Automation Kit, Process Advisor app, & SAP integration
Prioritize, analyze, and automate business processes faster and more effectively with updates to Power Automate. Get end-to-end visibility over automation projects that will yield the best financial return for your organization with the Automation Kit. Locate bottlenecks and inefficiencies in existing processes, and take corrective action with the Minit desktop app and process advisor. See how to automate more business processes with deeper SAP integration.
End-to-end visibility of automated projects.
Locate bottlenecks and inefficiencies, take corrective action.
Automate manual processes, save time with SAP integration.
Watch our video here.
00:00 — Introduction
01:44 — How to apply process automation: Automation Kit
04:12 — Process advisor
07:07 — Minit desktop app
10:10 — SAP integration
12:50 — Automation Kit to track progress & savings
13:45 — Wrap up
Automation Kit at https://aka.ms/automation-kit
Get the SAP procure to pay solution template at https://aka.ms/SAPP2P
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Jeremy Chapman (00:02):
Up next, we look at updates to Power Automate that help you to prioritize, analyze, and apply automation to business processes faster and more effectively. From the new Automation Kit that gives you end-to-end visibility over automation projects that will yield the best financial return for your organization, the new Minit desktop app and process advisor to discover and understand bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your existing processes so you can take corrective action, and deeper integration with SAP to help automate more of your business processes. And joining us to walk through all this is Ashvini Sharma from the Power Automate engineering team. Welcome back.
Ashvini Sharma (00:37):
Thank you Jeremy. It’s great to be back.
Jeremy Chapman (00:39):
And thanks so much again for joining us today. You know, automation with Power Automate is one of the most popular topics on Mechanics, whether it’s creating flows for everyday tasks or establishing enterprise workflows using capabilities like Robotic Process Automation, RPA, or unattended bots that really cut down on that manual effort to get work done.
Ashvini Sharma (00:57):
Yes, that’s right. We’re seeing a ton of momentum in Power Automate. With Power Automate, you can automate the smallest task to the largest project. Low-code automation has made it so that literally every corner of the organization and every person can automate what they need to save time, effort, and money.
Jeremy Chapman (01:13):
And today we really want to take a look at how we can actually apply process automation to have the most possible impact. So how can we help?
Ashvini Sharma (01:21):
So on the one hand we do a lot to support and encourage a culture of automation so that everyday business users and teams can contribute tangible use cases for automation. Then as part of that effort, a lot of organizations will establish centers of excellence and as that happens, we are also making it easier for the automation team to prioritize the type of projects they directly support based on the ROI. A great tool that helps here is the Automation Kit for Power Platform, which gives you a central dashboard to assess potential savings in aggregate and by project so that you can make data driven decisions on which automation projects to prioritize based on ROI, estimated savings, and complexity. This is something you can download and easily set up as part of your process.
Jeremy Chapman (02:07):
So going back to that chart view that we saw before with all those colorful bubbles, what was behind that report?
Ashvini Sharma (02:11):
There are two ways to get this view. One uses manual requests from business users where they input project details and what they want to solve. That request is manually assessed with estimates of time, effort, and cost added from the automation team. The second way is to partially automate this process via process advisor in Power Automate, a built-in capability to record and assess processes. With process advisor, you can use data-derived calculated inputs to inform the fields, instead of using manual estimates as you submit new projects. And processed requests in both cases are routed for approval before they appear on the dashboard.
Jeremy Chapman (02:49):
All right, so now everything’s up and running, and I can see that there are some approved requests that are starting to pile up in your case, but now it’s easier to prioritize which ones you’re going to start with.
Ashvini Sharma (02:59):
It is, because you can see the details and the complexity of each project and how it compares to the estimated savings. These ones on the lower left are low hanging fruit projects, like this one for creating an applicant record in our example. Typically these projects can be solved easily. And we have hundreds of available automation templates that you can find to automate common tasks. Additionally, we’ve built a new approach called Copilot, which is powered by OpenAI, where you simply use natural language to get started. And so pretty quickly, we are able to spot opportunities to help business users create their own simple automation solutions where it makes sense. That said, as an automation team to have the biggest impact, you’ll want to target the biggest bubbles furthest to the left, or where the lowest effort yields the highest reward. In our case, we’ll dig into this one for invoicing to drive the biggest impact at medium complexity, as well as this one for improving our procurement process. Both have high estimated savings. And the invoicing project, by the way, was assessed using data derived from process advisor, which is part of Power Automate and can be used to analyze processes in order to see how things are running now and find and address any issues.
Jeremy Chapman (04:11):
So how does process advisor then know what processes to start to assess?
Ashvini Sharma (04:15):
First you need to direct it to look at a process and there are a couple of options. Let me show you. I’m in the process advisor tab in Power Automate. This is where you can get started. We have templates for finance and supply chain processes, as well as the download link to the Minit app that I’ll show in a moment. In this case, I’ll create a new process to analyze. Here, I have two options. First, I can upload process data, which are typically event logs, or I can choose to record my desktop to capture all of the actions related to a process. I’m going to use the data option for our invoicing process that we want to improve. It uses an in-house app that logs the current actions necessary to complete the task. I’ll give it a name, Invoice Report, and now a description for future reference.
This launches the Power Query process to import my data, and you’ll see it works with the most common data sources. In my case, my data is stored in a CSV file. So I’ll point to that which is in my OneDrive. Just to see the type of data I’ve ingested, you’ll see a CaseID key, start and end times for each event, and other data to identify in group processes. Then still in Power Query, I can prepare the data a bit further if I need to. Here, I need to map the attributes or columns off the CSV file represented on the left with the standard attribute types from process advisor in the middle.
Jeremy Chapman (05:39):
And so what this is doing is actually mapping the imported data to the underlying schema so that process advisor can understand and analyze it.
Ashvini Sharma (05:45):
Yeah, that’s right. And now if we fast forward in time a little bit, you’ll see that most of my attributes are mapped. From here, I’ll need to kick off the analysis process. This will now typically take a few minutes to complete, depending on the the amount of data.
Jeremy Chapman (05:57):
So what types of things then is it analyzing here?
Ashvini Sharma (06:00):
Even though the CSV file we looked at earlier looked pretty simple, there’s more to it. It’s grouping everything by CaseID, resources and suppliers, as well as calculating times between processes, total process duration for each completed task, and more. In fact, now that it’s complete, in the overview, you’ll see a median and average case duration. The case here means the end-to-end process from start to finish, regardless of activities and outcomes. Loop cases, which are repetitive sections of process that might get executed multiple times until the process is finished. Rework cases are like loops where activities need to be reworked and the resource count, which are the number of employees or entities performing the process. I can also see the number of paths. These are different ways you can complete the process. You can also see cases and activities along with process duration trends over time. This is an interactive report using Power BI embedded, so I can use filters to investigate the data further. I’ll filter on the most common path for this process, and I can zoom into the process map to get a better view of all the steps in the specific process path.
Jeremy Chapman (07:07):
So this really provides a great high-level perspective, but what if I wanted to dig in a bit deeper and analyze that process itself and maybe identify and pinpoint some of the bottlenecks?
Ashvini Sharma (07:16):
Yes, you absolutely can. And for that I can use the new Minit desktop app, currently in preview. You’ll see the same processes open in the app. The app is great at spotting bottlenecks. Here is one which I can see effects almost half of my processes. It’s a manual order entry step. If I click in and change the metric to mean duration, I can see that this activity takes over six hours and that’s a lot longer than the other steps. Now I’ll look at this step to see more details. Here the orange nodes are common across all paths and the green node is our manual step. I’ll open the customization panel to look at the mean duration. The red halo shows me that having manual entry adds 1.64 more days to solve a rejected invoice. Let’s see what’s behind our rejected invoice. I can see the total number of rejected invoices is much greater and the duration is much longer for cases with manual entries.
I want to drill in further to understand why. So I’ll create a filter to find all cases where there is a manual entry of the order that is then followed by a rejected invoice. And now if I go into statistics, I can see there are a few invoices with the status of accounted. In this case, it points to the fact that they were erroneously rejected to begin with, which led to rework and extra time spent all due to human error. From here I can do root cause analysis. I’m going to select a few possible influencing factors. I’ll choose invoicing status, then I’ll select cost, cost center, the invoice total, as well as supplier details as influencers. And now in the analysis view, I can can see that the particular supplier said foundation has an issue, and there are more manual entry errors for this particular supplier.
Jeremy Chapman (09:02):
And this really saves a ton of time in terms of finding the origin of different process delays. So what’s the supplier doing wrong then in this case?
Ashvini Sharma (09:09):
Yeah, this is most likely a supplier not correctly submitting their invoices. They’re probably incorrect entries or missing fields. Now we could reach out to that supplier and get them on the right track. But to stop us having to do this every time there’s a supplier invoice issue, we can automate this process to loop back with the supplier to request more details. In fact, this is a great use of AI-assisted Copilot capabilities to author the process flow using natural language. I’m going to create a flow by typing, look for new invoices that have a rejected incomplete status and send an email to the supplier. I’ll customize this with an email subject and message that the supplier will get. Now if I open up the flow it built, you’ll see it’s looking at the invoices table. And for each there is a condition where it looks for status equal to rejected incomplete and only sends the email if that condition is met.
Jeremy Chapman (10:02):
And this is really a great practical example of using OpenAI. So now you’ve got your first project done, and I recall the second project was around fixing up some things around procurement, right?
Ashvini Sharma (10:10):
Yeah, this is a common problem we see. For example, there may be an app used to manage orders from the business users but is disconnected with SAP system of record. So we want to automate the current manual process to collect orders and enter them into SAP. For that, we now have the new SAP integration solution that you can use out-of-the-box for some of the most common use cases for SAP. Here we’ll use the procure to pay solution template, which includes pre-built Power Apps and flows. I’ll start in one of the cloud flows to explain how it works. These steps here represent one of the processes to create a vendor invoice. When I scroll down to this step, this is where the integration with SAP has been configured to get purchase order details from SAP. This next SAP step verifies the invoice, and you can see all of the variables we are using. In fact, I’ll click into the SAP system, show a few more options. With this solution, each procurement action is logged into our SAP system from creating order, to goods receipt, and vendor payment.
Jeremy Chapman (11:15):
Nice. And having to work with SAP in the past, you know, I know firsthand just how much time this can save. So can you show us what it looks like in action?
Ashvini Sharma (11:22):
Yeah, this will save a ton of time and make it simpler and more secure than ever. Let me show you the user experience. I’m in a Power App used for purchasing. I have an order ready for office supplies with a printer and some paper. I’ll submit the order, and on top you’ll see that gets logged into our SAP system. That then triggers an approval process in SAP. And since I have approval rights for purchase orders with this small amount, I can approve it myself. This action is also sent over to the SAP system. Now, I’ll fast forward in time a little and say that I’ve received the items, and once I submit that, it’s also logged into SAP and informs our supplier. Once the supplier gets this information, they email an invoice to request payment. Now we’ve received the invoice from our supplier, and here’s the invoice itself where we’re using AI builder to extract the right information from it. Now I’ll head back over to our Power App and refresh the view to make sure the invoice has been processed. You’ll see the confirmed button appears, which means processing is complete. And there is just one last step to trigger payment. And you’ll see the order details match the receiving details and the invoice details. From there, I can choose to approve it, and that would trigger the final SAP operation to process payment with the supplier.
Jeremy Chapman (12:41):
And the integration with SAP at the backend, you know, looks really seamless. So now you’ve got both of your projects kind of crossed off the list and out of your backlog.
Ashvini Sharma (12:49):
Yeah, that’s right. And let me show you one more thing. Something I didn’t show before was how we can use the Automation Kit to track our progress and savings from the automations we’ve implemented. So back in the Automation Kit CoE dashboard, I can see the return on investment from our projects along with the SLA and governance information. This is where we can show the value of our work our automation team is having on the business with our goal count, target savings, actuals against our target, and our efficiency gains. Of course, this is an interactive report too, so I can see things like savings by department. In the ROI view, I can easily track cost savings by department by month, to show how things are progressing. So you have full visibility into the contributions you are making as a team and can easily communicate this information back to your stakeholders.
Jeremy Chapman (13:39):
And this is super timely as more and more of us are trying to do more with less. And automation is a huge enabler for this. So, for anyone who’s watching right now looking to get started with some of the things you’ve shown today, what do you recommend?
Ashvini Sharma (13:50):
Well, everything I’ve shown you today is ready for you to try out. The Automation Kit to help manage and track your project can be found at aka.ms/automation-kit. You can download process advisor and try out the preview of the Minit desktop app in process advisor, and you can find our SAP procure to pay solution template at aka.ms/SAPP2P.
Jeremy Chapman (14:12):
Thanks so much, Ash, for joining us today and sharing all the automation possibilities. Of course, keep checking back to Microsoft Mechanics for all the latest updates. Subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already. And as always, thank you for watching.