How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client

In this article, we will try to understand various email options in Microsoft FLOW for approval actions in SharePoint Online or any other cloud application.

Introduction

 
Microsoft Flow is an online workflow service that automates actions across the most common apps and services. This can be used in integration with tons of applications in the market. There are readily available connectors for that.
 
Speaking about SharePoint Online, if you want to start the approval process for your document or list item, you can do it using Microsoft Flow. There is an "Approvals" action available in Flow. With this action, you can start the approval process for single or multiple users. This action manages all the responses and "wait time" automatically and proceeds to the next action once completed with the final response.
 
How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client
 
Advantages of Approval action in FLOW 
  • It sends a notification email to the approver
  • Approver can act from the email itself  (this works only from web outlook or desktop outlook version).
  • On mobile devices, the approver can act from FLOW app explicitly. 

Problem

 
So, what’s the problem with FLOW approval action?
  1. You can’t act from mobile email clients; Microsoft team is still working on it. Refer this actionable message MS doc
  2. You can’t send attachments in the email notification
  3. You can’t send HTML content in the email body. Yes, Markdown syntax is provided but that’s very limited to just make text italic, bold, etc.
How do we overcome all these problems?
 

Solution

 
What if we get rid of FLOW approval action and use our own approval system? What is an ideal approval system?
 
Inform approvers one by one or all at a time, get their action and record it in the system. Depending on the action, inform the next approver. If it’s the last approver, conclude the action with final status. That’s it, right? Well, why can’t we build our own approval system in our apps irrespective of the platform we are using?
 

Why build our own approval system? How will it benefit us?

 
Well, we are facing limitations with FLOW approval actions as mentioned above. So instead of the FLOW approval action, I can use regular send email action to inform approver and that allows me to -
  1. Send attachments in it – check this article on how to add an attachment in Outlook email from FLOW
  2. Add HTML email body content – just mark Is HTML? To Yes in your Send Email action and add your HTML code in the email body.
  3. Act from the email itself.
How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client
 
Let’s see how we can make user approve/reject from the email itself.
 
We will be asking approver to send email to a specific email ID with the predefined subject. We will be creating another FLOW which will track incoming emails on that mailbox – this flow will update the SharePoint list item metadata depending upon action taken by an approver.
 

Things needed for building your own approval system in SharePoint

 
We will be using 4 metadata fields in SharePoint list to store approval related information.
  • Status
    Save status of approval in this column. Not Started/In Progress/Rejected/Approved

  • Approver
    Save email ID of current approver

  • ApproverList
    Save the list of email IDs of approvers with ‘;’ separated

  • ApprovalStatus
    You can save timestamp and name of approver appended to each other in this multiple line text column.

  • Comments
    Here you can store rejection comments.

Things needed for taking action from mail body

 
We will provide two links in email body, one for Approver and another for Reject.
 
Each link has a mailto action to open a new mail window with the predefined subject, the approver needs to click on the link and send an email.
 
That’s how the mail to approver will look like.
 
How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client
 
Check this article to understand how to trigger a FLOW when an email comes in. We need to create another FLOW with the "When a new email arrives" trigger.
 
How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client
 
The below diagram summarizes the process of our own approval system.
 
How To Take Approval Action From Mobile Outlook Or Mobile Email Client
 

Summary

 
Until the time Microsoft comes up with mobile email client support for actionable messages or adaptive cards, you need to build your own approval system if your approver needs to see HTML body, attachment, and wants to act from the mobile email client itself 😊.
 
Thanks for reading. Hope this helps. Feel free to ask queries if any.