Microsoft Power Platform: Fueling Business Performance
A technology platform that fuels every aspect of your business is no longer a competitive advantage in this data-driven, digital-first business world – it is an imperative. The Microsoft Power Platform (the Platform) delivers a low-code solution, enabling users to build custom business applications, automate workflows, analyze data and deliver Automated Intelligence (AI) solutions in one inclusive environment.
What Is the Microsoft Power Platform?
The Microsoft Power Platform is a powerful set of applications serving different functions as part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products. The Power Platform has five major components:
- Power Apps: A suite of apps, services and connectors, as well as a data platform, that provides a rapid development environment, with low-to-no code, to build custom apps for business needs.
- Power Automate: A service that enables process automation, and creates automated workflows between apps and services to synchronize files, alert notifications, collect data, etc.
- Power BI: A collection of software services, apps and connectors that work together to turn disparate sources of data into cohesive, visual and interactive insights.
- Power Virtual Agents: A service that creates powerful AI-enabled chatbots for a range of simple to complex conversations.
- Power Pages: A service that creates, hosts and administers modern, external-facing business websites.
Each application was designed by Microsoft with the intent of working together to enhance capabilities. For example, by leveraging Power Apps to build an expense reporting application, and connecting Power Automate to design a workflow, the report can be routed through appropriate approval channels. When connecting Power BI to these two components, an analysis can determine the timeliness of the reporting process. To create additional insight, adding predictive analytics or integrating into other cloud systems can give users additional insight into future actions.
What Are the Benefits of the Microsoft Power Platform?
The Platform enables organizations to effectively compete by providing low-code tools that empower the workforce in all critical performance areas.
- Workflow – Users can connect and automate processes across hundreds of apps and systems, centralizing all enterprise-wide processes into one platform. Workflows are instantly streamlined and processes standardized, saving time, increasing employee satisfaction and minimizing errors.
- Data – All applications and external data sources are managed within one central platform, enabling 360-degree visibility across an organization to improve data accuracy, increase value and streamline reporting. By gathering and accessing data, users can create data visualizations to garner valuable insights and make data-based decisions accordingly.
- Remote Work and Collaboration – With full web and mobile application integration, employees can connect anywhere from any device to retrieve, share and interact with project activities without disruption.
- Security and Compliance – Organizations can ensure regulations and compliance standards are consistently and accurately met with automated processes that monitor data collection, output and results.
As a multi-tiered, in-depth defense security solution, the Platform is accessible via the cloud to every user, focusing on citizen development, and is broadly viewed as the global leader in the fight against ‘malicious actors.’ Because Microsoft integrates with other cloud solutions, the opportunities for integration such as with SQL, SharePoint, AWS, QuickBooks etc. are all possible.
- Self-Service – With its low-to-no code approach, users can easily generate insights from data, deploy rich applications, create powerful workflows and automate with a basic skillset application.
What Skills Are Needed To Use Microsoft Power Platform?
The introduction of a new software or functionality within an existing platform can be intimidating. Identifying the appropriate technical skills needed to work within the platform depends on the work being performed. Microsoft has built a robust platform with user-friendly and easy-to-navigate components, such as building a basic workflow approval in Power Automate or working with a simple data set in Power BI.
As business processes become more complex, like a capital request where different conditions and fields apply, or writing to SQL and pulling data from Amazon Web Services (AWS) or QuickBooks, a more advanced skillset may be required. It is very important that users understand their skillsets and limitations when performing advanced activities and tapping into a higher skillset user or a consultant for additional help. For example, an inexperienced employee using a Power App leverages a data gateway to an on-premises SQL server and converts their Power App to a premium subscription. However, the user does not realize the implication of updating their subscription, which directly impacts all user subscriptions and potentially costs the organization an additional 20k.
Can the Microsoft Power Platform Be Accessed Externally?
Forrester, a leading global market research company, in a recent economic impact report, conducted a study across multiple organizations who invested in the Microsoft’s Power Platform, factoring in licensing and developed applications within the platform. The combined results of fully integrating the platform into their businesses saw a ROI of 502% in less than three years with a reduction of application development costs by 50% (Firth and Heaney).
These organizations were able to increase workforce productivity and eliminate inefficiencies. By virtue of the cloud, organizations were able to instantly receive updates, new features and enhancements, eliminating support, downtime and manual hours of labor. Also due to the cloud, organizations were able to eliminate operational and facility expenses, such as electricity and equipment maintenance. Workforces empowered with the Power Platform can perform higher quality work, more quickly, which allows the workforce more time to be innovate and drive profitable outcomes.
Innovating With the Microsoft Power Platform
A construction company, with territories throughout the southeast, specializes in sales and service of Caterpillar products, including earthmoving, construction and materials handling equipment, along with diesel engines used for electric power generation, on-highway and marine propulsion applications. They began noticing that they were losing sales as many of their prime sales inquiries were happening when the team was in the field. At that time, the company used an on-premises SharePoint, SQL and ERP so to respond to a client while in the field, and a salesperson had to be on a laptop connected to a VPN with a strong internet connection.
By migrating their SharePoint to Office 365 SharePoint online and integrating their ERP with Power App, a custom app was built to help convert sellable pieces of equipment to rentals in real time. In addition, a custom workflow was built for approvals and Power BI was leveraged for analytics. This enabled the salesperson, while in the field, to leverage the app, review inventory in ERP, request an item and close a sale all within 30 minutes, versus the prior three-week process. Additionally, the sales team can make smarter business decisions and increase profitability with the foresight to see how many construction items they are converting from a sale to rental and number items in inventory, ensuring no missed revenue.
The Microsoft Power Platform offers a host of benefits for organizations, realizing most benefits when its components are utilized in connection. It empowers organizations through automation and innovative enterprise applications, and provides users with the insights needed to make smarter business decisions that fuel performance, innovation and growth.
About Cherry Bekaert Digital Advisory
Cherry Bekaert’s Digital Advisory team is comprised of strategists who have broad industry experience and keen business acumen. Utilizing an agile and flexible approach, we help examine what you want to achieve with a focus on people, process, technology and culture. We are here to help organizations manage risks, enable growth and support sustainable operations. Leveraging our strategic process, we help digitally enabled organizations – especially middle-market companies – do more with less. Cherry Bekaert stays on top of the latest technology trends, but we know that technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Cherry Bekaert is here to guide you on what technology makes sense to adopt as it pertains to delivering the highest value to your organization.