Power Automate: Behind the technicality

  • Posted on October 12, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Power Automate: Behind the technicality

It’s been over a year since Microsoft released their new Robotic Process Automation tool called Power Automate – formerly known as Microsoft Flow. We’ve seen all the technical blog posts and increase in forum activity but there is still so much to discover beyond the technical perspective of working with this new tool.

Here at Avanade, I’ve been given a rare opportunity to collaborate with Microsoft to improve their marketing operations productivity using Power Platform. See link here (Microsoft Customer Story-Microsoft improves marketing operations efficiency with Microsoft Power Automate). It is amazing to witness a new RPA program scale and mature so rapidly provided it is still new to the market. Having worked with Blue Prism the past 4 years, I was well equipped to conquer the initial learning curves.

For those familiar with Blue Prism – just like putting pieces together to a puzzle, we are accustomed to creating Objects (equivalent to functions of a code) which then integrate into an overall parent Process Flow. However, Power Automate works differently in that there are two methods to create an automation: Power Automate cloud flows and Power Automate Desktop (PAD).

Cloud flows are created using pre-made actions provided by the Power Automate library. When working in a Microsoft ecosystem, this route significantly simplifies the effort to create an automation by allowing the developers to hone the architecture rather than spending time creating actions. On the other hand, Power Automate Desktop will feel more familiar to the Blue Prism user as this route shares some functional similarities such as spying elements on a web page and completing backend Microsoft Operating System actions. PAD also comes with premade actions created by the Microsoft Power Platform team, though has its limitations.

From time to time, my team and I found ourselves needing to figure out alternative solutions when a specific action was not readily available. Blue Prism seems like the more robust option but considering Power Automate only launched less than 2 years ago, it is comforting to know that it can most certainly be used at scale on an enterprise level.

One epiphany I had when using Power Automate and the Microsoft ecosystem is that usually one would think less is more but in this case, integrating other Microsoft tools allowed us to significantly increase our productivity and organization not just for the developers but also for the clients. One big advantage I’ve found working in the Microsoft ecosystem is that we can create a scalable self-sustaining automation from beginning to end including metrics gathering. With the integration of Power BI and Dataverse, we were able to create an automated living KPI dashboard with a historical data archive to help us keep track of significant information.

With Azure DevOps, project managers and development leads can keep track of team progress and automation timelines while maintaining client campaign priorities. The development and support teams become more self-sufficient by visualizing their current and future sprint tasks in Power BI and flagging the project manager when a discrepancy is found. This way, the team becomes more proactive in calling out inconsistencies and gives opportunity for collaboration with the client to ensure that their goals without creating burnout for the team. Furthermore, Azure DevOps has a built-in feature called Retrospectives that allow the team to post small prompts on what went well, what didn’t go well, and lessons learned from the previous sprint. This gives the team a chance to express any concerns they have, give kudos for great work, and provide advice in a safe collaborative manner. My team and I found these moments very helpful in strengthening morale and team bonding.

Although Power Automate may seem like a tricky tool to get familiar with at first, I am always learning something new even after working with it for over a year. With the Power Automate team coming out with new features and patches throughout the year, I don’t see any slowdown in converting to this platform.

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