PL-500: Microsoft Power Automate RPA Developer

RPA (or Robotic Process Automation) is a capability that Microsoft has been developing for a while within the Power Platform space. Whilst cloud flows can be used to interact with any systems that has an API in place, many organizations have (legacy) systems that have no API, so interacting with them can be challenging. RPA capabilities allow organizations to be able to interact with any system overall, thus enabling & empowering businesses holistically.

I’ve been aware for a while that there’s been an exam coming out for RPA, though it’s taken a bit of time to land. That’s fine though – I can’t really think of any absolute rush to have it in place. I do think that over time, just as with some of the other certifications, it will become a required for solution or specialization status.

The official page for it is at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/certifications/exams/pl-500. The specification for it is:

Candidates for this exam automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks by using Microsoft Power Automate. They review solution requirements, create process documentation, and design, develop, troubleshoot, and evaluate solutions.

Candidates work with business stakeholders to improve and automate business workflows. They cooperate with administrators to deploy solutions to production environments, and they support solutions.

Additionally, candidates should have experience with JSON, cloud flows and desktop flows, integrating solutions with REST and SOAP services, analyzing data by using Microsoft Excel, VBScript, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), HTML, JavaScript, one or more programming languages, and the Microsoft Power Platform suite of tools (AI Builder, Power Apps, Dataverse, and Power Virtual Agents).

Now here’s the thing. I occasionally work in the automation space, either on customer projects, or when training users in the technologies. I wouldn’t describe myself as an advanced automation developer (whether cloud or RPA capabilities). I’m most definitely NOWHERE near the level of legends such as Matt Collins-Jones, for example (go check him out if you don’t know about him!).

So I knew that I may be a bit challenged when taking the exam, especially in the more ‘pro dev’ space (aka JSON etc). In fact, I didn’t actually realise that the exam specification included that sort of thing. I know, I should have – it’s aimed at developers overall…shows that I need to brush up on reading things properly!

Also, there’s still quite a bit of a focus on Power Automate cloud flows – it’s not JUST about RPA capabilities.

Now, really nicely, there are already Microsoft Learn pathways available (which have been around for a while, and updated appropriately). This really is a big help, I feel, especially for people who are new’ish to RPA.

Of course, there’s a lovely shiny two star badge awarded when passing the exam, along with the title of ‘Microsoft Certified: Power Automate RPA Developer Associate’:

As with previous exams, I sat it from home (the proctored experience). Learning from previous times that I’ve taken exams, I ensured that my workspace was entirely clear from everything. As a result, the check-in process happened automatically, and I didn’t need to engage with any proctors at all (which was quite nice actually).

As in my previous exam posts, I’m going to stress that it’s not permitted to share any of the exam questions. This is in the rules/acceptance for taking the exam. I’ve therefore put an overview of the sorts of questions that came up during my exam. (Note: exams are composed from question banks, so there could be many things that weren’t included in my exam, but could be included for someone else! ). I’ve tried to group things together as best as possible for the different subject areas.

  • Cloud flows vs RPA flows
    • When to use each (ie how to handle different scenarios)
  • Cloud flows
    • Different types of triggers, & when each type should be used
    • Different types of actions, and the capabilities of them (at a high’ish level – expected to know common Microsoft actions, but not need to know all of the hundreds of different ones!)
    • Controls/operators. What they are, how they can be used to accomplish different requirements
  • Business Process flow vs Business Rules
  • RPA flows
    • Common actions, how they work, capabilities of them
    • How expression syntax works within them
    • Debugging capabilities, and what to use when
    • How to interact with desktop applications
    • How to interact with websites
      • How data values ​​can be used
      • How data tables can be used
      • How to use data that’s extracted from a website
    • Troubleshooting functionality
  • Usage of automation capabilities from Office 365 applications such as Excel & Visio
  • Loops
    • How they work for cloud & RPA flows
    • Implementing success/fail criteria
  • Process Advisor
    • How it can help organisations
    • Process Mining vs Task Mining, & the important differences between them
  • Variables
    • How to handle variables across different environments
    • How to declare them (cloud flow vs RPA flow)
  • Runtime operations
    • How flows are triggered (async vs sync)
    • How flows are queued (cloud vs RPA)
    • How RPA flows are carried out when using machine groups
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities
    • How AI can be used within flows
    • Different AI capability types (what each one can be used for)
    • AI within Power Platform, & AI within Azure Cognitive Services
  • Sharing flows
    • Different ways to share cloud flows
    • Different ways to share RPA flows
  • Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)
    • Solutions (managed vs unmanaged). Capabilities of each, when to use each type
    • AzureDevOps (ADO). What it is, when/how to use it, capabilities
    • solution layers. What these are, troubleshooting jobs
    • Upgrade/Stage for Upgrade/Update. Which each is, what each does, how/when to use each one
    • Moving desktop flows between users
  • Security
    • Security roles needed to create
    • Security roles needed to share/modify
    • Security roles needed to register machine for RPA
    • Security roles needed to register machine groups for RPA
    • Security requirements to run different types of RPA flows (how it interacts with desktop/s)
    • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) – how it affects creation & runtime of flows

Overall, I had 46 questions, with a single case study. I’m used to having at least two case studies, so it was nice to have just one of them this time.

So….it’s a lot of stuff. Definitely targeted much more at the ‘pro-developer’ end of the scale that someone who might occasionally automate things. It’s absolutely necessary to understand coding conventions, ALM, etc.

It’s definitely an exam that if you’re not already currently hands-on with the skills needed, I’d highly recommend you get a decent amount of experience with it before taking the exam! I’d highly recommend ensuring that you have an environment in which you’re able to be hands on with all types of automation (cloud & desktop flows), and really understand how they can be handled with an eye on the enterprise scale!

If you’re aiming to take it – I wish you the very best of luck, and let me know your experience!

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