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All you need to know about Microsoft Power Platform

December 1, 2021

The increased utilization of data and the sudden shifts in the global economy have cornered businesses into a spot where they must meet customer expectations swiftly or lose them to the competition. For this, businesses working on traditional models need to innovate, but they are often reined by IT resources or budget constraints. Microsoft Power Platform can help organizations overcome these barriers as it is a no-code/low-code technology that allows businesses to quickly develop data-driven solutions, cost-effectively.  

What is the Power Platform?

Microsoft Power Platform is a collection of user-friendly applications namely Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents, that allow companies to develop end-to-end business applications to build streamlined workflows. Through this, businesses can easily automate recurring processes, analyze data to evaluate progress, and create virtual agents to enhance the customer value journey.

Organizations can not only analyze, execute, and automate business processes but also leverage data to make informed decisions.  The no-code/low-code approach allows professionals with limited technical ability to build apps, leverage AI for solving problems, and create intelligent workflows  

Microsoft Power Platform saves time as the creative and administrative teams can build apps, digitize paper-based processes, and start any new project without waiting for the IT department’s intervention. Businesses can build custom applications to try innovative ideas and respond quickly to changes while getting actionable insights from their data.  

Power Platform also seamlessly connects with numerous data sources such as Dynamics 365, Azure, and Common Data Service (CDS). CDS allows businesses to conveniently work with non-Microsoft data sources in a secure and scalable way.

Power Platform comprises of:

Power Apps

Power Apps brings businesses a convenient way (no-code/low-code) to build apps without hiring IT professionals. The process is so user-friendly so that all functions in a company can build custom apps to solve their operational challenges.  

Power Automate

It is a template-based application developed for automating key tasks and creating workflows. Businesses can increase productivity and get more done in less time by automating organizational processes and developing convenient workflows for their different teams.

Power BI

It is a set of intelligent tools for data visualization and analysis. Power BI allows organizations to confidently make informed business decisions based on data-driven insights.

Power Virtual Agents  

This solution allows businesses to create AI-powered chatbots to address their customer queries 24/7 and help their employees with their tasks. These chatbots can answer employee questions related to their work and guide them to the right resources for further clarification. Power Virtual Agents are particularly useful to recruits and save them time waiting for answers from their line managers.  

Develop solutions with Power Apps

Microsoft Power Apps allows businesses to develop low-code mobile and web applications without seeking any help from the IT department. The applications can be based on indigenous data sources, CDS, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365, and SharePoint.

Power Apps allows users to respond quickly to business opportunities and requirements without needing help from IT professionals. If a department has an idea about improving a process, it can easily develop a custom application for it using Power Apps.  

According to a recent study by Forrester, Power Apps helped businesses in:

  • Reducing the cost of creating an application by 74%.
  • Adding further value to the subscribed Microsoft 365 products such as Dynamics 365 and teams.
  • Lowering the workload on IT resources.
  • Reducing time-to-market, increasing customer satisfaction, and boosting revenues.
  • Giving employees easy access to information and processes for swift decision-making.  

Types of Power Apps

Businesses interested in developing custom applications using Microsoft Power Apps can use three distinct types of applications.

Canvas Apps

Businesses can build a Canvas App from scratch by using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Users can start either with a sample app or a template. Connecting to data sources such as SharePoint, Excel, and CDS is also possible and is recommended to be done in advance as it will ensure that the new app is compatible with the relevant data sources. Users can access new apps via a web browser or a mobile app. These apps can further be embedded in a Microsoft Teams, SharePoint site, or Power BI.

Model-driven apps

Model-driven apps bring a component-focused approach to the usual app development processes in Microsoft Power Apps. There is no need to code and the apps can either be complex or exceedingly simple. In model-driven apps, the layout is determined and is designated by the components added to the app. Businesses use these apps to develop solutions that are coordinated with their current processes of software solutions. It is a straightforward way to develop apps and save time in training employees.

Portals

Microsoft Power Apps allows users to create websites for numerous external and internal uses. Businesses can easily design internal and external portals using the WYSIWYG Power Apps portals Studio. The portals can be created simply by adding and configuring components on the web pages. These portals can act as a secure way for customers to interact with an organization and share information. These portals can be accessed from any device and at any time. Businesses can also use them to share updates and details on their products with their clients, vendors, and even employees.

Automate tasks with Power Automate

Businesses find many of their employees spending unnecessary time on repetitive tasks and redoing projects to eliminate errors. Automation helps companies reclaim this time by completing such processes with little or no human input at all. Businesses can leverage technology to automate important yet repetitive tasks to reduce costly human errors. Power Automate is a no-code solution that helps businesses automate tasks and create workflows for major business processes. With no IT intervention and little to no knowledge of coding required, users can use built-in templates to get things done. Power Automate can also integrate with legacy systems and non-Microsoft databanks including Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, etc.

There are five main types of Power Automate flows:

Automated

This flow is triggered by an action or an event. For example, users get an email if something is changed or altered.  

Instant  

In these flows, users can manually trigger a flow from a desktop or mobile app. For example, a user can send a reminder email to their team before a meeting.  

Scheduled  

This flow runs at certain times. Users can mark specific hours for an automated action to occur.  

Business Process  

Here, flows are designed on a defined set of actions.

UI flows

These record keystrokes and clicks along with automating the execution of tasks.

Businesses can use Power Automate in the following ways:

  • Managing tasks, approvals, and documents for any project.
  • Sending daily reminders related to meetings and upcoming tasks.
  • Streamlining the onboarding process for recruits.
  • Sharing files between OneDrive, SharePoint, and non-Microsoft sources such as Dropbox, Google, etc.
  • Developing and sharing reports from Power BI.
  • Running a ticketing system for the helpdesk.
  • Tracking SharePoint site changes.
  • Collecting feedback from customers
  • Analyze Data with Power BI
Read how businesses used Power Automate to streamline processes (Case studies)

In the contemporary business environment, organizations are generating data tremendously, but they continue to lack the technology and skills to leverage that data. Power BI assists businesses in collecting, analyzing, and using data from numerous sources in one user-friendly tool. Professionals can use this software solution to work with any data source and develop engaging reports to share with their team.  

With Power BI, businesses get two main end-user roles:

  1. The user: This is an individual who uses the tool in a browser to make minor edits on datasets and view reports.  
  1. The designer: This is a business analyst, who develops reports using Power BI Desktop and shares them with the team.

Power BI is available in three formats:

  1. Power BI Desktop: This can be used by anyone to develop and share reports.
  1. Power BI Service: This can be used to view business reports online from any device with an internet connection.
  1. Power BI Mobile Apps: This can be used to access reports and dashboards on different platforms such as iOS, Windows, and Android.

Conclusion

Business organizations today are powered by creative people, intelligent software solutions, and carefully orchestrated strategies. Even with all the technological advancement, people are still managing tasks manually and a good amount of their time is being spent attending meetings, answering emails, and studying lengthy documents. A modern organization with a progressive approach would work on ways to leverage technology and automate the recurring tasks so the workforce would focus more on value-adding growth initiatives. Microsoft Power Platform stands as one of the most user-friendly and scalable solutions in the market to overcome such barriers. Businesses can combine Power Platform components with their existing Microsoft solutions and open doors to endless possibilities.

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