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Watch, Read, or Listen to: The Process of Picking Up the Power Platform (Part 2)

In this podcast, The Process of Picking Up the Power Platform (Part 2), we discuss:

2:20SharePoint List
3:22Citizen developer
5:55Power App on top of Excel
8:05No Code Applications
9:15Common Data Store
14:15What can enterprises do to consume power platform?


Danny:It’s Wednesday, September 30th, and today I talk with Bruce Harple the VP of delivery for ThreeWill. We talk about how enterprises can support the needs of business units to innovate using the Power Platform. I hope you enjoy.


Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. Today I’ve got Bruce Harple here with me. Bruce is the VP of delivery and the man who keeps it all together for us, Bruce, how are you doing?


Bruce:I’m doing good, Danny. How are you?


Danny:I’m doing really well. Actually, we’re at the end of the quarter, so everybody’s trying to get their podcasts done. They’re all queued up for us here. So, but it’s wonderful to have everybody’s input and to catch up with everybody once at least once a quarter. It’s good to be able to do. So what are we talking about today?


Bruce:Yeah. Today what I want to talk about is building line of business applications, and how customers can leverage the Power Platform to help them do that.


Danny:Nice, nice yeah, that seems to be the power platform has really come along over the last couple of years, so I’m excited to learn more. This is how I’m going to learn more about it so that’s great let’s get started.


Bruce:Yeah, so what I wanted to do is just kind of talk about the need that we’ve seen probably for the past 10 to 15 years, where enterprises really struggle with supporting the needs of business units to, innovate the point solutions that will advance their organizations and really to have a greater impact on the business.


The challenge has always been the backlog of requests for IT organizations and big enterprises is huge, right. And IT really tends to, they have to tend to focus on big enterprise-wide initiatives, right? I think the smaller business unit request, the business unit needs for smaller applications that are real specific to a business unit and real specific to these that have within that business unit, they have a hard time fulfilling those needs. Even for us, Daniel, through back in the early 2000s we figured out early on that SharePoint is the on-frame version of SharePoint was this amazing platform.




Bruce:For rapidly building applications. We realized there was a built-in schema in SharePoint, there was this thing called a list. Guess what a list is? It’s rows and columns. Guess what rows and columns are? Relational database, it has a built-in UI. So when I establish a site, I get a built-in user interface. Might not be the best and the most beautiful user interface in the world, but it’s there.


I got built insecurity and I can easily extend the application. With that on-prem version of SharePoint, Danny I mean over the years, we’ve built many, many lot of business apps from generating price cards for a large mobility enterprise to managing marketing development funds for large manufacturers PMO portfolio management, managing customer experience feedback, managing investment portfolio, the list goes on. We’ve built so many applications on that platform and the beauty of it was we can do it really fast.




Bruce:That was key. Now, you know what Microsoft has done is they’ve kind of moved to the cloud right, and now everybody’s moving to the cloud either to Microsoft 365 or obviously Azure as well. Microsoft got this platform that they’ve introduced called Power Platform. They’ll tell you that their target user for that platform, they call them citizen developers, right?


So a citizen developer could be a business analyst or someone that’s got some tech-savvy capabilities, some good curiosity about technology, but someone in the business unit that can really build their own apps, they could build their own workflows, their own reports, their own dashboard, even build their own virtual agents. This thing is called Chatbot that we’ve all seen when we go to websites. These power platforms introduced a whole another way to build applications, build workflows, build business intelligence reports and dashboards without, “Getting a developer involved.”.


Danny:Yeah, pretty cool stuff. So this hits on a lot of topics that I think we’ve discussed before in the past, sort of like the whole idea around some people typically start off with like using Excel to mock up some application, you were talking about SharePoint lists earlier. Then talking about the power user and how to really give the power user the tools that they need to deliver these…now, for folks who may not be familiar with line of business applications, this could be, this is something that we typically like to look at.


It gives your business some sort of competitive edge where it’s not, you don’t have like a standard process. A lot of these are for, they get into vertical types of solutions that they can go in that direction, or they could take a horizontal process that you have, and maybe there’s something unique about that process. So you were talking earlier about price cards and we wanted to enable the collaboration of price cards and how it’s distributed and controlled. So, and these are really, they end up being really important types of applications and giving the business users the capability of building these things. It’s great that we’re able to do this.


Bruce:Yeah. In fact, Danny, you mentioned Excel, right? We’ve always talked about Excel kind of the Swiss army knife for business units, right. Because you can do anything and everything with Excel, right. It’s just an amazing tool. We’ve seen many, many examples of things and business processes that people are automated through Excel. It’s amazing, but what they do in power platform too, with some of these tools, you can build an app, a power app from an Excel spreadsheet, right?


So you can then take all the data that’s being updated in this Excel spreadsheet that who knows, maybe you’re emailing it around from person to person, maybe have it opposite online. So maybe multiple people could go in and collaborate it, but it’s a spreadsheet, right. But you can layer up at power app on top of that, and now you’ve got this user experience that hides Excel and lets you perform kind of crud operations, create, read, update, delete operations on a spreadsheet.


And I can take that spreadsheet and pull it into power BI, and man, it’s an endless amount of things you can do once you’re inside power BI, as far as taking the data in that spreadsheet, you know, critic pivots on it, you’re having different visualizations, laid on top of that and be able to slice and dice the data. I mean, just even something simple like an Excel spreadsheet, now you can take that and multiply that the power of the data in that spreadsheet.


Danny:Nice. Is this, I guess like building out, I’ve started to get into some of the power automate things because I’ve been using like if this then that or Zapier or different sort of, I used to call them like glue, like a lightweight integration type of products. I’ve got it right now where a lot of the to-do’s that I have that are coming from different places, I sort of aggregate them all together and sort of set priority. And it’s very easy for you too, again, I guess there’s no coding involved so I can figure it out. It’s really.


Bruce:It truly is no code, Danny. Certainly, you can get deep and you can get more complex if you want. And you can get down to a coding level depending on the complexity application, but it’s designed to be no code. That’s the idea and there’s power apps, which will generate a browser-based application as well, which you can deploy on any kind of device as well. There’s power automate which you reference, which is kind of workflow, right?




Bruce:There’s power BI, which is reporting a dashboard, and power of virtual agents, which is creating those Chatbots. Really if you look at the platform, right, and the way Microsoft has built this, it’s under the covers, there’s these core elements that really drive, especially drive power apps and power automate. Those are really the two things to build applications and automate things, automate workflows.


If you think about, I’m talking about SharePoint here, you kind of had SharePoint list and you had it built into UX, you’ll get security built-in and things like that. So underlying this whole platform, there’s three key elements, there’s data connectors, there’s something called common data service and there’s something called an AI builder.


So these data connectors, that lets you kind of connect apps and data devices in the cloud, right? It’s really, it’s a lot of wrappers around system APIs that allow you access to that data and these other systems, right? Yeah, I knew it would be systems outside of, maybe the Excel spreadsheet you’re working on, or maybe you create a relational database through this common data service, but lets you provide, you know, let you perform kind of crud operations on outside data, external data, as well as, services against those systems. For example, there’s connectors that will connect to Twitter, right? So I can consume Twitter feeds. I can write Twitter feeds or there’s connectors for Salesforce, right? So I can reach out to Salesforce through their API, through the built-in connectors, and request certain services and actions to take place. So there’s a lot of built-in logic and there’s probably by now I’m sure over 300 connectors they’re already pre-built, that will connect to all these different data sources, right? You don’t have to do anything other than consume the connector and it’ll tell you all the services that are available for those connectors.




Bruce:So there’s kind of the no-code aspect of it.


Danny:Yeah. For me, I ended up, like, and as much as I would love to completely use Microsoft to do I still have issues with it. So I still use like to-do list, which is an alternative, but I can use power automate to basically get things over into it, and I connected up to it and I’m able to do a lot of things, aggregate things there, and really use it as a, just compliment what Microsoft 365 does. This reminds me and I haven’t gotten into this yet, but I know with like SharePoint list now they’ve sort of remarketed as Microsoft list, have you seen any of our projects using that yet, or anybody starting to look at that? I’m not sure if I know the difference between micro, whether it’s just a rebranding or what it is, you’ve looked at that at all?


Bruce:Yeah. I personally have not looked at that yet Danny. So I’ve been focusing more trying to dive more into the power platform understanding capabilities there and really kind of how our customers can leverage power platform and really how we can leverage it on behalf of our customers as well.


Danny:It’s like Microsoft it’s probably an alternative way of doing it that has so much overlap with it, but yeah.


Bruce:Well, and that’s the thing with these platforms in Microsoft, there’s multiple platforms that you can use for application development. Yeah. So you can start with power platform you move up the complexity level then you might get into a SharePoint application, and as it gets further complex, you get highly transactional, then you’re probably looking at building an app in Azure, and consuming Azure services to really manage that whole app. There’s kind of these stepping stones you go to, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, but really for your typical line of business application, power platform is going to meet those needs out of the 99% of the time.


Danny:Yeah. Go ahead.


Bruce:I’ll go to the other two kind of key components to this whole platform are, something Microsoft calls their common data store and which is really a database as a service, right? It’s a no-code relational database in the cloud. You can actually apply in business logic, in business rules inside that database, update it at any level.


It’s managed and secured by Microsoft and they have a starting set of, if I’m building an application, they have a starting set of base entities already built in. If for an example, we’re going to have a customer entity, an order entity, an invoice entity. So, a lot of that basic data modeling that you need to do, there’s a set of out of the box entities that you can start with and you can extend them, right? You can take an existing entity and extend it, or you can create new entities as well, but it’s all managed by Microsoft in the cloud, right? Again, no code, I don’t have to run any code.


Danny:So what are we doing? What are we as ThreeWill as a Microsoft partner how are we helping our customers take advantage of this? Are we helping them come up with the first version of the line of business app? I know with some of this stuff we’re probably once they hit, it’s like everything, if it’s no code, you’re going to hit edges eventually, and sometimes you can get 80% there, but then there might be something that you’re not able to do. So maybe they need our help to do that, or what have you seen so far as far as like how we’re helping customers actually take advantage of that platform?


Bruce:Let me start with this part Danny, to answer that question.




Bruce:Let’s talk about first, what can enterprise do to consume power platform? There’s things that an enterprise could do, but essentially without ThreeWill, right? The things that we’re seeing customers do, and we would encourage people to do this, especially to enable and empower there’s a lot of business users who want to innovate. We’re seeing more and more, a lot of business users, they want to innovate, they want to solve their own business problems.


With this technology, they can do that, right? So some of the things what we’re seeing organizations do is, what we’re seeing the IT organization create a small and agile kind of power platform team, right? And some are known as the power platform champion, right? It tends to be somebody inside IT that’s really going to be a person that’s really going to stay on top of the platform because the platform is like everything else on Microsoft cloud. It’s refill and changing every day.




Bruce:Microsoft advancing those capabilities and you want somebody that can stay on top of that, right, and understand everything new that’s coming out, so they can then share that with the rest of the organization. But that’s kind of a small core team, like a CT.


Then what we see people doing is it’s really kind of creating an overall power platform really an overall adoption and change management strategy and plan and just an overall innovation program, right? So really looking at how do we encourage innovation out there in those lines of businesses? And then even we’re seeing customers create innovation centers, to encourage business users to come together and collaborate and share innovation stories.


Then this core team inside of IT can support all those people. Right? They can support the business units, they can help them and consult with them. But it’s all about really trying to empower those business users and really encouraging those business units to develop what we call…And we talked about this even in the on-prem ship one day of having a power user, right?


So you want to create those power platform users in our business units, who really will be the ones to drive innovation inside those business units. There’s a lot that your enterprises can do on their own to really put a framework and to get a culture and process in play, because it’s really about supporting innovation and letting the business unit do more, by giving them the guidelines, even maybe obviously putting governance in place around that too, but empowering them. Then to kind of get to your question Danny, well, how can ThreeWill help?


Well, where we can help is, we can help develop an organization. Well we call it innovation strategy and roadmap. If people want to innovate, obviously IT people innovate. We love to innovate, but I’m telling you, business people want to innovate, and you should have an innovation strategy and the roadmap to enable that innovation. We can help you pull that roadmap together. We can help, I talked about having that power platform, adopting the change management strategy and plan. We can help build that.


We can actually help execute that plan. We’ve been involved in helping coach Power platform champions, and these power users. So we can be your kind of play a coaching and advisory role as you kind of get this foundational groundswell of excitement about innovation, we can help coach and mentor people. And certainly we could co-develop this line of business solution, right? You have to get people started.


Yeah. So those are the ways that we can kind of get in and help because it’s about innovation, we’ve got enabling innovation. And this platform with this platform, you can do that the enterprise can do that. We’re seeing it start to happen. And man, we would encourage people to look at the platform because it can have a significant impact on your business and on the lives of the people in these business units who are wanting to innovate.


Danny:Yeah. I just spoke about this the other day when we were on a call with a client, which was the unseeing us more and more playing this role, which is being a catalyst within the organization to help them to drive maturity around the platform, because it’s really about sort of like and it’s somebody from the outside coming in who’s able to give them both the right strategy and help with the first couple of steps so that they’re not missteps either.


And just coming in and acting as that catalyst, little like, I’ve got, and it’s over overwhelming the number of services that are out there. And so it might be that having an outside organization sort of provide clarity and to build out what is that roadmap based upon the specific needs for that client is a great service that I think, something I’ve seen us do for many years and it’s become even more important nowadays with the idea in past years was like trying to take advantage of everything you could out of SharePoint in the three year life cycle.


Now it’s like, it’s the day life cycle. It’s like, how do you get the most out of Microsoft 365 based upon what came out last week. But I think having a catalyst to come in and help out with that I think is really important as well.




Danny:What stuff, what else? What, anything else you want to hit beyond that?


Bruce:No, I think we covered the core things I wanted to talk about. So I’m going to continue to talk about this. We talked about that. I drilled a bit in the power apps last time we talked, Danny.




Bruce:Yeah. I want to kind of continue conversations around the power platform because I think there’s phenomenal opportunity with it. I think it provided a great foundation to enable innovation inside the enterprise. Certainly we’d love to be part of helping customers consume this and be the catalyst that you said in your organization to help drive and spark your innovation.


Danny:You’ll like that one of the keywords on the new version of the website is the power platform. So I gave you props and everything, we got it organized underneath there, and I’ll be working with you for the ultimate guide to the power platform, you know it’s coming.


Bruce:There you go.


Danny:It’s coming, we’re just building the content right now. Well, thank you, Bruce. I know you’ve been busy. Thank you for staying on top of this and just sharing what you’re learning as we go along. And also I think it’s great you’re involved in most, if not all of the project here at ThreeWill. So I really value what you see going on as well with clients and where we’re able to help out. So I appreciate you taking the time to do this.


Bruce:Absolutely, I always enjoy talking to you.


Danny:Awesome. Thanks everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Thank you.


Bruce:Take care.


Danny:Bye. Bye. Thank you for listening to the work together, better podcast. We’re available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and tune-in. If you’re looking for a partner to help you craft a modern digital workplace on the Microsoft cloud, please come by and see That’s the number three spelled out Thank you and have a great day.




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