The Microsoft Power Platform is a powerful set of applications that allow you to automate processes, build solutions, analyze data, and create virtual agents. This blog and video will introduce the various components of the Power Platform, discuss how you can harness the power of data and discover the impact these solutions have when integrated with other Microsoft solutions.
Data Pain Points
We’ve learned over the years that 70% of organizations believe their data is not being used to their full capacity or full extent. What this really means is a couple of years ago, there was a big emphasis on data and how we capture it. The troubles we had then are no longer troubles that we have now, and organizations have a whole lot of data from different systems. It’s more the question of how we can create a data culture or make the data meaningful for our users, for our systems, and essentially make data work for you rather than working in the data to make it somewhat relatable. With that concept in mind, I’d like to introduce the Power Platform.
What is the Power Platform?
The idea of the Power Platform came from this vision of recognizing that organizations have an increasing flow of data everywhere. The belief that organizations can harness data and gain insights to drive business processes that are intelligent is where Power Platform fits in.
The Power Platform has four major components:
- Power BI is a business analytics tool
- Power Apps is application development for low to no code apps
- Power Automate (formerly known as Flow) enables process automation
- Power Virtual Agents are intelligent virtual bots
The data is connected is through over 275 different data connectors, that are inherently built for Power Platform. Then you can take it the next step further and use artificial intelligence (AI) to build in logic and build AI around that. With all the Microsoft solutions, the data is housed in the Microsoft Dataverse (formerly known as the Common Data Service) and the data reservoir is there. All the data can be accessed across any application because it resides within this one primary data collection.
Power Apps is the idea of building applications that do not take months and a lot of development work to do. Power Apps gives users the ability to build no-code applications as well as with very low code. There is very minimalistic code involved to build a very sophisticated intelligent type of application that include the logic of your business. Those applications, as well as the other Power Platform solutions, can be used on different devices whether it’s your Android phone or iOS operating systems, your laptop, tablet, desktop, on the web, online anywhere.
Not only can you build model-driven or canvas apps which are across multiple sources, you can have highly customized tasks as well that give you an immersive experience from starting your data and your data model, and then going all the way to your business processes and consuming that across multiple devices.
Security is a big component within Power Apps and the entire Power Platform. In Power Apps there is high enterprise security, management, and control that you can manage through your Azure Active Directory to enable policies that have multifactor authentication. You can have full audit logs and use analytics that are there, or your data loss prevention policies that you can put in place, essentially to manage your data all through the admin center, providing you that full experience to centrally manage your apps across your organization, as well as what has been deployed outside the organization.
The one key aspect that I want to emphasize for all the Power Platform applications is the idea that you can connect just about any data, as well as integrate that data across your existing systems so that you can extend your solution. You can utilize the data that is within Dynamics 365 and inherently connect that data to an app that you’ve built and utilize the information that you get out of there.
Power BI allows you to see interactive real-time dashboards and gives you insights, in a single glass pane, for the information that you’re trying to see. With Power BI you can gain insight regardless of where your data lives, so connecting and consolidating that data to give you a fuller view across your business is the intention.
You can build smart insights and infuse those insights into driving actions and making informed decisions from the data that you get from the live interactive real-time dashboards. In fact, you can even ask questions to your data, which is the idea of getting the data to work for you through the natural language query model as well to help you understand your data, to help you locate and answer simple questions.
Like I mentioned, there are over 275 different types of data sources can connect with the Power Platform. Within Power BI there are common data sources, for example, your SQL database, your Dynamics environment, or data that’s coming from file servers like Excel. All those methods or different data sources can be connected to give you that one image. Power BI dashboards are not limited to pulling data from the Microsoft platform, they can integrate with other cloud-based solutions. Microsoft has many data connectors right now and there’s some legacy apps that can be connected as well if they have what’s called a REST API. There are not many systems that have the power to do what the Power Platform does.
Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, enables process automation to get rid of rudimentary manual tasks and eliminate the manual errors that could arise. Power Automate is a powerful workflow automation tool that allows you to connect different systems together and take that data and translate it. There is one source of truth and you can work throughout different Microsoft systems. Power Automate allows you to automate and build business processes across your apps and the services that you have already deployed. These can vary from simple automations to very advanced scenarios like creating branches or having different trigger responses and trigger actions.
One example could be using workflows for an approval processes or something as simple as getting notifications about different platforms where you work. Power Automate can connect to those different data sets.
The aspect of security, connecting that data, using these applications as a way of making data work for you and making it meaningful for your organization, and essentially having a stronger system are some of the attributes of Power Automate. Power Automate has a range of functionality. There are some that are natively integrated within the Microsoft Cloud applications and others you can build in, for example, through Microsoft Dataverse (formerly known as the Common Data Service), or you can build custom workflows or custom applications. Strong data connectivity, built-in platforms that are seamlessly integrated together to give you a fuller, intelligent, automated experience is what Power Automate can do.
Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents are intelligent virtual bots that can communicate and do a lot of the work that you might need to do manually or hire someone else to do, by using a robot online. See our What is Power Virtual Agents recorded webinar for more information.
Connecting to Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365
How do we connect the Power Platform with our existing systems? If you’re utilizing Power BI, Power Apps, or Power Automate, you can use them as standalone applications, but there is a much more powerful experience once you integrate and connect them into a common or a more unified ecosystem.
These connections can be done with not only the Office and Microsoft 365 applications like the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Outlook, but you can also connect with your Dynamics 365 solution and with Microsoft Azure.
Microsoft Business Applications Ecosystem
The Microsoft Dynamics 365 ecosystem is comprised of different applications that support the types of businesses across different industries and various life cycles.
The Power Platform can work together with many solutions and applications. Microsoft promotes the idea of solutions working together and that they’re better together. If you look at the Dynamics applications in the graphic above, from Finance and Operations (now known as Finance and Supply Chain Management) to Sales and Marketing to HR plus other ERP systems, they are all connected through this modern and intelligent system. The Power Platform allows you to extend your existing environment so that you can build more and extend the application.
Power Platform with Dynamics 365 Business Central
The Power Platform works well with Dynamics 365 Business Central. There are examples when you can see data reports without leaving Dynamics 365 Business Central through an embedded Power BI report, as well as the other way around where you can retrieve your data from Dynamics 365 Business Central and run reports through Power BI. When Power BI and Business Central work together, you can see data in both areas and create dashboards that are up to speed with real-time data. The Power BI reports provide a flexible report with the ability to drill down and customize those visualizations.
Power Automate workflow functionalities work within Business Central, and even though they may be two separate workflow systems, the workflow template that you create within Power Automate can be added to a list of workflows within Business Central. If you add Dynamics 365 Business Central as a data source in Power Automate, you can create different types of automations or flows from a template that has been created from scratch or from a connector that’s built there.
If you connect Dynamics 365 Business Central with Power Apps, you can build canvas or model-driven applications and then share those applications across the organization with your colleagues or even publish them online on the web. There is a lot of power when utilizing the Power Platform and your Dynamics environment together.
Customize, Extend, and Build
Comparing all the components that are involved with Dynamics, Office, and the Power Platform applications with Power Apps, Power BI, and Power Automate, it can be quite overwhelming. Encore has created roadmaps with customers and completed implementations. We’ve recognized the need for unique business opportunities and unique business cases where individuals will leverage the out of the box functionality to start off in some of the applications, and others will lead to customizing and extend their offering for their solutions and integrate different components that might not be out of the box integrators. We can build and tailor out those solutions, customize those tasks, and help enable you to do that as well through training.
Building Business Applications
We encourage customers to look at not only best practices when building business applications but as well as at the factors listed below. For example, sometimes the focus will be on complex processes and the security and compliance factor will not be considered, where others might look at budget being the primary concern.
- Time and resources
- Business expectations
- Paper processes
- Complex processes
- IT/Business partnership
- Legacy system maintenance
- “Shadow IT” governance
- Leverage existing technology
- Security and compliance
We look at these factors when we’re evaluating the best implementation method, as well as the scope for the implementations that we deploy.
A reminder that the best organizations are powered by strategy, creative people, as well as users and businesses that can understand the sense of creating a vision throughout the company. In the modern business world being smart, creative, and dealing with those days where you’re performing, answering emails, attending meetings and studying documents, you need to leverage the support of technology to help you do that. Essentially there’s automation that can be limitless.
Encore understands the pressure that businesses face from every different angle that makes you become more productive and efficient at the end of the day. Resources are finite and so are the number of days or hours that we have in a day. We need to do things that will increase our ability to, increase our expectations, the competition, and our resources, and allow us to do things that make meaningful impact for our business. Automation is the way to do some of that, especially with the different systems we have and the amount of data that we can use to make it happen for us.
For a presentation introducing the Power Platform that discusses how your business can harness the power of data, please see the video below:
The possibilities are endless when you combine components of the Power Platform with your existing Microsoft solutions, whether that’s the Office family of products or an ERP system like Dynamics 365 Business Central.
Encore is one of the leading partners with the Power Platform and we’ve got an entire practice around developing applications, BI reports, automation, as well as integrating that with existing systems. We can help your organization throughout the entire process, whether you come to us with no existing system and want to do an all-in-one solution, or you come with an existing system and we can help support and add-on different functionality.
Contact us if you have questions about getting started with the Power Platform.
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