We all encounter scenarios and situations where we need a spare pair of hands in the physical world. However, the exponential growth of technology has meant we can now be given a spare pair of hands in a digital capacity, too. Digital assistants, such as chatbots and automation tools, have had a profound impact on the way we work. My name is Dan Bolton, Virtual IT Director at Netitude Ltd, and today, I'm going to discuss one of Microsoft's most underutilised and valued products: Microsoft Power Automate.

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Overview of Microsoft Power Automate

Microsoft Power Automate (formerly named Microsoft Flow) tool was released on November 1, 2016. It was initially introduced as a platform allowing users to connect cloud apps and services through automated workflows, hence the name Microsoft Flow.

However, three years later, in November 2019, Microsoft decided to rebrand the product to Microsoft Power Automate, and the name has stuck since. Along with the rebrand, the tool was also expanded in terms of its capabilities; Microsoft's Power Automate tool can now conduct robotic process automation (RPA) and play a more integral role in optimising business-related operations and processes.

Microsoft Power Automate comprises the Microsoft Power Platform line of products, including Microsoft Power BI and other business intelligence applications.

Microsoft Power Automate: Notable Features

Microsoft Power Automate has a range of features users can optimise to enhance productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Here are just a few notable aspects I've picked out:

AI-Powered Experiences with Copilot

Microsoft Copilot's integration across a range of Microsoft 365 products, including Microsoft Power Automate, has drastically enhanced the end-user experience. Developers can work more efficiently by leveraging Copilot's natural language descriptions to create automations that suit different use cases, thus enabling them to work smarter, not harder.

Custom Actions with Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a type of software technology that automates mundane and repetitive tasks traditionally carried out by humans. During this process, robots, commonly called 'bots,' mimic human actions such as data extraction and file management.

Microsoft Power Automate enables users to create custom actions by conjuring an RPA solution to a specific task or action. These actions can be tailored accordingly to your organisation's needs.

Hosted RPA

Hosted RPA refers to a scenario in which you can set up and scale RPAs in line with Microsoft's hosted infrastructure running in Azure (a cloud-computing platform run by Microsoft). The Hosted RPA process involves splitting the integration for individual machines and machine groups instead of manually setting up all devices.

By leveraging the hosted infrastructure that Microsoft Power Automate offers, businesses can simultaneously free up resources and reduce costs.

Work Queues

Another great tool that Microsoft Power Automate has in store is the Work Queues feature. It's a great tool that users can use to manage workloads effectively, thus ensuring timely completion of essential tasks. It works on a priority basis, ensuring the highest priority work is placed at the forefront for whichever user or bot is assigned the task or action. Work queues are scalable and versatile tools for various use cases and scenarios. Read on to learn more!

Use Cases and Scenarios

In the modern workplace, the game aims to work smarter, not harder. BusinessDIT reports that at least 31% of businesses have fully automated at least one organisational function. Therefore, we urge you to stay ahead of the curve and discover how Microsoft's Power Automate tool can help you streamline your business processes.

Expense Approval Workflow

Approving expenses can be laborious and monotonous for everyone involved. No one wants the constant back-and-forth of manually filling out expense reports; it's constantly placed on the back burner, and the entire process should be much more seamless. That's where Microsoft Power Automate is worth its weight in gold.

Instead of manually filling out and approving an outdated and extensive list of expenses, Power Automate can automate the entire process. Automation takes over from the moment you click submit on your latest business trip expense report to the moment it crosses your manager's desk, leaving you to concentrate on higher-priority tasks and actions that require your undivided attention.

Customer Onboarding

Customer onboarding is an integral part of the customer's journey. It's the process a business's clientele goes through to obtain and use the products and services they've agreed to buy. Keeping this process streamlined and smooth will mean customers can get up to speed very quickly in terms of product understanding, and it also means they're more likely to have a better experience at this all-important stage of their journey.

Microsoft Power Automate can be a real game changer here. It can be leveraged so that new customers are greeted with a welcome email when they sign up for a product or service. We all know how important a first impression can be, as they are 'by and large, long-lasting and difficult to alter long term'. Therefore, we recommend using Microsoft Power Automate effectively to educate your customers about your brand, vision, and values while giving them a seamless and insightful experience.

It can be used correctly to ensure the customer experience remains consistent at every touch point with your business. It will also provide additional opportunities to address any other potential queries or qualms they face along their journey.

Document Approval Process

The document approval process has the potential to hinder any project plan. The constant back-and-forth with multiple stakeholders who need approval for key documents (e.g., legal contracts, proposals, and project plans) can be rigorous and time-consuming. Microsoft Power Automate can automate this entire process from start to finish, driving efficiencies regarding approvals across your organisation.

The tool can be configured so that when documents are finalised and uploaded, they are automatically rerouted to the relevant approval party. Approvers can then log into the system and review, comment on, and approve/disapprove the content accordingly. This process is also flexible, so if your usual approver is out of the office, the approval request can be reassigned quickly to another person.

Common Challenges and Pain Points

Time-Consuming Workflow Development

Challenge

Like any piece of technology, Microsoft Power Automate can only work effectively if the tool is configured correctly. Workflows must be set up according to various use cases and scenarios, as previously mentioned.

Creating or modifying workflows can be time-consuming. However, this investment pays off long-term by providing users with the desired return on investment (ROI). Wasted time can be reallocated effectively, allowing bots and automated processes to handle routine tasks. Meanwhile, human employees are freed up to focus on critical thinking and complex tasks.

Solution

We recommend doing your due diligence and familiarising yourself with the functions and workflows within Power Automate. This will undoubtedly make your life easier in the business world. Taking additional care to understand the different field return values, especially multi-choice fields, would go a long way.

In terms of the ROI that can be generated from Microsoft Power Automate, you must consider the long-term vs. the short-term. In the short term, it may take some time to set up the workflows and automation processes; on the other hand, in the longer term, your organisation will be much more efficient in carrying out its day-to-day activities.

Field Type Handling

Challenge

If you are dealing with a complex automation process requiring different field types, such as time, date, or predefined text, to be inserted into your workflow, you may encounter issues, as handling multi-choice fields and formulas can be tricky in most circumstances.

Solution

To solve the most common field-type handling issues, we suggest a rigorous round of testing and practice before using it in business-critical scenarios. Put the time in to discover how Microsoft Power Automate handles each value, and then experiment with variables based on each value to explore the various potential outcomes.

Issues with Scalability

Challenge

Medium states that 'every system can have its own set of limitations that we have to deal with when we try to scale it', which is no different when we look at Microsoft Power Automate from a scalability perspective. The challenge in front of any business looking to scale successfully on automation and productivity platforms is ensuring that the configured workflows are fit for purpose as the organisation grows and the needs, size, and complexity of the business change.

Solution

Solving scalability issues starts with considering the future scale of the workflows when designing them. You should approach your workflow design process with a long-term perspective to ensure that whatever processes or automations you set up now will be fit for purpose in five or ten years.

Furthermore, you could set up or allocate reminders for certain team members to revisit these workflows and automative processes regularly to ensure they remain in line with your business's size and scale.

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Rounding Off

Overall, it's well worth your time, effort and energy to master all there is to know about Microsoft Power Automate. I hope this blog has provided an understanding of the tool's basic principles, features, and the use cases in which it can be leveraged.

If you would like to learn more about Microsoft Power Automate, need assistance with any other Microsoft 365 products, or need general tech advice, contact our friendly team of experts today!

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