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The Real Power of the Microsoft Power Platform

Episode 20 of our Automation Alliance Podcast Series focuses on how inclusive, user-friendly technologies like the Microsoft Power Platform are opening up a world of automation possibilities for companies in all sectors.

We chatted to Andrew Coates, Senior Software Engineer for Microsoft in Australia, who explained that the Power Platform offers four major components:
  1. Power BI: which empowers people to uncover insights in the data they use every day.
  2. Power Apps: which enables everyone to create custom apps to solve business challenges.
  3. Power Automate: which gives all teams the ability to automate their business processes.
  4. Power Virtual Agents: which enables people to build chatbots to serve customers and employees, with no code.
The value of the platform lies its ease of use, integration capabilities and holistic approach to business transformation. According to Andrew, the components are powerful on their own but even better when their functionalities are combined.
When organisations connect the components together—and to the systems they already have in place such as Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure and hundreds of other apps—they have the power to build end-to-end automation and business optimisation solutions.

Now ‘makers’ can make a difference

The Microsoft Power Platform enables the people who have the deepest understanding of everyday operations to solve process pain points and bottlenecks.
“The idea is for people with a background in the business, rather than in development, to be able to produce solutions that connect to enterprise data in a way that’s both safe and efficient. They apply their business knowledge to the data that the organisation has, without needing a whole lot of developer knowledge,”
Andrew Coates
“It allows the people who are closest to the problem to actually answer the problem themselves, rather than having to try and explain the problem to someone who’s not an expert in their domain.”
Shaun Leisegang
When sharing customer success stories, Andrew explained that in one large Australian bank, the Microsoft Power Platform has empowered employees to create “fascinating solutions” that the IT department wouldn’t necessarily have built.
“The proliferation of useful small apps that people have built and the automation processes that people have developed has been remarkable to see.”
Andrew Coates

Providing guardrails

Of course, enabling non-traditional developers to build apps and giving them the power to easily create connectors to multiple systems does create new security and governance challenges.
To address this, the platform has a set of security models that can be applied to the various integration points, in order to control access and keep data secure.
“That means, for example, that you can’t write a Power App that that scrapes the CEO’s email and posts it for everyone to see.”
Andrew Coates

Embedding intelligence

The platform also allows organisations to make apps, software robots and chatbots that are infused with various forms of artificial intelligence. These range from intelligent optical character recognition to sentiment analysis. Using the latter, for example, you can analyse whether a customer is happy or frustrated and route your virtual agent or automated workflow in a particular direction based on that information. These AI components make automation solutions even more useful and capable of solving more complex challenges.

Is this approach ideal for every business?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Andrew believes companies should select platforms based on how they align with current enterprise technology frameworks, data requirements, in-house expertise and the broader organisational culture.
“Choosing technologies that integrate well with each other is key, because needs are always going to evolve. Situations such as acquisitions and advances in technology will create a need to integrate. As long as the tech platform you’re using has got that integration capability as part of its core, you’ll be going down the right track,
Andrew Coates

If not now, when?

In the era of enterprise technology democratisation, it no longer makes sense to adopt a watch and wait attitude towards intelligent automation.
“How long are you going to put it off? It’s only costing you time if you don’t do it now,”
Andrew Coates
“Every day or minute that you’re not automating, you’re actually falling behind, because there are other companies that are digitally born. They’ve been built on the type of technology that allows them to do things better and faster. Really soon, it’s not only going to be a competitive advantage.”
Shaun Leisegang

For the full conversation, listen to our podcast here

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