It’s likely that when you request a report from your controller or finance department you get an Excel spreadsheet that miraculously pivots the data you requested into a table fit for a PowerPoint (or board packet). The staff in accounting departments can usually make Excel dance and sing if you hum a few bars. As Microsoft adds more power to its arsenal by expanding Office and Teams, it also adds more Power with a capital “P” (as in Power Platform).
This low-code/no-code platform allows non-IT people to build desktop and mobile applications, create powerful reports and dashboards, and generate workflows and business process aids using drag-and-drop tools. With their skill set of formulas, expressions, and macros, your accounting department has a head start to utilize the Power Platform and all its tools built for business.
What are those tools?
- Power Apps – Empower end-users to build game-changing applications without IT assistance.
- Power BI – Real-time data and analytics when and where you need it.
- Power Automate – Automate repetitive, low-value tasks to focus on strategic processes.
- Power Virtual Agents – Create no-code chatbots to improve customer engagement or standardize internal process flows.
Power Apps: I’m Not A Programmer, But…
When your IT department tells you that it’ll take six weeks to build your mobile application with a lead time of 12 weeks, you don’t have many options. Either you build an 18-week timeline, or you write the application yourself.
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Microsoft has assembled a set of tools to make this possible, starting with Power Apps. Power Apps is a low-code/no-code platform that, like functions and macros in Excel, allows a user to connect to data and generate a robust application to perform specific functions. More importantly, the applications work on the web and mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Your data source can be a spreadsheet on a server, a database in the cloud, or any number of applications where your data resides.
When you have virtually no IT staff, but need a solution quickly, you improvise. Houston-based Custom Air Products adopted the Power Platform, starting with Power Apps and integrated Power Automate and Power BI for a complete solution. Read the entire success story on the Microsoft Power Platform website.
Power BI: Analytics & Visuals That’ll Make Your IT People Jealous
The next tool in the arsenal is for analytics and reporting. With its advanced visualizations, Power BI allows you to quickly build reports, visually appealing graphics, and data-driven dashboards. Data source connection wizards and drag-and-drop visual components speed you through your first graphical report and can even suggest the best graphic types to use based on your source data.
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Power BI reports and Power Apps can be combined into solutions that utilize the best components from both tools. Power BI reports and visualizations can be embedded into Power Apps and Power Apps can be embedded into Power BI dashboards. Both can be further enhanced by utilizing the workflow and process steps in the next tool in the box, Power Automate (previously referred to as Microsoft Flow).
Power Automate: Just Let The Computer Do It For You
Workflow and the more advanced robotic process automation (RPAs) are getting more and more attention in the workplace as businesses seek to automate repeated processes and low-value tasks. The utilization of Power Automate allows you and other businesspeople to focus on processes that directly add to the bottom line.
With Power Automate, the automation processes aren’t limited only to Microsoft software. There are over 300 connectors currently available to include in your workflows and process steps. As important, many of these connectors can be used as the trigger for the automation process such as the creation of a file, the arrival of an email, or even a time or calendar event.
Power Virtual Agents: How Can You Help Me?
There’s a good chance that you’ve communicated with a “chatbot” before as part of a web-based customer service process. These virtual agents can drive their near-human conversations from any manner of data sets, from a custom list to the text of a FAQ (frequently asked question). The chatbots can communicate with customers, capture important information and often resolve issues before getting a human involved.
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It’s also possible to use Power Virtual Agents within your company, especially to ensure that common processes are followed. One example would be the creation of new vendor account records. The chatbot could ask for data required to build the account structure while defaulting additional information based on some of the responses.
You’ve Got The Power (Platform)
With this set of tools, along with others, Microsoft continues to add to the Power Platform, any manner of businesspeople can join the ranks of developers (so-called “citizen developers”) without joining the IT department. Licensing for most of the Power Platform is easy with some elements coming free with other tools you may already be using.