Microsoft Power Platform is a group of products to develop and build complex business solutions, analyse, and draw data visualisations, automate a business process, or build virtual agents for communication. All these products offer a platform in which no code is required to build the applications.
Adnan Theba, Business Application Specialist at Microsoft SA, explains that Power Platform is made up of four components: Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents.
“But the platform is more than the sum of its parts,” he says. “Connecting them together – and to Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, and hundreds of other apps – allows anyone to build end-to-end business solutions.”
Power BI – make informed, confident business decisions by putting data-driven insights into everyone’s hands
“With Power BI, once data has been gathered, users have the ability to spot a trend or insight, pick up patterns, measure what they are doing and quantify efficiencies,” Theba explains.
“It gives users the power to manage their businesses more effectively and to make decisions in a quick and visible way.”
A major benefit that Power BI offers over many other business intelligence tools is its ability to accept natural language queries, making it valuable for every business user, Theba adds.
Power BI Pro lets users easily share and collaborate on interactive data visualisations using self-service analytics.
- Share rich data visualisations that help everyone make decisions based on facts, not instinct.
- Distribute findings to team members inside and outside your organisation, adjusting permissions as needed.
- Access visualisations on the go using the Power BI Mobile app to make data-driven decisions from anywhere.
- Enhance collaboration by using team commenting and stay current with content subscriptions and update alerts.
Power BI Premium offers advanced self-service data preparation that allows every user and organisation to accelerate the delivery of insights and collaborate with ease.
- By giving everyone access to insights, Power BI Premium accelerates decision-making.
- It unlocks big data through self-service data preparation.
- Data management and access is simplified.
- Users can take advantage of self-service BI and advanced analytics in a per-user licence.
- Power BI Premium improves the publishing efficiency and accuracy of BI content.
- Power BI Premium content can easily be viewed with the Power BI mobile app.
Power BI Mobile lets users access insights anywhere:
- Securely access and view live Power BI dashboards and reports on any device, with native mobile BI apps for Windows, iOS, and Android.
- Monitor your business right from your phone. Access on-premises data stored in SQL Server, or data in the cloud. Keep on top of KPIs and reports – Power BI Mobile apps give you a 360-degree view of your data – on the go. And, keep your company’s data secure with mobile device and application management capabilities with Microsoft Intune.
- Author reports for mobile users with Power BI Desktop, and view live dashboards and reports on mobile devices with fast and fluid visuals that accelerate your time-to-insight. Use natural language query to ask questions of your data, and geographic location to filter your data according to where you are.
- Easily annotate reports with your touch-enabled screen, to draw your team’s focus to new insights. Share live reports and dashboards directly from the app to keep your team on the same page.
- Get push notifications for personal data alerts to your device, and use 3D touch on iOS to quickly access shortcuts directly from your home screen. See your data update in realtime on phones, tablets, and Apple Watch.
- Author for mobile users with Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service. Securely access Power BI reports and dashboards, SQL Server Reporting Services, and your on-premises Power BI Report Server content – all in one app. Keep your company’s data secure with Microsoft Intune mobile device and application management capabilities.
Power Apps – turn ideas into organisational solutions by enabling everyone to build custom apps that solve business challenges
“I describe Power Apps as the user interface (UI) and database layer of the platform,” says Theba.
“Because the UI also houses the AI (artificial intelligence builder), it offers a low-code/no-code way of adding intelligence into any application – so users can build cognitive services using just about any kind of input.”
Users with little or no coding experience can start building apps that include statistical analysis, data extraction and solid workflows, Theba adds.
Power Apps turns business users into professional developers, giving them the ability to build low-code apps that modernise processes and solve tough challenges.
Users can start building and launching apps right away using pre-built templates, drag-and-drop simplicity, and quick deployment, then roll out continuous improvements as needed.
The advanced functionality previously only available to professional developers, including pre-built AI components, gives everyone the tools to build the apps they need.
And professional developers get access to tools that let them seamlessly extend app capabilities with Azure Functions and custom connectors to proprietary or on-premises systems.
Power Automate – boost business productivity to get more done by giving everyone the ability to automate organisational processes
“Power Automate helps to make complex processes simpler,” Theba explains. “I like to describe is as the ‘if this, then that’ technology, as it helps users to design a workflow.
“With built-in RPA (robotic process automation), it automates processes to streamline repetitive tasks so users can focus on what’s really important.”
Every user is empowered to build automated processes with flows with Power Automate. Low-code, drag-and-drop tools and hundreds of pre-built connectors help them to automate repetitive, mundane tasks with ease.
The process advisor helps to record and visualise end-to-end processes, providing guided recommendations for creating flows and deep insights that take the guesswork out of what to automate.
And AI Builder makes automation even smarter. Users can quickly process forms using document automation, process approvals, detect images and text, or create with pre-built models.
Power Automate can be used to manage workflows on the desktop, mobile devices, and on the Web; plus, cloud flows can be created to enhance teamwork in Microsoft Teams.
Power Virtual Agents – easily build chatbots to engage conversationally with customers and employees
“This tool is all about taking business processes and making it a conversation,” explains Theba. “We don’t care what back-end tools you use; you can turn any process into a chat.
“We empower everyone to easily create conversational bots.”
Power Virtual Agents allows users to quickly build sophisticated, AI-powered bots for a range of requests – from providing simple answers to common questions to resolving issues requiring complex conversations.
Using automation, AI and a collaborative, low-code graphical interface means it’s easy to use the tool. And these bots can be deployed across channels and languages.
And they can be constantly improved over time, with the ability to automatically track critical KPIs and identify future bot topics, together with self-learning AI with natural language processing to continuously improve your bots.
Bots can be easily incorporated into existing business processes using Power Virtual Agents features included with other Microsoft products. And they can be improved with existing functionality from other Microsoft products and services.
Importantly, users can deploy bots securely using central administration, built-in security roles, and simple management across environments to maintain compliance and governance.
Power Platform and the channel
Power Platform is available on subscription or on volume licensing agreement from accredited Microsoft channel partners.
“We work with a wide range of partners of all sizes, from the biggest consultancies to two-man systems integrators and including a great contingent of equal opportunity partners,” says Karin Jones, Director of Business Applications at Microsoft and Business Group Lead for Power Platform at Microsoft SA. “We are intent on growing a vibrant Power Platform community.”
Partners can develop their own apps and offer them on the Microsoft Marketplace so they can sell their IP (intellectual property) across the global Microsoft ecosystem.
They have access to apps and templates developed by the Power Platform Engineering Group which they can deploy as is or modify for their own customers’ use.
“There is also an established process and set of tools to help customers and partners build their own Centres of Excellence”, says Jones, “while training and workshops drive ongoing capability and enablement.”
For more information on Power Platform, click here