The power platform: Microsoft's low-code hyperautomation toolkit
Embrace the future of automation with the Power Platform
THE POWER PLATFORM: MICROSOFT'S LOW-CODE HYPERAUTOMATION TOOLKIT
LEAVING THE TRADITIONAL BEHIND
2020 has been a special year for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged people and organizations in many ways, and it has become crystal clear that people and well-organized processes are the driving forces behind every successful organization. Our resilience played, and will continue to play, a crucial role in overcoming such challenging times. And just while corporations depend on their human workforces more than ever, technology acts as a true enabler to augment workers' capabilities, and to streamline and digitally transform mission critical processes.
Hence, there definitely is a need for a Hyperautomation toolkit (Figure 1) that can play a central and fundamental role within the organization. Such a toolkit provides a broad perspective on process automation: rather than simply replacing human workers by their digital counterparts (RPA), hyperautomation includes people in the workflow and even complements them with state-of-the-art technologies, such as AI and Process/Task Mining. It may not come as a surprise that the principle of a technology toolbox (hyperautomation) can be found in Gartner's Top Strategic Technology Trends for the second year in a row.
Similar to how our resilience has been put to test, organizations had to overcome immobility and unresponsiveness as well. Traditional software and applications are often hard to update/modify, development is time consuming, and the total cost of ownership often exceeds the available budgets. Contradictory, COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation and organizations were forced to switch to a digital-first approach as quickly as possible. At the same time, budgets were limited due to economic uncertainty. Maybe this is the right time to leave the traditional behind and look at a bright future?
EMBRACING THE FUTURE: THE LOW-CODE HYPERAUTOMATION ALTERNATIVE
Given the increased need for a Hyperautomation toolkit and the known limitations encountered with traditional software and application development, it is evident that it is time for a new kid on the block: low-code automation tools. These tools are described by the Columbia Business School in Forrester (2020) as follows:
"Low-code automation tools are software programs that require very little (or no) coding knowledge, with the ability to create enterprise-grade, high-fidelity applications."
This up-and-coming business trend is a key priority for many organizations in 2021. Experimenting with low-code/no-code software to boost day-to-day productivity seems to inspire and trigger employees who have no former experience with coding. Low-code automation tools that enable this trend are evolving towards a one-stop-shop for process automation and offer a couple of advantages:
- Speed: Low-code automation solutions can be developed and deployed in matter of days/weeks;
- Flexibility: Making enhancements to your solutions can be implemented very easily and swiftly;
- Scalability: Securely increase the number of users;
- State-of-the-art capabilities: Vendors of low-code automation tools often release new features to keep up with changing demands;
As this is just a fraction of the benefits a low-code platform can provide, we are not surprised this technology stack is on the rise. Gartner predicts that over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have adopted such a platform as one of their strategic applications by 2023, which will progress to 65% by 2024. According to the Wall Street Journal, low-code platform adoption will even rise to 70% by 2025.
Important to realize is that Low-Code Process Automation is all about your business-critical processes. So, you do not only need a shiny front application, but also a technology that enables the automation and orchestration of the underlying process flows and is able to handle each individual case with human-system in the loop possibilities. Difficult to find such an all-inclusive low code platform?
Read on and discover the solution to your process problems.
MICROSOFT'S ALTERNATIVE: THE POWER PLATFORM
Microsoft's alternative for a low-code automation toolkit is the Power Platform. The Power Platform is a very powerful toolbox that enables citizen developers to improve, accelerate, and automate business processes. It consists out of the following components:
- Power BI: Enables organizations to create reports, run their business in real time with live dashboards, and discover insights from data;
- Power Apps: Build custom applications fast in a rapid low-code application development environment;
- Power Automate: Automate and integrate business processes with RPA-capabilities;
- Power Virtual Agents: Build chatbots without having to train custom models. Chatbots created in Power Virtual Agents are available as a standalone web application or can be integrated within Microsoft Teams.
Individually, these components are already very sophisticated. No wonder they are highly regarded by Gartner. While Power BI is named a leader in Gartner's 2020 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and BI Platforms, Power Apps is named a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms. Power Automate, on the other hand, is named a visionary in the Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation. Although it does not take a leading spot right now, we expect it will not take very long to shift to a pole position in this market as well.
Collectively, these four components enable true automation benefits. In fact, even though each component can be used and implemented as a standalone solution, it is better not to separate one from the others and use the full power of the platform. For example, a Power Application will probably use some sort of flow built with Power Automate at some point. It is the combination of the toolkit that truly maximizes business outcomes. Fortunately, the different platform components integrate seamlessly, and their capabilities continuously improve.
RAPIDLY INCREASING HYPERAUTOMATION CAPABILITIES
As Microsoft has been one of the leading technology corporations for years, they understand that an automation platform is more than just Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Remember the rather simplistic flows? Over the years, they have transformed the Power Platform noticeably and they are constantly pushing the boundaries of the platform by releasing enhancements on a regular basis. As a result, the Power Platform increasingly corresponds to a true Hyperautomation toolkit. We would like to introduce you with some of these interesting new features in this blog.
PROCESS ADVISOR (PREVIEW)
Automating processes can provide significant benefits, such as an increased productivity and a reduction of manual workload. However, not all business processes are suitable for automation. Therefore, it is crucial to gain insights in your processes before you start automating them. With Microsoft's Process Advisor, Power Automate provides Process/Task Mining capabilities. This leverages insights into how processes are being performed by enabling users to:
- Run process recorders: Capture process details.
- Create process maps and get in-depth analytics: Visualize processes end-to-end and identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and automation opportunities.
The AI Builder has been there for a while now and is shaping up nicely. With the AI Builder, Microsoft strives towards democratizing the use of AI/ML capabilities in process flows as it allows users to train AI models through a point-and-click experience. There are two types of models:
- Custom: allowing users to build custom tailored models;
- Prebuilt: ready-to-use AI models for a variety of common business scenarios (available in both Power Apps and Power Automate).
In addition, some exciting upcoming features will help organizations to automate business processes even better. With Receipt Processing (preview), which is planned to be generally available in March 2021, businesses will be able to identify receipt data, merchant information, total price, and taxes from receipts. Another feature is the form processing support for checkboxes capability, which will release in March 2021. If you cannot find your AI flavor among the many options of the AI Builder, you can always integrate Azure services into your Power projects. More on the AI Builder in our upcoming blog (stay tuned!).
ANOMOLY DETECTION (PREVIEW)
The Power BI component of the platform is not lagging either. With the release of the Anomaly Detection feature, users can automatically detect anomalies in time series data of line charts. These anomalies are figures that exceed expected boundaries and are highly configurable.
As mentioned earlier, Power Virtual Agents allows users to create chatbots in a very intuitive and graphical way. By simply defining a topic and some trigger phrases, you can continue to build your chatbot by adding steps in the workflow, such as asking additional questions.
Power Virtual Agents is the newest member of the Power Platform family. However, over the last year, it has already proven its added value (which will only increase). Features such as enabling voice interaction and enhancing natural language capabilities can be found on the roadmap for the beginning of 2021.
ROBORANA AND THE POWER PLATFORM: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
At RoboRana, we apply a broader strategy than just automating repetitive tasks. As such, besides Robotic Process Automation (RPA), we also consider Process Insights, Process Intelligence, and Business Process Management during the automation journey.
We truly believe that the Power Platform offers a great toolkit and provides an answer to our four connected pillars, essential to start or speed-up your automation journey. And with the much-promising roadmap of the Power Platform, we are convinced the Power Platform will have the ability to tackle any automation challenge.
Triggered by the Power Platform? Get in touch!