Office Hours: Microsoft Power Automate

Microsoft Power Automate (formerly and occasionally still Microsoft Flow) allows you to easily bring API and UI-based automation together in a single platform that spans modern and legacy services and apps, whether on-premises or in the cloud.

Power Automate can also be used to connect your Microsoft Office 365 apps, such SharePoint, Teams, and OneDrive, to other important enterprise systems like your ERP or CRM to create automated and digital workflows that replace functionality traditionally found in Enterprise Content Management or Business Process Management systems.

Transcript

John:
I think we’re going to get started. So normally, I have no problem with these presentations running over but personally, I have something right after this. So, I want to maximize our time together. So, today’s office hour’s presentation is on Microsoft Power Automate. Power Automate is also known as Flow. Flow appears to be the old name and Microsoft is going through a rebranding effort. However, Flow is used pretty heavily in a lot of places, especially you’ll see it on the side of Microsoft Teams.

So, we’re going to walk through building a couple of simple flows. Of course, these office hours presentations are meant to be very interactive. So, if you want to see something or you want me to expand on something that you see that you want to know more about, please feel free to chime in. Easiest way is to use the questions pane instead of GoToWebinar. Additionally, I hope to finish the core of my presentation in about 30 minutes so that if there is something that you want to try and build or we can explore together, then we can do that.

So, what is Power Automate? Well, first thing we can do is, and I am sharing my screen. Okay. I might go to window so I can see questions if they come in. Looks like we’ve got one. Yes, is this recorded, can this be shared later? It is recording. All of our webinars are shared, you should receive an email after the presentation is over. These are also always on our YouTube and available on our website rpic.com. So yes, great question.

Alrighty. So, the place to start is to go to flow.microsoft.com. So, like I said, they are going through a rebranding apparently. I actually think Flow is a better name than Power Automate but it does bring them in line with some of their other tools, Power BI and Power apps. Anyway. So, what is Power Automate?

Power Automate is, I would describe it best as workflow. So, I’m trying to get the questions pane to work properly. I would call it digital workflow, it’s also a process automation. I wouldn’t necessarily call it RPA or robotic process automation. It is that but if you compare it to other tools that call themselves explicitly RPA like UIPath or Kofax RPA which we work with quite a bit, it isn’t exactly the same.

And they seem to fit in a little bit different niches. The primary difference is going to be that most of the core RPA products approach automation from the standpoint of user activity automation. And it approaches it from the standpoint of desktop automation. If it’s not necessarily using desktop APIs, maybe it’s just using all web APIs, maybe it’s doing web service calls, whatever. Most RPA tools are built from that perspective, at least most the ones that we’ve worked with.

Well, on the other hand, I would describe it as being more of a workflow tool and really, more of an integration tool. And so, they can do a lot of the same things and like we always tell people as part of a digital transformation effort, there isn’t necessarily any one tool that’s going to solve all of our problems. A combination of process automation tools sometimes is the recommendation to solve different types of problems.

The main reasons that I really like Power Automate are that number one, in its current iteration, it is all SaaS. So, if you have Office 365, anything but I think the most basic level, you should have access to what I’m showing you today and you can build that and I believe it’s free or at least you get a certain amount of processing included with your subscription. There are some premium things that cost extra which I’ll show a little bit. But for the most part, if you are an Office 365 subscriber, especially as part of any enterprise or a small business, you should have access to this.

So, there is no incremental costs to getting started. It’s just your time. Whereas even the cheapest RPA tools, you’re probably going to be buying a license. Maybe there is a trial, but this is free to use until Microsoft finds a new model to start charging for.

So, that’s awesome. I also like it because it is…so, it’s all SaaS, it’s all Cloud. It’s gooey, the user interface is really good. There are some things I don’t like about it, but we’ll talk about that a little more. But more than anything, it has a huge library of prebuilt integrations, especially with Microsoft’s own products but it really doesn’t stop there.

So, you’ll see there is prebuilt integrations for Trello or Gmail or virtually any major tool that exists. And there is more coming out all the time. And like I said, the real power, I think, is the prebuilt integrations with Microsoft products. So, you can link together, fill the spaces between Outlook 365 and Teams and SharePoint and Planner or Project or whatever tools you’re using. And I think it’s just really, really easy to get started. So, we’re going to jump in.

Making sure there aren’t any questions. No. I don’t know what’s going on. For any of the…if the organizer is still on, my questions pane is all goofy and I don’t think it’s actually showing. So, if I do get questions throughout, please ping me on Teams or just chime in. Okay.

Speaker 2:
We got it.

John:
So, flow.microsoft.com. There is a lot of stuff over here on this toolbar. We’re not going to dive into every single thing on this webinar. We’re going to go directly My Flows. And under My Flows, you’ll see that there are a few things I’ve already built. And if I didn’t mention this, I have built multiple flows to be used internally at RPI for systems automation. It is so easy to get started that I just jumped in and started automating and I have connected our…well, I’ll save these cases until after we walked through what it can do.

So today, I’m actually going to build a simple customer service app so that when a customer service ticket or request or complaint or something comes into our system, that it gets assigned to a customer service representative. And this isn’t necessarily…I’m building this very simply as if you don’t have a ticketing system or something like that. But this can be used even on top of that. So, if you already have a help desk platform or something of that nature where you’re receiving those tickets, you could still do the same kinds of things I’m doing today to help further automate. So, it’s not exclusive of those who already have a platform.

So, what we’re going to start with…you’ll see that there are My Flows, Team Flows, Business Process Flows, UI Flows. I talked a little bit about how this isn’t necessarily an RPA product from the standpoint of desktop automation. Microsoft has other products for that. So, there is something called Win Automate which is a more traditional desktop automation tool. You can use that in combination with Flow, we’re not going to touch on that today.

They also just acquired another robotic process automation product. I can’t remember the name of the top of my head. But the intention is to merge all of these together to be a more comprehensive single automation tool. However, even without that, I think that this is great. So, the primary ones we’re going to focus on…so UI Flows are part of that as well. Primary ones we’re going to focus on are My Flows and Team Flows. Really, the only difference is My Flows are personal to me and restricted to being accessed and used only by me. Team Flows, I can take one of My Flows and promote it up and share it with other people.

So, Team Flows are anything that have been shared with anybody and it could be shared with a group or an individual or anything like that. So, Team Flows are shared with you, right? So, we’re going to stick to My Flows. We’re going to do a new flow and there is a lot of options here. I’m going to just talk about a couple. Instant is triggered from a button. And that button can be published inside of other applications such as inside of Teams, you can have a Flow page that has Power Automate buttons on it. You can do it from an app. So, I have the Power Automate app on my phone and I can use it to trigger flows or we receive notifications or participate in flows.

And so that’s instant. Automated is what we’re going to use. So, I’m going to talk about that a little more in schedule to schedule. So, you can set it to be on a timer. And these are not mutually exclusive, you can have some combination of them but for the most part, which you’re probably going to be wanting to use are either automated or scheduled. We’re going to use automated.

And so, I’m going to call this customer service assignment. So, every flow starts with a trigger. And we talked about some of the trigger buttons, schedules, those are triggers. The automated flows have more specific triggers. And in this case, they have some examples for you to choose from right here, things like when an item is created in SharePoint and you can specify when an item is created in SharePoint in this folder.

We’re going to use when an email arrives into a folder in Outlook 365. And that should be in this list. And this is not comprehensive. We can go to the next screen to get the full list. See, there is outlook.com which is different than Outlook 365. When an email arrives V3. So, I’m going to select this as my trigger and click create. You can also skip that step and just add the trigger here. So, you’ll see that this is a step. This is my trigger, the very first step in the flow and as I built this, it’s going to cascade down the screen, left and right, depending on conditional logic and things like that.

So, this is automa