Power Platform has recently become one of the hottest buzz words in the business applications community. While each component of the platform is relatively new to the market, the ease of use, the rich set of capabilities, and the pace of Microsoft’s development has quickly made the product a must-have set of applications. Microsoft plans to continue that pace and the road-map for the Power Platform is comprehensive.
So what is the Microsoft Power Platform?
Right now, the Power Platform is comprised of three cloud-based products, Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow. While each merit their own buzz, the combination of the three is where the true power lies and allows organizations to analyze, act, and automate.
Microsoft Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a self-service business intelligence application that allows users to visualize their data derived from multiple sources. It allows users to create dashboards and reports to display their data in the best format for analysis. The interactive visuals allow users to splice and drill-down into data to better understand the story the data tells. As a cloud-based product, dashboards can be shared with other users and viewed on devices ranging from desktop computers to smart phones.
Power BI allows organizations to extend their reporting capabilities beyond the limitations of their current systems by combining data from multiple sources into a single centralized reporting system. For example, Power BI can be used to gain a 360-degree view of the customer by combining data from a sales CRM, your customer service ticket managing application, and ERP.
On its own, Power BI is a highly valuable tool. However, as the analytical front end of a PowerApp or Microsoft Flow process, Power BI transforms data into actionable information.
Microsoft PowerApps is a software product platform that allows users to design and build web and mobile apps. The PowerApps interface allows easy development with little or no code. Organizations find that PowerApps significantly lowers the cost of development — meaning time-saving automation which was previously thought to be out of reach due to cost considerations is now a reality.
It can be used to extend the functionality of an existing system, provide a subset of data or functionality from an existing system, or deliver functionality in the absence of another system. For example, a PowerApp could be built to manage employees’ time off, enabling users to request and receive approval for time off in the absence of another system or in conjunction with an HR system that lacks the specific required functionality.
PowerApps offers over 200 connectors (configurable data and process tools) to popular cloud and on-premise products, the ability to develop custom connectors, and its own powerful data store through the Common Data Service (CDS).
Microsoft Flow is a process automation service that allows users to design and build powerful workflows between their favorite apps and services. Users can create simple Flows for automating everyday tasks like saving email attachments to OneDrive. Users can also create more powerful Flows for transferring data between two systems.
Microsoft Flow Connectors and Setup
Microsoft Flow natively comes with over 250 connectors and templates to make it easy for a user to get started. Just like with PowerApps, the user interface allows the everyday user to build Flows with no code. Flow is a key component of the Microsoft Power Platform, enabling organizations to easily extend the capabilities of existing applications, combine the capabilities of their software investment, and enable the quick automation of business processes.
Our PowerApps time off management example could have a Flow component that sends email notifications to managers allowing them to approve their team’s time off requests.
What Tools Are Incorporated into Microsoft’s Power Platform?
As you can see, the Microsoft Power Platform offers extensive functionality to analyze, act, and automate your data. Whether used individually or combined for additional power, PowerBI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow introduce a world of possibilities.
As a key part of their vision for business applications, Microsoft continues to enhance their other products to take advantage of the Power Platform tools. Office 365 and Dynamics 365 already provide support for and are incorporated into the platform. The road-map includes other popular products like MS Project Online and Visio.