Getting started within your organisation to improve and automate business processes that are currently paper of Excel based can be difficult.
The Power Platform
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The Power Platform, with Power Automate, Power Apps and Power BI, is Microsoft’s low-code development platform almost all your business processes. I’ve seen hardly any process that I couldn’t implement with the Power Platform. What do you do when you want to automate your business processes?
How do you get started with the Power Platform? In this post I will look at the different elements of the platform and what you can do to get started with the platform when you want to make use of the full power to automate your systems.
Ok, so you have identified a potential candidate process that you want to automate. The process includes some data, a user interface and process automation and at a later stage you want some reporting as well.
In general I try to identify 4 layers in my solutions:
- Data layer
- User Interface layer
- Automation layer or Process layer
- Reporting layer
The Data Layer
When you get started to automate business processes it is possible that you are implementing a completely new process however most likely you will already have some data. If you already have data stored somewhere you could decide to keep the data where it is or you could decide to move your data into a data source like for example the Common Data Service (CDS).
Both of the options can have their advantages. If you leave the data where it is then you will miss the opportunity to optimise your data. This doesn’t have to be a problem of course, but remember once you have implemented your 100s app using your half broken spreadsheet as a data source you might start to regret that you haven’t made the right choice straight fro the beginning. Having said that, keeping the data where it currently is can mean that the development of your first application is a lot quicker.
User Interface layer
For the UI layer the Power Platform offers the PowerApps as a low code option to develop app on your mobile devices, desktop or even as an integrated app in Microsoft Teams or SharePoint. So it really doesn’t matter where you are, it is always available to you and your users.
Automation layer or Process layer
When you want to automate your processes you can use Microsoft Flow to automate all this background processes that you app may need. This can be as simple as an approval step, but you can also implement any kind of process that read or updates data all over the place. As you have a need to integrate your different systems flow can make your systems work together. This is so much better than those old spreadsheets that turned into monsters. Guiding users into the right direction with those spreadsheets wasn’t the easiest thing to do, now with the PowerPlatform you can guide the users in the right direction or even ensure that they don’t do the wrong thing.
The 4th layer is the reporting layer that Power BI offers. Although often seen as a ‘something that can come a bit later’, it is important to get the data infrastructure right form the beginning. It can be difficult to optimise your data when you haven’t got the data in place yet, especially when you aren’t 100% sure what you want.
Start to automate business processes
The when you aren’t 100% sure what you want, is something that will be the case for all of the projects. Ok, you might know what you want now, but do you know what you need in a year’s time? This is exactly one of the strengths of the Power Platform. You can easily add some more functionality as your requirements change.
You could of course specify all your requirements in a document then get that all approved and by the time you’ve got it all approved your requirements have changed. All the same old Agile vs Waterfall discussion that software developer had quite a while ago now. Most software developers have moved to the Agile methodologies. But remember we are not all software developers. The Power Platform is especially aimed at the citizen developer (Personally I prefer the term DIY developer), however I have found that a lot of beginning DIY developers need help to get started. Many times people give up after a few hours as the learning curve is too much to handle.
Learning 3 new products without the background of a software developer can be difficult. My guidelines to getting started:
- Don’t do it on your own. Often we have one person for the automation with flows. One person for the UX and UI in PowerApps and one person for the reporting in Power BI.
- Get some basic training on the products or find a local consultancy who can help you.
- Visit meetups/usergroups for the Power Platform
- Create a community within your organisations