Digitally Transform Your Enterprise with Power Automate: Our Journey to Enable Your Digital Transformation, Part 2
In part 1 of our blog, we reviewed foundational elements of Power Automate which have helped evolve the service into one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated automation platforms on the market. These elements include our growing community of users, expanding set of connectors, essential mobile capabilities, and strong governance and security. Today, we want to share how Power Automate is built to accelerate productivity for your organization. Digital transformation unlocks greater efficiencies for an organization and Power Automate is a fundamental service to help achieve this goal. Let’s look at how Power Automate enhances your productivity.
Seamless Automation Across Your Environment
A primary benefit of Power Automate is enabling automation across your entire IT ecosystem. Connectors are used to automate applications in the cloud, and our on-prem gateway (check out the monthly on-prem gateway updates) allows automation between cloud and on-prem data. In early 2018, Power Automate improved the admin experience by introducing Gateway High Availability. These high available gateway clusters ensure organizations can access on-prem data through groups of gateways. Grouping gateways eliminates the impact from any single point of failures’ access to on-prem data. With the enhancements to the on-prem gateway, Power Automate is a sophisticated yet easy to use automation service for API-based cloud and on-prem data.
With our announcement of the UI flows connector for robotic process automation (RPA), Power Automate can now also automate non-API based applications. This means your organization can now automate using a single automation service. Power Automate natively integrates with many of the most widely used enterprise applications, such as Sharepoint, Teams, and Dynamics 365. We recently shared a video demonstrating the incredible impact Power Automate can have on your organization’s productivity. As we shared in a previous post, automating the invoicing process, can lead to a 90% reduction in invoice costs. In our example, we automate (see figure 1) an organization’s entire invoicing process, from automating across API-based applications to a non-API based invoicing application. In the video, we demonstrated how Power Automate can do the following:
• Automatically open an email with an attached invoice
• Extract pertinent information from the invoice
• Send an approval request direct to Teams
• With an affirmative approval response, trigger the RPA process of updating the invoicing application
Figure 1. Automating the invoicing process with Power Automate (note the 2 min timestamp for length of process time)
The entire process is done in less than 5 minutes. Imagine how many invoices your organization has to handle daily, and the amount of time you can save, and the improved accuracy you can rely on by using Power Automate. RPA was the final piece to enabling Power Automate to offer seamless automation across the IT ecosystem. Our journey with RPA is just beginning, and we have exciting announcements about our RPA technology coming soon. Stay tuned!
Enhancing Collaboration with Integrated Automation
Microsoft Teams is one of the most widely used collaboration tools and has become an essential service for modern organizations. Since its launch, Teams has experienced remarkable user growth. This growth is indicative of Teams becoming an important and effective productivity tool for users with their daily tasks. Since 2017, Power Automate has offered the Teams connector, enabling sophisticated automation capabilities in our best in class collaboration service. In fact, many of the hundreds of templates of flows leverage the Teams connector as part of the automation process. In early 2018, we enhanced the Teams and Power Automate user experience by natively integrating Power Automate into Teams. Since Teams serves as the hub for the daily work of many users, having the ability to create, edit, and execute flows created with Power Automate, directly from the Teams app (figure 2) provides an unmatched level of convenience. This powerful integration ensures that users never need to leave Teams even when they need to create a process automation. Both Teams and Power Automate are designed to boost productivity and by offering this unique and unparalleled integration, Microsoft helps offer an unprecedented acceleration to a user’s productivity and ultimately your entire organization’s productivity. Be sure to follow the updates on the tighter integration between Teams and Power Automate. There are more exciting enhancements we’re working on which are coming soon!
Figure 2. Create your flows by using Power Automate directly from the Teams app
Infusing no-code AI to Your Automation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most exciting emerging technologies today. In June 2019, we introduced AI to the Power Platform. AI Builder offers the far-reaching capabilities of AI without the need for complex technical coding knowledge typically required for AI. AI Builder is fully integrated with Power Automate (see figure 3) and comes with four customizable AI models and five pre-built models for specific scenarios such as reading a business card. In our automated invoicing example, we use the ‘forms processing’ model which extracts and stores data fields from an invoice. To create the model, a user simply uploads some invoices so the system can learn the form and determine which fields have important values to extract. Importantly, AI Builder can work with structured and unstructured data, providing an expansive range of use cases it can help with. The ‘form processing’ in our invoicing demo is just one of the many possible ways AI Builder and Power Automate can help your organization become more productive.
Figure 3. AI Builder models and use cases in Power Automate
Automating Approvals for Business Processes
As we summarized in a previous post, approvals processes are fundamental for business operations and quick and accurate turnaround for approvals is a requirement for business success. As such, automation of approvals is almost a foundational necessity to remain competitive in today’s fast paced environment. In fact, McKinsey research found that automation of 50-75% of tasks can lead to:
- 20-35% annual run-rate cost efficiencies
- reduction in straight-through process time of 50-60%
- a return on investments often in triple-digit percentages.
Approvals have been a core function of Power Automate since early 2017 and today, we offer several templated scenarios (see figure 4) for approvals across multiple applications such as Sharepoint, Teams, Dynamics, as well as a myriad of 3rd party services. In fact, Power Automate provides eight types of approvals ranging from single person approvals to customized approvals responses. Even if your business leveraged Power Automate only for automating approvals, you would immediately enjoy the unparalleled efficiency benefits identified by Mckinsey’s research. Imagine how these greater efficiencies can help improve your business outcomes.
Figure 4. Examples of approvals process templates available with Power Automate
Offering Greater Efficiency and Functionality for Pro Developers
Many of the examples we have shared focus on enhancing productivity for end users. However, Power Automate also has integrations with Azure Functions, Azure API Management, and Azure Logic Apps. In 2017, Power Automate also introduced ‘expressions’ which could be added in-line, allowing richer functionality and the ability to create more advanced process automations (see figure 5). The expressions are built on the Workflow Definition Language which uses JSON. Check out the full list of available expressions functions in our schema guide.
Figure 5. Access and include ‘expressions’ functions in your flows
Power Automate also helps developers enhance, streamline, and expedite the application development cycle with the Azure DevOps connector (see figure 6). Using the DevOps connector, development teams can create custom or out-of-the-box automations for several use cases pertaining to the development lifecycle. Regardless of whether your team is in the planning, development, delivery, or operations stage of the development lifecycle, you can use it to automate mundane tasks such as sending a notification across the team when a new item is created, assigned, or even when a code check is complete. By automating these processes, developer teams are able to focus all their energy on creating applications which ultimately helps reduce the development time.
Figure 6. The Azure DevOps connector in Power Automate.
Enhance Your Digital Transformation with Power Automate
Hopefully you had a chance to read part 1 of this blog covering the foundational elements of Power Automate. If you get the chance, be sure to join our growing Power Automate community and participate in discussions, provide insights, and even influence product roadmap. If you’re not already, begin following the Power Automate blog to get news on the latest updates. To get started on your first flows, learn how to use Power Automate from our tutorials and our video channels hosted by Power Automate engineers who will demonstrate how to create sophisticated flows within a matter of minutes. Go to powerautomate.com, to get started with Power Automate today!
- Power Platform Mechanics Series
- A guide to building enterprise-ready flows
- Power Automate Community
- Power Automate Blog
- Learn Power Automate
- Power Automate Tutorials with Jon Levesque
- Power Automate Tutorials with Audrie Gordon
- Administering a PowerApps Enterprise Deployment Technical Whitepaper