Power Platform | „App“ modernization guidance

So it’s #LowCodeFebruary and your chance to learn about Power Platform fundamentals, Fusion Teams, Cloud Integration and many more. You can learn about and sign-up for it here. This event + interactive content that is going to be shared can´t be missed – here´s why: I was recently part of yet another CIO-led customer workshop. The CIO invited his leadership team to learn more and discuss about optimizing and modernizing the „app“ landscape by a #DoMoreWithLess principle, asking how they could improve their investments made in Microsoft technology and beyond.

Coming together to further discuss the potential of generating cost savings when activating through enablers. The team members have had several conversations up-front around legacy software modernization, migrating more services to the cloud and drive digital transformation. They all have been studying content, I shared earlier in my blog series about app and process modernization, which you can find here as well as them studying learning content avaiable from Microsoft.

Prior to meeting with the team, I came across this Microsoft Mechanics series around development of secured cloud-native apps, following the zero-trust principles and of course shared it with them as well.

But before going into this in more specific, let me first call out, that for interested folks, there´s a lot of content that already can be found when modernizing apps and processes using Azure tools. But when it comes to the combo of using Azure and Power Platform, still there´s room for improvements and making it easier to find content via a centralized hub experience.

Interested developers as example, could easily find things like https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/guide/ and start their journey from here. Or they could find the Azure Cloud Adoption Framework and using the 6 R´s to consider their cloud migration and app modernization journey and up-skill themselves. I´ve already walked through a couple of reusable aspects that also remain true when considering to use low-code as addition to your developers toolbelt, modernizing apps and/or processes.

Visual that references the Architectural guidance on app modernization from both Azure & Power Platform perspective

To kick-off our workshop, we therefore used above shared visual that I´ve composed to outline the existing architectural guidance on app modernization – a series of steps, from the architecture and design to implementation. This is shown on the left side of the visual and steps down in stages. So the obvious question is:

What are the typical Power Platform architecture fundamentals and where to find more information around them?

Member of IT Leadership, Customer

Therefore, I´ve started to collect and compose the Power Platform part to the right based on information I could find with some reasearch ongoing in above visual to help outline the status of it, but also layer it with the results from the Azure side to find similarities or differences. But let´s drill into the steps.

Architecture style

Using Power Platform as a SaaS offering, there´re certain points a developer doesn´t need to take care about. For instance the auto-scale of Power Platform when apps, bots or flows being consumed by end-users and the platform (compute & workload) behind the scenes automatically grows as demand grows by using more backend services through load balancers.

Up-next to the Microservices from the Azure world and the „brother“ from the low-code side – The Connectors Framework to connect to APIs, allowing a composable, stackable approach of either using Microsoft pre-built connectors to more than 800+ services as I am writing this article. Or, in addition using either an Independent Publisher connector or building your own API wrapper and publish it as Custom Connector inside your environment.

As Power Platform is build with and on top of Azure Services, you shouldn´t be suprised that Event-driven style is also true on the Power Platform side, though we tend to call them Triggers.

In terms of Big Data, in Power Platform we tend to talk about using Dataverse and it´s elastic capabilities to scale-out, but also using features, such as virtual connectors and virtual tables to access any data from within your app, process or bot-conversation as it would be physically stored in Dataverse database services, though it´s not. This „Data injection“ is a lot more flexible as you can read about it from Charles Lamanna, Corporate Vice President, Business Applications & Platform. Next.

Technology choices

Due to the nature of Power Platform being a SaaS offering, containing multiple tools, instead of thinking about compute it´s more about considering – Which tool to be used for offering a solution to a specific scenario? For instance: Creating an application using Power Apps, Designing an end-to-end process with the help of Power Automate, Optimizing a conversation by using a chatbot including intelligent AI. Or of course, using Robotic Process Automation with Power Automate to get rid of repetitive tasks done manually by employees. And let´s also not forget about desiging a public web front end for sharing information with customers, partners or for internal employees only.

In terms of Data stores, while there´s tons of data sources you can connect to from a Power Platform perspective, you´ll mainly find Microsoft referring to use Dataverse and it´s flexibility to store and control access to data easily. Nevertheless, with the Connectors Framework you also have tons of options to connect to other Data stores and make them available for your app and process modernization.

And in terms of Messaging, you typically find everything being asynchronously per default, except a couple of synchronous parts you could use when using Dataverse and server-side plug-ins. So I´ve added Notification as an addition on the Power Platform side, as it is more about worrying on the best notification methods to be used in case of when there´s a specific event and results should get communicated and shared. Next.

Application architecture

The most similarities you might find on this level, due to both Azure & Power Platform being designed to accelerate developer velocity. Though you might argue, that for Power Platform finding Design principles or -patterns, might be a challenge. Over the course of the last month, there have been many initiatives from both Microsoft and Community members or MVPs who came up with references and recommendations from whitepapers to also public documentation that can be found.

In addition to it, you can find a lot of templates being out there for Power Platform already, as due to it´s nature, templates can be easily and broadly shared inside Power Platform Developers community. From PCF gallery to templatized app samples to even video tutorials and many more. Next.

Well-architected Framework

Both Azure and Power Platform aiming to drive developer velocity as said previously. Both designed to empower anyone for creating solutions to known and unknown issues and challenges of tomorrow and help creating collaborative user experiences that simplify work. No surprise, them therefore sharing common goals. But I also like to cross-reference here to words written and shared by Andrew Welch

„Point solutions are about solving for a specific number of known things; platform is about solving for an infinite number of unknown things.“

Andrew Welch, via LinkedIn

Well, that being said you can find a lot of similarities when comparing Azure „app“ and Power Platform modernization guidance. So why shouldn´t developers start to learn more about low-code and make use of the benefits? The #30DaysOfLowCode is a perfect starting point to upskill and learn more. But I´ve promised yours to talk about the learnings from the Mechanics video shared in terms of Power Platform tools being used. So let´s advance to this.

Zero-Trust Architecture

Wait, you may ask where this can be found in above visual, right? Well, let me add the visual that was shared by Microsoft Mechanics series for your references here, before jumping into the steps.

Key principles of Zero Trust when designing and modernizing apps and processes

When using Power Platform to modernize applications or processed, you can be ensured automatically following the principles outlined in above visual. From Identity to Data – From Data back to Identity. For those never using Power Apps or any other development tools inside Power Platform before:

You can´t start running an application, flow or chatbot without providing your identity first. There´s a strong relationship between Azure Active Directory and Power Platform. In terms of Endpoints there´re Power Platform Admin API and Dataverse API as examples. In terms of Applications I don´t think I need to mention the five main models that makes the Power Platform, but also not forgetting the additions, such as AI Builder which more and more simplifies work of both developers and end-users.

You´re acting in a secured network setup when using Power Platform components and can further extend individual settings with vNET as and example. The Infrastructure you´re using is on auto-scale, due to the nature of SaaS. And last but not least, access to data consumption is made easy through either the Connectors Framework (which now has an official icon) and/or Dataverse the elastic data service that hosts your data, manages controlled access or allows for ALM capabilities with a solution framework to compose and manage developer assets easily.

Wrap-up

As you can imagine it has been an interesting conversation around both Azure and Power Platform architecture guidance fundamentals. A lot of „Ah-ha“ moments and fruitful discussions and learnings around how powerful the low-code stack became over the course of the last years. So let me wrap-up by sharing a last visual which is talking about the enablers. I´ve seen many posts on blockers, concerns and caveats recently.

Forrester TEI Study of Power Platform Premium capabilities combined with app modernization strategy

As you can see on above visual there´re some great improvements made – yes percentages may vary in your situation – but it is important to take care of the enablers constantly. Which means just implementing a CoE for monitoring and governing Power Platform isn´t enough. You need to measure and monitor the enablers, make adjustments and continuously improve. So let me share the top 3 enablers for App modernization and Process automation.

Enablers App modernization

In terms of driving and increasing developer velocity:

  • Bring together Business and IT by living a Fusion Teams development culture where business technologists and pro developers find their home for consolidated work on creating the next generation of collaborative apps
  • Automate deployment where possible
  • Reduce the depencency on IT department for driving digital transformation only

In case of optimizing development:

  • Prebuilt templates and connectors for core use cases
  • Common Data Model
  • DevOps integration

In terms of security, governance & compliance:

  • Centralize „app“ management via CoE Teams
  • Built-in information protection capabilities
  • Secure & control data and provide guidance, not only governance

Enablers process automation

In terms of faster time to value:

  • Prioritize mission critical use-cases and implement RPA CoE team in addition to general CoE team
  • 800+ out of the box connectors
  • Empower Fusion development teams

In case of identifying process bottlenecks and automate:

  • Identify company-wide bottlenecks and prioritize (Process Advisor and Minit are your friends)
  • Automate task mining
  • Integrate with legacy apps

In terms of infused AI:

  • Leverage prebuilt AI models
  • Build and train your own models
  • Make more sense of your data with AI

Conclusion

As uncertain economic times put pressure on software development projects to adjust project costs, timelines or include new recently changed goals, it´s more important than ever to know about a robust developer toolkit and framework. It´s a cultural shift which is ongoing around using AI to simplify work and creating new user experiences that allow for flexible changes. A cultural shift causes changes – some may be fear it, others will see opportunities in it. It´s important to have everyone onboarded and no one gets left behind. Until then,…

Power Platform | That´s Shadow IT isn´t it?

This „low-code thing“, I should activate / buy and let anyone create stuff, right? Ending up in uncontrollable amount of software pieces, backfires on IT for my team to support bugfixing. Or even more, serving as data leakage tool that everyone uses, unless I…

shut down this service and prevent Shadow IT.

CIO of company

I have to admint, this statement from a CIO I took from personal meeting notes is almost a year back, but since I recently came across Shadow IT again, it inspired me on writing this article and sharing some thoughts.

There´s no doubt, Shadow IT is still around and due to rapidly growing AI services, such as ChatGPT being able to come back with lines of code written for someone being completely new to software development, will even accelerate in the years to come. On the other hand, thinking about a „shut-down“ mentality might help in terms of avoiding or preventing it, is thinking in the wrong direction. In fact, I´ve seen people being blocked or „shut-down“ from services becoming even more motivated to start working around IT, finding solutions to their issue or their problem on their own. And in many times this ends-up in even stronger Shadow IT MAU, than being allowed to do Shadow IT in a controlled manner.

But before talking about the good and the bad things around Shadow IT, I reviewed my notes taken during the meeting where above statement was given. I wrote down:

  • Do I need to push back immediately?
  • Should I start explaining why this mindset would force even more Shadow IT?

Instead, I took a different approach, I started by clarifying of what possible motives them considering when adding low-code tools to the companies toolbelt – becoming part of their overall IT strategy. To inspire for this discussion I shared with them, companies typically following company-wide business goals and it could be helpful to think of them and asking yourself: What would be needed or required to fulfill on these goals from an IT scope perspective? The resulting list was narrowed down by myself and shared in the following visual with the audience to help recap our meeting results.

The honeycomb framework to build a robust foundation

You can find the most frequently or top rated answers in the green honeycombs inside above visual. There might be more motives to include and your top rated or major ones may look different. In the end we should all agree on motives should drive overall or company-wide business goals. With that excercise we found answers to the WHY, and could throw in a Hypothesis here:

Given the why´s of investing into low-code tools and assuming we´re changing our best-practices for avoiding Shadow IT – Would we rather drive more or eliminate Shadow IT?

Our Hypothesis

That obviously resulted in some questions marks and to continue the flow of the discussion it needed some help to elaborate on Shadow IT itself. From my notes taken: Seems the audience is considering of me saying them doing something wrong. Or with a reference to Taylor Swift:

It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me

Taylor Swift – Anti hero lyrics

Back to the conversation we were having. To find proper definition of Shadow IT and what we all want to avoid running into, I asked the following question:

Can you name something negative you combine with the terminology „Shadow IT“?

Me asking the IT audience

The audience started thinking and shortly throwed in a couple of items, such as

  • Avoid data leakage
  • Control sharing of apps, bots or flows inside our company
  • Becoming the support department for „Citizen Developers“ – fixing their apps, bots and flows
  • Low-code is „for the kids only“. As professional developer, I am not going to use these tools
Power Platform and the Myth of Shadow IT

The list we´ve been collecting could fill a good piece of two paper as you can imagine. But I didn´t stopped collecting the items with the audience. Looking at some of the items more closely I started asking another question:

Can you imagine anything good about Shadow IT?

Me asking the IT audience

Again, looking at some of the items noted down earlier, the audience started thinking about some more „pro´s“ to Shadow IT in general, such as being less IT backlog focused or many repetitive tasks should be done from a self-service enablement of everyone. For some of them it needed some more given examples, such as:

Imagine a user being in need of data from your legacy systems, them being aware of and using the Export to CSV option inside this software to come up with tons of Excel files them aggregating and storing on file shares to collaborate with colleagues. Would you rather rate this being a risky- or a beneficial part of Shadow IT?

Consider a business problem given, a user asks IT (submits a ticket, sends a teams message, sends an email, phones the IT department, etc.) for a problem solving software asset. Due to the lack of resources (time, effort, manpower, etc.) the item fills up the IT backlog. After 48hours of non-reply the user starts asking again, and again. The user finally being super frustrated around the problem meeting another person describing the business problem. That person immediately providing an answer of why not using a software X to solve the problem. This statement given being a risky or beneficial part of Shadow IT?

As a group we shortly figured out, there´s no one-size fits all. There´re risky parts of Shadow IT as well as beneficial parts of Shadow IT. The question though remains the same – how to avoid Shadow IT? So we needed another Hypothesis here:

What would be, if we combine the risky and beneficial parts of Shadow IT and for the sake call it out being the „Healthy or Good Shadow IT“ then?

Hypothesis on combining strengths and weaknesses to become opportunities instead

Questionmarks were to be taken from the facial expressions of the participants. Combining them and make it an opportunity? Yes, I said, why not making Shadow IT an opportunity for your IT strategy but obviously find solutions to avoid the risky parts of it. You may imagine how the meeting ended. Us considering Power Platform Governance and Guidance capabilities and imagine a world of a healthy Shadow IT, controlled, monitored and secured by IT Management. With works council approval included, where needed and self-service automation enabled to simplify IT departments life.

Here´s where your journey might get started now. Until then, …

Power Platform | Low-code in app and process modernization

As it seems, my previous article raised a couple of questions. Quite a few approached me asking how low-code can become a stronger part in app and process modernization, especially around driving Cloud Transformation. You know, I already mentioned three major benefits of thinking low-code in your app and process modernization strategy. Unrivaled time to market being one of them which, taking into account modernization, means effort and less effort means time and costs saved. During the course of the last two years and dealing with inflation or even hyperinflation today, being more important than ever. So why not doing both? Save some time while modernizing in an effective way?

Some of yours have asked to provide more details on the „How to?“ and this time I am not talking about building the business case. This time it is around the low code toolset itself. So what benefits does Power Platform add to your modernization strategy?

Visual: How does low-code help in app and process modernization

Let me start by bringing up this visual that helps me all the time explaining it. It highlights the top 7 always or repetitively provided topics by customers already using Power Platform for app and process modernization. As there´s a lot of feedback incoming, I´ve simplified the results categorizing them. Some of them can be called out as being quantifiable or measureable, some of them being unquantifiable and therefore hard to measure. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I kept them.

So it starts with an obvious / non-obvious one: Speed or Agility

Some will say, well using code-first I am agile and rapid in development already, so what should low-code provide me to help with this? Let´s say it like this: Low code significantly supports you by offering a composable toolset that behind the scenes is pre-coded for you. A people picker for example that collects all the information from your Azure Active Directory based on pre-configured filters, security and governance. You may answer – as code-first developer I do have the same components. And while this is partially true, a lot more things is pre-configured for you, that you don´t need to take care of. You simply drag ’n‘ drop the control to a canvas or into your model-driven app or even on a webpage you design. Using AI inside your apps or processes it is ensured that AI follows the principles of being responsible. The benefits listed here are kind of „stackable“ and sometimes related to each others.

I am not mentioning all of them, as you can walk through the visual on your own. But one thing I want to highlight is about the security. Last time, I was talking about „flatten the curve“ and I was talking about the fact that code-first I tend to repetitively need to walk through my code to ensure it being ready for actual security and protected against vulnerability. A thing that you pass over to Microsoft as a vendor or Service provider of the platform. Sure, if you build you own PCF control you would need to take care of this on your own. But that´s not the point here. The point is about the fact of being able to secure and maintain security around data a lot easier with build-in mechanism in a low-code platform like Power Platform.

But before I am talking about an even more important topic such as the cost-savings, let me go back to the basics as there was another question upcoming around building the strategy.

Wouldn´t be a lift & shift already sufficient as a modernization approach?

Visual: Five flavors of app and process modernization

Let´s step into this together and first align in general on the top 5 flavors of app and process modernization. Indeed, it starts with a lift & shift approach that many companies have been following before taking any of the other steps into account. It sounds feasible and easy of why this step has been so popular. Setting up a couple of VMs, some Containers, some SQL elastic pools, et voilá ready your app and process modernization. Well the downside of this was no major improvements have been added beside switching the architecture and maybe the integration layer. The truth tells us, KPIs of customer (employee) experience couldn´t be fulfilled by that strategy.

Things like

  • Average Resolution Time
  • First Response Time
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV or LTV)
  • Customer Health Score
  • Customer Churn Rate

have continued to be an issue with either apps or processes that followed this strategy.

So a Fusion Team, you may have considered the next level, which introduced some opportunistic fixes and changes, but again your employees shortly came back with feedback this not meeting their current requirements.

I could continue „climb up the ladder“ together with you, but read through the rest of the flavors and you would see that the last three are mainly introducing improvements and this is because of them taking into account the third layer – Experience modernization. Wait three? What are the other two? Did you missed something?

Visual showing the three main areas of app and process modernization

Here we go. Above visual expresses the three main layers entail the app and process modernization. It starts at the ground level or the engine room where it´s about architecture, cloud-native design and scalability. It continues with the first floor or the gearbox which helps to get the right horse power whenever needed. This is around the integration modernization and is about business logic, custom integration or API management. Wait, all of it already makes a great car, right?
Well the truth is, the car sells by design as well. So the third layer is around the experience modernization. Taking into account the UI, the personalized experience or even UI-less the end-to-end process or -automation. Here is where the car is getting attractive. Some may say, just recently car design is no longer important, as almost every electric car today looks like following the same design principles. While this may be true due to following economic principles, you can´t say experience is not important at all.

Visual on Low-code platform metrics that count for good app and process modernization

Let me wrap-up by showing you the last visual for today. This one being about the „how to find the right low-code toolset that works for me and my company?“. Like an onion to unpeel, I think it all starts by having a good Fusion Teams support these days. Because it is not about low-code vs. code-first? Citizen developers or Business technologists as I prefer vs. Professional developers. It´s about enabling everyone to become part of the digital transformation journey, allowing for flexibility when needed and create an inclusive environment for everyone to feel onboarded to.

Let me finish by coming back to the first visual and the parts of cost savings and future proof. Those, following me on LinkedIn have seen me posting about two Forrester TEI studies:

  • One around 228% ROI when modernizing applications on Azure PaaS
  • Another one around 140% ROI which is by adopting Microsoft Power Platform premium capabilities.

And since we´re talking about app and process modernization, I should add a 3rd one this time:

  • A 199% ROI talking about companies using Power Automate and reduced development costs + increased overall efficiency

You can´t simply sum-up all those ROI numbers when talking about adding low code to your app and process modernization strategy. Though all those numbers reflect on low code matured the last two years and companies quickly generated business value and benefits and you can too.

Let me know your thoughts or raise questions. Until then, …

Power Platform | Flatten the curve

Aftert talking in my previous article about Power Platform being a booster for Azure Services, I thought this time of the year it is also an opportunity to look back on achievements and key learnings. Being a Global Blackbelt Architect around Power Platform, it still is an honor to participate in any of the customer’s Cloud Transformation projects, discussing with them governance, security, adoption or purely architectural design topics with them. A lot of these projects starting by envisioning around the opportunities given these days. Some of them continue with a Cloud Assessment on current (as-is) application and process landscape. Back in February, I was already talking about it in my article on „The new Cloud Transformation„.

Today, I´d like to reuse a claim or slogan that we got used to via news channels during the last two years – flattening the curve. Of course this pandemic disrupted the economy in a way that no one really could have predicted. Still we´re in the early post era and have to deal with the challenges across the globe. From building more resilient supply chains, to massively needed investments into saving our planet while dealing with inflation or even hyperinflation, to ensuring everyone participating from the benefits of digital transformation and doesn´t feel disconnected on that journey.

Visual that outlines to the left a typical curve around traditional software development compared to the right a flattened curve when using low-code toolset in Fusion Teams development
Visual „Flatten the curve“ by using low-code toolset during app and process modernization

„Flatten the curve“ was a claim used by our local german politicians when them introducing their COVID-19 fighting programs and asked the citizen to face the challenges and perform actions to tackle the pandemic. Today, I am using it in a different context, asking everyone of you again to flatten the curve when it´s about app or process modernization and yours planning your future career and job perspectives. It starts by transforming job roles, becoming a kind of developer assessing your current app and process landscape and build your inventory. And it ends by building the business case including the new opportunities and benefits that comes with low-code being used by yours to do more with less.

Looking at the visual above, you see a typical curve around traditional software development and the coding building blocks at the left. In comparison to the right, you do find a flattened curve that shows less code complexity on the y-axis and a faster time to market possible by using low-code toolsets on the x-axis. It shows two peaks instead of one high to climb – significantly lower to traditional software development that starts by adopting low-code as another toolset for your fusion teams development.

While less „complex“ code seems obvious, when talking about low-code, less time-to-market isn´t obvious for many I´ve been talking to and still there´re a lot of fear, myths and provisos around, when it comes to using low-code. So let me start by saying, the main benefit is around your style of coding and creation process. As an example: While using traditional software development you may need to take care of software security and vulnarability inside your code. This forces code changes to adopt to new challenges or security mechanism. Think of a project where single-sign-on became a must for your mobile app while disconnected to your company network. You may say now that with low-code there´s no difference. Well, there is! The majority of the work is done for you! By Microsoft for example when using Power Platform. This is due to its SaaS architecture. Using low-code, it therefore becomes a lot easier to deal with security and vulnerability. A lot of that will be done for yours by Microsoft optimizing its service in the background and yours simply re-publishing a low-code asset to benefit from this.

Another reason developers taking into account low-code for their app- and process modernization today are:

  • Unrivaled time to value
  • Doing more with less
  • New way of thinking about software development and IT service delivery

So let me reuse a visual that I´ve shown in my article from February and this time highlight where Power Platform or low-code could play a significant role during your app or process modernization efforts.

Visual: A customer´s Cloud Transformation

Last time, I was talking about this example given by a customer who considers migrating their app- and business process landscape to cloud and obviously thought carefully about the „how to?“. When talking to customers and revisiting their Cloud Assessment, today we can inject the benefits of low-code to the highlighted area (green gradient). But it doesn´t stop there. Furthermore, there´s a potential of Power Platform being used for augmenting or extending legacy apps as well which falls in the bucket above.

Visual: Azure and Power Platform combined strengths

Today, Fusion development teams assess their app- and process modernization against many more KPIs than traditionally. Some of them are:

  • User experience becoming poor due to user stories being picked-up incorrectly
  • Various coding faults or attempts needed in software development phase
  • Unreliable estimation of project budgets
  • Challenges around testing
  • Delays around infrastructure

Compared to this, them taking into account the benefits of using low-code for app- and process modernization. Those mainly being around:

  • Faster time to market, delivery and maintenance of apps or processes
  • Significant cost savings
  • A better customer or collaboration experience (collaborative apps)
  • Security without compromise
  • Assists in the elimination of „Shadow IT“
  • Fusion Teams and stronger collaboration between business and information technology
  • Incentives for digital transformation adoption
Visual: Building the business case for app and process modernization

It therefore shouldn´t be no suprise that when reviewing my previous used visual that outlines the three phases of making a business case for app- and process modernization – today, I would highlight the modernization stack from phase II that should be revisited and thoughtful reviewed in terms of the benefits of using Power Platform low-code as an orchestrated platform.

The shift and progress in software development already matured over the last two years and if your company, your software development department or your IT professionals managing DevOps tasks haven´t yet adopted, accelerated or opted-in for low-code, their future strategy and roadmap may contain business blockers. Although low-code tools like Power Platform will not replace professional developers, business users with low-code tools are likely to cause some changes in IT professional roles. According to recent Gartner news:

“Organizations are increasingly turning to low-code development technologies to fulfill growing demands for speed application delivery and highly customized automation workflows,”

said Varsha Mehta, Senior Market Research Specialist at Gartner.

Not saying low-code is the only option – instead assessing that without low-code becoming part of your IT and software development strategy, you may lack in being future ready and adopting rapidly to the next wave of challenges. Not sure where it takes me next year – and I was often asked „Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?“ in my business career, but I am sure low-code tools won´t be far away from what I will be doing.

Wishing a joy- and peaceful holiday season with beloved ones. May your whishes become true. Until then, …

Power Platform | The Azure Services booster?

Most recently, I joined a couple of design/architecture sessions with Fusion teams focusing on bringing data & backend services effectively together and simplify access in end-to-end processes for everyone. This also included to think about improvements any AI technology for instance would add to the concept. While the teams followed the three main pillars of Fusion Teams Development to rethink how to create their next generation of collaborative processes and apps, it wasn´t the most intuitive step to add the low-code / no-code strategy to the existing development strategy. But let me explain in more detail.

Visual: Fusion Teams Development Pillars in 3 easy layers

First, there was a common sense in them following an API-First approach strategy in terms of offering an integration layer to their data and backend services. They did this for several years and therefore the original version of above visual in the Developer Tools would have only contained the classical Azure DevOps, Visual Studio and GitHub tools. It was also clear for them in a third pillar taking care of the collaborative aspect when creating end-to-end processes or designing apps for everyone.

Since the company though recently made significantly investments into low-code, it was time for them adding the low-code / no-code strategy as addition to the 2nd pillar and asking themselves on which tooling and governance to structure to best compose all tools and design them as an orchestrated platform.

Visual: Outlining multiple toolsets being available on the left, mostly not being fully integrated. Showing an orchestrated platform at the right which combines all toolsets and defines a proper Governance and Security layer as „one house“.

Orchestrating Tools (not only developer ones) as a platform is a pretty easy task on paper, as you can see in the visual above, but takes a while to setup the right tools from an IT and Developer scope – specifically when it comes to automate backend deployment tasks and being offered to end-users as a self-service experience.

Nevertheless, visualizing it on paper or digitally via Power Point, provides a structure of how to proceed with an integration layer and could be the foundation of writing up a guide which tools to be used by developers when creating new assets or augmenting existing legacy applications.

A common question that pop’d up during these conversations was around what influence Power Platform may have on the company already using Azure Services. Is it driving services consumption in any ways?

Visual: Power Platform build with the help of Azure Services

Most of the times, this is where education starts and first of it’s kind we need to define and align on a couple of things. Power Platform itself is build with Azure Services. Above visual outlines some impressive numbers (well for most customers they are) around what kind of Azure Services have been used to build and run Power Platform as a SaaS offer in Microsoft Cloud regions.

Obviously, when you now ask, is this driving any service consumption on your customer side the answer to it would be, these are the backend services that are consumed the moment you deploy a Power Platform environment or using Power Platform capabilities in your default Microsoft 365 tenant. But when it comes to individual app-, automation processes-, chat- or web pages creation by using the low-code development tools, there´re a lot of Azure Services that may benefit from it.

Before outlining this in more details, let me first provide you an example in the following visual.

Visual: Power Platform and Azure Services interacting together

In this example a company was in need to create a solution for a given business problem. Business Domain Experts (knowing about low-code), Data Analysts (knowing about data visualization) and Code-first developers (knowing about Azure Services) came together to design a solution. Suprisingly, after a short time the above architectural drawing was born and outlined the future process of how the business problem solution would look like. Since them acting as Fusion Team, everyone focused on bringing-in their expertise and build their specific asset which later on was aggregated into a solution layer in Power Platform and Azure. The support these teams needed came from features like the Power Platform ALM Accelerator and Power Platform CLI. Something (in terms of the principles these tools following) already being well known by Code-first developers.

I am not going to outline how this company used the tools to setup their development environment. But given this example already showing a couple of Azure Services that typically could be found inside Fusion Teams solutions using Azure Services and Power Platform together, there might be some surprises in the following visual that shows additional Azure Services that would typically benefit from building solutions with them and you haven´t had them in mind.

Visual: Overview of Azure Services that would typically benefit from being combined with Power Platform capabilities

In our group, we discussed and created these visuals that I am now able to share with all of you, so you can benefit from them and learn something new about the benefits of operating as Fusion Teams Development teams and further improve your company´s digital transformation journey.

An addiontional note: When asking yourself if an Azure Service benefits from using Power Platform as front-end compared to a traditional developed mobile / desktop or web-application, please take into account all five main modules of Power Platform: Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Power Pages plus the „hidden champions“, such as AI-Builder, Dataverse, or the Connector Framework that allows for easy API-based integration, but also the powerful Security and Governance that consists of Azure, Microsoft 365 and Power Platform services coming together.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your pre-holiday christmas season and hope to see ya in one of the upcoming events in 2023. Until then,…

Power Platform | SAP BTP and Power Platform?

So last week (November 15th, 16th), SAP hosted their 2022 TechEd event and introduced their SAP Build as part of Business Technology Platform, according to them a low-code solution that helps accelerate development and automation. So has SAP finally entered the low-code market and finished their acquisition work with AppGyver and Signavio?

According to Juergen Mueller (Chief Technology Officer) within the Keynote where they´ve been introducing SAP Build to the community, the future of Enterprise Software is composable. They introduced over 1.000 workflow templates being available from the SAP Build store making it easier for business developers working together with SAP S/4HANA in the backend.

I loved how pro code, no code really comes together here… And now people of all skills can work together to solve problems faster.

SAP TechEd 2022, Juergen Mueller CTO

I think it´s a fair assessment SAP TechEd and especially the Build part of it was kind of a confirmation of the matured low-code / no-code motion that Microsoft´s Power Platform is part of for several years now. So you may ask, if this option by SAP is a competitive. I´ve been a builder for many years now, and I always extended my knowledge around trends and tools that makes my life a lot easier. So from a „builder´s“ standpoint: I do get another option in my toolbelt of course.
Juergen Mueller was also talking about Business and IT coming together, same as Business- and Pro developers like the ABAP community coming together, something I talked about in my previous article around Fusion Teams.

You can do anything as long as you put your mind to it

SAP TechEd 2022, Juergen Mueller CTO

Well in this mindset – what would be if the next generation developers consider to use an orchestrated platform based on SAP BTP and Microsoft´s Power Platform and combine strengths?

Microsoft Cloud and SAP Business technology platform.

This certainly to allow for creating the next generation of intelligent, sustainable enterprises. Using Microsoft´s Cloud services starting from Azure for foundational identity, security and tenant management capabilities, continue using Microsoft 365 for collaboration, Microsoft Business Applications for additional data, LinkedIn for business relations or even stepping up with one of the Microsoft Industry Cloud solutions. End-to-end processes between Enterprise Resource Management, Customer Relationship Management, Human Capital Management solutions (systems of records) with products, such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Office, or even a Power Platform driven Business Application (systems of actions).

Do More With Less | Power Platform

But how to design this next generation collaborative applications, without taking into account one important part – the data foundation? Juergen Mueller also talked about this important part in terms of their integration layer. In the visual above, you see many cloud powered- or even on-prem data being available in your company already (lower left). End-to-end processes being analyzed with the capabilities of Process Advisor as part of Power Automate and based on recommendations being transformed into the next generation collaborative applications. AI being used not only to analyze data and get the gold nuggets out of it. Dataverse as part of Power Platform for instance being used to mash-up data from various sources using virtual tables and virtual connectors. Additional AI services for allowing an easier app- or process creation supporting a builder while creating and finally – using low code / no code tools such as Power Platform and SAP Build coming together and making it easy for any developers to increase software development and build compelling new apps or processes.

Over 1.000 workflow templates offered by SAP Build, over 800 additional connectors offered by Microsoft making it and easy task for Business- and IT developers creating these collaborative apps. Help increasing margins and reducing costs within your company´s digital transformation projects. What´s your take on this?

Until then,…

Power Platform | Fusion Teams combine IT and Business Expertise

I´ve recently read the latest technology priorities CIOs must address in 2023 by Gartner. And while I read through it talking about digital initiatives lag CEO/leadership expectations in both taking too long to complete and too long to realize value, I felt reminded or my previous article I wrote about using Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure and low code as a strong mix to increase effectiveness in app and process modernization.

Fusion Team combines IT and Business Expertise by Gartner

Gartner´s CIO 2023 agenda talked about 4 actions to ensure tech investments pay digital dividends, one of them to catalyze a fusion team to accelerate prioritized digital initiatives. I talked about the importance of Business Technologists earlier and Gartner in their agenda highlighted both top-line as well as bottom line impact. Surprisingly, I felt well reminded on customer conversations talking about Power Platform addressing things like:

  • Improvements of Operational Excellence
  • Increased Employee Productivity
  • Increased Cost-Efficiency
  • Improved Employee Experience

Naming cost-efficiency, you might have already noticed Power Platform landing page containing a new study by Forrester as of August 2022 talking about 140 percent ROI over three years.

Forrester TEI KPIs structured in typical categories

When using Power Platform and Azure in conjunction and assessing your application and process landscape with the help of Microsoft´s Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure you may be familiar with categories in above visual. It should help you getting started a conversation about typical KPIs that can be used to measure success of your projects. Furthermore, it is showing where to start addressing Gartner´s mentioned top digital initiatives lag CEO/Leadership expectations.

It´s like a formula for future success software development projects:

Tech Intensity / Developer velocity + Fusion Teams * Pro and Low code toolbelt = Accelerated innovative impact

Unknown CIO

Customers I´ve been in contact with over the last couple of weeks started adjusting their future IT delivery model and acting on Gartner´s 2023 agenda early. No surprise, a tighter economy means the enterprise needs to realize benefits even faster. Business Technologists and IT expertise combined in Fusion Teams driving future digital initiatives – what are your thoughts on this?

Until then, …

Power Platform | Business Technologists in value chain

The next Power Platform 24 Conference is close and a little more than six month ago me and Chris Huntingford had the pleasure to talk about the rise of the Business Technologists. So what has changed after half a year talking about those employees who build technology or analytics capabilities for internal and external business use, but act outside of IT departments?

Fusion development teams act together

Talking about Business Technologists, there´s no way yours not talking about Fusion (development) teams. Gartner talked about them back in February, 2022 – providing guidance to Distributed Fusion Teams. But it´s no longer analysts talking about this topic. Business Technologists can be found everywhere. They started taking a deeper look into Low Code tools, such as Power Platform to upskill individually, maybe transform their career, but in general drive and accelerate digital transformation by supporting IT and Code-first developers on this journey.

Introducing and maturing Fusion Development

CIOs, CDOs and IT departments considering how to best integrate low code to their toolbelt came up with different concepts to implement Fusion teams and Citizen development. Above visual shows an example which considered Business Technologists rapidly extending and therefore helping Code-first or Pro Developers to transform workforce and joint forces to act on driving digital transformation together. They designed principles of asset creation and came up with possible task flows like this given example:

Fusion teams in practice

Showing a process flow matrix of a maker, a developer and an IT pro working together as a Fusion team creating new assets and working on an idea together. Each of them using a tool of their choice to act rapidly and support the process in general. Enabling companies in general to lower development costs around 45% as recently assessed in a Forrester TEI study. Furthermore, ensuring up to 55% higher innovation according to McKinsey Developer Velocity research. Using their low code toolbelt to not only overcome developer shortage predicted, instead transforming business operations using data and AI to optimize business flows or even unleash new businesses.

Business Technologists driving Citizen Development, ensuring nurturing and adoption of low code platform, such as Power Platform. Acting as community champions onboarding new low code creators or helping them to finish on their ideas, while creating new business tools. When Chris and I talked about their rise, obviously we could only partially take an outlook on the importance Business Technologists would have in maturing low code tools. Such as Power Apps for instance, making it a market leader in low code / no code tools with nearly 15 million monthly active users, up more than 50 percent compared to a year ago, according to Microsoft´s recent FY23 Q1 earnings report.

Adoption Maturity Model

Business Technologists supported IT departments rapidly assessing company´s adoption using above maturity model. They helped identifying gaps, adjusted KPI measurements and helped IT DevOps to find the right service delivery model for Power Platform. They internally collaborated with IT to promote and flurish the low code toolbelt in conjunction with previously already existing pro code tools. They helped transforming the access layer to data sources, as it is shown in this customer success story. Democratizing AI to collect and gather more information from various data sources.

Business developers contributing to value creation

Business Technologists according to McKinsey & Company acting in three paths contributing to value creation. Augmenting existing applications, such as Workday, Slack, Zoom, SAP, Oracle and many others. Prototyping new ideas that afterwards could be easily picked up by Fusion teams and brought to production or co-build applications together with pro- or code-first developers.

Compared to my speech with Chris, let me wrap-up by sharing one more visual that allows – and I recommend you to compare on your own – for estimating the changes Business Technologists had influence on over these last +six months.

Do More With Less | Power Platform

Thanks for being a contributor to this journey. It ain´t over yet. Until then,…

Power Platform | Low code and Cloud Adoption Framework

Back in February, 2022 I was talking about a new cloud transformation and outlined the usage of Azure Cloud Adoption Framework. With the maturing of low code and Gartner predicting that 70% of new applications in the enterprise will be developed with low code by 2025, I thought about reviewing this topic again and sharing recent news.

Visual showing the six categories of Cloud Adoption Framework, it´s objections and in a green layer where Low Code 3.0 would be an additional fit as a toolset for developers
Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure layered with Low Code 3.0

Let´s shortly recap and bring us top of mind on Cloud Adoption Framework using above visual. There´re six categories within and three of them today are an immediate fit for being addressed with Low Code 3.0 or Power Platform in addition to traditional coding tools – Replace, Rebuild or Refactor. In addition two further categories with Rehost and Remain being addressed with Power Platform in an indirect way, such as connecting to these assets via the Connectors Framework or the on-premises data gateway service.

Company´s CIO and CDO asking how to use this framework and do more with less in an uncertain and challenging time driving and accelerating digital- and workforce transformation projects? While being a fit for assessing current app or process landscape for possible (cloud) migration, there´s more to this framework when taken into account an orchestrated low code platform, such as Power Platform. To outline this aspect, let me share another visual used in customer conversation.

Cloud Adoption Framework used in practice and combo between Azure and Power Platform

Above visual starts at the top right by showing a bunch of use-cases that are kind of „x-rayed“ with the Cloud Adoption Framework – visualized by the boxes being opened and taking a look of what´s insight to assess on how to proceed. Let´s consider a company with around 15.000 use cases them assessing that way. Now, given Gartner´s prediction of 70% of new applications being developed with Low Code, there´s a potential of 10.500 use cases being transformed with the help of Low Code. No big deal, you think so far. Well, going deeper in studies of recent app and process modernization projects there´s an average of 55 percent that could be taken into account for true rebuilding, which is roughly 5.775 potential use cases.

Doesn´t that sound like an impressive number to you? A third of all use-cases being transformed with the help of low code?

Well you may challenge there´s a price to it, cause migrating the software with traditional tools is less expensive. That´s a myth!

In a recent study, Forrester outlined 55% productivity increase by lowering access barriers to data to gather insights while remaining on high security standards. And they also highlighted a 45% decrease in application development costs. The magic „glue“ or motion to this is called out as Fusion Development. Overall, using Cloud Adoption Framework with its six categories is no longer an Azure only framework. Power Platform build on top of Azure recently became an important part of it and CIO and IT leaders across the globe are lowering their IT costs while driving and accelerating Hyperautomation with the combination of both professional- and citizen-developers.

What are the concrete benefits?

The Business Domain Experts being involved in the cloud transformation process can be seen in three motions.

  1. Augmenting existing software
  2. Prototyping new ideas
  3. Co-building applications or optimize business processes

Using Frameworks like Cloud Adoption Framework for assessing the maturity level of their application and process landscape first and being aware of using all kind of orchestrated developer tools as a platform, generates measurable outcomes, such as:

  • Fusion Development first, when considering application modernization and process optimization
  • Lower migration project timeline by enhancing developer capacity through including business side of the house
  • Increasing employees satisfaction by participating actively in digital- and workforce transformation projects
  • Make best of use out of Azure and other Cloud services and increasing the innovation factor by including those technologies, such as democratized access on AI/ML models
  • Add additional life-span to existing on-premises landscape by allowing secured access to these (siloed) data sources
  • Increase overall agility to react on changes incoming or disrupting and forcing a re-thinking

Customers around the world have been following frameworks to significantly lower the effort and time spent on theoretical thinking. Introducing principles and standards to invest back time won to focus on the „hard“ parts. MyPOV: We will see more and more Fusion development happening across the globe, not teach everyone to become a developer. Instead to do more with less.

What are your recent touchpoints with Cloud Adoption Framework or Fusion Development? Let me know in the comments. Until then, …

Power Platform | Hyperautomation Trend 2022

In my previous article I was talking about it´s almost time to an introduction of principles for responsible low-code. Due to recent customer conversations, I had a kind of „throwback thursday“ momentum and was thinking about a revisit of some articles I wrote back in June.

One thing that pop´s out for a while now is talking about the future of IT services delivery models, reconsidering how to lower implementation effort, still ensuring highest standards for security and governance, though finding the balance between governance and guidance to allow for easy adoption and scale-out.

I can´t think of any CIO or CTO agenda, this section isn´t part of. But there´s more to an IT agenda that fits future purposes and challenges – such as finding a fitting model of Hyperautomation to work for your company. As said, I was talking about this trend earlier, revisiting it today to share my updated thoughts with you.

Organisations around the world continue to struggle with disruptions and supply chains, fitting customers demand and operate profitably. To become more resilient, businesses need to rethink how they manage and operate across their entire business operations. Gartner talked about the Hyperautomation motion with 85% of their clients reporting that they will increase or sustain Hyperautomation investment strategies over the coming year. You can still watch that webinar on demand here.

Customers asking me how to use Hyperautomation to build a more resilient IT services delivery framework, I showed and discussed with them following visual:

Transformational model by using Hyperautomation

This visual outlines where many companies are starting today assessing their current state with data still being siloed and clumsy business operations with a high focus on manual tasks to close the gaps. Though insights and actions should play an important role first, the majority of work still is about manual interactions and transaction processing.

So how to flip around the light bulb? How to push worforce transformation, enabling and equipping them with IT services that allows them to do more with less? CIOs and CTOs are surging for adaptions of technology to shape their IT Services delivery model and support transforming workforce. But introducing new software assets in uncertain financial times with lowered IT budgets and goals to optimize the IT services delivery model sounds like a mountain tough to climb on. The underlying pinning is „data„. How to find an integration layer that allows for easy digests of information when needed? Orchestration of tools as a platform should be called out as the answer.

Future of IT Services Delivery models

This reminds me of slides I´ve been using in the past to talk about the importance of orchestrated tools as a platform and the role Power Platform plays in here. While it´s easy to grow IT landscape on a use-case per use-case base, making best-of-breed decisions and implementing those tools could easily end up in missing an integration layer between them. No suprise this ending up in again siloed data, instead of what the original purpose was – to find a harmonization layer for data.

Microsoft’s Cloud offer including Power Platform is about the „orchestrated tools as a platform“ and funny enough, not being about Microsoft Cloud services usage only. Including 3rd party business operations software and/or 3rd party cloud services while still allowing for an overall Identity-, Security-, Management- and Compliance Layer is part of the storytelling.

To help you understand the building blocks of the conversation, let´s dive into above visual with a focus on the left side first:

It shows a sample of possible vendors that have been selected while choosing a business operations software that addresses the needs for Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or Customer Intimacy (CRM). Many of those tools ending up in a missed integration layer.

Now, let´s switch gears and take our eyes to the right side with the blocks shown above the „orchestrated tools as a platform“ block:

The all-over foundational layer being an Azure services layer taking care of Identity-Management, Security, Managing and Compliance. On top of it, a relaunched developer velocity layer which now builds the inclusiveness layer to all kind of creators + AI services. For example help using natural language processing to be transformed into code logic. Still including traditional services, such as Application Lifecycle Management, but adding low-code tools as another powerful option.

In the middle, you do find the business operations layer which is a composite or mesh of Microsoft 365, LinkedIn, Power Platform, Dynamics 365 Business Applications and your choice of additional business operations software, such as SAP, workday, UIPath, IBM, Adobe or Celonis to name a few. As you can see Power Platform plays a central role in here to „glue“ together previous siloed service lines and ensure transforming workforce by allowing for collaborative applications. If you want to understand more around this, I encourage you to read the interview between Mary Jo Foley and Jeff Teper & Charles Lamanna that you can find here.

But there´s more to a modern IT services delivery model, such as building and establishing a Center of Excellence for ensuring implementation, adoption, scale-out and continuous training initiatives + running innovation motions for either improving current business operations or creating even new business. That´s why you find this building block on top of it.

It then shouldn´t be a surprise that IT should use an IT Services Management layer to managing incoming requests or monitoring bug or issue reporting. In the example I´ve added servicenow as a typical vendor of ITSM tools.

And last but not least, once those building blocks are in place, you could also imagine that using an industry cloud solution is no longer fake news. Cause in fact the strategy and vision you build and followed all of a sudden becomes your individual industry cloud solution – orchestrated as a platform, including various vendors and crossing boundaries if you will, by not being exclusive to just Microsoft services. All this well known as Business Operations/Ecosystem.

Driving digital transformation, doing more with less. Until then,…