Why Microsoft Power Platform Deserves Its Powerful Name
When we think of a technology stack, what is the ideal platform? If we gather a wish list, we would like to count on a platform that is unique, flexible, low-code, modern, with a promising road map, affordable, which could work standalone alongside multiple systems with modules complementing each other, and interconnected, to allow for scalability and evolving adoption. Well, the good news is that such a platform exists. We are referring to the Microsoft Power Platform, waiting to be discovered.
Microsoft’s rationale for the Power Platform approach is based on a pitch that suggests business models are not to be built around the ERP or CRM, but rather under a data-centredculture to drive its processes.
This is a fundamental change being pushed by multiple technological trends like automation, AI, IoT, and the need to bring value and reinforce processes for efficiency without creating locks or blockages for the value added by each human resource involved in the execution of those processes.
If we consider that, we can just look around and see the value data is bringing to companies and how valuable data processing and analysis can be. On top of that, we must properly follow processes to collect, process and execute that analysis, imposing data integrity to be able to succeed.
So, How Does Power Platform Come Into Play to Support That?
Starting with multiple data sources, for example, this becomes a major roadblock for any analytics to perform; consequently, any automation or AI would follow through the same level of difficulty to have any reasonable and useful results. The need to gather, cleanse and reconcile data in order for it to become useful is of paramount importance to create the baseline for the solid analytics behind automation and AI.
Microsoft's Dataverse is the shared common ground database for Power Platform, and it simplifies this process by providing a common language for business and analytical applications to communicate. The Dataverse metadata system makes it possible for data to be shared and used in multiple applications and business processes within Power Platform.
Another important feature to consider is the low-code capabilities of Power Platform, which allows a non-technical resource to become the citizen developer who doesn’t necessarily need to rely on heavy lifting code.
This common baseline is shared by the modular components of Power Platform, as follows:
Figure 1. Power Platform Components
The Power BI platform is a combination of software services and functionalities allowing data to beentered, accessed and analyzed through a visually detailed and coherent layer made available to the end user. Data sources can be multiple, complex or simple, going from Excel or Access databases to sophisticated links using APIs from multiple platforms. Power BI allows you to combine and share the data in a more readable and actionable fashion.
In other words, you can bring scattered bulk data into a model and dashboard to be deployed and used by multiple audiences, depending on their need and ability to interpret data for decision-making purposes, making it scalable and capable of evolving easily without being heavily dependent on code.
Power BI will offer the components for you to process data, aggregate data, create logic, and turn the bulk data into a decision-making enabling format deployed in multiple formats and mobile devices.
Developers can use Power BI APIs to push data into datasets or embed dashboards and reports into their own custom applications.
Figure 2. Power BI Components
Applications or Apps are common ground for information accessibility in multiple platforms and devices. By combining the capabilities to build apps, deliver services and integration, Power Apps allows the development of custom applications for multiple purposes in a low-code environment.
This flexible canvas can quickly allow you to deliver entry points for data and human interaction to systems using complex logic with the advantage of relying on its data platform or a combination of sources and target databases connected by the multiple services available in Power Apps.
Besides allowing easy custom development suitable to your business needs, the business logic to be embedded can be reinforced by its workflow capabilities and templates which allow manual processes to become more automated and less error-prone, avoiding human intervention in all steps. Feature-wise, the custom-building capabilities allow a feature-rich app to be created accommodating business particularities, sophisticated needs and easy adjustments to multiple devices without writing code, under the Power Apps Studio canvas capabilities.
Figure 3. Power Apps Web Studio
Beyond being a big word in the tech industry today, automation is much more. Automation is now the path for the business optimization and efficiency edge companies need to leverage to differentiate themselves from others, and to keep up with the market demands and needs for delivering products and services in today’s standards.
With the lack of resources in the labour market, it is more important than ever to be able to avoid having our resources running non-value-added repetitive tasks and keep them motivated with value-added tasks and strong contribution to the operations and processes.
Also, automation can help to reinforce commitment to the process without locking up processes by simply following business rules and ensuring compliance.
Automation with Power Automate leverages its user-friendly interfaces to establish flows and logic to be respected while allowing for processes to flow while integrated outside the boundaries of silos, which also reinforces the potential streamlined business processes.
Power Automate offers a large library of prebuilt connectors from many platforms which you may need to integrate for your flows and automation processes to be reachable to multiple audiences inside and outside your operation.
From avoiding the manual entry of contracts, invoices and support tickets (which normally can scale up from hundreds to thousands of entries per day as your company grows) to complex automation flows to release inventory, respond to inquiries or to react to a given process status or behaviour, automation can be associated to Power Automate’s artificial intelligence embedded capabilities to give an edge to the rules established and activities triggered by these flows.
Figure 4. Power Automate Flows
Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents allow the development and deployment of chatbots that can interact with your customers, employees or anyone in your operation offering a service to help prioritize basic information to redirect your services or collect important information for further action.
Power Platform Virtual Agents allows the creation of logic and flows to support the agent’s interaction in a graphical and user-friendly interface.
Bots can be created easily without code, allowing power users to take the ownership, and control the execution of these bots. Bots can be useful for any activity on information collection by users, inquiries or services to provide, which may or may not use automation to trigger activities such as customer support issues (claims, questions, returns, contacts, opening hours), employees inquiries on their vacation time or health benefits, inquiries on predictive and corrective maintenance in shop-floor-based operations, etc.
Chatbots can also use AI components to learn from answers and interact with people to drive more satisfactory, humanlike interactions. Great add-ons to the customer service interface, the chatbots are becoming a very popular way to provide first-level information to its users in a 24/7 model.
Figure 5. Graph Creation with Power Virtual Agents
In a nutshell, the Microsoft Power Platform embodies the Microsoft breadth and vision on the technology trends for automation, analytics, mobility and artificial intelligence, while being positioned by Gartner as a leader in low code, automation, and analytics solutions. All this under a most affordable licensing cost and, due to its simplicity, a low cost to implement and adopt, without compromising technology capabilities and robustness.
In the context of bringing data to the first level of importance in digitally connected industries, Power Platform guarantees the options available are well covered and large, while modular.
By sustaining proper channel allocation for users with multiple devices, integrity and coherence, sharing the same data model, offering rich logic and workflow capabilities to reinforce process fluidity and integrity, Power Platform can automate and apply machine learning capabilities to the execution of operations in a simple and highly scalable fashion.
Our team is eager to hear from your process issues and challenges so we can propose how the Power Platform can lead you through a path of opportunities and growth. Contact us now!