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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft Announces General Availability for UI Flows, Enabling Robotic Process Automation

Microsoft Announces General Availability for UI Flows, Enabling Robotic Process Automation

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In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) of UI Flows on April 2nd, for customers worldwide. UI Flows is an addition to Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, that enables democratized access to automation and workflow. In this this latest release, Microsoft is enabling robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities in the Power Automate service.

Power Automate is already a popular service that is used by many organizations to automate business processes. Charles Lamanna, CVP at Microsoft, explains why Microsoft is further investing in this cloud service and adding RPA capabilities:

Power Automate already helps hundreds of thousands of organizations automate millions of processes every day. With the addition of RPA, Power Automate will help these organizations to also automate their legacy apps and manual processes through UI-based automation. The key Power Automate capabilities we are announcing today include RPA general availability for attended and unattended scenarios, along with a flexible business model to support any business scenario.

The existing features of Power Automate focus on automating business processes, through the use of API-based connectors. For organizations that have legacy systems, APIs may not be available for those systems. As a result, automation becomes more difficult. Organizations can now automate business processes across both modern systems, that have APIs, and legacy systems that do not. Power Automate will allow data to flow back and forth between API-based automated flows and UI flows.

In the RPA domain, there are modes that are used to address different use cases. Microsoft provides support for two of these modes including attended and unattended. An attended bot is initiated by a user and works with that user to supplement their activities on their own workstation. This requires users to be logged into a device and having an On-premises data gateway instance running on their machine. When the UI flow runs, the actions that have been traditionally run by the user will be run in an automated fashion by the UI flow.

Unattended bots do not require manual interventions and can be executed on one or more devices in parallel. These bots will log into devices upon being invoked, will execute their sequence of steps and then will log off. Microsoft positions Azure as a great place to run unattended bots due to the cloud-scale that Azure provides.  

One customer that has leveraged Power Automate is Ingram Micro, a leading IT technology distribution company. Ingram Micro uses Power Automate to automate many IT management functions including account creation and employee onboarding, customer credit management and the integration of external data sets with their internal systems. Ingram Micro is excited about the opportunities that UI Flows will provide. Jim Annes, vice president of US business operations and transformation, explains:

With Power Automate, we’ve been able to improve the customer and internal associate experience, and at a much faster rate than before, with 75% of Power Automate projects completed in less than 30 days. We are excited to see that Microsoft is investing and delivering in the area of RPA as Power Automate has been an important factor in modernizing our business and we look forward to exploring opportunities with the new RPA capabilities coming this spring.

Power Automate UI Flows are currently in preview until April 2nd and interested organizations can sign up for a free trial that allows them to explore both attended and unattended modes of UI Flow.


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