Harnessing the power of Power Platform: Where to start

  • Posted on July 22, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Harnessing the power of Power Platform: Where to start

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Venkat Rao.

This article was originally published in MSDynamicsWorld.

Everyone works in technology now. No matter what your organization does these days, technology is the enabling engine. The days of IT experts alone holding the application development keys are done. Now, the need for IT agility and speed supersede the need for control. That’s led to an era of low-code and no-code tools. It’s become possible for non-IT departments, teams, and even individuals to build their own technologies to solve their own problems. To use these tools, you don’t have to be an expert in anything other than the job you need done. 

It’s been called the age of the “citizen developer” because building internal solutions is no longer a grueling campaign fought by manager civilians and programmer soldiers. With low- to no-code tools like Microsoft Power Platform, everyone in the organization, from IT to line-of-business managers to individual contributors, has an empowered role to play in solving technological problems together, democratically.

This more decentralized approach raises some tricky questions, though.  Which tech solutions require deep IT expertise and which can non-experts create?  How should non-IT personnel be held accountable for apps they build so that they align with organizational standards of quality and security? In the new realm of citizen developers, what’s the right balance between governance that’s neither too tight nor too loose? 

This article provides an example of the creative opportunities made possible through Microsoft’s Power Platform and its four key components: Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents.  It also sets the stage for a follow-up series of articles that address not just how to use the palette of Power Platform options but also how to implement guardrails to ensure results that are consistently positive across the enterprise. Let’s start with an example.

Case Study: IT in an emergency
One of the largest gas and electric companies in the U.S. needed a faster way to respond to emergencies. If there’s a downed power line, wildfire, power grid shutdown, or other safety incident, this company needs to dispatch response teams to the site immediately. There’s no time to wait for information or for systems to come online. The teams need the right equipment and the right technology right away. They need it on mobile devices in remote areas. And crucially, it can’t be too complicated or difficult to use in an emergency.

This energy company’s mobile emergency IT deployment tool needed to:
  • Track equipment after onsite distribution
  • Report on the size of emergency responses in real time
  • Enable the IT response team to identify, repair, and/or replace damaged assets

A traditional internal IT process to develop this tool wouldn’t do the job. Traditional processes are how the last tool got made, and it needed to be replaced with something vastly better — ideally before the next emergency! This company found the solution in Microsoft Power Platform. By assembling a low-code solution from the existing feature sets of Power Apps, all the stakeholders could wrap their minds around what they were building and be sure it was the right tool for the job.

Then COVID-19 struck. Amidst shifting its entire workforce to remote working, this company didn’t have capacity to teach its people the skills of citizen developers. Following a single, one-hour design thinking session to identify their needs, my team at Avanade built a proof of concept using Power Apps in three days and trained the energy company’s IT response team on it. That was all they needed to take ownership and build out any additional features on their own.

That’s the power available to citizen developers.

Power Platform is the sweet spot
Low code/no code solutions like Power Platform serve the sweet spot between customer development and off-the-shelf apps.  Off the shelf apps provide certain features and capabilities built in so you can get started solving a certain problem quickly – in theory.  Given the generic nature of these apps, most users find that one size fits none.  In addition, you have to pay for every app you buy, typically per user per month. Over time, these costs add up.

On the other side, is custom development.  Since everything is built from scratch, this is a costly endeavor in terms of time, money and effort. The process demands significant technical acumen to design, build and deploy the apps. And, updating and maintaining these apps is a tedious process.

Microsoft Power Platform comes with all the building blocks “non-technical” business users need to create their own solutions. The components are easy, friendly, and intuitive. Learning to build apps with them is about practice, thinking, and exploration rather than technical expertise. 

Power Platform is available for one flat monthly fee per user, so your citizen developers can build as many apps as they need – with very little investment. And, security and authentication are built into the platform – so no worries there.  Plus, Power Platform apps are built from a common set of components, so it's easy to make them interoperable and unified across the enterprise. 

Power Platform has knocked down the big walls that prevented democratization of development.  That’s not to say you can build low- to no-code apps without thinking about it. Even as they support their citizen developers, IT departments won’t want to – and shouldn’t – cede complete control of how this powerful platform gets adopted.  Democratizing development still requires good governance.

Learn how to bring business and IT together with Power Platform - download our free guide today.

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