Power Automate makes all your systems automatable
Do you have multiple systems and applications that you use for your daily work, but find it hard to connect and synchronize them? Do you wish you could automate some of the repetitive and manual tasks that take up your valuable time?
Traditionally it would have required integration projects and a team of professional developers to make business systems exchange data with one another. Today, with modern low-code tools, it has become possible for the system end users to design and build automations that connect various applications and data sources together.
Business process automation is not so much about replacing the heavy back-end integrations - rather it is making workflow automation accessible to all information workers. This means the technology can be applied to ever more targeted use cases, covering a much broader field of tasks performed in the digital world.
Cloud flows turn APIs into business tools
SaaS applications have made it easier than ever to take new tools into use when the needs arise for a group of business users to get work done in the digital world. Best of breed solutions can be quickly acquired from the cloud - or the tools can be custom built with a low-code application platform like like Power Apps. But how does one ensure that all these apps don't become new data silos? How many different apps can a user be expected to interact with during the day before the increasing cognitive load overcomes the benefits from having a kit of targeted tools available?
Luckily the majority of modern cloud applications have an API available. Instead of the users logging in to all the apps and interacting with the graphical user interfaces, we can make data flow across the apps in an automated way. Furthermore, we can define rules for what actions should happen based on different triggers: "if this happens in app A and the field X is more than 10, do this in apps B and C."
Power Automate cloud flows provide a design canvas for building business logic that touches any system with a Power Platform connector. Be it the 1.000+ public connectors to SaaS apps, your own custom connectors to cloud or on-premises systems - they can all participate in the workflow which you design through a graphical user interface. You are technically calling APIs through that logic, they just look like a set of actions readily available in the flow designer.
Individual users can leverage cloud flows to automate simple everyday tasks in Microsoft 365, such as being notified in Teams when items in a SharePoint list get updated, or capturing submissions received from Forms and storing the data in a structured format. Low-code application developers can create flows with advanced logic to loop through records and manipulate paraneter values with functions - even performing raw HTTP calls to any REST API and working with JSON data.
Desktop flows reduce mouse clicks through UI automation
Not every business information system in use has a modern API that you could simply call from the Microsoft cloud. Sometimes the only route through which the required business data can be entered or retrieved is via the UI screens of an application running on the internal network. Furthermore, such legacy systems are often used in critical business processes that handle financial transactions or control industry specific devices.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the solution for reaching into systems that aren't API enabled, by replacing the mouse clicks and keyboard typing of a human user with identical actions performed by a bot. Power Automate desktop flows can be taught to follow a specific sequence of interactions that the user would perform in a specific business process. Once the steps are in place, the RPA bot can run them as many times as needed, based on input data received from the human operator or an automated source like incoming emails to a specific mailbox.
The real power of an automation platform is in its ability to combine RPA actions with API based data exchange. Digital Process Automation (DPA) via cloud flows can be used for one part of the process, while RPA handles those steps that require launching an app via the UI. This ability for Power Automate to cater to both worlds is what sets it apart from competing solutions that focus either on UI or API workflow automation.