What is the Microsoft Power Platform?
Everything you need to know about the Microsoft Power Platform.
Businesses and organizations are discovering the power of data-driven approaches to business development and decision-making. The Microsoft Power Platform is an innovative solution to data handling and automation challenges. This suite of applications allows you to seamlessly collect and analyze data from a central point. It also enables you to build business applications around the available data. Microsoft Power Platform is here to kill the notion that building robust automation systems is a preserve of huge organizations and businesses. This blog post will explore the structure of the Microsoft Power Platform and its components. It will paint a clear picture of how the Power Platform can enhance and fast-track digital transformation in your business.
What is the Microsoft Power Platform?
Microsoft Power Platform consists of four applications namely,
Power Virtual Agents
The platform also features add-ins such as Power Apps portals and AI Builder. The most exciting benefit of the Power Platform is that it allows non-technical users to build applications and create data visualizations without coding. In instances where coding is needed, it’s usually a few lines of code that anyone can learn pretty fast.
Before we explore the components of the Power Platform, let’s talk about data sources for the Microsoft Power Platform.
Where Does Microsoft Power Platform Source Data?
At the heart of the Microsoft Power Platform is a database called Dataverse. Dataverse, also known as Common Data Service (CDS), comes with prebuilt but customizable record types. Developers can use Azure cloud functions to customize data fields and add more data entities depending on their business needs.
CDS is a central data platform that feeds all the applications built by the user on the Power Platform through data connectors. The data connectors allow the applications to communicate with each other. CDS is perfect for users with bulk and structured data. Small businesses with little data and simple data structures can use SharePoint as their data source for the Power Platform.
Now let’s explore the components of the Microsoft Power Platform.
What is Power Apps?
Traditionally, building applications would take a team of developers and IT experts. It would also take weeks, if not months. Power Apps is designed to enable non-technical persons to build and customize apps within the shortest time possible.
Power Apps will allow you to create sophisticated and intelligent Apps without writing hundreds of lines of code. You can design Apps that can make logical decisions for your business and automate operations. Any company that is not rushing to automate its systems in this age will soon find it hard to compete and survive.
Power Apps allows you to do the following;
Build desktop and mobile apps easily and quickly. This can reduce your expenses on IT development. It can also reduce pressure on IT teams in big firms.
Extract data from your other business applications. You can set up your applications to share data with each data. This encompasses Microsoft business applications like office 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as third-party applications.
Sort and feed the correct data into end-user apps. This ensures end users only interact with the data and information they require for a specific task.
One of the biggest concerns organizations have today is cybersecurity. Power Apps offer a high level of enterprise security. It allows you to control and manage the security of your applications through the Azure Active Directory. You can integrate multi-factor authentication into your applications to ensure no unauthorized persons get access to your systems. Read more about the benefits of Power Apps for businesses here.
What is Power BI?
In a data-driven business, business analytics are at the core of all decisions. That’s where Power BI comes in. Power BI is a business analytics tool provided within the Microsoft Power Platform. Power BI utilizes the data stored in the CDS to create reports and presentations. It can also draw data from any other database you might be using. Power BI enables you to gain business intelligence easily and use it to make critical decisions.
Power BI can go a step further and display reports and presentations on custom dashboards within your applications. It can display the reports on websites, desktop apps, mobile apps, SharePoint, and other platforms that your business might be using. Recent versions of Power BI allow the end-user to personalize their visuals. They can adjust the displays depending on what they want to see.
Here are some valuable things you can do with Power BI.
Draw data for a specific report from multiple sources. Power BI can draw data from local and/or third-party cloud sources.
Use normal language to load queries and draw data and results. For instance, you can type “get me the sales for this month by each product.”
Tabulate and manipulate data to make it easier to handle and present. You can use Power BI’s drag and drop feature to create custom charts and dashboards.
In simple terms, Power BI makes it easy for you to collect and analyze complex data. Your small business can handle large volumes of data and draw critical business intelligence from them. Traditionally, it would take a lot of time and manpower to do so. Plus, if your company is using an ERP system, a BI tool like Power BI can help you make the most of your data as ERP and BI software perform best when integrated together.
Power BI is an industry-leading business intelligence tool. In fact, Gartner has recognized Microsoft as a Leader for the fourteenth consecutive year in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.
What is Power Automate?
Power Automate previously referred to as Microsoft Flow, is a workflow automation solution that helps you automate your business operations and processes. It allows your business applications to communicate with each other and stay updated. This allows you to automate time-consuming business routines and eliminate errors and mistakes.
You can do the following with Power Automate.
Create custom automation sequences by connecting multiple applications. You can connect applications such as SharePoint, Dynamics 365, Outlook, or even third-party apps such as Twitter and Gmail. You can set specific outcomes from any of these apps to trigger a sequence or process within your network of business applications.
Power automate has in-built automation templates that make it easy for you to set up some of the most common automation sequences. You can choose a template from the flow gallery.
Power Automate enables you to set up triggers, automated messaging, alerts, notifications, and many other engagement processes in minutes and without coding.
If appropriately utilized, Power Automate can save a lot of time for you and your team. It can also eliminate bottlenecks in your business processes.
What is Power Virtual Agents?
The Power Virtual Agents platform allows you to create intelligent bots that can act as virtual assistants. The bots can respond to questions from clients, employees, or visitors to your website and are connected to the data and content in your applications.
They can pick the correct information and phrase responses depending on the question asked.
Recent versions of the Microsoft Power Platform feature integration between Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents. This ensures that the robots are updated at all times, and they can keep improving their responses without needing any input from you.
Microsoft Power Platform Licensing & Pricing
Power BI comes in three plans – Power BI for desktop (free plan), Power BI Pro, and Power BI premium. You can learn more about the difference between the three and find out which is suitable for your organization in our previous blog post, “Microsoft Power BI Pro vs. Free vs. Premium.”
Power Automate lets you license by user or by flow. License per user plans start at 19.20 CAD per month (15 USD) and lets individual users create unlimited flows. The second license per user plan comes with attended RPA or robotic process automation and AI, and this plan costs 51.20 CAD per month per user (40 USD). Alternatively, you can license by flow, with a plan beginning at 640 CAD (500 USD) per month for five flows with unlimited users.
Power Apps has two plans, allowing you to license per app or per user. Their per app plan starts at 12.80 CAD (10 USD) per user/app/month. It’s best for businesses who want to license each user to run one app at a time, with the flexibility to stack licenses for each additional app. Their per user plan starts as 51.20 CAD (40 USD) per user per month and is for businesses who want one license for each user, regardless of the number of apps they need to run.
Integrating Power Platform and Dynamics 365
If you’re using the Dynamics 365 suite of applications such as Dynamics 365 Business Central to run your operations, you can easily integrate with Microsoft Power Platform to extend the capabilities of your ERP or CRM solution. For example, if you connect Business Central to Power Apps, you can build model-driven applications which you can share across your company. By adding Business Central as a data source in Power Automate, you’ll be able to create different automation flows, either from a self-made template or a connector. Similarly, you could run your reports through Power BI, and when Power BI and Business Central are used together, you can drill down and customize your visualizations even further.
Powerful alone, but better together – the Microsoft Power platform will help you unlock the full potential of your solutions when you connect them – and to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 – and empower you to build custom end-to-end business solutions.
If you need help getting started with the Microsoft Power Platform, the Kwixand Solutions team can help. We are a Silver certified Microsoft partner based in Vancouver, Canada, and help businesses across North America make the most out of their systems. We’ve helped companies improve their financial visibility using Power BI and create custom apps through Power Apps and more. Check out our client success stories to learn more. If you have questions about the Power Platform or have a specific business challenge in mind, book a free consultation with us to get started.