8 min read

New ways to innovate with AI and Microsoft Power Automate

At Microsoft Ignite 2022, we were pleased to share some exciting innovations for Microsoft Power Automate, empowering makers and pro-coders with new ways to automate and scale enterprise-wide with AI.

Be sure to check out our two breakout sessions, “Scale hyperautomation in the cloud with Power Automate” and “Automate your document processes with AI Builder” for a more in-depth look at what’s available, including demos.

New ways to automate

Describe it and let AI build it

Creating flows is the foundation of Power Automate, and now you can describe what you want to automate in a sentence, and an AI-based copilot will build your flow in seconds. No searching or guesswork, just describe it and let the copilot work its magic.

This new way to create flows runs on OpenAI Codex, an AI model descendant of GPT-3 that can translate natural language to code, in this case, Power Automate cloud flows. This is the same technology behind GitHub Copilot and Power Apps Ideas (preview). At launch, we’re supporting key Microsoft 365 connectors and in the coming months, we’ll expand to include more.

To learn more and how to start using the copilot, see the description to flow documentation page.

Screen where a user has typed a description of a scenario to automate, and a suggested flow generated by AI is shown.

Format data by examples

Often, unless you’ve taken the time to learn, writing expressions to work with your data in specific ways can be daunting. Now, we’ve made this super simple for users by allowing them to format data by examples.

Like what we’ve done with Power Apps Ideas (preview), we’re bringing this similar experience to Power Automate, powered by PROSE.

Now you can use an AI copilot to reshape your data how you need it. When you want to format text, dates, and numbers within your cloud flow you can just provide examples of the desired output format and the copilot will automatically generate the expression formula to use.

To learn more and how to start using it, see the format data by examples documentation page.

Screen shows how an expression to format a date is generated by just providing one example pair of incoming and desired output format date.

Advancements in AI Builder

AI Builder has been a key ingredient within Microsoft Power Platform to give you out of the box AI solutions to add intelligence to your workflows. Document processing has been the most frequently used feature in AI Builder due to how mundane and time consuming the nature of processing documents can be.

We are pleased to share that we are improving the experience even further with our newest feature updates to Intelligent Document Processing.

We announced that support for unstructured documents is available for general availability. You can now extract data from free-form documents such as contracts, statements of work, and letters.

Support for unstructured documents is generally available, allowing you to extract data from free-form documents such as contracts, statements of work, and letters.

With so much data being processed, we know accuracy is important, so we are introducing Feedback Loop (in preview), giving you the ability to flag documents with a low confidence score to retrain the model for improved accuracy.

Tables that span across multiple pages can now be extracted. With multi-page table extraction, you can now train your model on the data you want to extract and simplify this process. With the added support of now 164 languages, including handwritten Japanese, processing documents with AI Builder has never been easier.

The out of the box invoice processing model now supports automating invoices in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. These updates serve to make the user experience simple and accurate, giving back valuable time to focus on more strategic business processes.

To learn more and how to start using it, see the AI Builder documentation page.
Screen that shows how AI Builder can extract common fields and line items from an invoice out of the box

New places to automate

Automate through conversation with Power Virtual Agents

Earlier this year we announced a new intelligent bot authoring experience was coming soon for Power Virtual Agents. Starting November 10, 2022, this new experience will automatically turn on in preview for users. This new experience unifies the sophistication of low-code and pro-code capabilities, which is a fusion of the Microsoft Azure Bot Framework Composer and Power Virtual Agents’ bot building experience. Pro-code and low-code users can build together with multi-authoring and commenting capabilities, while taking advantage of the latest functionalities, such as Power Fx and code views.

And with this comes many more scenarios that bring conversational bots into your hyperautomation journey. Whether it’s building an engaging adaptive card, showcasing data from Power Automate’s 800+ connectors, or manipulating and transforming your data with Power Fx—new horizons for how you communicate with automation have now been unlocked.

Automate SAP with reimagined connect and new solution

In case you missed us at the Power Platform Conference in September 2022, we announced details about the enhancements that have been made to the SAP ERP connector that support SAP system connectivity to Power Platform and the ability for a flow maker to work with SAP’s complex application program interfaces (APIs) within Power Automate flows.

Another exciting item we announced builds on top of the connector enhancements. The downloadable prebuilt SAP Integration solution is comprised of Power Apps templates, Power Automate flows, and other components that make it radically easier to digitally transform a SAP system with Power Platform. The solution offers users a streamlined view of SAP’s ERP core business functions while automating the workflows behind the scenes. To get started, check out the preview documentation. All preview participants are welcome to join the Power Automate forum to provide feedback and gain insights.

Automate natively in Excel Online

As we know, one of the top scenarios that lends itself to automation is working with Excel, where we are commonly working on manual, cumbersome, repetitive tasks like data entry, data management, and reporting. We are pleased to share that we’re integrating Power Automate natively into Excel Online, letting you create custom flows using pre-built templates, tailored to what you can accomplish with Excel. Excel Online now has an “Automate” tab in the ribbon. Simply click it and select “Automate a Task” to see templates that are ready to automate Excel with popular apps such as Microsoft Forms and SharePoint.

Automate with embedded experiences

We’re excited to welcome WorkFusion and DocuSign to the Cloud Embed program for Power Automate. Cloud Embed allows independent software vendors (ISV) to embed Power Automate directly into their user experience (UX).

WorkFusion will be leveraging RPA in Power Automate as a supplement to their existing Digital Worker offering and using the new Microsoft Dataverse APIs for desktop flows. To learn how to start using the desktop flows API for your own scenarios, see the work with desktop flows using code documentation page.

DocuSign is pioneering a new approach to Cloud Embed for Power Automate. With this approach, DocuSign eSignature customers will be able to build automation leveraging premium Power Automate capabilitieswithout needing to purchase a standalone license for Power Automate.  This capability will be rolling out to Power Automate connector publishers globally in the coming weeks.

If you are an ISV who has or is considering building a connector to Power Automate, learn more about the new ISV Cloud Embed program by visiting the website. To join the preview, register for the Cloud Embed program.

New ways to scale

Scale with the Automation Kit

We’re pleased to share that we have two new solution kits to help manage, govern, and scale your hyperautomation practice.

Organizations establishing a successful automation culture should consider building an “Automation Center of Excellence” to maximize the organization’s investments and define guardrails, enabling stronger development of RPA and other hyperautomation scenarios for digital transformation—in a controlled manner.

Two Power Apps screens showing the automation kit dashboard and customization screen areas

Recently, we launched an “automation kit” as an open-source GitHub project, helping accelerate your organization’s automation—based on industry “best practices.” This kit has been created from customer feedback from around the globe by those who are already using Power Platform as their choice for hyperautomation. Learn more about this new automation kit.

Scale with the business approvals templates

One of the key use cases we see across every industry and every department is approvals. Power Automate allows you to streamline your business by digitalizing the approval experience.

We are happy to introduce the new “business approvals templates” to accelerate your approval building process. The business approvals template is a no-code, ready-made template built on top of Power Platform components that allows your organization to configure sophisticated approvals such as conditional branching, delegation, admin overrides, and more—all without writing a single code—empowering every person in your organization to “do more with less” for your organization’s approval needs.

Two screens showing the business approvals process manager areas

Learn more about the new “business approvals templates.”

Scale with the hosted RPA bots

Power Automate already provides ways for you to bring your own infrastructure for desktop automation, which is commonly known as robotic process automation or RPA.

It’s been easy to set up your machines and register them to your Power Automate environments with features like machine direct connectivity and machine groups. And we not only have Power Automate’s hosted RPA bots in preview, but now we go one step further by managing your unattended RPA scenarios for you. Hosted RPA bots allow you to run unattended RPA at scale and is fully hosted in the cloud.

It’s easy to setup your hosted RPA bots, just provide a few parameters: Just give it a name, the maximum number of parallel bots allocated to this group, which base image and account to be used and you’re all set.

By default, we provide a Windows image which is already sufficient for web automation. But if you need more advanced automation with specific desktop applications you can now bring your own virtual machine (VM) image through our integration with Azure Compute Gallery. Hosted RPA bots will automatically scale based on your needs. You can now react to any spike in demand, and you can optimize your infrastructure cost of goods sold (COGS) to just what is actually needed. Hosted RPA bots also provide a way to share resources among your different automation scenarios. For example, you can have 10 bots shared between 2 groups, let’s say one for sales and one for finance. The 10 bots could be dynamically assigned to either team’s purposes based on the need.

Scale with RPA migration

Most legacy RPA solutions are siloed and difficult to scale as your business scales. Selecting the new appropriate technology, identifying the processes to automate, and implementing with an optimal architecture can pose new challenges. It is even more challenging if you have limited time to make investment decisions on your RPA platform and prove Return on Investment (ROI). This can only be achieved with a scaled-out implementation to build several automations at once. In such a case, ROI can only be achieved with an RPA migration to quickly modernize your RPA platform using tools and services.

We are pleased to share that we have strategic partners in the ecosystem that can help you accelerate your RPA modernization journey to Power Automate with prepackaged tools and service offerings. Additionally, we have an RPA migration whitepaper that can help you drive a successful migration from a business decision maker’s perspective.

Read more about RPA migration to Power Automate and our customer, Pacific Gas and Electric, where an RPA migration tool and service was pivotal to their success.

Start automating for free

We’ve covered a lot about the latest innovations in Power Automate to help your organization scale with ease. As a reminder, Windows 10 and 11 users can start automating attended RPA bots for free on their desktop. And if anyone wants to extend automation across the cloud, sign up for a 90-day free trial of everything Power Automate has to offer. If you’ve previously signed up for a trial, explore our different licensing plans.