Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Because I don't really code, I sometimes rely on the user community or other third-parties that have already blazed a partial trail to my intended destination. This particular trail involved sending a notification to my Echo device to let me know that I have a new pending approval from Microsoft Flow / Power Automate.
After watching videos from April Dunnam and Vivek Bavishi, I wanted to integrate Alexa with Flow approvals, but the challenge (for me) was that all of the documentation I found connecting Flow and Echo devices began with an Alexa trigger. Approvals will typically have their own trigger, and I wanted the notification to be modular enough to drop into any Flow at any point.
This is where I leaned into the experts around me and found where someone has already 'done the thing' and put it out for the world to enjoy. The folks at Thomptronics have several voice apps, including "Notify Me", which allows you to send a notification to your Echo device using their API.
The Notify Me setup is fairly simple. To begin, just ask your Echo device to "...enable Notify Me" and follow the instructions. Alexa will tell you to set the permissions on your Alexa app, and then you can tell your device to "Open Notify Me", which will trigger an email with your super-secret, and very long, access code.
On the Power Automate / Flow side, it's just a matter of inserting the HTTP POST step wherever you'd like it. Since I wanted it to notify me of a new approval, my intent was to put it immediately after the approval creation. If you've seen the video, you know that I'm new to Approvals and you can also probably guess that I ran into some bumps.
The first was that the default approval step I use, "Start and Wait for an approval", will wait for a response before moving to the next step. So if I continued to use this step, my notification wouldn't arrive on the Echo device until after I've responded.
Less than ideal.
Instead, I found that if I switched to "Create an approval", followed by my HTTP Notification, and then by "Wait for an approval", I am able to insert the step and not interrupt or delay the notification.
In the HTTP step, you'll use the URI given in the Notify Me documentation, nothing in the headers, and then in the Queries bit:
notification and then whatever you want the Alexa device to say. Yes, you can get "colorful" here, if you want.
accessCode is where you paste your super-secret, and very long, access code.
If all goes well, there should be a yellow ring waiting for you on your next pending approval (or wherever you choose to use this). Get in and break something.