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Content management processes are often manually intensive and include document tasks such as copying and moving, tagging, updating and reviewing, gathering feedback, converting formats and archiving.
Content automation tools such as Microsoft Power Automate can automate manual actions and help businesses reduce the effort spent to create a more systematic approach.
Microsoft Power Automate, formerly Microsoft Flow, is a Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based content automation tool for automating interactions between systems and people. Simple automations include sending an email when a user updates a document, moving a document between separate repositories and generating a weekly summary spreadsheet of documents that changed in a repository.
Power Automate has connectors to the typical Microsoft tools that center on content management such as SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive, Word, Excel and Outlook. Power Automate also has connectors for many third-party tools including Google Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, Box, Adobe Sign and DocuSign. Business application connectors are also available to Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, enabling a broader perspective on content management, such as automating generation of a sales contract from data in CRM and ERP systems.
Users can start a Microsoft Power Automate workflow in one of three ways:
- Manually. Users can do this by clicking a button.
- Trigger. This might happen when a user receives an email, updates a document or creates a new sales order.
- Timed schedule. Users would set a specific time each day, such as 9 a.m.
For organizations with hybrid environments, the Microsoft on-premises gateway enables Power Automate to interact between on-premises and cloud-based applications.
Businesses should consider the following features when assessing Power Automate as a content automation tool:
- Licensing. Subscriptions vary in price. Users can choose an unlimited option or a by-subscription option for specific workflows.
- Usability. The visual designer for creating workflows is web browser-based, and the drag-and-drop design canvas enables Power Automate users to develop relatively simple workflows. Modeling real business use cases consists of multiple steps, and business logic requires users to have technical skills, such as the ability to program language constructs. This moves Power Automate into the realm of the IT team rather than the business team.
- Enterprise complexity. Power Automate workflows can fail, typically when a connector to a specific application does not achieve the desired result in a required time. Workflow logic can trap and handle failure, but accommodating all possible failures requires complex logic, including a retry strategy. Any workflow product requires the same complex logic for accommodating failures, but the Power Automate canvas can get cumbersome with more than a few steps.
- Maturity. Automate is a relatively new workflow tool on the market and does not have the same capabilities as mature vendor workflow platforms. Microsoft and third parties are adding capabilities at a fast pace, and a strong user community helps with typical new-adopter challenges.