Microsoft Races Ahead On RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

Microsoft sign and logo can be seen in Warsaw, Poland on September 14, 2020. (Photo by Aleksander … [+] Kalka / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Last year, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was the fastest growing segment of the global enterprise software market (the technology helps automate repetitive and tedious processes). And as for this year, the momentum has accelerated. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have sought to step up their automation efforts.

The dominant players in the RPA market include UiPath, Blue Prism, and AutomationAnywhere. But there is another tech operator that has made dramatic strides: Microsoft.

The company definitely has many advantages: a huge customer base, thousands of talented engineers, a rich partner ecosystem, a first-class cloud infrastructure and many complementary apps. Microsoft has also innovated at a rapid pace. Remember, more than 350,000 companies use the Power Automate platform to streamline workflows with no-code and low-code approaches.

The latest with RPA

Today Microsoft made an important announcement about Power Automate, the introduction of a desktop version for RPA authoring. Note that this is the result of the Softomotive acquisition.

With Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, you can easily automate processes and tasks that span both desktop and web applications. You can use drag-and-drop to activate over 370 actions on a desktop and gain access to cloud-based functions such as API automation as well as modules for NLP (Natural Language Processing) and computer vision.

“We’ve done a lot of work to really streamline and simplify the experience,” said Charles Lamanna, Low Code Application Platform CVP at Microsoft. “We believe everyone should be able to build bots. So if you know how to use the Excel Macro Recorder, you can easily create very complex automations with Microsoft Power Automate Desktop. “

The result is that you can work with both modern applications and legacy systems such as mainframes, Citrix terminals and AS / 400s. As proof of the efficiency of this technology, T-Mobile was able to achieve a smooth integration into Sprint’s IT systems (the two companies recently merged in a transformative).

OK, so why an on-premise system? Well, it seems kind of counter-intuitive. On the other hand, many customers still prefer on-premise software because of its speed, especially when it comes to UI automation.

“We look at it like Office,” said Lamanna. “But when it comes to managing bots, we’ll always do it in the cloud. However, if you fast-forward into the future, everything will likely be browser-based. That’s just the natural trend. “

The RPA vision

Although RPA has been around for two decades, the industry is still in its infancy. Technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and process mining will certainly be important drivers. To this end, Microsoft has entered into a number of partnerships, for example with FortressIQ (with a process intelligence platform), Blueprint Software Systems (a developer of intelligent automation systems) and PAFNow (a leading provider of process mining).

“What I’m really excited about is what we’ve always referred to as the automation continuum of RPA,” said Lamann. “This is about moving from a pure UI automation to an offer with deep product truth. This is regardless of whether you are going through an API, service connectivity, etc. The vision is to bundle everything in one login and a really cheap license model that is available to everyone. “

Tom (@ttaulli) is a consultant / board member of startups and author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction and The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems. He has also developed various online courses, for example for the programming languages ​​COBOL and Python.

June 22, 2021