Getting Started with the Microsoft Power Platform
This is part 3 in my Top 5 Emerging Trends in the Microsoft 365 Cloud Adoption Journey Blog Series
Over the past few years, the Microsoft Power Platform has continued to expand in capabilities and adoption. In 2020, Gartner recognized Microsoft as a leader in low code application platforms.
This blog post will explore some of the common trends I am observing by working with customers, partners, and my peers at Microsoft. I will also share some of the key resources available to help you and your organization to learn more.
Replacing Legacy Solutions
My personal journey with the Power Platform started years ago when Microsoft announced the plans to retire and deprecate InfoPath and the announcement of Power Apps as the successor.
During this time, Microsoft has also announced the retirement of SharePoint Designer and SharePoint 2010/2013 based workflows which have now been succeeded by Microsoft Power Automate (formerly known as Flow).
I have also continued to work with customers to migrate and improve solutions from Lotus Notes, Microsoft Access, and Excel to the Power Platform.
SharePoint and Teams Integration
The Power Platform has become more tightly integrated with SharePoint and Microsoft Teams as the solution for building custom forms, workflow, and applications. Some examples include:
- Using Power Apps to customize the form used on SharePoint lists and document libraries.
- SharePoint leveraging Power Automate flows for approval tasks such as publishing a page in a Communications site. There are more than 100 templates for integration of flows with SharePoint.
- SharePoint Syntex being built on top of Power Automate flows and AI Builder capabilities for form processing models. We will look at that scenario in further depth during my next post.
- Power Platform being a key part of leveraging Microsoft Teams as a Platform as discussed in depth during my last post.
Additional Microsoft/Office 365 Integration Points
The Power Platform has also become the primary way for building and extending solutions across Microsoft Office 365 and integrating with other Microsoft applications and services such as Azure.
For example, my prior post on Sentiment Analysis for Yammer illustrated how to use a Power Automate flow to leverage Azure cognitive services to determine the sentiment for new posts made in Yammer.
More recently we have seen customers building composite applications and solutions to extend out of the box services such as Microsoft Forms. For example, triggering a flow when a new Form response is submitted to perform more advanced operations and actions such as customized emails, adding users to groups, logging responses, etc.
Working with Non Microsoft Applications and Data Sources
In addition to integrating with Microsoft applications and services, the Power Platform also has the ability to connect to other on-premises and cloud based services.
Using an on-premises data gateway server, Power Platform solutions can connect to data sources that exist on-premises such as SharePoint, SQL Server, or Oracle.
Power Platform also has hundreds of standard and premium connectors for integrating with other popular applications and services such as ServiceNow, Workday, Salesforce, and others.
There are also numerous third-party connectors available and you can build your own custom connectors.
Solutions, Accelerators, and Templates
As customers get started with the Power Platform, we typically start by reviewing existing templates and solution accelerators that are available. Even if they do not meet 100% of the needs, these templates often provide inspiration for what is possible and patterns that can significantly aid in building and customizing a solution. Some of my favorites include:
- Microsoft Power Apps includes many canvas app templates and samples. For example, many customers have benefited from the “Meeting Capture” app template.
- Power Automate also includes flow templates and examples which are very helpful to jump start building workflows that connect to a variety of applications, services, and event triggers.
- Microsoft Dataverse for Teams includes a number of sample applications for solutions such as collecting employee ideas and issue reporting
- There are numerous open source app templates for Microsoft Teams many of which are based on the Power Platform
- There are various industry focused solution accelerators available
- Microsoft has published a catalog of solutions which are categorized around various business challenges, trends, and opportunities
- The Return to the Workplace and Building Access solutions are very popular as customers prepare to return to the office
- GitHub also has a variety of open source solutions offered by the community. For example, the Microsoft Technology Centers (MTCs) published a Power App that we use for break timing during our remote customer engagements.
Governance and Center of Excellence (COE)
One common customer concern is related to ongoing maintenance, support, and adoption for the Power Platform. Some of the key resources that we often review with customers include:
- How to responsibly scale Power Apps in your organization with a Low Code Center of Excellence which is a great session recording from Microsoft Ignite 2020 led by Ryan Cunningham
- The Power Platform Guidance has been refreshed to bring together a great set of resources for adoption and implementing a Center of Excellence and leveraging our open source COE toolkit
- The Power Apps and Power Automate Administration and Governance Whitepaper is a great resource as well.
Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)
As more business critical applications are being built on the Power Platform, ALM has become increasingly important. Some of my go to resources in this space include:
- Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) on the Power Platform explained
- Key ALM Updates
- The recently announced Power Apps Code Review Tool
- Sharing and governing Dataverse for Teams apps beyond a single team
- Power BI deployment pipelines can help with creating, updating, and deploying these solutions
We are very fortunate to have a ton of freely available training and resources to help people regardless of their current stage of Power Platform knowledge. These include:
- Consolidated set of Power Platform learning resources broken out by where people are in in their current usage and knowledge. This also includes many customer stories, examples, and videos.
- Additional resources focused on Power BI training
- Various “In a Day” workshops which are self paced or led by a Microsoft or partner facilitator for Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Platform administrators
- Power Platform labs and challenges which extend the “In a Day” workshops.
- Microsoft OpenHacks which are a great 3-day set of team based exercises and challenges which I often compare to as an escape room type concept and much more “real world” than typical training or workshops. Teams need to solve a series of increasing more complex challenges together to move on to the next step and receive some guidance, hints, and tips along the way from their Microsoft coaches. I will be serving as a coach for the next Power Platform OpenHack on April 20–22, 2021.
- Microsoft customers can also work with their account teams to enroll their organization in the Cloud Skills Challenge.
- You can also pursue many different Power Platform certifications which include recommended learning pathways to help you prepare
The Power Platform has a vibrant community of administrators, advocates, champions, and makers willing and able to help support, encourage, and inspire each other. Many of these are people that have been in the SharePoint and Office 365 community for years along with those that are new to this technology space. Pre-COVID most of these groups met in person regularly during the evening or on weekends as part of user groups and other community events. There are also many ways to connect online such as:
- The Power Platform Community conference which was recorded and is available on demand
- You can also “meet” and connect with many of the Power Platform makers and champions
- Power Apps community forums for asking and answering questions
Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) Process
As mentioned earlier, myself and others at the MTC often work with customers and partners to design and create solutions based on the Power Platform. My colleague, Paul Summers, created this great visual which we use often to help guide customers on their journey.
Hopefully this post helps summarize some of the key patterns, resources, and opportunities to help you and your organization learn and leverage more of the Power Platform.
The next post in this blog series will focus on what was formerly known as “Project Cortex” and has now been released as SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics.