Shaun chats with Jacqui Miller (Application Architect at Dimension Data), one of the newest UiPath MVP’s and the first female MVP in Africa, on all things UiPath and Microsoft Power Automate.

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Shaun Leisegang:

Hey, everyone. Today, I’m extremely excited to have Jacqui Muller on the show. Jacqui is an application architect and part-time lecturer by current professions, who enjoys dabbling in software development, automation, IOT, advanced analytics, data engineering, and business intelligence. She’s currently working towards completing a PhD degree that focuses on automation, which I think is awesome. So Jacqui, welcome to the show.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here and to chat a little bit more with you.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. Right. Thanks very much for joining us and sharing some of your invaluable knowledge that you have in the automation space. So Jacqui, you and I were just chatting. I mean, we connected pretty recently, but maybe for the viewers and listeners that may not know you just yet, why don’t you start off by taking us through a whirlwind tour of your career to date?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Cool. Thank you so much. I mean, it’s been quite an interesting ride. I actually wanted to go study politics and that didn’t quite work out, so I ended up in the IT space, which actually suited me even better. So while I was doing my IT degree, I did some part-time work at different organizations here in South Africa and one of them was CSIR, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Through that, I started to understand where the complexity lies in data and how important it is and why we’re driving towards data. So, I had quite a bit of an interest in the data space. I learned quite a few new skills there, and somehow I decided to go into web development. So right after that, my first full-time gig was as a web developer. I continued my studies while I was busy working as well.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So after I did a few months of web development, I realized that my passion is actually data. So I’d spoken to people inside of the organization. We managed to work something else so that I could go over to the data services team, where we focused a lot on data. So I got involved in business intelligence, in the data engineering side of things. And then automation came about. So RPA started making quite a big presence in South Africa. We had a lot of clients talking about, “What is RPA? How can this help me?” that kind of stuff. We had to decide to upscale in the space to be able to service our clients. So at that point, I was still very much in the client-facing role, really enjoyed working with them, understanding their problems, understanding their environment and so on. Obviously, that data component that I was talking about was very heavily invested in it.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So from that, we started working on how we’re going to position that to clients. In doing so, there was a position that became available inside of our internal automation centre of excellence. The offer was quite cool. The position was great. The environment that they had was really mature. So it was really interesting to jump from a very immature restarting app environment to something that is very mature and something that’s really real. So I moved into that environment, worked there for a few years, and now I’m back in a client-facing environment. I must say it is absolutely phenomenal to see what three years in this industry has done and how much it’s changed and where we’re going towards.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Wow. What an awesome journey, right? I love it. Right. Because I always say that data is the new oil, right? It’s the centre of everything that we do. In any applications we build or any automations that we build, data is at the heart of that, right? You can enhance that so nicely with automations. That’s really, really good to see that come through in your story. After that whirlwind tour, that brings us to your current role. Currently, you’re an application architect at a company called Dimension Data, right? So I know here in Australia, Dimension Data is here and I know many parts of the world, it is as well, but maybe just take us through a typical day in the life of Jacqui and what your role today entails.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So, it’s actually quite interesting. I don’t think there’s one day that is ever the same as the next. I’m one of those people who actually hate change, but also embrace it quite well. So I really like the hot day skin situation. Working from home, I’d work from different parts of the house, that kind of thing. I mean, if I had to break down my routine and what I generally tend to do is I first start off going through my mails that have come through from last night to this morning, flag whatever is important and then start working on what the critical answers are. Now, sometimes things go so crazy that you end up completely forgetting to read emails. You just need to jump in and operationally support something. So it is a bit of a mess.

 

Jacqui Muller:

And then as the day goes on, we start getting our different reports from our daily checks and you start getting different integrations and projects that people are now asking you for advice on that need to help in as well. I mean, from a perspective of what my role entails at the moment, I’m quite heavily invested in the presales of our organization as well, so going to clients, talking to them about the automation journey, helping them understand what their journey should look like, what it does look like and how we can fit that in there. And then also designing the solutions because that is essentially what an architect is supposed to do, take those requirements, translate them into technical solutions or these technical designs.

 

Jacqui Muller:

And then because RPA devs are so difficult to find, you’re finding most organizations, the teams are quite small. So you end up becoming almost like a jack-of-all-trades. You do everything. You do the presales. You do the design, the developments, the testing, the implementation, all of that. So a lot of my day, when I have some, I say downtime, but it’s not really that, when you’ve got some time that you can spare, we end up working on how we’re going to make our day more efficient. So how we don’t need to focus on the really admin-intensive stuff, because I mean, we are working in automation, right? So kind of based the question.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, that’s it, right? I always say to our team, you’ve got to drink your own automation champagne, right? The common saying is about eating your own dog food, but we call it to drink your own automation champagne. So yeah, it’s great to hear that too. But I love the fact that you’ve specialized in all things automation, but what got you hooked on the automation space and what made you want to specialize in it?

 

Jacqui Muller:

So, this is a question that comes about quite often, and it’s always interesting to see, because I mean, coming from a web development perspective and a business intelligence perspective, where you’re designing and developing and actually working on presenting websites to clients or portals to clients, it’s essentially front end to interact with systems. That’s the one part of it. And then coming from the data services space, that means you have Power BI reports, SSRS reports, pretty much the overarching product being reports and dashboards. When you present those to clients, it’s great to work. It’s lovely you’ve done phenomenal work, but there’s always something missing. So there’s always like this button that needs to be this colour or this image that needs to be moved two pixels to the right. There’s always something.

 

Jacqui Muller:

With RPA, I found that that wasn’t the case. The first POC that I did, I presented it and it was the first presentation that I’ve done to clients where there was just utter silence. There was nothing that had to be changed. There was nothing that had to be redone. It’s just what you see is what you get, and that is what you asked for. So initially, that was probably what hooked me to automation was how easy it is to gain understanding and to show value because pretty much what you’re doing in the RPA space is showing somebody’s process that they’re already executing as it’s been executed, just faster by a computer in some cases. So that was the initial hook.

 

Jacqui Muller:

I think what’s kept me there is to see how RPA and automation in general brings everything in IT together. So everything that I’m used to working with, your IOT devices, your data, your streaming, everything is connected or can be connected through automation. So that’s really where I’m at the moment. I can see how AI is coming into it and how we’re going to progress into the future. Being able to see that longevity of a technology stack is what really does it for me, because it means that we’re never going to be at the same spot for too long. Everything’s just going to keep moving, and that’s my favourite part about automation. I mean, we’re making huge strides to the future, towards the future.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Amazing. Right. It’s fascinating. I’ve just been doing lots of interviews this week and I always explain to people like no day is ever the same, right? Because you are always tinkering about with something else. You’re learning something new. You might be popping some AI into something or using machine learning, or another day, writing data into data lakes or anything in between, right? But the reason that I love it so much is that it’s the perfect unison between people and technology, right? When automation is done right, it allows humans to focus on the things that they really love doing rather than the tedious, mundane, and repetitive tasks that we all have in different roles that we do, right?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Exactly.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

So yeah, really great to hear your story about that. But now, I know you have a blog, right? You posted about something called All Things Automation, right? So share it with us a bit about where people can find your blog and what are the topics that you normally talk about on your blog.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Cool. Thank you so much for bringing that up. So my blog, if you want to go to the website, it’s thejpanda.com, simply because my time in Python and at CSIR, I adopted the nickname Panda because I absolutely loved chucking pandas at everything. So that’s actually a library that you used to work with data frames and data clean up and that kind of stuff. So that’s where that comes from. So in essence, from that perspective, when I first started with a blog, I had a very clear direction of what I wanted to do. I wanted to cover automation, I wanted to cover Python and I wanted to cover pretty much anything else. As time went on, I ended up actually starting to do a lot of everything else. So it integrates with everything. I’ve still got the main themes. I think they’ve just changed a little bit.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So I definitely do do a lot of Python posts. I do quite a lot of UiPath posts, automation in general. I started doing a lot of Power Automate stuff because we’ve started working with Power Automate as well. I think one of the more common blog posts and one of the most popular blog posts I have is where I compare Power Automate to UiPath. Considering how those releases come out and you know that pretty much quite aligned, they come out more or less the same time. Their major releases are aligned for twice a year, April and October. It’s becoming really interesting to keep those two products compared because that’s kind of where we are in the industry at the moment.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So that’s something that I’m focusing heavily on maintaining, and then also showing things like if you’re going to be doing work in .NET, in .NET Core and C# and the Azure Stack and that kind of stuff. I got some Google Cloud Platform stuff on there as well. Like I said, a lot of Python and a lot of UiPath. So it’s pretty much split out. And then if I see there’s a new topic that I just really want to address and give some more insights about, then I put that under the et al. label. So everything that goes with automation.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Awesome. Right. I had a really good view of your blog posts, right? There’s some really great content. So I’ll pop your blog in there, in the show notes so people can go check it out, but I definitely recommend the viewers and listeners, go have a poke through there because there’s some really great blog posts on there. But now, one of the things that stuck out to me is that you did a post on K2 and UiPath, right? As you know, we do quite a lot of K2 work. I actually worked for K2 for many years, so it’s a company that’s pretty close to my heart. But tell me a bit more about what you see in the real world about the need to combine a product like K2 and UiPath. Where do you see those use cases coming up?

 

Jacqui Muller:

So, this is quite interesting because, I mean, this is something that we’ve dabbled with internally as well. I mean, obviously, Dimension Data being quite a big organization and being part of NTT, there’s a lot of different tech stacks that we consider. So we’ve got forming workflow technologies like K2. We’ve got things like UiPath. We’ve got our own custom dev that we’re working on. There’s a whole wide range of things that lives inside of the tech stack. I think one of the big things that separates K2 app from a UiPath apps and so on is how they actually work with forming technology.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So unlike UiPath and those kinds of things where your processes and your workflows are data-driven, your K2 workflows are generally workflow-driven. So you start a workflow, you create the form, or you add your content into the form and you continue with the workflow, whereas with UiPath apps or so on, you actually create the content from the form and then keep with the process going forward. So this is how we’ve differentiated what we use when. UiPath apps is also quite new. It hasn’t been around for as long as K2 has been around. K2 has been around since probably the beginning of time, or so at least it feels.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So reality is we’ve got all of these different technologies. We’ve got all of these different data points and people are realistically using this. So the best thing for big organizations and big product offerings and places like UiPath, the best thing for them to do for their product is figure out a way to bring those data points into their system. So I know that UiPath has been working on a K2 activity, which worked quite well if you’ve got a very normal use case and everything is set up the way that it should be, but there’s a lot of complexity that starts coming in, if you’re using different versions of K2, if you’re using the cloud versus the on-prem, if you’re using all the legacy systems and then also your security. So if you’ve got on cloud and you’ve got some network restrictions, it gets a bit tedious.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So the activity didn’t work so well for us. We had to go figure out how we’re going to use APIs and find the back end into K2, which is then what we ended up doing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this industry is people find ways around things and don’t always share it. And then you have the same issue and you don’t know how to solve it, and you have to figure it out yourself. So the big thing behind my blog post, the reason that I post the way that I do it specifically that one as well was to help people who have the same challenge I did, where that activity didn’t work and UiPath know about it. They’re busy fixing it. But if you’ve still got the same issue where it doesn’t work, I mean, they’ve got very strict criteria for when it will work and it won’t. If you’ve got a similar issue, then revert to this blog post and see if this works for you.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s awesome to firstly know that you share that knowledge because as you say, someone solves the problem, but then if no one shares it, someone’s going to go solve it again and again and again, right?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Yeah.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

But going back to the K2 and UiPath thing, that’s actually one of the founding principles of the company that I work for now called rapidMATION. Way back when, when we founded it, K2 is about the human elements of workflows and being able to involve humans in different processes. In certain circumstances, you wanted to be able to push off a task onto a software bot to go take care of some of that work for you, right? Really, we founded the principle of rapidMATION on exactly what’s on my shirt, humans and software bots working together, right?

 

Shaun Leisegang:

So it wasn’t for us. It wasn’t about one or the other. Yeah, sure, in certain scenarios, you might use one, maybe the other, but really, if you could bring those two worlds together, you could build some really, really awesome intelligent automation solutions, right? Carrying on from that K2 activity pack, there is one up there. We actually end up rewriting that K2 activity pack. So there’s actually a rapidMATION K2 activity pack that supports cloud and on-prem. Probably some of the things that you might have found, we found too and that’s why we rewrote them. So yeah, it’s great that you manage to solve it. If you ever need to check them out, go have a look at them as well because they might help you in some way, shape or form as well.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Definitely. Thank you so much for that.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Maybe I’ll add it in the addendum to article.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Awesome. But now speaking of UiPath, I know there’s been some very exciting news very recently. Are you allowed to share with us what that exciting news is?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Yeah. So thank you for giving me that opportunity. I’ve recently become the first South African and first female African UiPath MVP for 2022. So I’m really looking forward to collaborating more, working closer with the product teams, understanding what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and working closer together to get the product just completely polished for what we need. I think from our point of view and from our expertise, it’s really easy to use the product and identify gaps based on what our requirements are. I think when you’re working in larger organizations, that becomes a little bit difficult because you’ve got a very different perspective of the product. So I think that’s what I’m looking very forward to, is understanding how we can work closer to them to bridge those gaps because as it is, it’s an amazing product. There are many reasons why it is right up top there in the Gartner Magic Quadrants as the leader. Obviously, there’s technology catching up, but this is going to be what keeps them separated from the competition.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Well, huge props to you, right? Congrats. I’m super stoked that you are the first UiPath MVP in South Africa, first female in Africa as well, which is also awesome, so great to see, but yeah, huge congrats. When I saw the MVPs came out, it put a smile on my face to see your name up there, so that’s awesome.

 

Jacqui Muller:

[inaudible 00:16:52].

 

Shaun Leisegang:

All right. So going back, you mentioned very briefly that one of your most popular blog posts is a comparison between UiPath and Power Automate, right? So that’s actually what caught my attention and because I saw someone post about that and there isn’t a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask me, “Hey, Shaun. When should I use Power Automate and when should I use UiPath? And what’s the differences?” and that type of thing. So, can you share with us a little bit about what led you to creating that specific blog post?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Yes, definitely. It is a story that I tell very passionately because the reason I ended up back in the client space was because there was a project that was currently ongoing and the client was expecting a POC. It was supposed to be done on Power Automate, with Power Automate Desktop and was supposed to work just really smooth. For all intents and purposes, the brief was really simple all things considered. If you’re going to take a POC size activity and you’re going to take a POC size scope, it works perfectly. So we’ve gone along the process of creating it. We’d had to go through a few iterations with the client to get it optimized, to get it working in a record amount of time because it doesn’t help that you’ve got an automation that actually runs for longer than your people do, especially in the finance space. Over month end, you don’t have a lot of time to play with.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So that was all good. We worked through those issues. We worked with Microsoft quite closely. And then we got to a point where we needed to implement this on a scale. Now, the scale was huge. It was absolutely massive. This is the kind of scale that UiPath doesn’t even think twice about. You pass more infrastructure at it, you pay pretty much the same cost and it’ll just work. And then we looked at Power Automated. We looked at what we would need to license the bottom and we’ve gone through various different iterations of Microsoft to actually license the product up until where we were. We just realized the more we scaled it and the more licensing we track it, the more expensive it got naturally. This took away from the way that Microsoft markets things such “Use it, it’s free. You’ve got these options if you’ve got these licenses,” and so on and so forth. For the most part, they’re not completely incorrect. It just depends on how you’re going to implement it.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So the way that we looked at it, our client was very interested to understand why we think that Microsoft Power Automate solution wasn’t the best fit for an enterprise level implementation. So, we had to get our ducks in row. We had to make sure we knew everything. We had to make sure that from the heads that we bashed against the wall and things that we’d run into, problems that we’d found and workarounds we implemented that we were able to articulate that. So we put this into a beautiful document. We understood everything that we needed to do. A lot of the stuff I put into the document was comparisons that I’d been doing privately for the blog posts. So it went hand in hand.

 

Jacqui Muller:

I’d written the blog post based on my own experience, my own finding with some of these projects. So things like development time, for example, if you’re working on a Power Automate flow and it’s quite big in the cloud, obviously that’s working on your browser. So if you run out of memory, your browser crashes. If you didn’t save, then you’ve lost all of that work. Now, that’s a huge irritation because you can’t just save your work. That has to actually run. It needs to bolt. It needs to be fine for you to save your work. So if you’re still trying to debug something and fix what you run before you can save, that’s a huge frustration. So your development time increases. Your load time increases. There’s a bunch of things that I decided to put as a first topic into the blog post.

 

Jacqui Muller:

We expanded on that in the document that we had to provide to the client. In doing so, we realized exactly what we needed to start looking at. So we needed to start looking at cost comparisons, scalability comparisons, because those two were the big ones for the clients. For us, as developers, we care more about the functionality. Is this actually going to do what we wanted to do? Do we need to implement work arounds? Is it going to increase in development time? Is it going to increase in skills usage and the need for skills? That kind of stuff. So we broke those up into different sections, and then did the like-for-like comparison based on our experience, based on the feedback we received from Microsoft, and then also on different projects that we’ve been working on, the shortfalls and things that we found there as well.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So to answer your question and the question that many people ask, when do you use which technology? The answer is for me, generally, based on what you want to do and where you see this going. For me, I mean, automation centre of excellence, you can have multiple different vendors in there. You can have multiple different product stack or tech stack. It’s fine. There’s no problem with that. The whole purpose of a centre of excellence is to standardize and centralize your governance, your standard, your policies, those kinds of things. So pretty much all that you want to do is just make sure that whatever you create in whichever language or whichever technology, it’s more or less consistent. So that was the big thing for me.

 

Jacqui Muller:

And then we started looking at Power Automate as almost like a start-off point. So you use Power Automate to understand the process, to understand what can be done really quickly, really simply. You do this for very small use cases, where you’re not going to scale it to over 30,000 entries or 200,000 entries that you need a process in a day. This is very much geared towards the limits that Microsoft puts in place with their flows. So regardless of the plan that you go with, you have certain limits on your API usage. API is every activity that you code. It’s not just normal HTTP requests that you make. So that was a learning for us, and that’s why we then started saying, “Okay. If you look at the cost of scaling up one flow to the level of having 300,000 records implemented in a day or processed in a day, which large clients have, it doesn’t really make sense to go with that costing model. It makes more sense to go with an annual cost with different vendor like UiPath or nice automation anywhere or anything like that.”

 

Jacqui Muller:

So that was the huge differentiator for us is how much are you willing to pay and what do you want to achieve? Because if you’re just trying to figure out automation, you’re not really serious about it and you just want to understand what’s possible, Power Automate is the way to go, because you’ve got licensing. It will be free in that aspect. But if you want to take it seriously and make it a journey, then you might want to consider something else. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Microsoft will get there. They’re already making great strides towards getting there, but they’re not quite at the UiPath level just yet.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Yeah. Very interesting. Right. It’s really great learnings for the views and listeners in that, right? Because if we think about it very similarly, I mean, I think as we all know, Microsoft is continually evolving their Power Platform space, everything from Power Apps to everything in that platform, right? But it is a really great decision point between the two of when you might use one or the other. In my mind, there’s no doubt, we’ll be working on some massive UiPath projects at the moment. As you say, just the scalability and the ability, just to scale that solution infinitely, just because of how UiPath architects think if you use the best practices and that type of thing, it makes it a really, really great solution for those higher load scenarios. Okay. Cool. But obviously, if there was one thing that you love about the Microsoft Power Platform that maybe UiPath doesn’t have or does differently, what would you say that is?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Man. So just before the 2021.10 release, the only thing that I really wish to UiPath would implement was what they now call integration services. So what separated Power Automate from UiPath was the ability to trigger a process based on an event. So if you get an email that comes into your mailbox, you instantly kick off a process. With UiPath, it worked a little bit differently. You had to trigger it on a time basis and actually pull your mailbox to see if there were new mails that came in. But since then, they have now integrated the integration services into their offering and that kind of works. So that was the major differentiator for me.

 

Jacqui Muller:

If I had to look at the Power Platform now and I look at some of the things that they’ve improved on, so now they allow you to make HTTP requests. They allow you to make SQL connections, that kind of thing. I think what I like about the Microsoft platform a little bit more than what I like about the UiPath platform is still their ability to integrate into their services. So for example, if you’re trying to look at Outlook messages and you’re trying to do Outlook automations, or pretty much anything on SharePoint or OneDrive or anything like that, the integration is really simple because you log in with an account and everything is off. Everything is cool. Everything is working.

 

Jacqui Muller:

On the UiPath side of things, you’ve got two options. You’ve either got the foreground automation or you’ve got the background automation. The foreground automation, which is pretty much the stock standard mail activity that comes out with Outlook, you actually have to have your Outlook Client open to be able to use it. If you don’t want to use the Outlook Client and you actually just want to do background processing and you’re using the Office API, then you actually need to use the Microsoft O365 activity, which is great. It works brilliantly. I mean, it’s something that we’ve actually changed all our automations to work off of.

 

Jacqui Muller:

The problem is though you have to have a client’s IP and a client’s SQL. So you actually have to go set up the app registration. You need to get the correct access and permissions and all that stuff. If you’re working in an organization where admin access isn’t something that is just freely given, that is a huge challenge. I mean, you’ve got to go through processes and there’s a lot of retake on that. So for me, I think that is still one of the big things that Microsoft is doing right, doing well and keeps them on top from that perspective is how easy they integrates into their services without needing additional conflict or setup.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Yeah. Couldn’t agree with you more. Right. I always said to people like, “What is the outcome you’re looking to get?” If you’re looking to stay in and around the Microsoft platform, Power Automate is a really good place to start, right? Because the integration is there. It’s easy, it’s simple, it’s seamless, as you said, right? In the UiPath world, if you need to go connect to that mailbox, you’ve got to go set up a whole lot of stuff and there’s not many people that have admin access, so you bump your head a little bit along that journey as well. But yeah, the integration service that UiPath is just embedded into their platform. There’s some awesome connectors there. I know they licensed some of that stuff or made some acquisitions in that space to get there. It’s really, really some world class stuff in there. So it’s really great to have that in the platform.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Definitely.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Okay. So we spoke about kind of like cost as maybe one of the differentiators. We spoke about scalability. Are there any other things that you see in the customer journey where people might choose one or the other?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Yeah. I mean, this is something that I did a lot of research on. So I spent two years doing my master’s on exactly this. So if we look at the traditional way of handling projects, we’ve got that project, the triple constraint model, which is now know as Project Diamond because that include quality. But if we take one step back and we look at the triple constraint model, we are looking at scope, we’re looking at time and we’re looking at cost. Now, time and cost go hand in hand, right? And so does scope, to be fair. But if you want to decrease cost, nine times out of 10, you’ve either got a decrease scope or you’ve got a decrease time. Now, the Project Diamond now includes quality, so now you actually get to play with quality as well. So you either sacrifice quality, sacrifice time or sacrifice scope to get the past down.

 

Jacqui Muller:

I think one of the big things for me, especially with the Power Platform is the time element. So if I’m going to tell you as a client that the project time or the development time is going to be so much more of the scale and the more activities we add, the more time it’s going to take to load when we initially get in there, the more time it’s going to take to run, those kinds of things. That is a huge, huge differentiator. One of the challenges we’ve seen with Power Automate specifically, and one of the things I’m really hoping they’re going to change is when you’re adding items to an Excel spreadsheet, you’re doing so on a road-by-road basis, and you’re adding it into a table. Now, we’ve had a situation where we’ve had flows run for hours on end, but it should actually only be running for a few minutes. The reason why it was running for so long was because it was taking a lot of time to actually pull the API and add those table entries in.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So what we had to do was we had to remove the low-code, no-code philosophy from the scope of the flow. We actually had to go create an Azure Function, which would take in the huge JSON object, put all of that into almost like an in-stream Excel file and return that back, which was then just created on SharePoint. So we had that whole Excel file just popped into SharePoint. Pretty much all of that processing of the Excel are going to happen then in this Azure Function, which now becomes a real pain because you’ve got to maintain it. You’ve got to support it. You’ve got to put a whole different agreements in place. You have to have a whole different code review. Obviously, that development takes a lot longer than it would’ve on Power Automate. So from that perspective, the time element, I mean, I can’t place enough emphasis on that time element because that is what ends up affecting the cost between the different platforms.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Amazing. Right. Again, some really, really good learnings in that, right? The good thing is, I guess, in the UiPath platform, if you did need to call out, or you need to code, drop into code or call out to an API, you do it right there, right? So you don’t necessarily have to go to an Azure Function or something else or a logic app or whatever you need to use in between. So yeah, really, really interesting. All right. So if you had to look into your magic crystal ball, what would you say the future holds for UiPath and Microsoft Power Platform?

 

Jacqui Muller:

I think the Power Platform, Microsoft specifically, are going to do some huge things. I mean, they’ve got a lot of room for growth. I think UiPath are getting to the point where they surpassed everybody’s expectations. The best thing that they can do now is start integrating their product offerings better together. So for example, if they’ve got their data services, which now allows you to insert all of your information or the summary of the information and data into the data services, that ability is there in the orchestrator. They’ve got insights that allows you to pull information out of your orchestrator, out of your automation hub and actually show what’s happening there.

 

Jacqui Muller:

But the big critical part for me is if they’re going to link those two up, they’ve just created an end-to-end stack. I mean, they’ve already integrated their apps, their storage buckets and their data services, which means they’re one step closer to showing that end-to-end life cycle. All that’s missing from that life cycle at the moment is being able to monitor and visualize what you’re doing in your process. So I think as soon as they give the developers more power to do that inside platform and not take data out the platform, put it into Power BI, which we’re currently doing, that’s going to help a lot. So we’re actually going to dump the data that we’ve got inside data services into an Excel spreadsheet and we’re popping that straight into Power BI. I mean, you can get fancy and you can use APIs, but [inaudible 00:31:20] is not going to be your friend there. So that’s something that we’re still trying to get around. Soon as I’ve got that ready, I’ll put it in a blog post, but that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

 

Jacqui Muller:

But if I look at Microsoft, they’ve got a lot of room for growth. So they don’t have things like a case manager. They don’t have the level of orchestration that you UiPath has. I mean, they’ve got some there, which is great to tell that as it is on your UiPath. So I think UiPath have set quite a high bar for them to achieve. Based on the licensing that they’re offering and the prices that they’re charging for that, there’s a lot of expectation on Microsoft to do some of the stuff better. So some of the things that I definitely like to see from them is the test manager. I’m really hoping they’re going to bring that in. They’ve already got their solution grouping, which is great.

 

Jacqui Muller:

I’m hoping to see a little bit more work around queues. So if you want to use queues in Power Automate, you’ve got to use things like… Well, you could use normal queues on Azure, or you could just build your processes in such a way where you don’t actually need them. But I mean, I think queues are… They’ve proven to be a really pivotal part of automation, especially when you’re looking at things like REFramework from UiPath’s perspective, things that don’t quite exist in the Power Automated space just yet. I think a large part of that is because they’re way more focused on the citizen development side of things. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’re going to bridge this between citizen development and traditional development, because this is kind of speech that I give a lot.

 

Jacqui Muller:

It wasn’t quite based on your question, but I think citizen development is phenomenal. I think it’s been around for quite a long time and it’s something that we’ve been trying to get right for quite a while, and I think we’re a step closer this time. We’re definitely in a place where we can give our business users the ability to do what they need to do and build their own automations and skill themselves up because realistically, that’s what we need, right? I mean, if we’re going to be going into space and we’re going to be automating things, we would like to give them that power because there’s nobody who knows the process better than the people executing it.

 

Jacqui Muller:

The problem though is that we can’t expect citizen developers to care about the same things that traditional developers would. We can’t expect citizen developers to know what the big-O notation is or why they should implement it, or why performance is important, or why making variables dynamic and those kinds of things are important. That’s not what they’re supposed to care about. That’s what we’re supposed to care about, and that’s why we’re supposed to advise them and help them and rework some of those processes. So I think from that perspective, Microsoft isn’t quite there yet in taking a lot of those things into accounts, which is where I’m expecting most work to go into. I’m really hoping that between the next two huge releases that we have planned for, for this year, at least, that that’s going to be something that is addressed quite heavily.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Yeah. Again, some amazing insights there, right? So as always, it’s interesting to see this. I mean, UiPath is beyond a shadow of a doubt the market leader from users and analysts, but Microsoft are coming and that train is coming as well, right? So it’s going to be very interesting to see how the future unravels and what the future holds for us, but it should be an exciting, as always, few months and years ahead of us.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

All right. Well, listen, thanks so much for sharing your invaluable automation insights with viewers and listeners. But now to end off, my favorite part, it’s called the hot seat, right? So the hot seat is where we fire off some quick questions to you and we get some of your answers. Okay. So, first question is what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

Jacqui Muller:

A politician.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

You said so, right? Did you say you started off studying to be a politician and then you went into the IT world or how did that all play out?

 

Jacqui Muller:

No. So when I was in high school, I was very passionate about economics and business… I think at that point it was called business management. So it’s really interesting to see how that unravelled and what impact economics has on a country. Obviously, it’s kind of the founding principles. I really thought that with that background and that kind of perspective, I’d make a really good politician. So I wanted to go study politics, pretty much just to continue my softball career as well. So it was kind of a double-edged sword there, go to study some things that you can keep playing the sport as well. And then, yeah, things just worked out in such a way that I ended up going to study IT at completely different university and ended up loving it even more. My roots were quite tied to the North-West University, which they still are, obviously, because I lectured there now.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Brilliant, right? All right. Next up, what is something on bucket list that you’ve already ticked off?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Definitely the MVP, that kind of award. I had it on my bucket list for about two years. So the first time I wasn’t successful and then this time I was, so luckily I got to tick that one off.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Big green tick. Well done, right? Well done.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Thanks.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Let me ask the opposite of that, right? So what’s something on your bucket list that you haven’t managed to tick off just yet?

 

Jacqui Muller:

Skydiving.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

I have done that. I am extremely scared of heights and I’ve done everything to try get over it. I jumped out of an airplane. It is unbelievably frightening and exhilarating at the same time, so good luck. Maybe you need to live stream your first skydive. That’d be a good one for your blog, right?

 

Jacqui Muller:

If I survive it, yes, because I recently discovered that I have height fright standing on my roof. So I don’t quite know how that one’s going to pan out.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Good luck is all I can say. Good luck.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Thank you.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

All right. Tell me something about maybe what’s your favourite book or maybe something that you’re reading at the moment, or maybe something that you just found great value in after you read it.

 

Jacqui Muller:

So, I think this is probably going to be a very different answer to what people generally give. So I’m not generally a reader. I don’t generally read novels and books and those kinds of things. I enjoyed poetry, but those books are quite short. And then something that I’m currently reading, which I think I’ve read probably about 15 to 20 times already is Quantitative Analysis and the management there are for science and so on. So it was written by Bernard Taylor, if I’m not mistaken. I mean, it’s part of what I’m lecturing at the moment, but it’s just the book that I keep going back to. I mean, it’s so great in helping you understand what models exist to solve problems and what kind of problems you face. I mean, that’s something that I just keep going back to. It’s something that I keep bringing into my automations, into my world of living. All of the studies and research that I’ve done has been very much focused around that work. So yeah, I’m reading it again for about 17th time.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Awesome. Awesome. All right. The last question, how do you want to be remembered one day?

 

Jacqui Muller:

This is interesting. I recently received advice from somebody quite successful in their career and they said something when they were asked about how they achieved their success. They said there were three steps to any position that you fall. The first one is to get into your position, understand what your position is about, what your responsibilities are, what the expectations are. The next is to make it your own, so put your mark on it, put your stamp of approval on it and make sure that is how you do it, like you’ve got it now. Then the third part is just before you start moving off of that onto your next great adventure, make sure that you upscale somebody else, take them along that adventure and prepare them for the journey that’s coming ahead.

 

Jacqui Muller:

I think throughout everything that I’ve done from when I’m still in high school, all the way through to now, one of the things that I’ve always tried to do and remain complacent in is helping people do better. So I expect a lot for myself, I expect a lot from other people, but I also want to help them get to a point where they’re happy with where they are. I mean, that looks different for different people obviously, but that’s how I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as the person who helped somebody get to where they want be.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Brilliant. What an awesome way to end off, right? Well, Jacqui, thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks for sharing unbelievable knowledge and experiences in this space. We look forward to following your journey as well over the coming weeks, months and years ahead. But just before we say goodbye, is there anything that you’d like to leave the viewers and listeners with?

 

Jacqui Muller:

The only thing that I can probably add as an extra piece of knowledge is just don’t be too hard on yourself, but just remember that sometimes you have to overcome whatever fear you’re living in to be able to learn and grow. So it’s something that has been passed on probably from generations before us and it’s something that remains completely true. So always be there or be always be ready and don’t be scared if you’re fearing anything, just know that there are ways to overcome it, and to eventually get back to the point of growth.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Brilliant. Well, what a great piece of advice to end off on, right? So, listen, thanks so much once again. We’re looking forward to following your journey and we’ll speak to you soon.

 

Jacqui Muller:

Awesome. Thank you so much, Shaun. Have a great one further.

 

Shaun Leisegang:

Thanks.