What is the Power Platform?
The Power Platform is a low to no code platform developed by Microsoft for creating custom solutions within the Office 365 suite.
The platform consists of 4 applications:
- Power Apps
- Power Automate (Flow)
- Power BI
- Power Virtual Agents
Each application has its own unique role in creating and completing a business solution or process. These applications can be used as part of an office 365 license or a stand alone license for an individual application.
Firstly, we have Power Apps. With Power Apps, you can create apps that are specific for mobile devices or tablets and PCs. Mobile applications work across all devices so you don't have to worry about creating android versus iPhone versions of your app.
Power Apps is the focal point for the platform as this is the main interface that end users will use to work with their data. Once the App is created you then may want to leverage the other applications in the Power Platform. For example, a user may trigger a flow through Power Automate to add, change or move data. Then a Power BI report will refresh to display insights on the data.
Power Automate is as it sounds, the component that brings automation. It's the glue that connects your data throughout your business process. Besides for just updating and managing your data, you can set up triggers, alerts, automated emails, push notifications, built in approvals and so much more.
With Power BI, you can analyze and visualize your data by creating dashboards and reports. That data can come from a simple spreadsheet, a database or from your Power Apps and Power Automate solutions. These analytics help organizations make informed decisions based on the facts and not opinions.
Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents allows you to create a chat bot, in a code-free interface, to address common questions from your end users and/or customers. In addition, you can empower your bot to take action using Power Automate or the Microsoft Bot Framework. These chat bots can be added to any custom website and other applications such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook messenger, Slack, Cortana etc.
What is the Power in the Power Platform?
Rapid and Easy Development
The Power Platform hands over the development capabilities from the IT department to end users. The platform uses a point and click approach with basic functions and commands (like used in excel) to create a solution. Furthermore, the platform is not only for end users. It can be leveraged by the technical staff and developers to quickly create custom solutions that otherwise would have taken a lot more time and resources.
Multiple Data Sources
Most organizations use more than one application to cover all there business processes. The Power Platform is not exclusive to Office 365, it can connect to any application in Office 365 as well many other data sources. There are hundreds of built in connectors that can be used within the platform. Microsoft is even allowing you to integrate data from their competitors like, Google and Salesforce. Furthermore, if you have a data source that is not included in the connectors, you can create a custom connector. These custom connectors can leverage any online data as well as local data via gateways.
The platform is Online. In terms of development that means all solutions are created within the browser. No additional software is needed. The only thing that is needed is a license.
Furthermore, Microsoft is continuously updating and adding new features to the platform. So you automatically get the latest and the greatest features to create your solutions without having to update anything. In fact, Microsoft recommends re-publishing your Power Apps periodically so that your custom apps get the latest enhancements and performance improvements pushed to the app.
Microsoft has recently introduced a new feature called AI Builder that allows you to bring the power of Microsoft AI to your organization, without the need for coding or data science skills. The AI builder can be integrated into your Apps and flows to automate processes and predict outcomes.
There are templates available in Power Apps and Power Automate. These are great for getting started and learning how solutions are put together. You can change the data source to your data and start using the template as is or you can copy functionality and integrate it into your custom solutions. This makes it very easy to get started and understand how the applications work.
Any solution can easily be imported and exported from one environment to another. This means you can easily re-use, share and tweak solutions. There are export files across GitHub that you can download and use in your own environment. Templates are not limited to what Microsoft is producing; anyone developing solutions can publicly share their solutions for others to use.
Ready to learn more about the Power Platform?
Learning Tree offers 2 introductory courses for the Power Platform:
No Code Solutions with Power Apps and Power Automate
This is a 3 day course that focuses on Power Platform solutions using SharePoint as your primary data source. Sign up here to participate in the course.
Power Platform Fundamentals
This a 2 day Microsoft course offered by Learning Tree, introducing the Power platform with a focus on the Common Data Service and Dynamics 365. Sign up here to participate in the course.