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Automate, Automate, Automate! (Like Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Brady Bunch? Anyone? Sigh... Part 2

By Brian Balistreri posted 01-13-2023 17:05


***Please enjoy this blog posted on behalf of the author, Phil Weldon, Director of eDiscovery and Litigation Support Technology, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP.

With Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), software has undertaken a Copernican Revolution. OpenAI's GPT3-5 has passed both Evidence and Torts on the bar exam. Where we used to have to point and click, we now have software that pushes its own buttons. We can now use low code RPA workflows coupled with API or GUI access to have software run itself. To your delight or dismay, this is already happening. Sneaker heads and Swifties have been using this technology for years to skip virtual lines and buy kicks or tickets on websites. Boutique litigation law firms are using AI and RPA to outmaneuver and outmatch antiquated big law workflows. At ILTACON 2022, I demonstrated stacking Microsoft Power Automate with Relativity, fully automating a document production from start to finish. The process was easy, intuitive, and exhilarating. For this ILTA blog post, Ben Grimes has offered to share his expertise and knowledge to get you started on your own AI and Automation journey.

Phil Weldon (Director of eDiscovery and Litigation Support Technology, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP): For someone new to Microsoft Power Automate – where is the best place to start learning?

Ben Grimes (Vice President, Northeast Region, Microsoft): The great news is that for new users, they’re not alone.  Worldwide, there are over 27 million active users on the Power Platform each month, and our Power Platform Community has 830,000 users across 459 user groups.  Connecting with a user group in your region will plug you in to a welcoming and passionate community of experts, customers, and enthusiasts who are constantly contributing to the success of their peers. 

To get hands on with Power Automate, my recommendation for your first stop would be Microsoft Learn for Power Platform.  There, you’ll find over 500 learning paths and modules that span the entire Power Platform, so whether you’re looking to get started with Power Automate, AI Builder, or any other part of the platform, you’ll be sure to find self-paced training for your needs.  Should you want an environment where you can have access to create workflows and apps using premium features, you can leverage our Developer Plan and get building right away.

Phil: What exciting features does MS have on the roadmap for Power Automate (that you can share)?

Ben: We publish our Power Platform roadmap every 6 months, and you can find our latest published version here. For Power Automate specifically, I’ve got a few notable favorites:

  1. Describe it and let AI build it: Describe what you’re looking to automate using a sentence, and an AI-based copilot will build your flow in seconds.
  2. Process Mining Capabilities: In 2022, Microsoft acquired Minit, a leader in process mining, and over the past several months, we’ve brought their capabilities into Power Automate. As a result, you’ll see templates for common processes such as procure-to-pay, order to cash, and accounts payable today, with more to follow.  We’ve also launched the Minit desktop client, which enables rich process map interpretation, root cause analysis, and publishing of reports through Power BI.
  3. Hosted RPA Bots: Customers using Power Automate Desktop for unattended robotic process automation (RPA) can now run their bots using fully managed virtual machines. As a true software as a service (SaaS) for RPA, unattended RPA bots can now be created and automatically scaled across hosted virtual machines powered by Microsoft Azure. Simply create a group of bots by setting up basic parameters and have virtual machines scaled automatically for your unattended RPA scenarios—with no Azure subscription required.


Phil: That is incredible. I know legal can be slow to adopt new things. Are you aware of any other law firms leveraging Microsoft Power Automate to reduce cost and empower users? I get the sense that there haven’t been many yet (though, I hope I am wrong and also hope that this post encourages more adoption).

Ben: We have a library of public customer stories, organized by industry, scenario, size, etc., and it’s incredibly inspiring to read about how Power Platform has empowered organizations and people to achieve more.   While there are examples of law firms on our public pages, there are also incredibly relevant stories from large professional services firms such as Accenture, EY, and PwC.   For example, EY has not only transformed internal finance processes with Power Platform, but they also leveraged the Power Platform to deliver a emergency load processing solution to its banking customers.

Phil: For general business users, what Flows or automations have you seen be used the most?

Ben: For many users, they’ll find quick inspiration in Power Automate’s list of templates, where you can sort by the most used examples.  Simple workflows can be very impactful – for instance, setting a reminder to follow up on a Teams message, or forwarding emails to a Teams channel can boost your personal productivity.  For many organizations, Power Automate’s native approvals feature is an essential part of their day-to-day process, handling simple sequential approvals, or complex, multi-stage parallel routing.

But lately, I’ve seen a tremendous surge in popularity for our low-code AI capabilities, which you’ll find in AI Builder.  Business users of all skill levels can quickly use pre-built AI models to extract data from receipts, invoices, or identity documents, or train their own document processing models based on custom forms, or unstructured documents (like contracts or leases).  Our document automation toolkit comes with a templated set of workflows and a companion Power App to get started in minutes with any custom document processing scenario you might have.

Phil: Have you seen any companies push back or block the adoption of automation for business reasons? I have heard rumblings of folks upset about staff reductions due to RPA being enabled – but in my own optimistic opinion, automating redundant and boring work frees us up to do more interesting things.

Ben: Automation has the potential to give workforces the freedom to focus on what’s important and have a positive impact on quality of life for all employees. In addition, empowering users to solve problems with low code has been shown to have a positive impact on work satisfaction and morale – this can be a key part of retention strategy.

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