When developers first encounter Power Platform’s low-code or no-code tools, they may feel like they’re drinking from a fire hose. Fortunately, Microsoft’s online resources can turn the flood into a manageable drip.
In this post, we’ve combined our experience with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform with Microsoft’s wealth of free online resources to answer the five most common questions we get about these transformational tools for “citizen developers” — non-IT employees who see opportunities for automation to make work easier and more efficient.
With a little help, developers can quickly close the gap between your employees’ expectations for fast, automated solutions to their business problems and their current processes. Your company will then be ready to start improving day-to-day tasks safely for everyone while delivering the metrics needed to run your business.
1. Power Platform looks great, but all the tools are overwhelming. How can I get an overview?
Power Platform is not one tool but a suite of solutions:
- Power Automate gives developers the power to boost business productivity by giving everyone the tools to automate organizational processes. User-friendly graphic interfaces and pre-build blocks of code allow them to automate using a mouse and a drag-and-drop environment without advanced knowledge of artificial intelligence or machine learning.
- Power Apps turns ideas into organizational solutions by enabling everyone to build custom apps that solve business challenges. Similar to Power Automate, it is a no-code solution that enables app-building without extensive coding experience.
- Power BI empowers you to make informed, confident business decisions by putting data-driven insights into everyone’s hands. Power Platform’s ability to generate meaningful metrics combine with speedy automation solutions and app-building to yield a powerful punch.
- Power Virtual Agents are chatbots that allow users to get the information they need quickly, without being put “on hold,” navigating a call center or tying up a help desk agent — with no coding required.
- Microsoft Dataverse is the dynamic, cloud-based central data repository for business data behind Power Platform, Dynamics 365 and many other Microsoft solutions.
To begin understanding all of these tools and more, start with Microsoft’s Power Platform Fundamentals Learning Path. In this nine-hour (12 module) course, developers will also get hands-on experience by building a Canvas App, a model-driven app, an automated solution, a simple dashboard and a basic chatbot.
2. What types of projects are best for Power Platform?
In general, Power Platform is best for automation projects. These initiatives follow our three Rs of automation—routine, repeatable and rules-based. These are simple, objective tasks that are low-cost but deliver valuable solutions quickly.
For example, they may require simple task automation, such as notifications or approvals. Or, they may be workflow automation problems that require connecting multiple systems. More complex problems may demand reasoning automation tools such as machine learning or chatbots.
Whatever your needs, we recommend starting small and working your way up as developers become more comfortable with Power Platform. However, projects that involve your most strategic, critical business applications, such as ERP, supply chain or foundational client applications are typically not appropriate for citizen developer solutions and are best left to IT pros or professional developers.
For more from Microsoft about the types of projects they built Power Platform for, check out these articles:
- Solving Automation Challenges
- How Citizen Developers Use Microsoft Power Apps to Build an Intelligent Launch Assistant
- Building Connected Business Solutions with Power Automate.
3. How do I make sure my Power Platform implementation goes smoothly?
Launching a powerful tool like Power Platform is a big change. Communication is essential to success. Your leadership, non-IT citizen developers, IT and all employees must understand that:
- Management is fully behind using Power Platform as part of a business strategy with clearly defined goals to streamline daily work, take pressure off IT, and allow business users to build the solutions they need.
- Your Power Platform initiative will start slowly and evolve over time. Your first, small-scale projects will yield lessons you can apply to ever-bigger business pain points.
- Power Platform users and IT have distinct roles to play. While the shape those roles take will vary by organization, documenting them and sharing that documentation is essential.
In addition to roles, your documentation must cover administration. Administering Power Platform includes governance responsibilities such as security, compliance and data loss prevention policies. Microsoft’s Power Platform Administration documentation includes a host of valuable tips and resources.
4. Once Power Platform is up and running, how do I take it to the next level?
Microsoft has created two great guides, Meet Your Citizen Developer and Governing Citizen Developers, that will help your organization succeed.
In our view, the best approach is to adopt a Center of Excellence (CoE) model for your citizen development initiative with Power Platform. A CoE provides the network of people needed to oversee the technology, processes and metrics needed to help your citizen developers thrive.
For your people, start by building a community of practice that identifies leaders among both your citizen developer and IT ranks and facilitates understanding of your documentation. The CoE can then administer the technology, be a clearinghouse for all potential citizen development projects, and become a centralized reporting place for data a metrics.
5. How do I motivate employees to continue learning about Power Platform?
Encourage employees to explore the free training demos on Microsoft’s website. Then, for a modest fee, they can then take the Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals certification exam to document their chops!
Mastering Power Platform may not be easy, but it does not have to be difficult or put your organization at risk—and it certainly won’t lead to the same level of frustration and low morale a “shadow IT” group can create. By learning the basics of Power Platform with Microsoft’s free tools and the expertise of a Microsoft Gold Certified company, you can build a modern organization that fully embraces the benefits of low-code or no-code software solutions.