RPA Software Microsoft Power Automate Desktop Now FREE for All Windows 10 Users

Microsoft announced on Mar 2, 2021 that it’s making its Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software, Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, available to all Windows 10 users at no additional cost. That’s saying RPA is accessible for free on 72% of all desktops and laptops running on Windows! This is groundbreaking—especially for businesses who have been dragging their feet on RPA adoption mainly due to cost.


So, what does this mean for you?



In this article, we discuss:

  1. Is it really free?

  2. How this removes barriers to automation for businesses

  3. How this empowers business users

  4. Learning Microsoft Power Automate Desktop

  5. A word of caution


Is it really free? What’s the catch with the Microsoft Power Automate Desktop?


Yup, it really is free, as in beer. You can just download it and have a go.


It seems Microsoft is making Power Automate Desktop free to push paid plans, such as the Power Automate per user with Attended RPA plan, targeted at larger enterprises with more sophisticated automation needs.


The paid plans allow advanced capabilities like sharing and collaborating across flows, identifying bottlenecks in your business processes, extracting data, and controlling flows for governance purposes.


Here's a summary of the things you'll need a paid plan for:

You'll need a paid license to do these more sophisticated things on Microsoft Power Automate Desktop

Do note that Power Automate (both desktop and cloud flows) is part of the broader Power Platform which also includes Power BI for analysing data for insights, Power Apps for building custom apps easily and rapidly, and Power Virtual Agents for building chatbots using a no-code interface.


The Microsoft Power Platform family

Free Microsoft Power Automate Desktop Removes Barriers to Automation for Businesses


The top 3 hurdles to advancing automation strategies, according to SSON’s research, are:

  • Skills availability

  • Funding

  • Green light/business case

By making Microsoft Power Automate Desktop free for all Windows 10 users, Microsoft is helping to overcome all these hurdles at once.


Instantly, one barrier that has been holding companies back from stepping into RPA has been removed: License cost. That’s a significant chunk of the funding required to get an automation programme off the ground. This also makes it easier to build a business case to convince management to go into RPA.

Top 3 Hurdles to Advancing Companies' Automation Strategy

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop’s no-code interface means it’s easier to train more employees to be proficient in automation, so it’s cheaper and quicker to build up a pool of automation experts within the organisation.


As we will discuss next, the availability of Microsoft Power Automate Desktop also empowers individual business users to become citizen developers. This is something businesses should support and embrace, because citizen developers possess an intimate understanding of their own business processes and have a multiplier effect on accelerating the progress of automation in the company.


Free Microsoft Power Automate Desktop Empowers Business Users


Business users who have been frustrated by the staggering amount of repetitive tasks they have to do every day can now take matters into their own hands—they no longer have to get their bosses to approve the expense, or wait for IT to have the bandwidth to support them.


With Microsoft Power Automate Desktop’s no-code interface, these business users can become citizen developers—developing automation solutions for their own use or their teams’ use—almost overnight. Adopting such a people-first approach thus allows us to truly democratize automation and achieve the holy grail of automation - the triple-win: Employers, customers, and employees all benefit.


In fact, you can download Microsoft Power Automate Desktop right now and sign in with your existing Microsoft account credentials to get started.


Although no coding is required to use Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, there is a learning curve. Nevertheless, there are plenty of resources made available by both Microsoft and third parties on the Internet to help users get started.


Learning Microsoft Power Automate Desktop


Microsoft Learn

Microsoft Learn has several modules teaching you how to work with Microsoft Power Automate Desktop. A search for “Power Automate Desktop” in Microsoft Learn turns up 849 results!


Search Results on Microsoft Learn

Get started with Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, for example, is a quick and simple learn-at-your-own-pace Learning Path, which Microsoft estimates you can complete in under 1.5 hours. It guides you through your first steps with the software, and helps you create your very first simple automation: Creating a flow that copies a selected folder and then adds information about the created backup in a Microsoft Excel file.


Other examples include OCR technologies in Power Automate Desktop and Automating email handling in Power Automate Desktop.


Microsoft’s Documentation

For the more technically inclined users, Microsoft’s documentation on Microsoft Power Automate Desktop provides detailed explanations on its various features. For others though, the staggering amount of information could get overwhelming fast.


Screenshot of Introduction to Power Automate Desktop in Microsoft Docs

YouTube

Besides these resources from Microsoft, another way to learn Microsoft Power Automate Desktop is by watching tutorial videos on YouTube. A quick search brings up dozens, if not hundreds, of tutorial videos you can learn from.


The downside to these free methods, however, is that you’ll have to spend a lot of time and energy sifting through this wealth of information to find what you need. Information overload is real. Many times, the very reason you want to automate your business tasks is precisely because you don’t have time. Where does that leave you?


Specialised Small-Group Training

This is where it may make sense to engage specialised, experienced trainers to teach you the ropes—fast—through an intensive course. Not only will good trainers distill the right information for your particular needs, they will also teach you best practices based on their experience carrying out automation projects in the industry.


Small-group training with a hands-on component and access 1-on-1 guidance is the best way to learn

The best training programmes include hands-on exercises where you can automate a real-world scenario—even better if it’s your own real day-to-day business tasks—under the direct supervision of your trainer. This way, you can get 1-to-1 help for your particular situation, and also finish the course with a real task already automated.


CFB Bots’ Automation Academy, for example, has a 3-day Introduction to Microsoft Power Automate Desktop course that teaches participants the ins and outs of the software, complete with a capstone project at the end of the course.


After completing such a course, you continue to enjoy the convenience and accuracy of the business task you automated. This, coupled with the implementation knowledge still fresh in your mind, is great to keep your momentum going.


A Word of Caution


The sudden revelation that a coveted RPA software is now free can certainly spur us to get started right away on anything that looks automatable. But before you jump into automating everything with Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, remember, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.


Evaluate RPA as one tool among many—not as the only tool. Select suitable processes for RPA.

Selecting and evaluating processes suitable for RPA is still important. This is so that you invest your time, energy, and money on processes that are most likely to succeed. Other critical aspects of automation that must not be overlooked include governance, security, building an automation pipeline, and change management.



A Robot for Every Employee


From a macro perspective, the Mar 2 announcement might just be the watershed moment that heralds the era of a robot for every employee. If so, then Microsoft would have come full circle considering that Bill Gates was the pioneer that put a computer on every desk and in every home. The bottom-line: the digital workforce is ready—are you?


If you need help in applying Microsoft Power Automate Desktop in your organisation, get in touch for a free consultation.


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