Microsoft Disrupts RPA Market with Power Automate Announcement

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Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft in 2008, famously chanted “Developers! Developers! Developers”. In 2014 the new CEO, Satya Nadella, emphasized a cloud-first commitment. Microsoft is converging those visions to empower any business user to be a developer….and they just re-emphasized the commitment to Automation in that vision.

The Microsoft Power Platform is a trifecta of tools designed to empower both IT and business users to analyze data and build dashboards (using PowerBI), build custom applications (using PowerApps), and automate repetitive processes (using Power Automate)

At Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 event, Microsoft announced a rebranding of what was formerly known as Flow as Power Automate, and introduced several new capabilities. With the addition of UI automation technology aptly named UI Flows, Microsoft now has an RPA offering that disrupts the traditional RPA market.

How so? These reasons.

Cloud-Native Solution

More and more organizations are gaining the confidence and skills to migrate workloads to the cloud securely and with superior performance and reliability to their on-prem counterparts. At the same time, many vendors have started with, or are moving, their own offerings to the cloud.

Many of the leading RPA vendors have yet to fully offer a robust cloud-offering that takes advantage of cloud capabilities, apart from replicating on-prem installations using the lift-and-shift IAAS model.

With Power Automate being a cloud-first offering, it is fully architected to take advantage of the cloud and easily integrate with other Azure offerings and cloud-based vendor products.

Built-in Connectors

The Power Automate platform is cloud-native out-of-the box, with built-in connectors to 100’s of other cloud services that makes integration as simple as drag-and-drop and a few configuration settings. Variables from each connection are easily selectable from a drop-down list.

The richness and ease-of-use of this catalog of services is a significant leap over the competition which only offers a handful of add-on objects to desktop Office applications.

Transparent Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

From my experience and discussions with customers of the leading RPA vendors, they often find that the licensing model involves heavy negotiating and purchasing a multi-year contract, and often with limitations on packs of licenses (eg. 3-yr commitment in packs of 10). The barrier to entry for traditional RPA is in the tens of thousands of dollars for reserved capacity across a multi-year commitment; none of this information you will openly find on their websites.

By comparison, Microsoft is currently advertising two Power Automate plans, a per user plan which allows an individual to create unlimited flows based on their own needs ($15/user/mo), and a per flow plan, which can serve an unlimited number of users ($100/flow/mo, initial min of 5 flows). I suspect Microsoft will soon update all areas to reflect the rebranding announcement, and greater clarity about the included features in existing enterprise O365 subscriptions will emerge.

This flexibility in pricing and commitment allows more organizations to align agility with expenses, to experiment and fail-fast, and to solve simple use cases without complicated coordination of shared resources.

Integrated O365 Management

Being a cloud solution, security and cost control is always at the forefront. For organizations that already have Office 365, the management of automation licensing is a natural extension to their existing licensing and administrative portals, as well as their existing Active Directory infrastructure for SSO security.

For More Information

If you missed the announcement, this video gives a quick overview about the new RPA capability in Power Automate.

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