Power Automate – UI flows

Power Automate acts like the glue holding together the interconnected web of Microsoft 365 and the broader partner eco-system. With the ability to trigger a “Flow” from hundreds of events on the platform, to perform thousands of potential actions, Power Automate is a compelling investment for companies looking seriously at no/low-code application integration.

Microsoft have extended Power Automate beyond the platform and onto the desktop with the addition of the UI Flows capability. Robot Process Automation (RPA) is the new kid on the block for companies trying to squeeze even more automation and productivity out of what’s left of their business processes.

For companies who are automating their business processes on the Microsoft 365 platform, adding RPA to the mix makes a lot of sense. Automating modern API based platforms to work together has been the theme of cloud platform delivery for years now. But it has never been able to achieve full integration with the manual repetitive processes which can consume many companies.

UI Flows are only in preview, but already Microsoft has released a significant capability for building Robots, the Power Automate Desktop. Using this tool anyone can start to build automation into their daily business processes.

My hope it to be able to start to write about Power Automate Desktop, learn about it’s features and create some compelling examples for our customers so that when it is finally released we will be able to provide the quality consulting that I know our customers have come to love about working with PSC………

Robot Process Automation

Robot Process Automation (RPA) as a technology group enables the automation of repetitive manual human tasks.

Imagine how much easier Excel Macros make an accounting process whereby a multi-stage process can be automated with the push of a button. Now imagine a multi-stage process where a human has to take data from Excel, or worse a paper document, and move it to another application such as a web site. RPA can do that for you.

– RPA can do that –

In an idea world where every system has a beautifully architected API integration layer, every system would be able to easily and quickly talk to every other system. In reality this is far from the case and a sleek and effective integration is either impossible or prohibitively expensive. RPA can do that for you.

Examples
Many companies have to go through a process of converting paper based data to electronic format. Whether it is incoming invoices, logistics documentation or even waste disposal profiles, there are thousands of people who’s role is to type data from paper into a website.

Through a relatively simple process of connecting the dots, a Robot can be configured to be responsible for:

  • Collecting the data from an Automated OCR process
  • Open a web browser and log into the ERP system
  • Map the data from the form to fields on a web form
  • Submit the web form

Reducing Risk
RPA Robots aren’t error prone. Robots will do exactly what is expected of them. In an business, mistakes cost money and in especially heavily regulated environments the consequences of putting the wrong value in fields can be significant.

Increasing productivity for everyone
Robots are also quicker than people, reducing the time taken for process completion. This then also frees up the people to be able to work in other areas of a business and bring their experience to bear in other ways.

There are many vendors in the RPA space, and Microsoft has entered the foray by extending their Microsoft 365 Power Automate platform to include UI-Flows. https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/ui-flows/ I am going to write about Power Automate and ui-flows specifically as I believe it will be a significant game changer for our client in the future.

Speaking: The Microsoft Graph – The API to rule all APIs

I am speaking this coming week at the #NWCJS meetup @PSCGroup

The Microsoft Graph – The API to rule all APIs

The Microsoft Graph sits on top of the Office365 SAAS platform. Over many years Microsoft has been building up the capabilities of “The Graph” to make it insanely powerful and allow enterprises to programmatically manage their entire platform.

From the simplest tasks of sending an email, to accessing a table in excel from an API! From accessing the security logs of the SAAS platform to the fact that they made all this available to play with through Postman. There is nothing not to love about the Microsoft Graph and what it means to developers. Did I mention the Delta query capability for tracking changes since you last asked? Or the batching capability? 😲

Come and see how the Graph is arguably the API to rule all APIs.

Speaking at Mar 2019 Office Add-Ins Community call

It’s this week !!

Office Add-ins community call, this Wednesday, March 13 at 8:00am PST

Join us for the March community call to connect with the folks who are building the Office JavaScript APIs. 

Agenda:

  • Doug Mahugh: High-level overview of Office (web) Add-ins
  • Sohail Zafar: What’s new with Outlook JavaScript APIs
  • Nitesh Golchha: Office Add-ins Single Sign-On (SSO)
  • David Chestnut: Office Add-ins Patterns & Practices
  • Sudheer Maremanda: Edge WebView control for the Office Add-ins platform
  • Mark Roden of PSC Group: Office Add-in demo (Word & SharePoint integration)
  • Q&A

PSC Labs 2018 review

PSC Labs was founded in 2015 to provide unbiased, vendor-agnostic technology insights. Our mission is to ensure client
delivery excellence and new solution offerings through the adoption of emerging technologies.

For more information check us out at https://labs.psclistens.com

2018 review

PSC Labs undertook a wide-variety of projects in 2018. From Robot Process Automation to Event Driven Architecture seven projects were undertaken to improve our understanding of these technologies/capabilities.

Blockchain

The team looked into how Blockchain worked and then on a more practical level looked specifically into Ethereum and the ability to incorporate Smart Contracts into the chain. We looked at the services provided by various cloud vendors and found that at the time, the examples for implementations were on a very large scale.

Blockchain is not difficult to understand technically, but the broad questions about scalability, long term viability and adoption though are still quite open ended.

Custom Vision API

The team looked at the newly released Azure Cognitive Services Image process capabilities and built a custom app capable of recognizing every day images. The application built on top of a Xamarin iOS mobile app provides a user with the ability to take a number of pictures of an object, from different angles, and store them within the application.

The Azure Cognitive Services are used to generate a Machine Learning model which can then be downloaded back to the device. The application is then capable of using the camera to identify objects with a predicted level of accuracy.

Grouping Models Training The Model Running Locally

The investigation team successfully demonstrated the ability to build a real-world application around the Azure Cognitive Service.

Azure/AWS IoT

The team investigated the IoT services available in Azure and AWS. To build on the previous work the Labs had done with GE’s Predix platform, these investigation teams were focused on using the available abstraction services from the cloud vendors and not on the low level device/data interaction.

We discovered that both platforms were very good at easily setting up the ability to handle data ingestion from devices. The ease of setup on the device to allow for secure authenticated transmission of data was simple and easy to understand in both cases.

The Azure platform service stood out however with their Azure IoT Suite and Remote Monitoring. Once the data ingestion was set up, the IoT Suite enabled us to create a monitoring dashboard and set controls for performance monitoring. The ability to configure limits for data and automate notifications based on those limits promise considerable potential.

The Azure IoT Suite highlighted how far IoT as a service has come in a short period of time and is a viable solution to any company seeking to set up and start to take advantage of the burgeoning IoT landscape.

Fly.io

The investigation team looked at the intriguing concept of a programmable CDN and the promise of being able to enhance website performance without having to change any of the code on the site directly. An example of this capability would be the adding of a watermark to an image. The Fly.io server would proxy in between the image server and programmatically add the watermark. The watermarked version of the image would then be cached for the next user, at the CDN closer to the user than the original image on the server.

The fly.io Edge Application runtime is an open core Javascript environment built for proxy servers. It gives developers powerful caching, content modification, and routing tools.

The runtime is based on V8, with a proxy-appropriate set of Javascript libraries. There are built in APIs for manipulating HTML and Image content, low level caching, and HTTP requests/responses. When possible, we use WhatWG standards (like fetch, Request, Response, Cache, ReadableStream).

The team found that the implementation of Fly.io as a developer was not complex and the examples provided were easy to set up and run. But overall the team found that this capability feels more like a solution waiting for a problem.

Event Driven Architecture

Kafka

At the start of 2018, as part of their 10 technologies to watch Gartner declared “Event Driven Architectures” as something to pay attention to. The Labs team looked into Kafka specifically although there are others (Azure Event Hub being one) with this in mind. Kafka was originally a project created by LinkedIn to handle their massive data volume and was subsequently open sourced through the Apache foundation.

The team created a demo application which ingested data from an HR application managing people and their records. From the input of the data multiple complex processes were initiated and executed by the event driven architecture. The response of the application, even running locally was very impressive.

Robot Process Automation

UIPath

While Robot Process Automation (RPA) is not a new technology, it’s coming to the forefront of business rapidly. With VC funding for major RPA vendors more prevalent (AutomationAnywhere, UIPath), it demonstrates the capacity for the market to absorb this new technology quickly.

RPA as an industry is all about the automation of repetitive mundane tasks, such as manual data entry into multiple systems. Many companies have long established manual business processes, mainly due to the cost to automate the process. RPA can help address this problem by accurately and repeatedly following the same steps a person would.

We looked at UIPath as a vendor for RPA and looked into the more advanced capabilities of the platform. We created an ability for a code check-in process within AzureDevOps, to trigger a build process chain and instruct the RPA robot to automate a UI test through a browser. If the robot found a failure it created a bug within AzureDevOps related to the failing test.

RPA is mature and already being used across many industries, there is significant opportunity for cost effective savings for companies to use RPA.

GraphQL

GraphQL is a technology created by Facebook in response to a problem they found themselves when facing a growth model based on a service-based architecture. As Facebook pages grew in complexity and functionality, the number of services being called increased and caused various performance issues. The PSC labs team set up to investigate whether or not GraphQL would be applicable to the projects we were planning to work on in the future.

The investigation team took an existing mobile application where the load time was in excess of 10 seconds and was able, using GraphQL, to reduce the load time of the page by over 50%. In a case where the user was on a mobile network with high latency the loading speed was increased by over 65%.

GraphQL has many advantages for a developer and project team when considering a services architecture, from the creation of a standard endpoint, to the reduction in network calls and speed of time to page load, it proved itself very valuable.

 

Conclusion

PSC Labs had another successful year investigating many broad technology innovations. As in previous years, some of the projects show great promise and we will be working on new iterations of them in 2019.

If you want to find out more about PSC Labs and/or have an interesting project you would like us to share with you please contact

info@psclistens.com for more information

 

Feb 21 NorthWest Chicago JavaScript Meetup – Fixing Memory Problems in Single Page Apps 

As always the NWCJS meetups will be held in the PSC Office in Schaumburg – everyone is welcome 🙂

 

Fixing Memory Problems in Single Page Apps
by Mike Labriola

Single Page Apps may run for hours or days without the user closing or refreshing their browser. This poses a huge problem for JavaScript developers that may not be aware of how much memory their app is using, reusing or squirreling away without need. The problem gets bigger as the device gets smaller, with the biggest pain felt by users of progressive web apps on mobile devices. Come and learn how memory management works in the browser and how you can use the tools that ship with Google Chrome to observe, and debug, your memory management woes.

https://www.meetup.com/Northwest-Chicago-JavaScript/events/257291661/ #nwcjs

The JDRF One Walk – Trying to find a cure for Childhood Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a serious and stressful disease to manage.  When you have T1D, your pancreas stops producing insulin—a hormone essential to turning food into energy. This means you must constantly monitor your blood-sugar level, administer insulin, and carefully balance these insulin doses with your eating and activity just to stay alive. JDRF is the only global diabetes foundation with a strategic plan to end T1D. One of the main fundraisers for JDRF is in the form of the “Walk for the Cure” held all over the country these walks are often attended by thousands of people, all walking to help raise money to find a cure for T1D.

Just over a year ago we found out that my youngest daughter Paige has Type 1 Diabetes. JDRF has been amazing in helping us initially cope with the disease, but also being there in support of us when we needed it and providing community support for families in our situation.

Last year my company PSC Group sponsored The Odd Socks walk team as part of the work done through the Philanthropic Committee. We raised over $5,000 as a team and we were incredibly proud of what we achieved in our first year.

We are doing the Walk in Schaumburg Illinois again this year September 30th.

Please consider donating your time and or fundraising for the team so that we may find a cure for T1D. You can do both from the link to the team page below.

https://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?fr_id=7460&pg=team&team_id=264088

You can join the team any time until the day of the walk itself but we need to know before Saturday 22nd if you want one of the new improved TYE-DYE t-shirts for 2018.