Power Automate: A new opportunity to power up your Automation? – Webinar Q&A Part 2
Q&A Blog: Microsoft Power Automate: A new opportunity to power up your Automation?
Our Co-Founder Jukka Virkkunen and Microsoft’s Solution Specialist Janne Hirva recently hosted a webinar discussing the new automation opportunities enabled by Microsoft Power Automate. We received a ton of great questions during the live session and were not able to cover them all in the webinar. In this article, you can find our answers to technical audience questions. Check out also our other Q&A articles covering pricing questions, and uses cases/ business perspective.
You can also watch the webinar recording here.
Key takeaways from the webinar include:
- What is Microsoft Power Automate?
- How does Power Automate fit the ever-growing automation toolbox?
- How can your business tap into opportunities enabled by the technology?
- How can the Power Platform be utilized to improve personal productivity and boost innovation?
- Practical use cases
Power Automate Q&A Part 2
You mentioned Blue Prism connector: It’s an installation. However, using this requires knowledge in Visual Studio. Is there a plan to include Blue Prism/UiPath connectors as a default connector in Power Automate?
Janne: This is a question for Blue Prism; they are free to take their current approach further and make it even easier for their customers. Microsoft encourages all software providers to build connectors to Power Platform and Azure. Microsoft supports its partners in implementing connectors and provides content and guidance for them.
Jukka: At Digital Workforce, we partner with the market’s leading technology vendors, such as Microsoft, to have the best automation tools available to us. However, our core business is service. We specialize in delivering industrial-scale automation in a way that serves our client’s business goals and removes any operational or technical obstacles.
For example, all technology connectors between the leading RPA providers are built into our solutions. Our multi-technology platform is the most cost-effective and user-friendly way to go when implementing PA together with other RPA technologies.
Find out more here: https://digitalworkforce.com/roboshore/
You mentioned Win Automation: Is there a plan to be able to export automations form Win Automation to Power Automate? Or is there any way to launch Win Automation script from Power Automate?
Janne: Interesting question. I am not aware of plans regarding exporting or importing automations. You can find out about plans regarding Power Automate in our public roadmap page https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/roadmap/
You can already launch an automation from Power Automate UI Flows through command prompt, which is a bit clunky. We may have to appreciate that the product team hasn’t had many weeks yet to implement this, but we expect this area to be improved soon. And you can already launch Power Automation by firing a trigger from other tools.
How do you orchestrate RPA and attended automations with Power Automate?
- How to create UI Flows: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-automate/ui-flows/create-desktop
- Governance Whitepaper: https://aka.ms/powerappsadminwhitepaper
- Power Automate @ Microsoft Learn: https://docs.microsoft.com/fi-fi/learn/browse/?products=power-automate
Can you please show us a demo of this Record Task – Test Task – Monitor Task?
Jukka: See Microsoft’s video (starting from 9:06): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxJ2Zch7M2o
How does Power Automate monitor tasks? What governance is placed on audit?
Janne: There are several monitoring instruments in place (and can be deployed) depending on the purpose of monitoring activities.
There are ready-made analytics in Power Platform admin center. Flow owners are notified of failed runs, and Power Platform has admin connectors that can be utilized to take actions of your own.
Please refer to documentation:
- Governance Whitepaper: https://aka.ms/powerappsadminwhitepaper
- Compliance and data privacy: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform/admin/wp-compliance-data-privacy
Do you have examples of very heavy and professional implementations? Can Power Automate be used for large enterprise applications and integrations also – and is it reliable and can handle large files and loads?
Janne: See our customer stories here:https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/search?sq=%22Power%20Automate%22&ff=&p=0&so=story_publish_date%20desc
Jukka: All the leading automation technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. At the moment, we see PA’s greatest strength in attended automation and involving people from all levels of the organization to innovate new possibilities for automation.
I’ll keep repeating myself on this point, but it is our view that organizations shouldn’t commit to just one or a few automation technologies. The technologies are evolving fast! What now works best with one technology may be different in a month. You want to be able to adapt and quickly tap into arising opportunities.
About technology-agnostic automation here: https://digitalworkforce.com/roboshore/
When you are recording a task, does Power Automate spy the elements similar to Blue Prism?
Janne: No, Power Automate does not spy, and it is not connected to Blue Prism. Blue Prism is a separate software product.
Jukka: When using UI Automation you are creating steps, like “click something.” This “something” is defined in a code which can be edited to change the selector and choose a different “something.” But you are never creating elements on your own, and where possible, it is advised to use connectors instead of UI.
In Power Automate you first try to avoid any spying by using ready-made connectors. If no connector covers the action that needs to be completed with the spied object, you can record a script. Still, instead of attributes being presented – you can manipulate those attributes via code. This kind of automation is subject to changes supported by Softomotive’s Win Automation. Spying now is limited to legacy applications. Some of the applications are not going to be spy-able (Outlook, Teams, web browsers), as they can be either worked out with a connector or WEB IU Automation.
Where does the Azure Logic Apps stand in this, or is this Power Automate only?
Janne: Power Automate (PA) uses the same underlying technology as Azure Logic Apps. PA is part of Power Platform (PP) that is a platform for creating no/low-code solutions, and this means that PA is accessible for basically every user, not just for pro developers. PA flows can be triggered easily from Power Apps.
One thing to keep in mind is that while quite a few connectors work in both PA and Logic Apps, some important connectors related to Power Platform development, such as Common Data Service and “UI Flows” (RPA) connectors are only available for PA.
If we don’t have a connector for our ERP / application, what does it take to develop one?
Janne: If there are no ready-made connectors available, you can easily create your connector (Custom Connector) consuming the system API: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/connectors/custom-connectors/
If your ERP doesn’t offer API’s, you can use RPA.
Jukka: RPA can be used to automate actions in just about any system. There are some differences between the leading technologies in terms of their usability in different situations. This being one reason why having a solution with access to multiple tools can better address business needs.
Is Power Automate limited to work with Microsoft applications? What type of applications don’t work with Power Automate?
Janne: No, PA works with all other applications from all software providers.
The way PA can interact with other software depends on the availability of software API’s and databases and whether RPA can be used on the software’s UI.
Jukka: All the leading automation technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. But they also have very different update cycles and are evolving fast! What now works best with one technology may be different in a month. This is also why we believe it’s not in an organization’s best interest to commit to just one or a few automation technologies.
The challenge is to keep up with the information and have the required capacity of different technologies available at any given time. Solving these challenges sits at the core of our service.
What has happened to Softomotives Process Robot?
Janne: Microsoft has acquired Softomotive, and these RPA capabilities are now part of Power Automate offering. The attended and unattended RPA from Softomotive is now available in the PA products in various compelling licensing options.
What are you doing with a more complex task, which cannot be recorded? e.g., if you have a decision within the process?
Janne: You can use the low-code user experience to build WinAutomate RPA logic beyond what you can record.
You can also use PA low-code/no-code user experience to build logic, branching, include RPA, or AI with AI Builder, for example.
A Power Automate flow is an orchestration that can include RPA within the process if necessary, and even call other flows.
See the video below:
How about using Power Automate in an on-premise environment? All of us can’t use cloud for everything…
Janne: Power Automate can be used with on-prem, especially when you also have some SaaS solutions or data in the cloud you need to work with.
PA and Power Platform are SaaS and On-Premise data sources, and business systems can work with PA through connectors. There are, e.g., connectors for on-prem MS SQL and other data sources, and there is a wide range of options for building custom connectors with various Azure services.
Jukka: Delivering robots via Azure-cloud is often the quickest and most cost-effective way to implement digital workers. However, we also have several on-premise customers, and all of our services and technologies are equally available to them.
Is it only WinAutomation or also ProcessRobot?
Janne: WinAutomation is included in Power Automation (attended automation) story and licensing. ProcessRobot is a separate product and can be purchased independently.
Will Softomotives RPA software merge fully with Power Automation?
Janne: Microsoft plans on integrating the newly acquired Softomotive WinAutomate and other capabilities tighter into Power Automate. This may soon start showing in the Power Automate roadmap which is publicly available at https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/roadmap/
How does Power Automate differentiate from Automation Anywhere? This sounds very much like an automation tool that can reside on the advisor’s / business users’ resources.
Jukka: If we are talking about spying/finding elements, AA has a recording tool that can be used to record a list of steps for a robot (in the same way as in UiPath). In Power Automate, you first try to avoid any spying by using ready-made connectors. If no connector covers the action that needs to be completed, you can record a script, but instead of attributes being presented – you can manipulate those attributes via code. This kind of automation is subject to changes supported by Softomotive’s Win Automation. Spying is limited to legacy applications. Some of the applications are not going to be spy-able (Outlook, Teams, web browsers), as they can be either worked out with a connector or WEB UI Automation.
The next thing which comes to mind is scheduling. In Automation Anywhere you have an option to set a schedule for a specific time or on an event. This functionality is available on Power Automate, but apart from scheduled and on-event automations, PA also offers instant flows – this means that the user can press a button on a web page or on a mobile app to launch a flow (process). It is similar to what UiPath offers with its orchestrator.
AA has a development platform available in two versions, desktop and web. You have the possibility to start the process using a simple file that contains instructions for the bot (of course, Automation Anywhere platform needs to be installed on the resource). Not sure it is an answer to your question, but, yes, Automation Anywhere can reside on the business user’s resource. This tool is quite convenient and created for the average business user. Power Automate has only a web version that serves mainly to automate Could/API based applications; however, with the use of tools like gateways and UI Flows it is capable of connecting and executing automations on other resources.
As said before, all the leading automation technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. But they also have very different update cycles and are evolving fast! What now works best with one technology may be different in a month. This is also why we believe it’s not in an organization’s best interest to commit to just one or a few automation technologies.
How does the Power Platform interact with RPA and BPM tools?
Janne: Power Platform-tools interact using connectors. Many RPA and BPM tools offer API’s or ready-made connectors that can be used – if not, you can use RPA.
Note that Power Automate is also BPM solution by itself: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-automate/business-process-flows-overview
Jukka: All technology connectors between the leading RPA providers are built into our solutions. Our multi-technology RPA platform is the most cost-effective and user-friendly way to go when implementing Power Automate together with other RPA technologies. The platform offers visibility and control over process performance, orchestration, and process SLAs. You access all the tools to monitor process performance through an intuitive dashboard and can modify the transactional priorities of different processes using RPA Supervisor.
More here: https://digitalworkforce.com/roboshore/
When we are talking about RPA, are we talking about unattended or attended (RPA) or both?
Jukka: All the leading automation technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. At the moment, we see PA’s greatest strength in attended automation. But the technologies are evolving fast! What now works best with one technology may be different in a month. This is also why we believe it’s not in an organization’s best interest to commit to just one or a few automation technologies.
The challenge is to keep up with the information and have the required capacity of different technologies available for use at any given time. Solving these challenges sits at the core of our service.
Of those 300 connected apart from Microsoft specific apps, do Microsoft have any connectors that are industry-specific, i.e. SAP?
Janne: There are connectors available to SAP, SFDC, Adobe, Docusign, Jira, Marketo, OpenText, Pipedrive, ServiceNow, Slack, Workday, Zendesk, etc. …
You can browse a list of the connectors at https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/connectors/
Jukka: We have developed an SAP Automation Creator, which speeds up SAP automation development by a minimum of 50% (up to 90%). This tool is incorporated in our Roboshore service, a multi-technology RPA platform service, also including Power Automate. Connectors are built into the service.
Learn about SAP Automation Creator (in Finnish) in our recent webinar: https://digitalworkforce.com/fi/rpa-blogi/webinaari-kuinka-parannat-dramaattisesti-sapin-kaytettavyytta/
More about Roboshore: https://digitalworkforce.com/roboshore/
How do you manage your automations attended and unattended from a compliance perspective?
Janne: This is a broad question and subject. Without pinpointing the actual compliance-related subject here, please refer to the documentation:
Jukka: Our service complies with the ISO / IEC 20001:2011 structure and processes. We can demonstrate proven information security: the platform is used successfully by organizations with strict information security requirements, including hospitals, municipalities, and banks. We follow strict conformance with SLAs. The customer has complete visibility and control over process performance, orchestration, and process SLAs. Our clients access all the tools to monitor process performance through an intuitive dashboard and can modify the transactional priorities of different processes using RPA Supervisor.
We ensure a clean and healthy RPA production environment that is aligned with industry best practices. All processes added to our RPA Maintenance (also as part of Roboshore) service go through a quality acceptance procedure, which ensures that your solution maintainable and performs with maximum efficiency in production. Maintenance is delivered according to a tailored service level agreement (SLA) for all automated processes. If a process crashes or terminates, our team receives an alert, and we resolve the issue. We monitor all your processes 24/7 from our Run Management RPA Maintenance service.
About Roboshore: https://digitalworkforce.com/roboshore/
About Run Management: https://digitalworkforce.com/intelligent-automation-services/rpa-maintenance/
Our Whitepaper about setting up world-class RPA Maintenance: https://digitalworkforce.com/guide-setting-up-world-class-rpa-maintenance-why-you-need-it-and-how-to-set-it-up/
Can Guest users in Teams execute steps in Power Automate? Or do you need a full license?
Janne: Power Platform apps and flows can be shared with guest users.
All users are to be licensed. In a nutshell, it does not matter what UI or middleware is PA triggered. It is about does the user have a license that enables the user for such a scenario.
Answer to the question is “Yes” to both, but the required license depends on the scenario. See also the question about E3/E5 licenses.