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Microsoft Power Platform Guide for Small & Medium Enterprises

Running the IT department of an SME can be exhausting, especially when you are dealing with large amounts of data, often leading to overburdening your staff with numerous repetitive tasks. If you want to make things easy for yourself and your team, you need access to the Microsoft Power Platform. These tools from Microsoft help automate and streamline manual tasks that can free up time and mental processing power for more important tasks. 

Sometimes, SMEs find it hard to invest in equipment and expertise to handle their daily tasks. This adds unnecessary pressure on the few IT team members, especially when manipulating data and designing strategies are required to drive business. Management usually requires informative reports from critical business operations, which can take hours to generate. On the other hand, Microsoft came up with an innovative all-in-one platform to assist users in visualising their business processes to discover patterns to improve workflow. 

According to our Modern Workplace Solutions experts, Microsoft Power Platform is a must for you if you’re looking to increase productivity with the same human resources at your disposal. 

What is Microsoft Power Platform 

The Power Platform is an application package that allows developers to automate their processes, build customised solutions, analyse datasets, and create virtual agents to assist them. Microsoft got hold of this idea by recognising the workflow of IT organisations. They also believed that these organisations need to harness their data and gain insights that drive their business processes with an intelligent approach. 

Microsoft Power Platform has the following cross-cutting features that developers can leverage to utilise the platform to its full potential:

  1. AI Builder
    Users and developers add AI capabilities to their workflows and applications. While using AI builder, you can easily add intelligence to your workflow to predict results that help you improve your business performance without rewriting the source code. 
  2. Microsoft Dataverse
    Dataverse is a scalable data service that allows users to store their data in a secure location, manage it from multiple locations, and integrate it into business applications using a standard data model that ensures ease and consistency. Consider Microsoft Dataverse, a common currency that enables the components of Microsoft Power Platform to work together. You can use Dataverse to consolidate, display, and manipulate your data to introduce efficiency within your organisation. 
  3. Connectors
    Connectors enable developers to connect their apps, data, and devices to Azure. You should consider these connectors as a bridge for your information and commands. Microsoft Power Platform consists of more than 275 connectors that insert cohesion between your data and actions. 

Components of Microsoft Power Platform 

The power platform consists of four major components:

Power Apps

Power Apps is a combination of applications, services, connectors, and a data platform for developers to utilise rapid development environments while building custom applications for their unique business requirements. Applications built using Power Apps are rich in business logic and workflow capabilities by transforming manual operations to digitally automated processes. 

Your applications can have a better responsive design running seamlessly on any browser and mobile device. Professional developers employed at your organisation can programmatically interact with data or metadata, apply unique business logic, create custom connectors for particular purposes, and integrate applications with external data. 

Power Apps has the following sub-components:

  1. Canvas apps
    Canvas apps initiate with your user experience as it lets you craft a specifically tailored interface by harnessing the power of a blank canvas and connecting it to any of the 200 data sources that serve your purpose. You can design and build any business application without writing code in any traditional programming language like C#. The canvas lets you drag and drop elements on the screen, just like designing slides in PowerPoint. You can also specify logic and data working just as you add formulas in Excel. 
  2. Model-driven apps
    Model-driven apps initiate with your data model by building up from the shape of your core business data and processes from the model forms or views from the Dataverse. You can automatically generate a highly responsive UI by taking advantage of Model-driven apps. During creation, you can utilise the power of the Dataverse for rapid configuration of your forms, business rules, and process flows. 
  3. Portals
    You can use portals as help in creating external-facing websites that allow outside users to sign in to your organisation’s Dataverse through a wide variety of identities, create and view data, or anonymously browse content. 
  4. Dataverse
    Dataverse is a data platform with Power Apps that lets you store and model business data. Also, Dynamics 365 is built on the Dataverse platform. If your organisation used Dynamics 365 for its daily workloads, your data is already a part of the Dataverse. 

Comparison between Model-driven and Canvas apps 

CategoryModel-driven appsCanvas apps
Data platformDataverse onlyDataverse + any other platform through connectors
Data experienceDesign focused on no-code componentManipulation focused using Power Fx expressions
UI controlLimited but predominant customisation availableFull control
App consistencyHigh, but the predominant difference may be possible due to selected tables and viewsOften low, designers expected to have significant control over User Experience
Migration between environmentsSimplePotential complexity, as the data sources may be required to be updated
Creation speedRapidDependant on the user’s complex design
Responsive AutomaticallyOnly responsive if the user designs it to be responsive
Navigating through relationshipsAutomatic, but the relationships should existOnly if the designed and applied using Power Fx formulas
Accessibility
features
BuiltinNeed to be designed into the app

 

Power BI

Power BI is a collection of software services, applications, and connectors that work together to turn your data sources into comprehensible, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Your data can be present as an excel spreadsheet or a collection of cloud or in-house data warehouses. With Power BI, you can quickly connect to your data sources, visualise data, discover the essential elements, and share your data with other team members. 

Power BI consists of the following elements: 

  1. Power BI Desktop
    You can install a free application on your local computer to connect, transform, and visualise your data. You can also connect to multiple data sources and combine them into a data model that enables you to build visuals. You can then share these collections with other members of your organisation. Analysts who work on Business Intelligence projects use the Power BI desktop to generate reports. 
  2. Power BI Service
    Power BI Service is the SaaS version of the desktop app and is often called Power BI Online. The dashboards help you keep a close eye on your business operations by displaying tiles, which you can use to open the reports in detail. 

Power Automate 

Formerly known as Microsoft Flow, this component of Microsoft Power Platform allows users to automate numerous time consuming manual tasks to eliminate any potential human errors. You can use Power Automate to connect different systems that require data for translation and automation of your business processes across applications and services already deployed. These can vary from simple automation to advanced scenarios such as creating different cloud flows that can trigger responses and actions automatically, instantly, or on a schedule.

Flow TypeUse CaseAutomation target
Automated flowsCreating automation triggered by an event, such as an email from a specific person.Connectors to the cloud or on-premises services connected to your accounts. 
Instant flowsStarting automation by clicking a button to carry out repetitive tasks from your desktop or mobile.A Wider range of tasks such as automating approval requests or action in Teams or Sharepoint. 
Scheduled flowsSchedule automation such as daily data upload to SharePointTasks that require scheduled automation. 

 

Power Virtual Agent 

Microsoft Power Platform allows you to create chatbots that can tackle questions posted by your customers, employees or visitors. Power Virtual Agents are intelligent as they can communicate with each other and do most of the manual work, reducing the need to hire additional staff. 

Here is a complete list of Virtual Agent offerings from Microsoft: 

CompatibilityMicrosoft 365 subscriptionsPower Virtual Agents subscriptions
Deploying bots to channelsMicrosoft Teams.All channels supported.
Power Automate Connectors Standard connectors are available for flows triggered from Power Virtual Agents.Premium connectors available for flows triggered.
Web securityBy default, secure access is enabled, with no ability to generate secrets.Ability to generate secrets and adjust secure access accordingly.
Microsoft Bot

Framework Skills

Not AvailableAbility to extend bots with MBF skills
Using Agents as

an MBF skill

Not AvailableAllowed
Integrating MBF dialoguesNot AvailableDeveloping custom dialogues with MBF composer allowed
Handoff bot conversation to a

live agent

Not AvailableVirtual Agents can create triggers to hand off to a live agent. 

 

Power Virtual Agents is offered as a Core Online Service and is compliant with the following: 

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. 
  • Health Information Trust Alliance, Common Security Framework. 
  • Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Program 
  • System and Organisation Control.
  • Various International Organisation for Standardisation certifications. 
  • Payment Card Industry, Data Security Standards. 
  • The Cloud Security Alliance, Security Trust Assurance and Risk.
  • United Kingdom Government Cloud. 
  • Outsourced Service Provider’s Audit Report. 
  • Korea-Information Security Management System. 
  • Singapore Multi-Tier Cloud Security Level 3. 

Doing More With Less with the Microsoft Power Platform

Your organisation can take advantage of both Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 as they are compatible with each other. You can see detailed data reports through an embedded Power BI report without leaving Dynamics 365 Business Central and vice versa. Power BI and Dynamics 365 Business Central work together to provide their users with dashboards that can use real-time data to generate reports. However, with Power BI, you can create an even more flexible report that can customise visualisations. 

Functionalities from Power Automate also work within Business Central, as you can easily add the workflow templates you create from Power Automate to the list of workflows from Business Central. You can also add Dynamics 365 as a data source while using Power Automate. This will allow you to create different automation regulations from a template that you created from scratch. 

Benefits of Using Microsoft Power Platform 

Microsoft Power Platform is designed to make business processes simple and reduce the workload for employees. Here are some benefits of using Power Platform in your Organisation: 

  1. Managing everything from a single platform
    Organisations strive to manage their sensitive data to extract the maximum benefit. Power Platform provides a single environment capable of managing all kinds of information through an easy-to-use dashboard when your organisation uses numerous tools to generate data. 
  2. Everyone can use power platforms
    Microsoft created its Power Platform so that anyone can use these code-free tools to design and develop business applications to address their unique requirements without the need for technical proficiency. Similarly, IT professionals can use other tools and create advanced business solutions for their clients. 
  3. No need to depend on third-party tools
    With Power Platform, you gain access to a robust design, development, automation, and analytics tools as an inclusive package at a monthly subscription. Now, there is no need for separate software licensing and maintenance, giving your IT staff ease while keeping costs to the minimum. 
  4. These tools work on every device
    All components of the Power Platform work individually or collectively on any devices that are a part of your organisation. Therefore, your remote team members can easily connect to your platform and perform their daily duties from the comfort of their homes. 
  5. Office 365 integrated
    Power Platform subscription comes with end-to-end capabilities that allow you to manage your data from SharePoint, Excel, or any other Office 365 application according to your requirements. You can now manage, visualise and analyse organisational data while simplifying everyday tasks. 

Conclusion

Microsoft created an ingenious platform that includes numerous tools in an all-inclusive package. Power Platform’s strong suit is to simplify the workflow for SMEs and big organisations. It does so through its tools offerings that help in automation and manipulation of data to improve productivity. Numerous people working in IT use Power Apps to create applications that meet their unique requirements without worrying about programming languages. 

Our team of Microsoft 365 consultants is always available to address all of your concerns. If you’re not sure how to deploy Microsoft Power Platform in your organisation, give us a call.

 

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