Microsoft Robotic Process Automation (RPA) licensing

07 April 2020
3 minute read

Microsoft Robotic Process Automation (RPA) licensing

07 April 2020
3 minute read

Microsoft Robotic Process Automation (RPA) licensing

Microsoft admit the robots are coming!

The Microsoft Product Terms for April 2020 contained a little gem of information that, despite the lack of associated fanfare, is actually pretty significant. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a growing area of business – the idea of using bots, rather than humans, to perform repetitive tasks to increase efficiency and, when used properly, job satisfaction. However, it’s Robotic Process Automation licensing minefield – and Microsoft have been very quiet on this subject…until now!

What have they added?

The Product Terms now contains:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/A3 – Unattended license
  • Power Automate per user with attended RPA plan
  • Power Automate unattended RPA add-on

The “Power Automate unattended RPA add-on” can be added onto the “Power Automate per user with attended RPA” plan and “Power Automate per flow” plan.

There’s not a huge amount of extra info in the Product Terms but it does say that the E3/A3 unattended license includes Office 365 E3/A3, Windows 10 E3/A3, and EMS E3/A3 – no mention of them being restricted or limited at all.

Some Microsoft Robotic Process Automation licensing definitions

Luckily, the OST (Online Service Terms) give more information. We can see in there that Microsoft’s definition of RPA is:

“An application (or set of applications) used to capture data and manipulate applications to perform repetitive tasks. Bots operate upon any UI element of Windows 10 within an OSE and/or operates upon any Office application in any OSE.”

Attended bot = This is a bot that “assists a person to execute automation on the person’s local and/or remote workstations“. They go on to say that “it operates concurrently with the person on the same workstation/s to accomplish repetitive tasks and is triggered by explicit actions of that person“.

In this scenario, it sounds like you would assign a regular M365 license to both the user and the bot?

Unattended bot = “Any bot that doesn’t strictly conform to the definition of an attended bot“.

Use Rights & Restrictions

  • The unattended bot must be running on hardware dedicated to the customer
  • Each license allows use of Microsoft E3 in 1 physical or virtual OSE
  • The regular license re-assignment rules apply

This is one that may require certain designs to be re-thought:

Unattended bots may not create or replicate activities/workflows on behalf of an unlicensed user or device

This sounds like every user will need a Microsoft 365 license and then the bots will be licensed on top of that, so no scenarios of replacing 1000 M365 E3 user licenses with 10 bot licenses and just giving the humans an F3, for example.

It’s interesting to see Microsoft make this move as Robotic Process Automation licensing is going to keep us all busy for years to come, so it’s good that they’re at least making some changes in this space.

Further Reading

Microsoft announcement
Potential technical issues

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