Microsoft is putting tools in the hands of employees that will transform the workplace through automation. Are you ready for Power Platform?
You may have heard of Power Platform by now as more and more businesses are exploring its potential to bring automation to everyday tasks. Reduced costs are only part of the story. By identifying and digitising repetitive and time-consuming tasks, employees are freed up for more valuable activities. More importantly, automation helps the whole organisation become more creative and flexible. Over time efficiency builds resilience, and the business is better able to respond to new opportunities.
So what is Power Platform?
Power Platform is a set of tools that allow employees to create their own apps and automated processes (‘flows’), and even AI-driven chatbots, without needing to be professional coders. In this ‘low code’ environment anyone who is reasonably familiar with the UIs in PowerPoint and Excel can turn a time-consuming or manual task into a simple app that runs the process at the click of a button.
Power Platform is actually the underlying technology for Dynamics 365, so it’s been around for many years. But now that it’s standardised and integrated across Microsoft 365 too, more organisations can use the same tech to achieve a wider range of goals.
Microsoft says 85% of Fortune 500 companies are already building Power Apps for internal use. To encourage more organisations to start experimenting, Power Automate Desktop will be packaged into the next build of Windows 10. Any Win 10 user will be able to record keystrokes and mouse clicks to build a workflow – like a macro recorder for cleaning up formatting in an Excel spreadsheet, but capturing any desktop or Web activity. It comes with hundreds of pre-built tasks (‘actions’), so there’s no need to start from scratch.
What can we build with Power Platform?
A popular example is a Power App for IT equipment loans. Employees can reserve an item from their mobile, check it out when they collect, then log it back in when returning. IT’s inventory is kept up to date and an email is sent to order more if stock is running low.
Another example automates employees’ requests to attend training courses. The traditional approach tasks HR with managing this process manually from end to end: assess the individual’s entitlement based on training time already logged; obtain approval from their manager; reserve the seat on the course and the date in the employee’s calendar. Power Automate talks to the different systems to gather the eligibility data. It then sends the approvals request to the manager and updates the employee and their Outlook calendar with the response.
The transformative aspect is the ease with which someone who is ‘close to the problem’ can see an opportunity and produce a solution. In fact, both the apps described above are already available to deploy from templates, making it even quicker to just customise from a fully functioning starting point.
What about the real-life challenges?
Many organisations don’t yet know if they want whole departments to get comfortable creating apps, or just to focus on encouraging a few individual enthusiasts. Employees may find Microsoft’s ‘citizen developers’ tag a bit cheesy and feel that it’s not for them. Others may relish the opportunity to learn new skills and be more autonomous. Each organisation will have its own path and will evolve and adapt along the way.
Professional developers may be sceptical that employees can produce quality solutions and could resist what they see as an unwelcome encroachment. Microsoft says it’s not aiming to supplant the pros. Instead, they will benefit from spending less time translating requirements from internal customers. Instead, they can work on the more complex problems and provide guidance to citizen developers where needed.
IT will rightly be concerned about a proliferation of apps appearing all over the organisation with potential for security breaches or expensive interfaces to third-party cloud services. They will want detailed insight into who is creating what, for what purpose, and with what costs involved. Governance is essential and Microsoft has extensive toolkits available from GitHub to provide that reassurance.
Nonetheless, access via apps to sensitive data sources remains a concern. New security features are being introduced this year that will give the app creator more granular control. The aim is to avoid blanket permissions. Instead, different groups of app users should only have access to as much data as they need, and have carefully managed limits on their ability to update databases.
Programmes from Linguicity Training
Automation using low-code environments, such as Power Platform, has far-reaching consequences for productivity, workforce skills, profitability, and competitiveness. Each organisation will approach the issue from the perspective of their own business goals. Early adopters at the world’s largest companies have dedicated citizen developer job roles and are even publishing rankings of the top apps by their adoption and value to the business. Mid-size and small companies will want to plan carefully and take a step-by-step approach.
Linguicity offers a three-part, skills progression package of short courses. Options include Microsoft’s professional certification Power Platform Fundamentals (PL-900), or a more tailored approach to meet your organisation’s needs. Download the brochure below for more details.
Three-part skills progression:
- Briefing to understand your processes, the value they deliver and how they could benefit from low-code automation. Analyse the implications for job roles and skills sets in your organisation.
- Hands-on ‘low code lab’ courses for employees and IT pros. Tailored to your business needs.
- Governance for IT covering best practice and the latest tools for managing the emerging low-code environment.