Artificial Intelligence

What is RPA, and why is Microsoft Power Automate relevant? Human-centred AI makes the most of our human talents.

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably wondering what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is, and what it can do for businesses. Enterprises can automate mundane and tedious rules-based business processes in order to streamline operations and cut costs. Basically, it is a tool to help productivity. If you are filling out a form, for example, it could do all of the checks for you, such as going off to check someone’s driving licence or company registration number. If these are valid, the RPA process could continue with completion of the data details correctly. If not, the process could halt, and alert someone. As you can imagine, this would save an enormous amount of time and therefore cost.

This means we can have human-centred RPA. The business value is that it makes more of the human talents to make the activity and business process flow more smoothly. In this example, the process can proceed to continue, knowing that the data had been validated.

From the data perspective, this means that we start to have cleaner data. For many organizations, particularly those with heritage systems, the data may not match up properly because the details are not correct. Therefore, this can help clean the data at the point of ingestion, saving time later on. Isn’t that great?

How does this work in Microsoft’s Power Platform? Power Automate, previously Microsoft Flow, is a unified platform aimed at enterprise customers, including business, technical, and end users. To meet the needs of the business, regardless of technical expertise, Power Automate has both API- and UI-based automation.

In Power Automate, you can create robotic process automation, which are like workflows that bring everything together. UI flows enables enterprise businesses to automate repetitive tasks and legacy applications to simplify workflows in a scalable, secure way.  As of today at Microsoft Ignite, UI Flows are available in public preview.

Some organizations see this as a stepping stone to intelligent automation (IA) via machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which can be trained to make judgments about future outputs. As I’ve discussed previously in my ‘AI for Small Businesses and Beyond’ workshop, organizations can go ‘gently, gently, incrementally’ towards including more AI in their enterprises. RPA is one good step in that direction.

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