You are not alone if you are unsure about what is included in the Microsoft Power Products platform.
These five Microsoft business applications make up the Microsoft Power Platform.
- Microsoft Power BI
- Microsoft Power Apps
- Microsoft Power Automate (originally called Microsoft Flow)
- Microsoft Power Virtual Agents
- Microsoft Power Pages (originally called Power Apps Portal)
As Microsoft Power Product experts, we understand. That’s why we wrote this overview.
Microsoft’s Power Platform
Released in 2018, the Power Platform is a set of tools for manipulating, automating, analyzing, and visualizing data.
It works with other Microsoft products, but it also works with third-party applications. Microsoft’s Power applications add a layer to an organization’s infrastructure, allowing companies to gain insights from their data.
Most companies have data from multiple applications in various formats across their enterprises. Many businesses struggle to bring the information together.
Microsoft’s Power Platform was designed to help organizations take control of their data without significant coding. Each application provides unique ways to process and analyze data.
Microsoft Power BI
Power BI is the business intelligence (BI) component of Microsoft’s Power Platform. It gives non-technical users the ability to manipulate data from multiple sources. Power BI helps organizations connect different data sets by transforming and cleaning the data before placing it in a data model.
Users create charts and graphs from the data model to visually display insights that can be shared with others. The data may be presented in reports or as a dashboard. The components making up the Power BI service include:
- Power Query. Provides data transformation by connecting, combining, and refining data sources.
- Power Pivot. Is a tabular data modeling tool for establishing relations and performing calculations.
- Power View. Enables the creation of maps, charts, graphs, and other visuals.
- Power Map. Works with Bing maps to visualize data based on latitude, longitude, or address information.
- Power Q&A. Allows verbal queries of the database using a natural language question and answer engine.
Power BI helps organizations query the data for information by connecting multiple data sources. The results may be presented through reports that can be shared or through dashboards.
Microsoft Power App
Next is Microsoft Power Apps. PowerApps allows non-technical users and developers to build business applications from various templates. The tool is designed to help citizen developers deliver applications using low-code or no-code solutions.
However, it also offers tools that will allow professional developers to create complex and powerful custom apps to tackle an organization’s most demanding processes. A Power App can connect to Microsoft and third-party applications through data connectors and APIs.
Using drag-and-drop capabilities, users can select from two types of applications:
- Canvas apps use a blank template to create mobile and tablet apps.
- Model-driven apps use data from Microsoft Dataverse to develop applications.
- Dataverse is the new name for Common Data Service that provides data store access. Information in the Microsoft Dataverse is available to multiple Microsoft tools, including Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Automate.
Microsoft Power Automate
Power Automate helps streamline processes through robotic process automation (RPA) technology. For routine or repetitive processes, users can create “flows” that can be executed automatically when triggered. Power Automate uses flow templates with different triggers for activation. These flows include the following:
Users create cloud flows when they need a flow to execute at a specific date or time, after clicking a button, or when an event occurs.
- Schedule Flow. These flows run based on a date and time. For example, create a process that uploads an end-of-day file to a data share.
- Automated Flow. Flows run when a trigger is received. For example, design a flow that automatically notifies you when you receive emails from a specific person or company.
- Instant Flow. When users want a flow to run immediately, they would use an instant flow. For example, set up a flow that sends reminders to your team when you tap a button on your tablet or phone.
Desktop flows expand RPA capabilities by allowing users to automate processes from their desktops. Using drag-and-drop actions, people can build a desktop flow, or they can record actions to run as a flow on their desktops. Desktop flows are designed for users to automate tasks that streamline their work processes.
- Do you need to extract data from an intake form?
- Do you need to organize your files?
- What housekeeping tasks do you avoid?
Using desktop flows, individuals can make tasks automatic. Few people are consistent when organizing files or filing emails at the end of the day. Power Automate can make those processes automatic.
Business Process Flows
Process flows work a little differently. Although they use the same technology, business processes are designed to standardize how work is done. Process builders create flows using stages and steps. Every process is divided into stages that are then broken down into steps.
Once you finish a stage, you move to the next until all stages are complete. Any stage in the process may be marked mandatory, forcing the user to complete the steps before moving to the next stage. This “stage-gating” can ensure the exact process is followed every time.
Business process flows make excellent training tools. They can help new hires learn how to perform set tasks such as recording time or requesting vacation. They can ensure that certain processes such as documenting a new lead are performed consistently.
Microsoft Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents (PVA) is designed to quickly deploy chatbots using Microsoft’s Power Platform. Central to creating a chatbot on the platform is the concept of Topics.
Topics are conversation paths that are configured to emulate human interactions. They are different conversations that a customer may have based on trigger words or phrases.
For example, chatbots can ask if the customer wants help with an order, return, or technical problem. The Microsoft Power Virtual Agent moves to the appropriate conversation path depending on how the customer responds. This capability can result in complex conversations as more Topics are created.
The bot can be built to identify if the conversation is stalled. The bot can transfer the conversation to an agent if the interaction isn’t progressing. When the agent is notified, a full conversation history becomes available for the agent’s review.
Microsoft Power Pages
Power Pages is part of the latest release of Microsoft’s productivity tools.
The original concept for Power Pages comes from the Power Apps Portals, which were part of Power Apps. Although the applications share some features, there are distinct differences in how they are used.
As a Power Apps extension, Portals allows developers to build external-facing websites.
Users can sign in, create, and view data or browse content. Microsoft’s Power Pages is an enterprise-level service for building, hosting and administering business websites across various browsers and devices. Power Pages is a low-code solution for website creation.
Power Apps Portal vs. Power Pages
Since Power Pages is an extension of the Power Apps Portal, how significant are the differences? Power Pages is a recent release and offers ease of use that Portals lacked.
In addition to the coding requirements, the two applications have the following similarities and differences.
- PowerApps Portals Studio has limited capabilities for configuring websites without leaving the application.
- Power Pages Design Studio centralizes everything into workspaces within the studio.
- Both applications use Microsoft’s Dataverse for their data structure.
- Both applications build external-facing websites.
- Both applications can work with the other power platform tools.
- Makers in both applications can use developer tools.
- Builders can configure security access with both applications.
The best application choice depends on the expertise of those using the application. Portals may provide more capabilities because more coding expertise offers more flexibility. Pages have more constraints because it is a no- or low-code applications.
Microsoft Power Products for the Win
Microsoft’s Power Platform tools share three underlying resources:
- Data Connectors. The connectors provide connection capabilities to hundreds of data sources, whether other Microsoft solutions or third parties.
- Dataverse. Better known as Common Data Service, Dataverse is a data store accessible by all platform tools.
- AI Builder. The builder gives AI functionality to platform applications.
These shared resources mean that all outputs come from a single source of truth. What Power BI provides is the same information that Power Automate uses to generate flows. It is customized to the desired outcomes.
Using the full capabilities of Microsoft’s Power Platform, organizations can realize the value of their data. They can gain insights and deliver external-facing solutions that exceed customer expectations.
At IncWorx, we specialize in Microsoft technology. We know the capabilities of each power tool and share our insights through our IncWorx blog. We are always available to help, so set up a call to explore how we can help you realize Microsoft’s Power Platform’s full capabilities.