What is Microsoft Power Platform: A Summary

What is the Power Platform?

The Microsoft Power Platform might sound like standalone software, but it’s actually a set of powerful business applications aimed at helping organizations transform the way employees work. The collection of applications includes Power Automate, Power Apps, Power BI, Power Virtual Agents (PVA) & Power Pages, and we’ll break each app down for you.

How Power Platform helps you work efficiently

The platform takes a no-code, low-code approach, meaning users with zero developer experience can build digital business solutions. What are business solutions, you may ask? Simply put, a business solution is anything that helps you solve issues or complete tasks in your everyday work. For example, people often create reports from data, input invoice details into excel, answer repetitive customer questions—the list goes on. The five apps within Power Platform give users the tools they need to streamline and enhance these kinds of tasks, enabling them to innovate and work efficiently while giving your organization a competitive advantage.

These apps are powerful alone, but they’re better together. Using multiple Power Platform apps in a solution unlocks amazing capabilities.  For example, you could communicate with a PVA bot to generate a report from Power BI using a Power Automate flow or use Power Apps and Power Automate to streamline a fieldwork  process. The possibilities are endless; it’s up to you to get creative.

The anatomy of the Power Platform

All five apps within the Power Platform run on top of the Dataverse, which is a data service that lets you store all your business data within sets of tables. You don’t need to use Dataverse if you’re already using another data service that works for you. Dataverse is just a useful way to integrate your data into a single store, which you can use across the different Power Platform apps.

Another reason the Power Platform is so valuable is its versatility. The platform currently has over 600 connectors, which are proxies that allow Power Platform apps to ‘communicate’ with other Microsoft apps and third-party services. The vast number of connectors enables users to create solutions involving services like SAP, Salesforce, Twitter, etc. And if you can’t find a prebuilt connector for your legacy system, you can create your own to begin transforming your workflows—nothing’s holding you back.

Lastly, the Power Platform involves AI (Artificial Intelligence) Builder, which provides AI models designed to optimize business processes. This means users can infuse their business solutions with AI to perform tasks like detecting objects and image processing, sentiment analysis, and even predicting business outcomes.

How the Power Platform is structured

These foundational elements of the Power Platform are what makes Power Platform so versatile, enabling users to combine different toolsets and create a solution to any problem.

Now we’ll give a brief overview of each Power Platform app to give you a sense of what it is and how it’ll help.

Power Automate

Power Automate is a tool used to create automated workflows between apps and services. It’s excellent for self-service automation, meaning anyone can use it to automate the repetitive tasks they find themselves completing every day. Power Automate can streamline tasks like transferring invoice information from emails to excel, notifying team members when a list or form is updated, and much more.

It uses triggers to start a flow (which are just the workflows you’re automating). Flows can be triggered instantly by a button, automatically by an event, or run regularly through scheduling, granting you extreme flexibility with the kinds of flows you can create.

Power Automate Canvas

As long as you have a web browser and an email address, you can use Power Automate for free. Although, this version has limited user rights. As for the paid versions with additional features, users can choose between a per user/month or a per-flow fun plan.

Power Apps

Power Apps is an application that enables anyone to create custom business apps with or without using code. By equipping people with these tools, they can solve their business issues by streamlining processes or consolidating data to make their workflows more efficient. Some everyday use cases include monitoring inventory, streamlining fieldwork processes, and expense reporting.

Benefits:

  • Drag-and-drop functionality saves hours of development time–especially regarding design
  • Lower development times ultimately lower the development cost
  • Power Apps component framework enables pro developers to use their development tools to create and extend Power Apps functionality

Power Apps also offers two styles of plans: a monthly per-user plan and a per-app plan.

 

 

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Power BI

Power BI lets users to easily consolidate and interact with data to uncover new business insights. It’s extremely useful for analyzing, sharing, and promoting insights across your organization, which helps team members and departments make data-driven decisions. Users can model, visualize, and create reports from their data while using AI to get answers to business questions.

Power BI can access data from many sources, such as PDFs, Excel, JSON, XML, etc. It’s great for refreshing large amounts of data in near-real time, allowing users to perform ad hoc and real-time data analysis. If there’s one ultimate tool to gain insights from your data, it’s Power BI.

Power BI Dashboard

Regarding pricing, we’re starting to see a trend here, as Power BI also offers 2 models: per user/month and per capacity/month. And for those looking to get started with a free version, Power BI Desktop is just the thing for you.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents (PVA) is a tool used to create chatbots capable of engaging in seamless conversations with users. It’s great for helping the end-user solve a wide range of issues, whether it requires a simple question or complex conversation.

Benefits:

PVA is essentially a digital assistant, helping increase the productivity of your HR department, employees, and sales reps.

  • HR can use them to help solve internal questions employees may have without physically involving HR personnel in the conversation.
  • Employees looking to quickly locate a document or record can engage the bot for navigation assistance.
  • Sales reps can use them to provide product/service information to website visitors or to support customer issues.

Power Virtual Agents design canvas

PVA comes in two versions: the actual PVA app and PVA for Teams. PVA for teams is a free version only for internal use within Microsoft Teams, while the PVA app uses a per month cost depending on the number of sessions your bot runs pricing model.

Power Pages

Finally, we have Power Pages, a tool that enables users to build compelling business websites. The app makes creating websites simple, allowing users to choose pages, edit layouts, and add navigation and functionality. It also gives you various theme styles and customizable colors for any site elements.

Users can take a no-code approach and utilize customizable templates or take a pro-code approach using Visual Studio to extend Power Pages capability.

Power Pages design studio

Since Power Pages is currently in preview, licenses must be applied for by your IT administrator. However, you can try Power Pages out for free and then apply for a license later on if you’d like.

Keep in mind that the licensing is very context-dependent. Microsoft knows that companies have unique needs and has accommodated this by creating many different licensing tiers. It’s best to do your due diligence to see what works best for your organization, but the pricing links we provided are a great start and will lead you where you need to look.  Here’s a great guide if you’re looking for an in-depth description of the Power Platform licensing.

To wrap things up, the most important takeaways are this: the 5 Power Platform apps are changing how people work. They help you become more efficient, whether it’s through automation, streamlined tasks, or consolidating data. The Power Platform enables you to create solutions for your everyday business needs by equipping you with no/low-code tools.

With a solid foundational knowledge of the Power Platform, we hope things are not only clearer but you’re inspired, too! If you have a workflow you think could be improved, book a no-commitment consultation with us below!

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