Today, a lot of organizations are being asked to “do more with less,” and unfortunately, adding another platform, or vendor, to your landscape isn’t always an appealing option. Enter the Microsoft Power Platform.
If you are currently working with Microsoft, chances are that your organization already has licensing for some or all of these tools. There is also a good chance that people within your organization already have familiarity with how the platform works and how to implement it.
So that asks the question, why are you not leveraging these tools to help drive efficiency, and productivity, and ultimately, do more, with what you already have?
What Is Microsoft Power Platform?
The Microsoft Power Platform is a set of low-code tools that enable you to analyze your data, act on business challenges, automate processes, and assist with routine tasks and questions. All of these things can be done in a familiar environment. Built on Azure, these tools inherit the same security, certifications, and controls your organization is already using. Built-in connectors with other Microsoft cloud services, and countless others, make utilizing and interacting with existing data even easier.
The Power Platform is made up of four applications. Each of these is a low-code solution that can stand alone, or be combined to make very robust solutions.
- Power BI helps businesses analyze data from one or multiple sources in order to make intelligent operational decisions.
- Power Apps is a platform on which solutions can be built to allow your business to act on data in a structured and guided manner.
- Power Automate is an automation platform that can run either scheduled, or triggered, and perform instant analysis, and act upon data.
- Power Virtual Agents is a low-code chatbot that allows businesses to easily answer frequent inquiries.
How To Utilize Power Platform
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Power BI is a business intelligence (BI) platform that allows you to build interactive visualizations for data consumption. It allows you to leverage data already being captured in Dataverse, Excel, SharePoint, data lakes, or other sources using pre-built or custom connectors. You can create visualizations that help identify trends and areas for action/improvement. You can also summarize data from disparate data sets that enables your cross-enterprise correlations and more informed decisions.
Power BI can be simple for someone just starting out, or advanced for a seasoned user. Anyone with access to a data source can create these new visualizations in Power BI Desktop, then share them with a central team to promote and share the outputs and insights.
Real World Example: Merge data from Dataverse tables via a SQL connection to your ERP/Finance system, to compare won opportunities to actual work performed. This can help monitor how accurately your sales team is estimating sales, and ultimately forecasting revenue for your business.
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Power Apps is a powerful tool for displaying data and making it actionable. These apps can take the form of either model-driven or canvas apps.
Canvas apps are very use-case specific, bridging gaps between simplicity, and full model-driven app functionality. Very specific custom apps (often use case driven) can be built quickly, with low-code functionality increasing the reach and functionality available to your team. The Power Fx language is utilized for the low-code development of these types of applications allowing for Excel-like formulas that can be quickly written customize the app.
“Think of the Visible property of a UI control as a cell in an Excel worksheet, with an associated formula that calculates its value based on the properties of other controls. The formula logic recalculates the value automatically, similar to how a spreadsheet does, which affects the visibility of the control.”
Real World Example: Create a model-driven app to show the customer sales lifecycle, starting with Leads, Opportunities, Accounts, and Contacts. Create a canvas app to show Opportunities waiting for sales leadership approval prior to sending a sales contract to the customer, allowing the user to either approve or deny the Opportunities waiting for approval in a quick and efficient manner.
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Power Automate is a low-code platform utilizing a drag-and-drop interface to create automated processes (flows). Connect to data with hundreds of pre-built connectors, and create automated, scheduled, or instant flows.
Automated flows start with pre-defined triggers based on the data source, to perform a series of actions based on attributes specified. Scheduled flows don’t require a specific trigger, but are executed at scheduled intervals to analyze and execute tasks based on attributes specified. Instant flows are ones that can be triggered manually from within a model-driven or canvas app or called from another scheduled or automated flow.
- Automated Flow – When an Opportunity is won, if a referral source was documented on the Opportunity, send a thank you email to that referral source.
- Scheduled Flow – Each night, query Dataverse for Opportunities that were lost 9 months ago, and create a task for the Sales Leader to follow up with the account to see if the opportunity can be revisited this year.
- Instant Flow – Create a flow, that when triggered by a button in a canvas or model-driven app, sends a dynamically created email with a link to a post-project survey.
Power Virtual Agents
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Power Virtual Agents is a tool that allows a user to easily create a chatbot for internal, or external use. These chatbots can be embedded within Teams channels, websites or on your intranet to name a few. These chatbots are created using a very low-code point-and-click UI where trigger phrases and actions are matched together to guide a user through scenario-based questions.
A chatbot can return data that may otherwise be returned in a Wiki, or ultimately transition to a human if the question cannot be answered. Questions about who to contact for employee benefits, how to correctly enter a billing code, or even a list of company holidays and policies can all easily be returned by a chatbot built with Power Virtual Agents.
Real-World Example: Your firm has created a Power Virtual Agent chatbot to answer questions about how to select the right project code for a new client project. The chatbot can ask conditional questions, and ultimately based on the criteria identified, guide the user to the right project code to use.
How Can My Organization Get Started?
Start by looking for common questions asked and answered, information gathered from multiple sources manually, or common data reported on in different flavors. These are all common use cases for some level of automation in the Power Platform bag of tools. Ultimately, this brings consistency in approach, and reduction in time spent by individuals collecting data and answering questions.
Two common areas where Power Platform can consistently improve efficiency are Pipeline reporting and client onboarding.
- Consider moving your pipeline reporting from Excel to Power BI. Utilize and join multiple data sources, and drive individuals to consume consistent data, rather than a flavor of it that someone manually put together last week.
- Is client onboarding consistently a pain point, when you win a new client, how many different systems does that client need to be created in? Consider utilizing Power Automate to create the client in downstream systems as soon as the Account becomes a Client in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM (or build a routed approval process if your process is more stringent).
Where Do We Go From Here?
Power Platform is rapidly changing and increasing in capabilities. What’s available today is almost certainly not the same as what will be available six months from now. Stay on top of these trends and tools, and increase efficiencies within your organization.
Common Power Apps Use Cases
- Overtime request
- Employee travel request
- Incident reporting
- Event attendance
- Event session scheduling
- Tracking monthly sales goals
- Collection of customer data
- Expense reporting process