Understanding the Business Value of Microsoft’s Low-Code/No-Code Tools
As organizations get past the initial stage of moving to Microsoft 365 (M365) – typically by migrating their email and files shares to the cloud – they start looking for ways to get even more value from their investment.
The Power Platform, with its suite of low-code/no-code tools, is sparking a lot of interest lately; we have clients who have been using M365 for email and file management for years who are just now starting to ask us how to leverage the Power Platform. If you’re also wondering, “What are the Power Platform fundamentals and what I can I do with the Power Platform at my organization?” this blog is for you.
First, some basics – what is Power Platform? The Power Platform consists of the following services: Power Automate and Power Automate Desktop, Power Apps Canvas Apps and Power Apps Model-Driven Apps, Power BI, and Dataverse. Most M365 plans include some Power Automate and Power Apps features, while additional licensing is required for Power BI and Dataverse. These tools help “citizen developers” (folks who have a technical and process orientation but aren’t professional developers) build workflows, mobile and desktop apps, dashboards and databases to solve business problems.
Power Platform Licensing
For full details on Power Platform licensing, read our recent blog post “A Comprehensive Guide to Power Platform Licensing.”
As you can imagine, a toolset as comprehensive as the Power Platform can be used in a wide range of scenarios, determined by your organization’s core competencies, your approach to technology enablement and the type of data governance and security required.
At a high level, though, the Power Platform can allow any organization to:
- Automate repetitive manual processes using Power Automate and Power Automate Desktop
- Build and distribute secure, lightweight business apps with Power Apps and Power Automate
- Bring together data from siloed systems with Microsoft Dataverse and Power Apps
- Create dashboards that tell a compelling story using Power BI and Power Apps
- Pilot, iterate and innovate
And although your “makers” will need some training, guidance and governance, they definitely do NOT need to be professional developers. A Power Platform makers’ two most important skillsets are intimate knowledge of the business processes involved and a willingness to learn a few basic technical concepts like triggers, actions, conditions and loops.
Interested in free, one-day trainings in conjunction with Microsoft? Reach out to our advisory team for current availability or to schedule a workshop for your company.
Here are just a few examples of Power Platform fundamentals and the many innovative ways we and our clients are using Microsoft’s Power Platform:
Automate repetitive manual processes
- Create and send reminders.
- Combine workflows with SharePoint lists (or one of the hundreds of other popular cloud apps that have published connectors to the Power Platform) to create checklists and trackers for repeating processes such as monthly accounting close, weekly machinery inspection, project request and setup and even Microsoft Teams request and creation – all at the push of a button.
- Automate the creation of folder structures, template documents and metadata tagging in document management systems such as SharePoint, Box and more.
- Save time and eliminate manual data entry errors by training Power Automate Desktop to perform the keystrokes an employee would make to do complex multi-step processes involving applications, websites, desktop applications and cloud services.
Build and distribute secure, lightweight business apps
- Customize SharePoint forms without the added expense of third-party apps.
- Create secure mobile apps that allow your front-line workers to use their mobile devices to take photos of vehicles, product displays, parts, locations, or anything relevant to your work. Use image recognition to categorize, tag, or route them to the right storage location or person.
- Create customized faceted search capabilities without code that go beyond what is possible in SharePoint.
- Build complete multi-screen user experiences for cross-functional processes such as onboarding, contract management and equipment inventory management.
Bring together data from siloed systems
- Combine Salesforce data with data from financial systems and display it in grids, forms and exportable Excel reports.
- Apply row-level security based on hierarchical organizational relationships. For instance, allow staff to see only their own data, data from their direct reports, all data for their division or all company data.
- Using powerful granular controls allows for users to perform read, add, update or delete actions (or any combination thereof) on multiple data sources from one place.
- Synchronize data between systems on a scheduled basis.
Create dashboards that tell a compelling story
- Quickly build visual dashboards with drill-down and natural language capabilities for professional services utilization tracking, software adoption, project management, employee wellbeing and donation and sales pipeline reporting.
- Easily transform large data sets to surface actionable insights, even if you have minimal data analytics experience.
- Create reports from data in Excel, SQL, SharePoint, Dataverse, SAP, Google, Snowflake, Asana, Salesforce, Adobe, GitHub and many more.
- Embed KPI and goal reporting in apps, portals, SharePoint pages or custom web pages to assure C-suite execs have up-to-the-minute information when and where they need it.
- Allow corporate board members to manipulate data to see it in ways that interest them.
Pilot, iterate and innovate
- Automate processes incrementally, reducing risk and rework.
- Give business users ownership of new applications and their rollout, increasing adoption and acceptance.
- Rapidly develop prototypes that end users can interact with and give feedback on as requirements are gathered and validated for enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM or HRIS.
- Help innovative thinkers put their ideas into action and increase job satisfaction and employee engagement.
For a demonstration of how easy it is to get started with Power Apps and Power Automate, check out our on-demand webinar, “Art of the Possible for the Power Platform for Finance,” where you’ll see Withum build a corporate credit card request form, a monthly closing checklist workflow, an expense reimbursement request system and more.
If Power Platform seems daunting and you aren’t sure where to start, know that you’re not alone. Now is a great time to reach out to us to schedule a complimentary session to evaluate your readiness and discuss potential automation options.