Understanding Microsoft’s place in the RPA ecosystem with Power Automate
Recently I was lucky enough to spend some time with our good friends at FortyOak to talk about Microsoft’s place in the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) ecosystem. You can watch my chat with Anthony Giardina in the embedded video below.
In the meantime I thought I would summarize the major points.
Weidenhammer has explored several RPA packages and ultimately landed on formal partnership with UiPath and Microsoft. Truth be told, we’ve been a Microsoft Gold Partner for several years, but Microsoft’s recent advancements in RPA have moved them from irrelevant to leader status in the past year alone. Their rocket ship acceleration was of course fueled by their 2020 acquisition of Softomotive.
So now that Microsoft’s Power Automate solution is truly a player in RPA, the question is why would you choose Microsoft over any of the other leaders who have been doing it longer?
Truth be told, it has very little to do with RPA itself.
Obviously, having a strong core RPA platform is critical, which the four leaders as anointed by Gartner all do. However, the ultimate useability and interoperability of these platforms are the key characteristics that truly bring an organization to transformative solutions in business process improvement / continuous improvement.
Often tied to RPA is the concept of Hyperautomation – a concept which also includes technologies like low-code application platforms (LCAP), artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual assistants. These are areas where Microsoft has excelled for years, in particular around low-code no-code with Power Apps – something we see other RPA providers trying to catch up to. So why does this matter? Not only is Power Apps more mature in its capabilities and available native connectors, it also has the advantage of a large and longstanding community which brings with it access to templates and assistance.
Centralization and Native Connectivity
Even if other RPA providers catch up on the low-code no-code front, Microsoft has one major advantage that it is unlikely to ever lose. Microsoft is the core business application stack and cloud infrastructure for most companies – over a million of which are using M365. This is key for a few reasons. First and most simply, taking advantage of additional tools in the Microsoft suite enable businesses to take a centralized and consolidated approach to managing its platforms. The components integrate natively and can be administered centrally.
Further, with M365 acting as the backbone of your Active Directory and business applications, the data and associated business logic can be natively tied together using the Dataverse. This greatly streamlines integration and means your various workflows and applications will be natively cohesive. This combined with the availability of Power Platform and Azure Logic Apps connectors, which provide a way for users to connect their accounts and leverage a set of prebuilt actions and triggers to build their apps and workflows, is a truly powerful proposition.
Taking it one step further and bringing back the concept of Hyperautomation – all of the core RPA platforms will boast great RPA, AI and low-code no-code tools (eventually), along with a central console to view and manage your various workflows. For UiPath this is Orchestrator, for Microsoft it is the Power Automate portal (via M365). As you consider a future state of your business where end-to-end workflows across the enterprise involve a constant mix of Active Directory users, RPA bots, low-code no-code interfaces, AI, and even “pro-code” APIs deployed to Azure, what could be better than managing all of that from a portal that is already native to your core business application stack?
As an idealist I might say this should be the least important component, but we do live in the real world. There is no getting around it. In the context to SaaS / PaaS services and systems, Microsoft’s solutions are significantly cheaper than the other major players.
To set the record straight, as of writing this it would cost you $40 per user per month for the ability to develop RPA solutions using Power Automate for Desktop. That gives you the ability to author and run an attended RPA bot. The jump to add an Unattended bot is $150 per bot per month. The initial Power Automate portal is free. So, you’re looking at $2,280 per year to get in the game with an unattended bot. This package (author + unattended bot + management portal) would typically cost 10-15x that price point from the other major players.
You can read more about Power Automate pricing here, including other options like licensing by flow instead of by user.
Adding AI builder capabilities like object detection, prediction, OCR, etc will cost more, which is true on any platform. Luckily, Microsoft has provided a nifty AI Builder pricing calculator.
Want to watch the 30 min session with FortyOak? Click the following link below to watch on demand through LinkedIn.
FortyOak Live | Harnessing the Power of PowerAutomate with Chris Smith