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Reduce repetitive tasks using Microsoft’s Windows RPA and DPA low-code flows accessing various connectors, augmented by AI/ML

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This article provides a hands-on tour with commentary to streamline repetitive tasks and paperless processes” with (Robotic Process Automation) and (Digital Process Automation)

NOTE: Content here are my personal opinions, and not intended to represent any employer (past or present). “PROTIP:” here highlight information I haven’t seen elsewhere on the internet because it is hard-won, little-know but significant facts based on my personal research and experience.

This article aims to clarify the confusing terminology and product names, and provide a hands-on tour with commentary to streamline repetitive tasks and paperless processes” with (Robotic Process Automation) and (Digital Process Automation)

Get Started

  1. Select your country. Click “Get Started” to arrive at:

    Power Automate


    “Power Automate” is for Process Automation.
    “Power Automate” is the 2019 rebranding of “Microsoft Flow” introduced in 2016.
    “Power Automate” also replaces SharePoint 2010 “Flows” introduced November 2020.
    “Power Automate” is one of Microsoft’s “Power Platform” offerings for “citizen developers” using low-code development tools.

    make.powerautomate.com make.powerapps.com
    power-automate-menu-410x1444.png powerapp-menu-408x938
  2. The above shows after menu items after clicking “More” and clicking to pin all items.

    In their menu, both have Learn (either at the top or bottom), Create, Data, AI Builder.

  3. Click the “Power Platform” link at the left menu for these options:

    Power Platform


    Brand Decoder

    Component Name Usage
    Power Apps App dev: Low-code custom mobile/web app development environment - designer GUI for Flows.
    Power Pages Create secure, low-code business websites
    Power BI Analytics and visualization
    Power Virtual Agents Chatbots
    Power Platform Admin Center for Administrators VIDEO BLOG
    Power Automate Desktop Windows RPA (Robotic Process Automation) UI Flows designer
    Power Fx ?
    Managed Environments ?
    Microsoft Dataverse Database: DaaS (Database as a Service) common data services<
    Connectors External interfaces to exchange data with established and custom APIs
    Task Mining ?
    AI Builder Infuse AI into flows (forms) with custom or prebuilt models. $500/month/unit for 5,000 credits
    Copilot Studio ?
    Process Mining Discover, visualize and analyze processes to identify opportunities to improve and optimize - $5,000/tenant/month
    • “Power Automate Desktop” is the 2020 rebranding of “UI Flows” introduced in 2019.
    • “Power Automate Desktop” is also called “RPA” (Robotic Process Automation) and “DPA” (Digital Process Automation).
    • “Power Automate Desktop” is also called “attended mode RPA” and “unattended mode RPA”.
    • “Power Automate Desktop” is also called “UI Flows”.

    RPA Competitors

    RPA is an industry term. Others offering it:

    • Automation Anywhere
    • UiPath
    • Tricentis
    • etc.

  4. Click the “X” to dismiss the “Power Platforms” dialog.


    NOTE: There are two types of flows which serve different but complementary purposes in an organization’s overall business process management (BPM) strategies and initiatives:

  5. Click “Home”, then the “Compare plans” under “Pricing” at


    Each $15/month “Premium” license enables a single individual human user to run attended mode automate processes.

    Each $150/month “Process” license enables a single unattended bot to run with minimal human supervision.

    • “cloud flows (DPA)” (Digital Process Automation) run on internet browsers (Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, etc.)

    • “desktop flows” run by Power Automate Desktop on Windows machines is also called RPA (Remote Process Automation) aka “UI Flows”.

    “Power Automate Desktop is available to Windows 10 users at no additional cost” means that you can install it, but using it and creating “Flows” for others to run requires licensing.

    Each license includes some limited resources:

    • Mining data storage - 50 MB

    • AI Builder credits - 5,000

    • Dataverse entitlements of 250 MB database and 2 GB file


  6. Click the “Learn” menu item for the busy Documentation page at:



    Marketing pages

  7. Microsoft’s Power Automate marketing homepages:



    REMEMBER: Each “Flow” is a distinct (automated) workflow, akin to a program module.





  • Administrator
  • AI Builder
  • App Maker

  • Business Analyst
  • Business User

  • Functional Consultant

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/collections/y3e6sdd7nmm0rk Microsoft Power Platform Virtual Training Day: Automate Business Processes

To be certified a “Power Platform App Maker Associate”, score 70% on the $165 Exam PL-100: Microsoft Power Platform App Maker - Certifications. The Study Guide details what is covered:

  • Design business solutions (20–25%)
  • Analyze and visualize data (10–15%)
  • Create business solutions (60–65%)

  1. Read through the text in course PL-100T100

    1. Describe the business value of the Microsoft Power Platform
    2. How to build your first model-driven app with Dataverse
    3. Create tables in Dataverse

    4. Get started with model-driven apps in Power Apps
    5. Create and manage columns within a table in Dataverse

    6. Get started with security roles in Dataverse
    7. Document and test your Power Apps application

    8. Get started with Microsoft Dataverse for Teams
    9. Build your first app with Power Apps and Dataverse for Teams

    10. Create a canvas app in Power Apps
    11. Navigation in a canvas app in Power Apps
    12. How to build the UI in a canvas app in Power Apps
    13. Use and understand Controls in a canvas app in Power Apps

    14. Get started with Power Automate
    15. Use the Admin center to manage environments and data policies in Power Automate
    16. Introduction to Microsoft Power Platform security and governance
    17. Build your first workflow with Power Automate and Dataverse for Teams

    18. Get started building with Power BI
    19. Get data with Power BI Desktop
    20. Create reports with Power BI and Dataverse for Teams

    21. Get started with AI Builder
    22. Create a chatbot with Microsoft Copilot Studio and Dataverse for Teams


  2. During a live course, you get help on step-by-step lab instructions at https://aka.ms/pl100labs = https://microsoftlearning.github.io/PL-100-Microsoft-Power-Platform-App-Maker

    Course introduction - Validate lab environment

    1. Introduction to Power Platform - Design the solution
      2.1 Create a model-driven app - Data model and model-driven app
      2.2 Building model-driven apps - Business Process Flows and Business Rules
      3.1 Create a canvas app - Create apps in Teams
      3.2 Create a canvas app - Canvas app
    2. Power Automate
    3. Power BI
    4. AI builder and Power Virtual Agents - Create Power Virtual Agents in Teams
    5. Testing & deployment

User Menu Items

### Approvals

Requires a license.

### Monitor

  1. Under “Monitor” is where you’ll see alerts, runs, and notifications for

    “Cloud Flow activity” for flows which run on the cloud

    “Desktop flow runs” for flows which run on “Machines”.

    Action Items

  2. Action Items sub-menus are “Approvals” and “Business Process Flows”

    flow types

  3. Templates provide pre-written code. Sample Templates include:

    • Create an issue in Azure DevOps when an email is received.
    • Automate tasks on your local computer like computing data in Excel.
    • Send automatic reminders for past due tasks
    • Move business data between systems on a schedule
    • “process mining”

  4. Click + Create


    That’s similar to “New flow” at another menu:



  5. Connectors to APIs from Microsoft and others which you create flow code to access. “PREMIUM” means additional charges are incurred.

    • Google Calendar, Tasks
    • GitHub
    • Slack
    • Salesforce
    • Box
    • ArgGIS
    • Coinbase
    • AccuWeather
    • UnixTimeStamp
    • etc.

  6. Under Data, Connect to more than 500 data sources or any publicly available API.

    AI Builder

  7. Under “AI Builder”,

    Menu items:

    • Build
    • Models
    • Document automation (preview)

    select “Build”. Notice the hostname changes to:


    and “Models” and “Document automation”.

    AI Build is NOT “pay as you go”, but up-front. Microsoft charges $150 per bot per month, which include 5,000 AI Builder service “credits”. Additional credits are $500 per month each.

  8. Learn takes you to a separate tab containing documentation.

    Action Items:

    • Approvals
    • Business process flows


    • Tables
    • Connections
    • Custom connectors
    • Gateways


    • Cloud flow activity
    • Desktop flow runs
    • Desktop flow queues
    • Machines

    AI Builder:

    Process advisor:

    Process Advisor

    Sub-menu items:

    • Create
    • Processes

    Process Advisor requires a “Premium” license.

    Flow Types

    “Cloud flows”

    • “instant” manually triggered by human action
    • automated event driven flows
    • scheduled to run at a particular day/time

    • Desktop flows (also called “RPA flows” for Windows 10 users)
    • Business Process flows (aka Guided multi-step flows controlling Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 process)

    Microsoft charges $500/month for five flows used by an unlimited number of users.

    NOTE: Flows can be created using PowerAppsMaker templates.

    Install Desktop


    AI Builder

    Each Flow is processed by a bot (as in robot) created using “AI Builder”.


    VIDEO: Microsoft Power Platform YouTube channel

  9. Register for Microsoft’s Power Automate user group:


    There are discussion threads for each Power component.

    QUESTION: Use for functional testing and performance testing?

  10. Look at the marketing page about “Robotic Process Automation”:


    Get trial tenant account

  11. Click “Start Free” at


  12. PROTIP: Only work or school account are allowed (no personal accounts) even for trial accounts.

  13. Type your work email, Next,

    Production site

  14. PROTIP: Only work or school account are allowed (no personal accounts) to access:


  15. Choose your country/region and click “Get started”.


  16. The Environment is at the upper-right.

    This lab describes how to create a new practice environment.



    Portal provisioning takes 30 to 45 minutes.


Charles Lamanna’s demo at Ignite Nov 19, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8s1_qlzzd4


Microsoft Dataverse is a scalable data service and app platform which lets users securely store and manage data from multiple sources and integrate that data in business applications using a common data model to ensure ease and consistency to users. Microsoft Dataverse is the common currency that enables the components of Microsoft Power Platform to work together. It’s the foundation that enables the consolidation, display, and manipulation of data.

Connectors enable you to connect apps, data, and devices in the cloud. Among the more than 275 connectors are Salesforce, Office 365, Twitter, Dropbox, Google services, SharePoint, Outlook, and YouTube. Premium connectors require additional licensing SQL Server, Survey Monkey, and Mail Chimp.

<tt>All   Built-in   Standard   Premium   Custom   My clipboard</tt>

DOCS: Custom connectors can be built to call a publicly available API, or a custom API hosted in a cloud provider. Custom connectors can be used in Power Apps, Power Automate, and Azure Logic Apps. Custom connectors can reference an OpenAPI definition or a Postman collection.

Power Apps provides a rapid low code development environment for building custom apps for business needs. It has services, connectors, and a scalable data service and app platform (Microsoft Dataverse) to allow simple integration and interaction with existing data. Power Apps enables the creation of web and mobile applications that run on all devices, but with a simple interface.

Power Automate is used to automate repetitive business processes such as communication, data collections, and decision approvals.

Triggers are only used in Power Automate and prompt a flow to begin. Triggers can be time based, such as a flow which begins every day at 8:00 am, or they could be based off of an action like creating a new row in a table or receiving an email. You will always need a trigger to tell your workflow when to run.

Actions are used in Power Automate and Power Apps. Actions are prompted by the user or a trigger and allow interaction with your data source by some function. For example, an action would be sending an email in your workflow or app or writing a new line to a data source.

Power Virtual Agents is used to create chatbots using a guided, no-code graphical interface, without the need for data scientists or developers. It minimizes the IT effort required to deploy and maintain a custom solution by empowering subject matter experts to build and maintain their own conversational solutions. Power Virtual Agents is part of Microsoft Power Platform, therefore integration into existing systems is streamlined with out-of-the-box integration with Power Automate and its ecosystems of hundreds of connectors. Users can enable chatbots to perform an action by simply calling a Power Automate flow. Flows help users automate activities or call back end systems. Users can utilize existing flows that have been created in their Power Apps environment or they can create a flow within Power Virtual Agents authoring canvas.

Power BI (Business Intelligence) is a business analytics service that delivers insights for analyzing data. It can share those insights through data visualizations which make up reports and dashboards to enable fast, informed decisions. Power BI scales across an organization, and it has built-in governance and security allowing businesses to focus on using data more than managing it.

You can consider Power BI as the analysis and insights leg of Microsoft Power Platform. It takes business data and allows you to display it in ways that makes the most sense to users. A Power BI dashboard could potentially replace a standing meeting to report out on company metrics such as sales data, progress against goals, or employee performance.

RPA in a Day


Microsoft’s “RPA in a Day” is beginner-level hands-on training designed to on-board and train everyone, in a single day using UI flow. Microsoft Partners can deliver the content.

  1. Download zip file “RPAinADay - Student.zip”


  2. Expand it:

    |-- RPA\ in\ a\ Day\ -\ Release\ Notes.docx
    |-- lab\ manuals\ in\ pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 1.1\ Prerequisite\ -\ Setup\ Tenant\ and\ environment.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 1.2\ Prerequisite\ -\ Create\ a\ browser\ profile.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 1.3\ Prerequisite\ -\ Install\ required\ software.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 10\ Run\ the\ scenario\ in\ unattended\ mode.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 11\ (Optional)\ Error\ handling.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 12\ (Optional)\ Monitor\ desktop\ flow\ runs\ and\ manage\ gateway\ queue.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 2\ How\ to\ generate\ insights\ to\ optimize\ and\ automate\ your\ process\ using\ process\ advisor.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 3\ Create\ your\ first\ Power\ Automate\ Desktop\ flow.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 4\ Use\ Input\ and\ Output\ Parameters.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 5\ Use\ desktop\ flow\ in\ a\ cloud\ flow\ (create\ gateway,\ connection).pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 6\ Use\ Outlook\ email\ to\ trigger\ desktop\ flows\ and\ pass\ input.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 7\ Add\ AI\ model\ to\ process\ invoice\ forms.pdf
    |   |-- Lab\ 8\ Integrate\ with\ teams\ to\ get\ approval.\ E2E\ integration.pdf
    |   `-- Lab\ 9\ Automate\ web\ scenario\ using\ Power\ Automate\ Desktop.pdf
    |-- student\ lab\ data\ packages
    |   |-- ContosoInvoicingSetup.exe
    |   |-- ContosoInvoicingSetup.msi
    |   |-- Lab\ #10\ email\ attachments\ to\ use\ for\ unattended
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Fabrikam_UK).jpg
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Litware_CAN).jpg
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Proseware_NY).jpg
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(TailSpin).jpg
    |   |   `-- Contoso_INVOICE_(WingTip).jpg
    |   |-- Lab\ #2\ Solutions\ to\ import\ for\ process\ advisor
    |   |   `-- RPAinadayProcessAdvisor-1-0-0-2.zip
    |   |-- Lab\ #6,7,8,10\ email\ attachment\ to\ use
    |   |   `-- newinvoice.JPG
    |   |-- Lab\ #7\ Training\ Data\ for\ AI\ builder\ for\ lab\ #7
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Fabrikam_UK).pdf
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Litware_CAN).pdf
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(Proseware_NY).pdf
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(TailSpin).pdf
    |   |   |-- Contoso_INVOICE_(WingTip).pdf
    |   |   `-- newinvoice.JPG
    |   |-- Lab\ #8\ Advanced\ Topic\ -\ Adaptive\ Cards\ code
    |   |   `-- AdaptiveCard-lab8.json
    |   `-- Lab\ #9\ excel\ file\ to\ use\ in\ Power\ Automate\ Desktop
    |       `-- Contoso\ Invoices.xlsx
    `-- ~$A\ in\ a\ Day\ -\ Release\ Notes.docx

Module 1: Overview and prerequisites

Module 2: Identify automation opportunities and process bottlenecks using process advisor

Module 3: Build your first Power Automate Desktop flow

Module 4: Use input and output parameters

Module 5: Trigger your Power Automate Desktop flow

Module 6: Integration with Outlook connector

Module 7: Use AI builder to process invoice forms

Module 8: Create approvals using Microsoft Teams connector and adaptive cards

Module 9: Web and Microsoft Excel automation using Power Automate Desktop

Module 10: (Optional) Run Power Automate Desktop flows in unattended mode

Module 11: (Optional) Enhanced error handling in Power Automate Desktop (new)

Module 12: (Optional) Monitor Desktop flow runs and manage gateway queues (new)

PL-900 Certification Exam

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/power-platform-fundamentals/#certification-exams $99

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/power-platform-fundamentals/ “Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals”

https://github.com/MicrosoftLearning/PL-900-Microsoft-Power-Platform-Fundamentals by chandler syal

9 hour “Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals” to Learn the business value and product capabilities of Microsoft Power Platform. Create simple Power Apps, connect data with Microsoft Dataverse (formerly Common Data Service), build a Power BI Dashboard, automate a process with Power Automate, and build a chatbot with Power Virtual Agents.

PL-100 App Maker


PL-200 Functional Consultant


  • LAB[PL-200]_M00L00_Validate_Lab_Environment.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M03L01_Create_an_app.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M03L02_Create_entities.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M03L03_Create_relationships.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M03L04_Additional_entity.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L01_App_Designer.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L02_Modify_forms.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L03_Modify_views.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L04_Build charts.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L05_Build_dashboard.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L06_Build_Canvas.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L07_Work_with_data.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M04L08_UX.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L01_Users.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L02_Security_roles.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L03_Business_rule.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L04_Adv_Business_Rules.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L05_Flow.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L06_Approval_flow.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L07_BPF.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M05L08_Branching_BPF.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M06L01_PVA.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L01_Bulk_Delete.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L02_Word_template.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L03_Excel_template.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L04_Duplicate.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L05_Import_data.md
  • LAB[PL-200]_M07L06_Export_data.md

PL-400 Developer


PL-600 Solution Architect



Power Automate Desktop

Microsoft Dataverse


Power Apps


Power Apps Portals


Canvas Apps


Model-driven app


Power Automate

VIDEO: Cartoon illustration of what Power Automate Flow can do with API connectors:

  1. Recognize a new Twitter follower
  2. Sends a nice reply
  3. Adds the name ot a spreadsheet
  4. Email the spreadsheet to you
  5. Adds spreadsheet contents to Salesforce or Dynamics 365 CRM.

Microsoft Power Automate overview

Power Automate Desktop - Invoice Processing Microsoft Power Platform

Power Automate Approval Workflow Basics Reza Dorrani

by Jon Levesque

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O68-cc-QNo Top 25 Power Automate flow tips and tricks for 2021 - hidden gems and new features by Reza Dorrani


on Microsoft Power Platform YouTube channel

Power Pages

Low-code way to build model-driven data-centric desktop & mobile web pages, with enterprise RBAC security.

Microsoft’s Power Pages is based on the purchase of ADX Studio in 2015.

“Power Pages” was renamed from “Power Apps Pages” in 2021.


VIDEO by Bright Ideas Agency

https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/ Premium licenses include Power Pages. For 2,000+ users, Microsoft offers a 40% discount.

https://powerpages.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/ are just for Power Pages.


VIDEO tiers

  • $200/month for up to 100 authenticated users and 2 GB database and 16 GB file storage $2/user/month for additional users
  • $75/month for up to 500 anonymous users and 500 MB database and 4 GB file storage $0.15/user/month for additional users


Managed Enviornments

Windows Desktop

  1. Install Power Automate Desktop
  2. Define steps
  3. Record
  4. Replace text with variables

VIDEO: How to use Microsoft Power Automate Desktop - Full tutorial Feb 9, 2021 by Kevin Stratvert

VIDEO: Power Automate Desktop - Invoice Processing

Workflow Automate Auzure itself

  1. Login
  2. Open Power BI Desktop
  3. Click Performance Analyzer
  4. Collect metrics and save it to historical data.
  5. Display metrics with historical data.


Power Virtual Agents


Chatbot with Power Virtual Agents


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWxguR5B5-s How to Build (automated, no code) Chatbots with Microsoft Power Virtual Agents Microsoft Mechanics

Power BI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRfxM6B62Gw Python in Power BI 2018



Process Mining



Microsoft’s Power Automate Community

Microsoft’s Partners in Power Automate:

  • https://smartbridge.com/

Videos Referenced

Top 25 Power Automate flow tips and tricks for 2021 - hidden gems and new by Reza Dorrani

Learn to Use Power Automate with Examples | Create Bulk PDF Files | Planner to Outlook Leila Gharani



Power Automate User Community is a forum for asking questions and sharing knowledge covers:

  • Power BI
  • Power Apps
  • Power Pages
  • Power Automate
  • Copilot Studio
  • Power Virtual Agents

More about Azure

This is one of a series about Azure cloud: