The Softomotive deal lets Microsoft extend its remote process automation offering.

Jeffrey Schwartz

May 20, 2020

3 Min Read
robotics automation platform (RPA)

In a move to deepen its Microsoft Power Platform robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities, the software giant has acquired Softomotive.

Microsoft announced the acquisition this week during its Build conference for software developers, a gathering held virtually this year. Microsoft didn’t say how much it paid for Softomotive.

Softomotive offers a popular RPA tool called WinAutomation, which lets those with little or no coding skills automate routine workflows.

WinAutomation will give Microsoft a more extensive low-code RPA workflow tool with Power Automate, until recently known as Microsoft Flow. Launched in 2016, it was renamed Power Automate during last fall’s Ignite conference, to align it with the Microsoft Power Platform.

At Ignite, Microsoft announced plans to add RPA capability to Power Automate. The company added complete automation to Power Automate that spans APIs, user interfaces (UI) and AI-based bots. While it was a logical step,  IDC analyst Maureen Fleming says Microsoft needed to offer more extensive functionality.

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IDC’s Maureen Fleming

“Many core capabilities provided by fully featured RPA platforms were not present,” said Fleming, VP for IDC’s intelligent automation practice. “Softomotive WinAutomation has a robust set of features for task automation and is also fairly easy to use. Its recording-first design methodology aligns well with Microsoft’s goal of offering software that is easy enough for end users to automate work on their own.”

Microsoft is bringing Softomotive’s desktop automation capabilities together with Power Automate, according to corporate VP Charles Lamanna.

“Microsoft is further democratizing RPA and enabling everyone to create bots to automate manual business processes,” Lamanna wrote in a blog announcing the acquisition.

Softomotive Brings Customers

Lamanna noted that Softomotive has 9,000 customers throughout the world. Those customers use Softomotive’s tools to automate their business processes across legacy and modern desktop applications.

“Together with Power Automate, WinAutomation will provide customers additional options for RPA desktop authoring so anyone can build a bot and automate Windows-based tasks,” Lamana stated. “The combined offering will also enable RPA connectivity to many new apps and services including SAP and traditional green-screen terminal applications.”

Before launching the RPA capability to the Microsoft Power Platform, Power Automate only automated workflows of data accessible through APIs. That was suitable for modern, cloud-native apps. But it left out key components of many workflows such as legacy desktop Windows VB6 apps, green-screen and unscanned documents.

Insurance claim processing is a typical example of workflow that might fall into that category. Many of those environments have a mix of modern cloud apps, legacy software and unscanned paper documents.

“If everything in a process had an API, we were able to connect Flow [now Power Automate] to it,” said Richard Riley, senior director of the Microsoft Power Platform, during an interview at Ignite. “What we didn’t have is the ability to automate UI-based processes. RPA allows you to essentially automate those process that don’t have an API.”

Microsoft’s answer to that was the addition of UI flows to Power Automate, allowing users to create automated workflows by recording mouse clicks and human interaction with software that doesn’t support API automation. Microsoft also rolled out pre-build connectors to several hundred popular apps and services that support API automation.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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