5 Amazing Power Platform Features You Need to Know

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Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of business intelligence, app development and app connectivity software applications within Microsoft’s range of services. Their main goals is to optimize everyday business processes and operations by analyzing data, personalizing dashboards, developing catered applications, responding to generated insights and automating processes with minimal hardcore technical expertise. In this article, I’ll break down the Top Five things I think you should know about and can do with Power Platform, in order to assess how it might benefit your organization. I’m very energized about this technology, so please ping me if you’d like more information or want to explore how Power Platform can help you.

1.      Rapidly Build Apps – No Code/Low Code – with Power Apps

Microsoft PowerApps is a platform for rapid creation of new web/mobile applications, either with “No Code” (i.e., the developer/creator does not need to be a programmer) or “Low Code” (a developer can rapidly create an app and add code as needed for specialized functions).  This toolset empowers “Citizen Developers” – who are closest to the business and the data – to create apps without having to write code and be programmers. For those with programming skills, Power Apps allows faster time to value, by streamlining and accelerating the development process.

Apps can be “model driven” (with the look and feel of Dynamics 365, and tied to the Common Data Service database – see item 5 below), or “canvas” apps which can be created from a Template, a data source (for example, a database or even an Excel spreadsheet) or a blank canvas. Apps are designed for the web/mobile experience and can be optimized for different form factors.

A great example of this is the Crisis Communication app which was built in a matter of days by Microsoft at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and shared out to the public as a free Template (see item 6 below). The app facilitates bi-directional employee communication and awareness during a crisis (in this case, COVID but equally useful during other Disaster Recovery scenarios), and shows off the power and flexibility of the platform.

2.      Automate Repeatable Business Processes with Power Automate

Formerly known as Microsoft Flow, Power Automate allows for creation of “Flows” (automated processes) via a graphical interface, essentially like a flow chart with if/than branches and drag/drop from a palette of functions. Flows can be triggered by actions, schedulers or other circumstances, allowing for the automation of repetitive business processes and associated savings.

3.      Create Stunning Visualizations with Power BI

Sharing a name, but having a separate paradigm and code base, is Power BI. Power BI is Microsoft’s tool set for creating visualizations of business data from a wide variety of sources, allowing for drill down analysis and empowering users to act based on fact. Business Intelligence is a more established market than the above two areas, with competition from the likes of Tableau, QlikView and others. But PowerBI has steadily moved into a leadership role in this space, winning Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in 2019 by a wide margin.

Power BI allows for creation of Dashboards that show data through a wide range of chart types and visualizations that can be highly customized, and that adjust in real time as the viewer filters and focuses on specific elements. The visualizations can be consumed through a variety of web and mobile formats, making it easy to share and collaborate around the data insights.

4.      Build A Bot, with Power Virtual Agents

Probably the least known of the services, Power Virtual Agents is a toolset that allows for rapid creation of “Chat Bots” that can automate customer interaction as part of an omnichannel strategy. With an understanding of common questions and answers (including online data sources), developers can quickly create chat workflows to facilitate customer self-service, with branching so customers can easily “bail out” and speak to a service rep if the automated experience is not satisfactory. Because it is part of the Power Platform, Power Virtual Agents can for example trigger Flows or leverage related functions like Azure Cognitive Services (for example, to detect the language of the person making the inquiry).

5.      Take Advantage of the Common Data Service

Common Data Service (“CDS”) is Microsoft’s implementation, within its products, of the Common Data Model, a cross-vendor database schema. Microsoft, working with Adobe and SAP as part of the Open Data Initiative, developed a master data schema to address the challenge of “10 systems, 10 different views of the customer” – by having one uniform schema that multiple systems can map to, it becomes possible to normalize data across disparate systems.

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