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Softmotive Acquisition: Microsoft RPA and the Future in Process Automation

If you’re new to my three-part blog series on the state of process automation with Microsoft Softmotive acquisition – welcome. But first, be sure to check out Part 1: Industry Shakeup or Stabilization in Process Automation.

In this three-part series, I unpack what this acquisition means for the industry, Microsoft trajectory and, most importantly, what this means for you as you modernize your business processes and application.

Three-Part Series

  1. Industry Shakeup or Stabilization in Process Automation?
  2. Microsoft Future in Process Automation
  3. Democratization of Process Automation

Part 2 of 3: Microsoft’s Future in Process Automation

Building on my 1st post where I demonstrated the acquisition’s impact to the market, in this post I will speak to where this acquisition has shown up, will show up, and its impact on how your work life will undoubtedly adjust, having a tenant in Microsoft 365. I will also discuss how you as an individual will interact with your daily activities. I am layering the below topics not by accident but in the way I see it playing out at Microsoft.

Graph & MLAI Play?

The Microsoft Graph was initially released in 2015 and is/was built on the Office 365 APIs to allow developers to integrate their code/services into Microsoft Office suite of products and Azure.  Since then, it has grown leaps and bounds into the evolved Microsoft 365 platform and brings signals and edge data that shape not only back-end scenarios but also front-end UI platforms as well.

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Every time you interact with one of the Office Suites or communicate with your co-worker/external user over a Chat medium, it creates signals around those edges and a datapoint is revealed. Imagine a world where you can have a Bot ‘take action’ based on those datapoints based on specific rules.  If this sounds familiar, it shouldn’t, this is what human actors do on a day to day basis. We use data to inform our decisions. We repeat that cycle based on our own cognition over various times of the day to complete our tasks and assignments. What does this have to do with Microsoft’s acquisition of Softmotive RPA technologies? Here, I’ll explain:

  • As I mentioned in the 1st post, in any automation scenario which involves systems and humans, the human actor is the [how shall I put this with tact…hmm] the one with the greatest degree of potential error. I often liken it to [Person A] comes to work on a Monday, well rested from the weekend and attacks the tasks for the day with vigor and alertness. Let’s assume that it carries on to the end of the day, maybe even two days. By Wednesday, that energy begins to drop as they look forward to the weekend distractions and now alertness is impacted, and the efficiencies may also be reduced. This can lead to both errors and omissions; RPA solves that by having a Bot do the tedious and mundane work.
  • The same work that human actors do when interacting with systems usually involve some type of software. In the Microsoft world, this can take the shape of Office Suite of Products and other SaaS applications. Microsoft has Application Insights and other telemetry capturing systems including Microsoft Graph that captures these datapoints in actionable work and the logs that are created by the activities. I’ll go into more detail in the section below, but MLAI can be brought to bear here to assist in Process Mining.
For questions or further assistance with business process automation, please contact a member of Withum’s Digital and Technology Transformation team.

Document Processing & Process Mining Play?

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is the space where I spend quite a bit of my time, that’s the practice I lead here at Withum. It is where DPA, RPA, and MLAI meet and it’s a very exciting place that involves a ton of cognitive capabilities, including computer vision and natural language processing. I see this as a way to improve accuracy in today’s complex business processes and make sense of unstructured and structured data. I believe that this Softmotive acquisition will first extend to unstructured data in text and speech [think Microsoft Teams]. Stemming from that we can look at longer and more complex processes that make sense of those unstructured and structured data to drive better decision making and exception handling, which ensures that the human behind the screen is indeed working smarter and not harder, all of this being accomplished without any complex programming effort. However, if you need to program… well then…

Language support for extensibility in other SaaS applications

The acquisition comes with Robin, Softmotive open-source RPA language, built for folks like me – programmers who like to get in with our hands and extend capabilities. I may be prejudiced, but I think there is tremendous upside here to make RPA more accessible to just about anything you can put Visual Studio to do. Imagine an RPA template in Visual Studio? Are you kidding me? 🙂 Microsoft already dominates this space in terms of an IDE that programmers love and use worldwide. This popularity will ensure that the developer community, as well as ISV’s, get access to the ability to code RPA in their solutions. This is the longer game being played in my opinion. Anyway, at the risk of TL;DR I will stop here and put the Democratization of RPA post in queue.

Final Thoughts

In this post, I hope you were able to take away, or at least begin to think about, the landscape that Microsoft is building with this acquisition of Softmotive and its implications on the future of Microsoft Product stack.

Digital and Technology Transformation

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