In this digital age, we are extremely reliant on data – and the amount of data companies are creating is continually increasing. While all this data is inevitable, it is useless unless companies gain insights and meaning from it – to gain tangible value, fast.
Historically, data analysis, app creation or automation would be achieved by IT/Development teams. This would require staff to outline their requirements and aims, submit these requests to their IT department (or even an external partner) and then see whether it was approved and subsequently, wait for it to be built. This would be time-consuming and would use valuable resources internally or incur huge costs if fulfilled externally. What’s more, those requesting the solution usually tend to have an immediate need and waiting for weeks could cause internal delays.
This is why the Power Platform is so exciting. The Power Platform enables data democratization – the ability for digital information to be accessible to the typical (non-technical) end user. It provides four technologies that allow staff themselves to do more with their data without coding knowledge. While it doesn’t allow the flexibility of custom coding, it does provide a simple method for most users to be able to create, automate or analyse their data in ways which have never been possible for the average worker.
“Power Platform is a low code platform provided by Microsoft which spans across Office 365, Azure, Dynamics 365 and standalone applications.”
Power Platform combines the robust power of PowerApps, PowerBI, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents into one powerful business application platform — providing Act, Automate, Analyze and chat bots’ ability to build business application. The Power Platform is possible thanks to the Common Data Service for Apps (CDS), which is essentially the underlying data platform that provides a unified and simplified data schema so that applications and services can inter-operate.
Power Platform Products
The Power Platform enables digital information to be accessible to the typical (non-technical) end user.
Power Platform is comprised of four key products:
It is a rapid low code development environment which facilitates building custom apps for business needs. It provides services, connectors, and a scalable data service and app platform (Common Data Service) to allow simple integration and interaction with existing data. Power Apps help you build and deploy customised apps that work across web and mobile, embedded or standalone, on any device. All you have to do is to go to Power Apps and start building your own app as per the requirements. You need an office 365 subscription in order to get the power apps facility free.
Both developers and non-developers can create apps within PowerApps as it works in a no-code or low code environment. However, more technical users are able to extend the capabilities by using Azure functions or creating custom connectors and integrated solutions.
With Power Apps, following types of Apps can be created:
Power Automate was previously known as Microsoft Flow. This allows you to create automated workflows between Applications, Services and other third-party applications, which allows to avoid carrying out repetitive tasks and save valuable time.
For an example, imagine you upload a video to YouTube daily and share that on Twitter and Facebook each time you upload. This process can be automated using power automate so that once you upload the video, an action will be triggered to share it in social media. For another example, imagine you want to make a purchase for the organisation. Once you make the request, the manager has to accept/reject so that you can proceed through the process. This flow of getting approval from the manager once you make the request and the actions taken subsequently can be automated as follows.
PowerBI is a business analytics service provided by Microsoft. Using data stored in CDS or other databases, users can build informative reports and dashboards to display important data about sales, customer service, and other business functions. These dashboards and reports can be published on websites, in SharePoint or Teams, and in Apps.
Power BI is a business analytics tool which allows you to easily connect to data sources, create visuals and gain business intelligence quickly. It allows you to:
Power Virtual Agents empowers developers to easily create powerful bots using a guided, no-code graphical interface without the need for data scientists or developers. It eliminates the gap between the subject matter experts and the development teams building the bots. It removes the complexity of exposing teams to the nuances of conversational AI and the need to write complex code. And, it minimises the IT effort required to deploy and maintain a custom conversational solution.
Using Power Virtual Agents, you can:
The beauty of power platform is that each of these four key products, power apps, power automate, power BI and virtual agents can be used interactively. For an example, you can trigger an automated flow once you press a button in your power app. Or you can preview a visualization obtained from power BI in your power app. You can also add a chat bot created from power virtual agent in your power portal created.
Power Platform itself is divided into multiple components and layers where each component is dynamic and scalable by itself, but brilliant and masterful when combined. From a developer or more precisely citizen developer’s perspective, Power Platform is split into Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents, which is used to map their business process requirements.
This platform is built upon lots of services which powers it and Pro Developers can interact with these services in order to perform advance functionalities. Common Data Service (Apps) is harnessed from Azure Data services like Azure SQL, Cosmos DB, Blob Storage etc. Similarly Azure API management service is involved in integrating all of the products with API management. Bot Services powers Power Virtual Agents whereas Analysis Services powers Power BI.
The heart of the Microsoft Power Platform is the Common Data Service for Apps (CDS). It is a central data repository for business data.
CDS is a secure database hosted in Azure Cloud prebuilt with a standard set of entities and record types. These record types — for example, Accounts, Contacts, and various activity types, are extensible — so you can add additional data fields. Developers can add new entities to fit their business needs. Entities have relationships to each other, and Business Rules can be created to form required fields, hide fields and set default values.
Common Data Service offers following categories of functionality: