The Best 10 Takeaways from The Microsoft Business Applications Summit
Last week several members of the Valto IT Services development team virtually attended this years “Microsoft Business Applications Summit” digital event.
It was clear from the beginning that Microsoft’s Power Platform has seen significant growth with an increase of 700% in the past year and 97% of Fortune 500 companies using the platform.
If you are new to the Power Platform and Power Apps you might be wondering why so many companies are adopting the platform in the past year.
Power Platform is a combination of services that allow your organisation to quickly build mobile ready applications with low code solutions. These apps are built within Office365 but can connect to all of your business data whilst significantly reducing the time and expense of traditional custom software app development.
So why is now the time that Power Platform is seeing so much significant adoption. It simply comes down digital transformation is no longer a choice.
If you company is not offering digital services and experiences to its customers, your customers will easily find a competitor that will provide these options.
Organisations must internally transform digitally to ensure they stay compliant with GDPR and other security implications. How secure and reliable are pieces of paper floating around the office, how do you ensure sensitive data is destroyed in a timely manner or provided easily on request of this information.
All of these modern office problems can be resolved through proper digital transformation. Power Platform can assist in capturing data, displaying information in charts and automating processes surrounding such data.
Microsoft Business Applications
If you missed this years summit we aim in this article to give you our 10 Takeaways from Microsoft Business Applications Summit to help you understand what is possible with Power Platform:
1. 97% of Fortune 500 companies are using Power Platform
54% of Fortune 500 companies are also using Dynamics 365.
Big brands such as Cocoa Cola, IKEA and HSBC all were among the business titans that were discussed as real world examples of companies utilising Power Platform for digital transformation.
This is evidence that low code solutions built with Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Bi really are the future of software development.
2. Microsoft Business Applications should be Proactive not Reactive
Microsoft spoke heavily about automation and AI in their key note and in all of the smaller webinars following.
They wanted to emphasise that traditional business processes have always been reactive, meaning for example in a factory a when a production line went down someone would have to manually react.
This might be a call to a service centre to log and issue. Then the support agent would log an emergency service visit to repair the machine. Which would in turn cause disruption to the manufacturing line and cost time.
Microsoft are now providing more options than ever to prevent such scenarios and offering proactive solutions.
Proactive automated actions can only come from captured information. This could be from a sensor on a machine, scheduled checks from employees filling out a digital form or AI spotting something that is not normal.
In the scenario above, once data is fed into the system it can detect faults with machines before breaking down. This means an automated maintenance visit can be scheduled to ensure the machine stays running and the production line is never disrupted.
3. Power Platform is designed for all technical abilities
Microsoft made a point of demonstrating that Power Apps is not just for programmers and developers, it can also be built by “citizen developers”.
The platform uses “Low Code” which is often just like using basic formulas in excel. Microsoft often provide stories of non tech employees quickly picking up Power Apps to build an App solution for their organisation. This means organisations can save money by quickly building basic applications without the expense of highly experienced developers.
Power Apps can meet all levels of technical experience. If you already are a developer that understands programming languages, Power Apps can offer a front end platform to streamline your solution rather than developing the entire stack. You can then focus on adding more advanced functionality such as calling API’s and building advanced automation.
4. Mixed Reality coming to Power Apps
Throughout the summit Microsoft demonstrated multiple “Mixed Reality” features that are coming to public preview in May.
These included placing virtual items such as tables and chairs in rooms. As well as taking live measurements of real world objects and then seeing how they would fit somewhere else around the room.
A brilliant example of this was demonstrated in the Key note webinar, showing how IKEA demonstrate their products to customers in a mixed reality experience.
There app allows them to pull up the products customers have previously selected through a web portal to discuss details.
Then they can choose to place objects in the real world room to show how they might look against other furniture.
5. Power Apps Templates for Microsoft Teams
Power Apps and Microsoft Teams work hand in hand to deliver excellent solutions for frontline workers. Microsoft Teams provides the out of the box platform for instant messaging, document storage and collaboration. Then Power Apps can extend this experience to digitalise what would of previously been paper based processes.
In response to recent events including Covid-19 and natural disasters, Microsoft have already published a template Power App for Microsoft Teams called “Crisis Communication”. This template is already being used by 3,000+ organisations across 60+ countries.
Microsoft will be rolling out responsive app templates for Power Apps that bring more capabilities into the Teams mobile app. It will also have themes and controls to feel more in tune with Microsoft Teams.
The Power Apps studio for creating and editing Power Apps will also be accessible via Microsoft Teams. This means that you will very quickly be able to spin up a Power App solution using a Microsoft Team specific template. Then publish this directly to a channel inside a Microsoft Team.
6. Canvas and Dynamic Power Apps in one mobile App
It was announced that you can now run both Canvas and Dynamic Power Apps from one centralised application on your mobile device. Previously your users would of had to use two separate applications.
This announcement shows Microsoft are harmonising their solutions to make it as easy as possible for end users to access all under one roof.
7. Provide Bot chats with Power Virtual Agents
These agents provide a chat bot interface that is programmed with a very similar drag and drop interface that you may have previously built “Power Automate” flows.
You might use a Power Virtual Agent as a first line support bot to answer incoming questions or even booking appointments for customers.
An example of how IKEA use the Power Virtual Agent was demonstrated.
It showed how online customers could view products online and ask questions to a Power Virtual Agent.
If a customer then wished to proceed to booking an appointment with a customer rep they could do this all via the bot.
The Power Virtual Agent bot can be fed information from your existing knowledge base or support web page.
It will learn your information and provide it as responses to relevant questions.
You can even have the bot return hyperlinks to web pages or documents that are useful to the conversation.
Again these are low code solutions and do not require advanced knowledge of AI or automation to get started.
You can configure/train your bot by simply asking it questions and then subtly changing its responses or automated tasks.
This is what the user interface looks like when setting up your Power Virtual Agent.
Power Virtual Agents also integrate with Microsoft Teams meaning you could not only use your bot to handle external questions from your customers, you can also have internal bots to handle common queries etc.
8. Control Microsoft Business Applications with Power Platform Admin Centre
Microsoft had announced that the Power Platform would now have its own dedicated admin centre within your Office 365 tenant.
This means you can control how your employees use automated solutions all under one roof.
This admin centre allows you to gain insights into which of your Power Apps are most popular, who in your organisation are creating solutions and ensure there is no duplication in solutions.
It is also possible to setup policies such as data loss prevention (DLP) policies from within this admin centre.
These policies might include what third party connectors you will allow employees to use in their solutions and you can also apply different policies to your different environments.
9. Interactive Maps inside your Power Apps
Power Apps will soon be able to use interactive maps and geospatial services from directly inside of their app. This can be really useful for Microsoft Business Applications that rely on geological areas.
You might use this for select a specific customer on a map, checking into a location or track GPS coordinates of a device.
10. Automate legacy applications with UI Automation (RPA)
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will allow you to integrate your old legacy systems with your modern Microsoft Business Applications data.
This means if your have an old application running on a dusty server in the back room, it does not have any API or way to automate the tasks within its own software, RPA will be able to automate repetitive tasks for you.
RPA runs automations with the same Power Automate interface you might already be running business process Flows. You simply train your Flow to record mouse, keyboard or field input and include it as part of your workflow.
This means you can automate the input of data into your legacy application without having to programme new software or write any custom code.
A real world example of this Microsoft demonstrated was how Coca Cola streamlined their cartridge replacement request process.
Previously it would start with a phone call from a customer, then be manually logged into a Excel spreadsheet and many other legacy databases. It would then need to pass through multiple manual steps including being emailed, printed out, scanned and manually checked by other employees.
Now they have a much more streamlined and automated process. Power Automate can easily create the purchase order, then RPA can automate adding the order into a legacy system. There is then Power Automate triggers checking for emails coming into a specific mailbox that will then automate the final steps.
I hope you have found our 10 Takeaways from Microsoft Business Applications Summit useful and thought provoking. You can find more information about Power Apps here.
I hope you found this information useful, if you have any questions regarding Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Power Apps or Office 365 please do not hesitate to contact me.
We’ve deployed Power Apps for many organisations including Banks, Non-Profit, Manufacturing and many more. Get in touch with our specialists today to start planning your Power Platform journey contact us today.
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