Enable Automation and AI Integration with Microsoft Power Automate
Posted on June 7, 2023 by Fusion Connect
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INTRODUCTION VOICEOVER: This is Tech UNMUTED. The podcast of modern collaboration – where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. With your hosts, George Schoenstein and Santi Cuellar. Welcome to Tech UNMUTED.
GEORGE: Welcome to today's episode of Tech UNMUTED. Today we're going to take a look at a couple of the features within Power Automate which allow you to automate various processes. You've got some ability to layer some AI capabilities and that kind of thing on top of it. I'll start out with a couple of guiderails on this one. If you're listening on audio only, this one may be a little more challenging. I'd suggest you go over to the YouTube channel and watch the video. We're going to have a couple of things on screen to show you how to walk through different parts of Power Automate. Second thing is, and we've said this over and over again, find your place, right?
SANTI: That's right.
GEORGE: If you do nothing, you'll be left behind. There's still, you see news articles every day. I saw another one this morning around, "Is AI going to take my job?" At the fringes, it will. There will be the last or least productive portion of a role, or an actual individual job will go away over time. It's really on you to make the choices and lean in on this. I'll hit one other piece before I hand it over to Santi. We've been driving these initiatives for probably about six months now, across, initially image development and content development using a bunch of different tools. We've really leaned in over the last couple of months with the tools that are in Microsoft 365. In fact, we held a team meeting yesterday to run through about a dozen initiatives, talk about where we're at with them from an AI standpoint and automation standpoint-
SANTI: -and where we're headed.
GEORGE: Correct. That's most important, right?
GEORGE: The speed at which this is changing, and we keep saying this, is something we've never seen before. You've got to get on board now. If not, you're going to be playing catch up six months from now or a year from now. You want to be ahead of the curve on this as much as you can be. With that, I'm going to flip it over to Santi. He's got a number of screens he's going to share to walk you through this. We'll try to keep it as dialogue-heavy as we can, so if you are listening just on audio only, you'll be able to follow on a little bit. Again, this is one we definitely suggest you take a look on YouTube.
SANTI: This will be a little bit of a tutorial. The reason we're choosing Power Automate is because, honestly, the goal of Power Automate is to take the information worker, that's us, you and I, right?
SANTI: The average, and empower them, Power Automate, empower them to literally create automations without having a programming background. What I'm about to show you is for everybody. This is not for the developer. This is for the information worker. I'm just going to give you a quick little tour to get you introduced to Power Automate, just in case you haven't used it in the past. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen.
When you first log in to Power Automate, you'll see a couple of menu options. We're going to walk through a few things here, but the first thing that I encourage people to do is to literally take advantage of the learning they have built into this Power Automate. They have tutorials, Microsoft does. It starts off with a beginner level, and there's intermediate levels, and you just go through these. It's a great way of getting introduced to the platform. They did a good job.
Some of these are lengthy, so you have to plan. Hey, I'm going to do an hour today and then another hour tomorrow. The reality is they really do help you get started with Power Automate. I highly recommend that anybody who's serious about creating automations takes advantage of the free training that's available right here on the homepage. All right, we have a couple menu options. We're not going to have time to look at everything. I'm going to show you a few. I'm going to show you how to create a flow, or where to go to create a flow. What are some of the templates available to you.
I'll show you some of the flows I've created. Then I'll show you how you can actually create a flow even from inside of Microsoft Teams. Listen, when you click on Create, creating a flow is about taking a task. Taking a mundane task and adding some automation to your workflow. There's typically three types of flows. There's what's called an Automated Flow. This is a flow that's going to be triggered automatically. Maybe it's a flow that says, "Hey, when I add a file to a folder, send out this message to these people." Then that's going to happen automatically. I don't have to do anything. I add a file to the folder, off it goes. Then you have an Instant Flow. An Instant Flow is triggered manually. Maybe it's a button that you click. "Do this," and it does it.
Then there's a Scheduled Flow. A Scheduled Flow is an Automated Flow, but it's going to happen at a specific point in time. You can say, "Hey, I want this every Friday at 9:00 AM." That's when it runs the flow. Those are your three types of flows. This fourth button is the one that is fascinating to me and I encourage you all to use it. That is the new Copilot feature inside of Power Automate. We've been talking a lot about Copilot. Guess what you do here, George? You describe it and guess what it does? It designs it for you.
GEORGE: It was. Awesome.
SANTI: It's phenomenal [crosstalk].
GEORGE: We're going to see that across the entire Microsoft 365 platform. It's going to be [crosstalk], "I just had a meeting, take the transcription, give me the bullet points. Get those bullet points and dump them in the PowerPoint. Create me a PowerPoint. Hey, PowerPoint is okay. Add some graphics on slide three, five and seven that align to the text on the slides." Dramatic productivity.
SANTI: You just did a 10-second commercial for Copilot. That's exactly what's going to happen. This is just a taste of that. Here, you don't have to be a designer or a developer. You can say, "Wait, time out. This is what I want to do." You type it in and Copilot will start the structure of your flow and then you just have to tweak it. Anyway, that's how you create a flow from scratch.
However, as you can see down below, we have a section called 'Start from a template'. This is just a few examples. If you actually click on Template, you'll be able to see all the templates available. Trust me, there is a lot to choose from. This is where it can get a little overwhelming, because there's so much already pre-built. My best practice for you is start off with an application that's going to be part of your flow. For example, if part of your flow, your end result is to post a message in Teams, then start off with Teams. You can actually type in Teams and every potential Teams-related template will show up and you can scroll through and find the one you want to use.
GEORGE: As you're doing these, have you found the templates to be a better starting point or--?
SANTI: I have found the templates to be an excellent starting point. Most of my flows I have created, I used templates. The 'Describe and Design It' is such a new feature that I've only used it a couple times, and guess what? It does work.
SANTI: I'll give you an example. There's a couple of email distributions that we want to have an AI model scan for any negative sentiment. The template here doesn't quite cut it. It gets me like halfway to that. The reason being is I don't own the mailbox, and so it gets a little tricky because it's not under my profile. I found that if I describe, "Hey, I'm trying to create this for mailboxes that are not mine and whatnot," it kind of builds a cleaner starting point for me.
That's the good news is the template is probably going to get you 80%, 90% of which you need. It's those one-offs that maybe the template doesn't quite cut it. You can use that, Describe and Design It, and more than likely you're going to get a lot closer to a solution. Of course, I can't go through these, there's too many here. You could see as I scroll through it, yes, it is way too many. You can just scroll through this. You can start seeing some of the--
Right away, your brain starts to [laughs] trigger ideas. For example, sometimes you get like a message in Outlook for a request to add something to maybe a planner, and you can do that. You can trigger something here that says, "Hey, when this comes in Outlook with this verbiage, go ahead and create a task and planner." Sure, you still probably have to go to the task and maybe tweak it, add a date and assign people. Doesn't matter though. It just created a task for you. It's one less thing you have to do. Same thing [crosstalk]
GEORGE: That's tremendously helpful.
SANTI: Of course.
GEORGE: One of these episodes, we'll take a look at Planner. We use it quite extensively.
SANTI: Oh, yes. We use it quite a lot.
GEORGE: Sort of a light project management system to keep track of different programs and activities and tasks and those kind of things.
SANTI: I think the best thing to do here now is maybe just to show you some of the flows I created, just to give you an idea. These are, literally, you click on these you follow the prompts, and it's literally that simple, anybody can do this. By the way, I don't believe in 'no code' [laughs]. It's 'low code' for sure. If I bring it over to my flows, and this is where all your flows will live, I can show you some examples of some flows I've created.
One that we're working on right now, which it's built by Power Automate, but it does have an AI component to it. I'll show you that real quick here because there is additional modules in here that are strictly AI-driven. For example, we're working on a card reader, and I'm going to just click Edit to just give an idea of how this works. What's a card reader? Well, you go to an event, you meet somebody, they give you a card, you want to be able to scan that card and have the contact created in a database and then maybe eventually shared to Salesforce.
This is something that I'm actually in the middle of creating. I'm about 90% done with this flow. We've done some testing, it works great. What we're trying to do now is we're trying to add an additional layer, which is adding the Salesforce piece. Let me just show you what I did. I asked basically the platform, "When I create a file, I want the AI to read it and then create a new role in our Dataverse, which is our database."
Here, I'll expand these real quick, and as they expand, you're going to see how easy it is. A lot of this stuff gets already prepopulated, by the way. The one I had to fill in was I had to fill in which folder is it going to scan. I created a very specific folder on OneDrive, because this is the OneDrive logo here. It's called AI/Business Reader, and so any image that gets saved into this particular folder, the AI scans, he's scanning for the content. Then when it finds and extrapolates the content, it knows it's using what's called the business card model. It knows, "Okay, this is first name, last name, title, address, email, I got it." It drops that information that it just scanned into our table using dynamic data.
If you're wondering, "Well, how do I fill this out, or how do I know what to choose?" Very simple, look, I'm going to click in this field and it takes about a second for the dynamic menu to pop up. Then you basically are choosing, if I want the address, I'm going to find the address line that corresponds and drop it into this field. It's dynamic and there's nothing that you have to do. The code itself is already predetermined here. You're just selecting the fields that you wanted to populate in this form, and that's it. Literally, if we were to scan, take a picture of an image right now and add it to that folder, it will scan it and create a new contact in the Dataverse. Now, we want to take this further. I want to add a new step. What's the new step I want to add?
I want to be able to literally take that data that we just created and maybe create a new record in Salesforce. I'm going to show you how easy it is to create this flow. I'm going to type in Salesforce. Here are all your Salesforce connectors, and this is the one I want to create a record. I would choose this. It will add it to my flow, and all I need now is to sign in with my Salesforce credentials and follow the prompts. Next thing you know, it takes that data, connects it to Salesforce, creates a new contact.
We just automated a process that even if you have a physical card reader, you still have to like manipulate the data or it ends up in like an Excel spreadsheet or something, but that's no good to you. This is going straight into our Dataverse, our database, right? That's what this role is. This is the Dataverse, Microsoft Dataverse, and then it's taking that data and sharing it across to another platform, which is salesforce.com.
GEORGE: There's commercial platforms that do this kind of stuff, right?
GEORGE: The beauty of this is you're doing this within Teams. You're doing it in a way that's visible to everybody else on the team. You're creating a flow effectively for free, right? There's a cost to 365 platform, but effectively this is a free flow we're creating with some existing APIs into Salesforce, and we get a huge productivity hack out of this.
SANTI: Absolutely. I'm going to show you just one more flow here that I created. This one is a simple one. Basically, we have a folder that's called Global Availability. We have another one called Land and Expand Microsoft. All I want to do is if I add something to this folder, I want it to send out an email. That's it. If I add a new content to it, so I'll pick Global Availability as an example. I'm going to click Edit just to show you the flow. What's involved here? Well, SharePoint's involved because that's where the folder lives.
I have SharePoint involved, I have Outlook involved because it has to send out an email. By the way, I created these from templates, so both of these were started off as a template, the ones I just showed you. Basically, this is the flow, it creates it for you. I'm going to expand these boxes because sometimes it's just easier to understand what's going on when we expand the boxes. It's very simple.
GEORGE: Is this going to send emails as if it's you? Is this the way this one works?
SANTI: That's correct. Yes. I'm going to show you how it does that. You enter the site, in this case we're talking about our marketing site, so that's our marketing site on SharePoint. Then I enter the exact specific folder that I'm referring to, and this folder lives under a library called Solution Marketing Library, and the folder's called 7-Global Availability. This is the folder, so now when I add something, see what it says here, when I create a file inside of this folder, it takes my profile, so it takes my email address, my information, and it sends an email to this distribution list. It literally uses dynamic data. It says, "Hey," it gives you the name of the file automatically, because it's dynamic. This file has been added.
The rest is just some HTML codes. I have an image source that shows a nice banner and then the actual message. You can do this without the HTML, by clicking this button you can do it inside of like a word editor [crosstalk]. I want to add specific images and whatnot, so I did an HTML. That's it. You save it. I go out of file, automatically everybody receives an email. It's one less task I have to do now, and so this is what we're referring to. Anyway, I'm going to show you one last thing. I'm going to switch applications, so let me just close this window and switch to Teams.
All right. Now, I'm in Teams and I'm here in a conversation I'm having with a group of team members. The bottom line is I want to create an action in this conversation. What I do is I come here, I click on the three dots that's here. I get this menu that says More Actions. At the bottom of menu it says, Create a New Action. Well, guess what this does? It opens up, anybody guess? Power Automate inside Teams. Now, it gives you some of the most common templates used in these scenarios. For example, I can do a follow-up message, or I can schedule reply. Look at that one, that's great because maybe you want to reply, but there's a specific time that you want to reply in and you can just automate that now.
You can do this right from inside Teams. You don't have to-- look at this one. Based on that message, I can create a Planner task. This is awesome right here because we use Planner so much. It could be that the message contained information that, to me, is something that requires a new task inside of one of our planners. We can do that right here. That's where this really shines is when you see the amount of functionality that you get right from Power Automate inside of Microsoft Teams, for example. That is Power Automate at a very high level. George, I know you've seen some of this before, but not sure if you knew that you could actually create an automation right inside of Teams.
GEORGE: I didn't actually, no. That's huge. Especially, again, we use Planner constantly and we'll take a look at that on one of these episodes, but it's been a huge factor in us being able to stay on top of projects and keep things moving forward and provide visibility. Even being able to provide another layer of reporting on top of that potentially would be helpful as well at some point.
SANTI: Yes, for sure. Anyway, we just wanted to give you a little bit of tutorial and a bit of an exposure to the Power Platform. This is only one application, the Power Platform. There's all sorts of stuff. There's Power Apps, there's Power Virtual Agents, there's power Pages, there's Power BI, but anything that starts with the word 'Power' in the Microsoft world is meant for you. Not for the developers, it's meant for the information worker. It's meant for you to make your life and your workflows a lot more efficient. I'm telling you, you can do great things.
I have a lot of flows I'm working on and there'll be more. Anyway, this has brought this particular podcast to an end. Again, I hate this part, George, I really do, because I love talking about this stuff, but we do have to bring this podcast to an end. Let me just take this moment to remind you. Please, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform to Tech UNMUTED. That way, you don't miss a single episode because we're going to have a lot more content coming your way. Until next time, remember this. Stay connected.
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