Automation made easy
With PAFnow and Microsoft Power Platform
Author: Katharina Laumann, PR Manager and Specialist Editor at PAF
In the first part of our joint series by PAF and celver AG, we talked about why Process Mining is a key technology for successful automation projects. In this part, we look at how to best combine Process Mining and RPA
There are countless offers for both Process Mining and Workflow Automation, making it difficult for users to decide on a suitable strategy.
Having one solution ranging from process analysis to automation - including planning, design, training and monitoring of bots - has the best value for the user. It enables users to work in a unified, familiar environment and avoids duplicate data storage.
In Germany, over 85 percent of companies use Microsoft solutions. More than 90 percent of organizations worldwide rely on Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft tools. So for them, a solution integrated with Microsoft makes the most sense. Here, the combination of Microsoft Power Platform and PAFnow is the ideal solution. Users remain in their familiar Microsoft environment, but receive everything they need for successful automation projects:
- Process Mining within the Microsoft Infrastructure
- Interconnected automation tools supplied by Microsoft
- Low code/no code applications for easy access
- A multitude of connectors to applications and services to implement cross-application automation measures
Based on this combination, findings can be directly translated into actions. Within PAFnow, Process Mining uncovers automation potential. This can then be realized with Power Automate.
What is Power Automate?
Power Automate (formerly Flows) is Microsoft’s own automation suite that allows workflows and tasks to be created and automated across multiple applications and services without the help of developers.
These automated workflows are called flows.
Typical examples of such flows include:
- Generate notifications (via alerts or specified push notifications)
- Synchronize data between libraries
- Store data in specific locations
- Perform approval processes
- Transfer information
- Save email attachments, etc.
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Automated workflows can be a great support in everyday work. The prerequisite for this is that only those processes are automated where it really makes sense. Repetitive routine tasks and everyday administrative tasks in particular are easy to automate.
The most important point is that the tasks to be automated are standardized, because Power Automate can neither think nor make decisions. We have to define the conditions for choices to the flow in advance, the flow can only check if the conditions are met or not and then execute our defined tasks.
Process Mining helps us to find the right process steps for automation and to standardize processes. Once the prerequisites for automation have been created, we can start to create flows.
In Power Automate, this is very simple. Users can either select predefined flows from a template catalog or create their own flows. To do this, the user specifies which action should take place when a certain event occurs.
Thanks to Microsoft’s low-code or no-code approach, this works in most cases simply by click-selection, drag-and-drop, or via Power Automate’s Desktop Recorder function.
Once a flow is created, it can be managed, edited and shared on the desktop or via an app on a mobile device.
What exactly does this look like in combination with Process Mining?
Example: Approvals in the P2P Process
Purchasing processes are among the processes most frequently analyzed with Process Mining, as they occur in every company.
The process usually goes through several approval stages based on the volume of the purchase.
Analysis via Process Mining shows us that purchase orders that only need a level 1 approval (Approve PO Level 1) take an average of 11 days to be approved. In comparison, purchase orders that go through all three levels are approved in just over three days. So for POs that require a Level 1 approval, we have found a bottleneck in the process
Now automation comes into play. With Power Automate, approvals can be automated under specification of a certain sum. This sum can be defined by the user. For our example we set a sum of 5000,00 € as a limit. Here, only purchase orders of 5000.01 € or more would be forwarded to real people for approval.
In this case we have a typical “if this then that” workflow:
First rule: if the order total is less than X, then the order is automatically approved. In this case, a bot fills in all the necessary details according to the defined specifications and sends the approval.
Second rule: if the order total is higher than X, the order is automatically forwarded to a defined person. This person must manually check and confirm the approval.
With a simple workflow that starts exactly where Process Mining has uncovered a bottleneck, employees are freed from having to check every small order. They are only called in when it becomes important. The lead time for low-cost order processes is reduced and the purchasing process as a whole becomes more efficient.
The Role of Connectors
Both Power BI and Power Automate, as components of the Microsoft Power Platform, use connectors.
A connector allows services and applications to connect to Microsoft Power Automate, PowerApps, Power BI, and Azure Logic Apps. Power Automate provides the corresponding flow templates for these linked services.
“Microsoft programs such as Excel, Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Dynamics 365 are integrated by default with Power Automate and Power BI, and therefore PAFnow. Connectors allow users to connect to a variety of other tools. These include data sources on the one hand and programs used in the operational process on the other, such as Salesforce, SQL Server or even Dropbox and Twitter. They enable smooth interconnection and fast results in automation and are therefore the secret weapon of the Power Platform," explains Gerrit Kohrs, Head of Business Unit BPM, celver AG.