-code/no-code development continue to accelerate and this means, that everyone will soon or later make use of automation. And If you have an existing basic M365 license, you likely already have access to Power Automate flows for free. If you want to work with Azure data or a third-party service outside of Microsoft, you’ll need to invest in an Azure Subscription to use Azure LogicApps. Now let’s talk about the two solutions.
I think you should be using PowerAutomate when you want to create something for you. It’s really good at that. Where you want to stay on top of the things that are important for you or for your department. So some popular ones I’ve seen are where people are creating flows for themselves where they want to highlight an email from their boss, or anytime an attachment comes into my email, I want it automatically saved my One Drive for security reasons or for longevity reasons, things like that. Or when emails come in, I want them automatically posted into Teams. Or if an email comes up from my boss, automatically add that to my planner or to my to-do list so that I can know I need to deal with that kind of thing. These are great. Another example is Microsoft Forms, where when you add a form when the submit a result comes into Microsoft Forms, the data is just stored in Forms. But actually I want it in a SharePoint list so I can work with it. Great reason to be using Power Automate. SharePoint lists data, etc., all kinds of things that you could maybe stay on top of. Social media – so anytime that something is mentioned or the hashtag in Twitter, I want to be notified internally so that I can deal with it, or maybe I’m in charge of that kind of thing and I just need to know when people are talking about my organization, Power Automate could be a really quick way for you to do that for you to set it up and you don’t really need many other people to help you get involved.
Note: Licensing Update for PowerAutomate (April 2022)
Many companies I know are using PowerAutomate to run central automation for the entire organisation. This by using service-accounts. According to the latest PowerAutomate Docs update, the use of service accounts with PowerAutomate with standard licensing (meaning the included PowerAutomate functionalities part of almost every M365-subscription) is identified as Multiplexing and is not compatible.
More information can be found here
Effectively, Logic Apps are the same thing as Power Automate. Now a Logic App within Azure is called a Logic App. It’s not called a flow, it’s called a Logic App. So we can think of it as that, but the thing is that flows live within Power Automate. Basically at flow.microsoft.com, whereas Logic Apps live within Azure, and they live within portal.azure.com. So there’s a very different setup process for Logic Apps over flows within Power Automate, and the licensing is very different. So those are the big things. The editing experience is actually really similar, except that there’s no mobile app for Logic Apps and there’s no Visio. But the web-based editor is almost the same…What this all means though is that the licensing has changed. And because of the way the licensing is, it’s more for like IT pros or admins or for developers or those within Azure that kind of own the tool, which can get a little scary. Because a lot of us won’t have access to Azure within our organization.
When to use what?
PowerAutomate is great when it comes to bringing automation to your or your teams daily work life. Workflows created in PowerAutomate are always owned by a human individual and since Microsoft specified that Multiplexing is not allowed with PowerAutomate (discouraging the usage of service-accounts with PowerAutomate). So use PowerAutomate if you’re automating something for yourself or something which you are the owner and the IT-Department does not need to maintain. Whoever creates a Logic App gets automatically added as an owner, but actually, the tenant owns it (comparable with a Microsoft 365 Group). So if that person were to leave, that Azure tenant owner could always go into that Logic App, assign new owners. The infrastructure of Azure doesn’t say that this is the person that owns it, if they go and disappear. It’s the tenant that owns it. Logic Apps are great for dealing with larger things. Maybe things like anytime a new user’s added in Workday or something, you want a Logic App that’s triggered that’s going to automatically go and configure things properly for my Azure Active Directory – yeah, that’s a great thing for Logic Apps to do, and not so much a flow can do it. But reporting within Logic Apps is much more robust than in flows.
Key Differences between LogicApps and PowerAutomate
|Target Users||Office workers, business users, SharePoint administrators||Pro integrators and developers, IT pros|
|Design-Tool||In-browser and mobile app, UI only||In-browser, Visual Studio Code, and Visual Studio with code view available|
|Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)||Design and test in non-production environments, promote to production when ready||Azure DevOps: source control, testing, support, automation, and manageability in Azure Resource Manager|
|Admin Experience||Manage Power Automate environments and data loss prevention (DLP) policies, track licensing: Admin center||Manage resource groups, connections, access management, and logging: Azure portal|
|Security||Microsoft 365 security audit logs, DLP, encryption at rest for sensitive data||Security assurance of Azure: Azure security, Microsoft Defender for Cloud, audit logs|
PowerAutomate and Azure LogicApps are same but clearly different. Beside the different charging-model (PowerAutomate: Per User/App / Azure LogicApps: Consuption) one of the main differences between the two is the level of complexity they can handle. PowerAutomate can be helpful in some complex scenarios… however as soon as you need to tackle Lifecycle-Management-Challenges, you’re better on with Azure LogicApps. There are surely ways to deeply analize which Platftform suits which use-case best.
Of course there are many factors which can lead to go either for LogicApps or PowerAutomate... however, I recommend you always to start with the following question: Who will maintain the Flow once it's implemented?
- If it's an individual --> PowerAutomate.
- If it's the IT-Department --> Azure LogicApps