Power Platform has been part of Microsoft 365 for several years now, but many end users are unaware of its existence. In fact, many IT professionals don’t know what Power Platform is either.
For them, Power Platform has something to do with Dynamics 365, and so they ignore it.
Personally, I was aware of the existence of Power Apps, Power Automate (formerly Flow), Power BI and the new kid on the block, Power Virtual Agents. I knew them, but I didn’t trust them.
To tell the truth, when I trained companies and collaborators at all levels of the hierarchy, I explained to them that the components of Power Platform were able to do incredible things, but that it required a certain level of “mastery of the ‘computer tool’, maturity, knowledge, or whatever buzzword you want to use with Microsoft Development firm.
While I live and breathe Microsoft 365, for a very long time, I haven’t touched any of these tools. I barely touched Power BI with my fingertips, and still, it was only as a user. Everything seemed inaccessible to me.
Power Automate workflow
When I heard other MVPs talking about the solutions they had created for conferencing from Forms, plus a Power Automate workflow, plus a SharePoint list, plus email, plus more…all of this reminded me seemed too complex for me to use, so for an end user…
Honestly, it’s still kind of the case, but the alignment between Microsoft Teams and Power Platform reduces complexity, makes features easier to use and more accessible to average users, and ultimately gives them more chances to be adopted and bring benefits to businesses.
Let’s start with the Microsoft Teams Approvals app. Some of my co-workers, customers, and general users have been really happy that the Microsoft Teams Approvals app is available to all users. This would finally allow them to start creating message-based workflows in Microsoft Teams. A new era was born!
In fact, Power Automate was originally released as a connector for Microsoft Teams in mid-2017 (shortly after the launch of Microsoft Teams).
Just 18 months later, the first triggers were launched . Flows could thus be triggered based on an event that occurred on a team’s channel.
In fact, it was in early 2018 that the Flow app (now Power Automate) was introduced to Microsoft Teams , allowing you to make approvals without leaving the app.
I’m not saying this to spoil the party, but more to point out that the concept of creating and working with approvals was not a “mainstream” concept until the Approvals app was offered in late preview. 2020. I rarely hear terms like ‘citizen developer’, ‘business analyst’, ‘workflow’ and the like in discussions with my clients (and their end users). The Approvals app took a powerful feature in Power Automate, simplified it, and packed it into an easy-to-use app.
In a way, the Approvals app can be said to be comparable to the “consumerization of IT” trend of a few years ago.
Once users get a taste of how Approvals work, they’re ready to enter the world of automation.
While they’re sometimes reluctant to install the Power Automate app in Microsoft Teams, they quickly discover that its skills aren’t limited to automating approvals.
What Microsoft has done particularly well with the Power Automate app in Microsoft Teams is its ability to surface applicable templates when creating new flows. This dramatically shortens the learning curve a user has to go through to create other types of workflows.
When the user creates workflows, he learns about the available triggers and actions, which leads him to realize that approvals and other workflows can be done outside of Microsoft Teams. He realizes that workflows can be triggered by incoming emails or by downloading certain files. And here we go.
The user is then ready to create amazing workflows and automations. Does that make it a “citizen developer”? Not necessarily. It is not necessary to put a label on it. It is simply a user who has taken a new step in using Microsoft 365.
As a recently converted Power Automate user (in the sense that I was just using it six months ago, and now I’m addicted), I understand those who feel overwhelmed when it comes to acts to initialize variables, formulate trigger conditions, send HTTP POST commands or use other advanced functions. As I’m beginning to master these functions in the specific context of my activity, I think that an average user can completely ignore these functions for a while since he can do a lot of things without them. It’s when you start working with them that the term ‘citizen developer’ may become more appropriate.
This is another powerful solution that I was also hesitant to use before, especially when Microsoft advertised it as a “no-code” solution. Admittedly, there is no specific code, but using it requires some familiarity with Excel-style formulas and Access-like functions, which was not my case.
Once again, Microsoft has done a great job of integrating Power Apps with Microsoft Teams by offering a dedicated app that allows context-specific apps to be created within Microsoft Teams itself.
Being able to create an app, associate it with a team, and publish it to Microsoft Teams as an app without having to switch screens is an incredibly powerful experience.
Unfortunately, unlike Approvals and Power Automate, the simplicity stops there as the app then reverts to a standard Power Apps app.
Power BI was already present in the private preview of Microsoft Teams at the end of 2016 . Most recently, in late 2020, the Power BI app received a massive upgrade with new features. Allowing users to do more things without having to leave Microsoft Teams. Such as searching for reports, commenting on dashboards. Interact with reports in chats and channels, etc.
However, as with Power Apps, the simplicity ends there for the end user. While the experience of Power BI allows us to work with it in Microsoft Teams. This application does not offer a functionality comparable to that of Power Automate/Approvals. Where we can create reports based on the context of the current team.
Moreover, it requires a higher level license (Power BI Pro) which is not very common in companies that still have to invest in Premium licenses (i.e. Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5).
Power Virtual Agents
A relatively recent addition to Power Platform and Microsoft Teams. Power Virtual Agents aims to achieve similar results to the Approvals app. By making it easier for end users to create their own chatbot.
The wizard-guided chatbot creation process gives end users the ability to offload the questions. They get asked regularly, using a simple interface to create the bot’s conversation flow. End users can then easily add it to Microsoft Teams. And even submit it for approval to be added as a company approved bot.
Power Virtual Agents brings together what was previously only available. If you used Microsoft QnA Maker, Azure Bot Service. And App Studio simultaneously to help you build, train. Publish and install your bot in Microsoft Teams.
And like Power Automate and Approvals, this feature has been around. Since November 2016 (before the widespread launch of Microsoft Teams). However, its repackaging and democratization under the Power Virtual Agents. Label makes it simple enough for an average user to create their own bot in Microsoft Teams. And publish it to make it accessible to their entire company.
Do you have the power?
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re an IT professional. However, it is the end users that we would like to convince. Because they are ultimately the driving force behind the company.
If these powerful solutions are made accessible and supported. It opens up endless possibilities for what can be done to improve. The work performance of individuals, as well as teams and more broadly businesses.
We don’t necessarily need to launch a “citizen developer” culture. But we do need to focus on showing these end users. How they can make it easier for themselves and others. The rest will come by itself!