When looked at as an ecosystem of tools that help with automating processes across businesses, Microsoft’s Power Automate is the key service for IT pros who want to start optimizing employee workflow. Power Automate consists of two main entry points – one via the cloud and via a desktop app. In this article, to distinguish between them, they will be referred to as Power Automate Cloud and Power Automate Desktop.
Each brings a unique spectrum of tools and services across multiple options to start automating processes in any business and at any skill level. Consider Power Automate as the cloud-based enterprise technology that allows users to automate business processes that access cloud services, desktop applications, and legacy systems. Power Automate Desktop broadens the existing robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities in Power Automate by giving end users prebuilt drag-and-drop actions to help them automate workflows or by letting them record their own desktop workflows to run later.
Stephen Siciliano, product lead for Microsoft Power Automate, says that Microsoft sees these two services as a continuum that allows for users to enter at a point that accommodates their current skill level and the task at hand. As those skills advance or the end goal changes, the user can move into other areas of the two services to expand their work and automation. This is possible because, although they are two separate services, the work performed in one is available in the other and vice versa to support that continuum concept. Work done in either Power Automate platform can also be integrated into the company’s Power Apps service to take automation and data even further.
Ryan Cunningham, who is the product lead for Microsoft Power Apps, concurs. “Microsoft is really all-in on Power Platform as a way to tie together many of the assets that we have in the cloud today.” Cunningham said.
He went on to say that low-code/no-code elements in Power Platform and other related services have been percolating for years at Microsoft; these include Microsoft Excel, which was released almost 35 years ago and is the basis for Microsoft Power Fx, the low-code language for expressing logic across the Microsoft Power Platform.
In other words, while the pandemic has given the concept of low-code/no-code a new stage, the low-code/no-code technology is not necessarily new; it's based on things that have been at the core of many of the company’s services for some time.
Now that we have talked about the platform, let’s break down some key elements for both Power Automate and Power Automate Desktop, starting with a feature comparison.