Monday, 25 July 2022

Can I really use Power Automate to automate my workflows? How to get started.

Power Automate is Microsoft’s workflow automation solution and it’s surprisingly easy to get started with it. The Grant McGregor team delivers the low-down.

Workflow automation promises to make businesses more productive by automating routine tasks. Power Automate is Microsoft’s offering in this area – and it’s surprisingly easy to get started with it. The Grant McGregor team delivers the low-down.

Microsoft launched Power Automate in 2018. It replaced Microsoft Flows, the earlier iteration of Microsoft’s workflow automation solution. The rebranded solution offered additional robotic process automation options. Plus, the name change allowed Microsoft to clearly position the toolset within its wider Power Platform. This group of solutions includes Power Apps, Power Virtual Agents and Power BI.

Although it sounds futuristic, robotic process automation is no longer the futuristic tech topic it was even just a few years ago. Many organisations have implemented robotic process automation (RPA) bots to fulfil some of the repetitive tasks that make up their day-to-day business operations. The more advanced may have implemented digital workers to fulfil some of the routine tasks across their business.

With Power Automate, Microsoft seeks to put the power of workflow automation in the hands of even the smallest businesses. We’ll discuss how you might benefit shortly, but let’s look at some of the key terminology first.

Workflow

A workflow is simply a series of actions that need to be undertaken to complete a task.

Task

A task in this context is usually a relatively simple and straightforward business process that is both repeatable and repetitive.

RPA bot

An RPA bot is software that mimics human actions by performing specific tasks for which it's programmed.

Digital worker

A digital worker is software that has been designed to model and emulate (for the moment, relatively simple and repetitive) human job roles by performing end-to-end job activities. It draws on both automation and artificial intelligence.

About Microsoft Power Automate

Microsoft Power Automate enables businesses to automate routine processes and tasks. These automated workflows begin with a “trigger” – a predefined event that triggers a response (the flow).

TechTarget(1) defines workflow automation as “an approach to making the flow of tasks, documents and information across work-related activities perform independently in accordance with defined business rules. When implemented, this type of automation should be a straightforward process that is executed on a regular basis to improve everyday productivity.”

The key to success really boils down to identifying the time-consuming and repetitive tasks that occur in your organisation. Microsoft offers a few examples on its Power Automate explainer(2):

• Sending push notifications when your manager emails

• Processing forms

• Invoicing

• Data entry

• Processing data across siloed systems

• Reporting

If you can model the actions of these tasks into a digital workflow, you can benefit from the use of Power Automate.

Once you have implemented Power Automate, the idea is that anyone can create a workflow automation by simply dragging and dropping elements into a Power Automate flow. Microsoft says this means that developers and non-developers alike can easily automate time-consuming workflows.

There are huge benefits on the table. Automating routine tasks means the work is done faster and more economically. Staff are freed from the mundane, repetitive work to focus on activity that adds greater value to the business – or, as Microsoft phrases it, to focus on “where you’re going instead of what you’re doing.”

When configured correctly, automation will also lead to fewer input, duplication or data errors – helping to drive further improvements and aid compliance and information governance initiatives.

To help you set up Power Automate across your existing business systems, Microsoft offers hundreds of connectors. You can link to more than 500 data sources – including common business apps from Dropbox, Adobe and AWS.

Even better – Microsoft even offers thousands of Power Automate templates to help you automate your routine tasks. They range from saving an email attachment from Outlook into Dropbox automatically, to notifying you by email when a new file is uploaded in One Drive, or creating an Azure DevOps work item when you receive an email with “bug” in the subject line.

There are new connectors and templates being released by Microsoft all the time, so the opportunities to easily automate workflows grows continually. You can even ask Power Automate to make recommendations about what tasks you should be automating and how!

You can try it out for yourself for free. However, if you would like some advice before you do, please reach out to the Grant McGregor team.

You can also read our Power Automate product summary here

 

Further reading:

More on what the “new normal” looks like now.

Plus, some thoughts on how to make hybrid work better for your organisation, your cyber security and your people.

Sources:

1. https://www.techtarget.com/searchcontentmanagement/definition/workflow-automation

2. https://powerautomate.microsoft.com/en-gb/