Power Platform | Digital „fusion teams“ growing

Back in 2019 Gartner started talking about a new upcoming model for distributed delivery, introducing Fusion Teams.

Digital “fusion teams” are distributed and multidisciplinary digital business teams that blend technology and other types of domain expertise. At least 84% of companies and 59% of government entities have fusion teams.

Gartner Digital Business Teams Survey, 2019

With fast-changing and cross-cutting digital opportunities and risks, it is no surprise that most IT employees participate in flexible „fusion teams that extend across IT and other parts of the business. Back in June, I was talking about a meetup with a group of developers during a workshop break to further discuss this topic.

Fusion development with low-code Power Apps

Today, I´d like to revisit this topic as more and more workshops occured and many more fusion teams visited a Design Thinking workshop to get together as a team to indentify a problem, solve it and start into a planning and execution phase to do so. Above visuals shows a sketch note around this and offers a main theme:

Everyone contributes within their comfort zone

both Citizen and Pro developers

I think this is essential in terms of starting this journey and don´t look at things with reservations, such as: Low-code is a kiddy thing – what should I use it for being a pro developer? You know, low-code won´t replace you or your work. Low-code will neither solve every business problem. But low-code can be a perfect extension of your current toolset, if you´re open to learn new things and re-use known things to help the fusion team becoming even more successful. Let´s take a closer look.

Pro dev joining the low-code idea

Above visual shows a summarized view of possible interactions from being a pro developer. It starts – no surprise – by being open to the fusion teams idea and familiarize with the transformation ongoing in authoring software. It continues by having a full understanding of low-code coming from traditional development. Only these steps ensure that you will be able to assess the right toolset being used for the job on your to-do list.

The journey continues showing four different ways of engagement. And if you take a look into Microsoft´s Learning Path you will even recognize the icons indicating modules that you can familiarize yourself with being a pro developer. But let´s elaborate.

#1 Your active part in Governance, Maintenance and Application Lifecycle Management

Using Power Platform developer tools and/or Power Platform build tools for Azure or GitHub you will recognize your role being able to help with typical application lifecycle management tasks that a citizen developer team might need for an application, a flow or a chatbot that crosses smaller teams and becomes business critical in operation. Furthermore, you will recognize your role being able to help with data access through connectors, how to govern and control security.

#2 Your active part in building components

Your knowledge around API Management, OpenAPI (Swagger) and how to discover other Web APIs will help your fusion team to use custom connectors with easy access to those APIs. You may even show Visual Studio to a couple of interested citizen developers and learn from each other.

#3 Your active part in extending the Power Platform

Understanding the Power Platform extensibility model, you´ll be able to design data access architecture or data schemas that will simplify gathering and collecting insights out of your companies or even external data. Furthermore, your knowledge around object programming language might help a citizen developer when using Power Fx and trying to understand With() or JSON. Due to requirements, your company might recognize the need of doing more things on server-side where there´s no Power Fx or Power Automate workflow for this and a Plug-in needs to be developed to perform the action.

#4 Your active part in improving the building and usage experience of Power Platform

Being a web developer and familiar with React, you may start familiarizing with Power Apps component framework. You then design and develop new controls that can be used across the Power Platform stack (canvas, model-driven or portals UI). These new control sets help to design a better user experience for more advanced scenarios. And with your knowledge around Azure App Insights, you´ll be able to help citizen developers to track important information around their created app, collect and generate insights from these signals and drive an overall usage performance.

To wrap up for today – I know it´s only a couple of examples outlined here. But it already shows there´s tons of things that can be done from a pro developer perspective within low-code tools like Power Platform. And we haven´t yet touched the fact yours creating apps, chatbots or flows with the same toolset to be faster and more agile.

If you´re now interested in learning more around this, I can only encourage you to spend an hour watching this video from Microsoft Reactor. You might feel familiar with this after a short time and want to join a fusion team next to you. So check out your company – maybe there´s a fusion team only a single click, office or department away. Until then, …

Power Platform | Adoption Framework cont’d

In my previous article, I was talking about a quick reference guide on adoption and what companies – specifically Center of Excellence (CoE) Teams – care about. Today, let me take another closer look around this and why an internal accelerator program can be helpful and drive success to unleash the full business outcomes when using low code platforms such as Power Platform.

Governance to ensure low-code as a self-service

In an ideal situation, using low-code tools inside your organization should be a self-service. But as we all know, citizen development is about creating apps, flows, chatbots, custom connectors and many more. If you follow above visual that I am using in my workshops, you see that those activities are surrounded by two important layers.

#1 Security & Compliance – Governance – Business Value layer

It shouldn´t be a surprise that this layer exists, as it is true for any other application or product that is used in a company or even for private use-cases. Meaning, you should be in a safe environment when using those apps, flows, etc. as well as you should be in a secure and compliant environment when creating such. In many companies this is regulated by so called Governance teams. Dedicated teams who ensure that security settings are in place and compliance is met based on company or industry requirements. What´s less often talked about, but of course also in place is to measure business value. Just purchasing a software and then not using the licenses is a waste of money, I think we can all agree on this one.

#2 Application Lifecycle Management layer

The second layer surrounding low-code is well known in the traditional software development ecosystem, but remains true for low-code or rapid application development systems like Power Platform as well. Depending on the fact of companies operating with indoor software development or only using outdoor software integrator services, the amount of pillars might vary. Nevertheless, those are valid and working for low-code as well. Therefore, you see me adding some typical tasks around those phases. For instance, before starting a process optimization I would ensure that citizen developers and pro-developers following a common strategy and vision. Because of companies operating international, but teams setup being local, I´ve added another task which is to identify and share use-cases. Think of a use-case catalog, that would help to identify if teams already working on a specific process or if they might have already developed and deployed a solution for this.

In this case, you might step into the phase of change management and provide your user feedback which becomes part of the next release and an improvement of the flow, app, chatbot, etc.

Instead, if it´s a complete new idea, you may want to collect it in an innovation backlog first to find possible team members who like to cooperate and work together with you on this. You may want to cross-check in terms of collecting votings, if it´s worth your effort as well. And of course in this phase of requirements & innovation backlog you may consider operating with design thinking workshops and/or tech-talks to collaborate and work easier on your identified processes/use-cases.

Adoption accelerator program

Hopefully, I could outline the strong relationship between the typical tasks around application lifecycle management and building an adoption accelerator program, as I outlined in previous article. The accelerator program ensures those tasks can be easily followed. Furthermore, as responsibilities are pre-defined each developer – citizen or pro-developer – does know who is doing what. Companies, introducing low-code tools or platforms outperformed their competitors as analysts said. We shouldn´t forget that they also introduced or extended their Center of Excellence to ensure that business value and business outcomes are generated from this corp.-wide initiative.

For those being new, let me re-add the link to official Microsoft documentation around this topic. Though a lot to read, you´ll find valuable content that helps you orchestrating your plan to success. Until then, …

Power Platform | Quick-reference guide on Adoption

Many CIOs can´t ignore the low-code motion any longer and therefore the amount of customers using low-code platforms such as Power Platform is consistently growing. Compared to classical software development in the past though, it seems adoption and scale-out being an issue for many due to a couple of specifics of low-code platforms.

Therefore, in today´s blog post I´ll try to provide a kind of a quick guide that is often found when you buy new IT hardware equipment that is combined with software – like I recently did with a new webcam, trying to fast forward you into the customer experience. Of course, Microsoft itself is providing a documentation of best practices around adoption of Power Platform. But honestly, I would call this the extended reference guide version. And I know many of you don´t have the time to read through all of this.

Build an adoption accelerator program

So, same as a quick-reference guide, let me start with above visual, that I use in my workshops with customers explaining the start of Power Platform adoption by initiating an internal accelerator program. Important, give your program a name to promote it internally, win sponsors and make it a gamification – employees should love to participate, not fear an administrative, restrictive program without any fun. As a bear minimum, your program should contain four main chapters. Let me drill-into those:

#1 Environment readiness

Many of you might think of Power Platform environments now – well that´s not completely wrong, as those are part of this chapter in terms of understanding the technical setup of environments, why they are important for security and what important role they play in a successful adoption. But the environment readiness also should be about the accelerator program environment readiness itself, meaning get an overview of tasks and activities, ownership, responsibilities and teams that should formalize as they might not yet exist – such as a Center of Excellence or Governance Team.

#2 Guided Transformation

What I mean by this is following a strategy and vision – why do you use Power Platform, what is it good for, what are you trying to achieve with it – think of an operational model to follow. Define journeys, milestones to achieve and ensure that you set yourself up for success, meaning to check and measure your adoption accelerator program with the help of defined KPIs. Maybe define „Hero“-use cases that allow for minimal viable product generation. As with each operational model, you should also identify the important stakeholders, responsibilities and roles, sometimes referred to as building a RACI matrix and execute on a plan. Employees want to be guided and educated. It´s more than just telling them – here´s Excel: You know how to use it from school or home work. You can use it. We´ve assigned a license to you.

#3 Up-skilling

Next, your program should contain a plan of how to build, raise and grow an internal community that should connect with external communities – for instance checking for people´s workload interests and then supporting them to connect with other Subject Matter Experts. There´re tons of communities outside, check them out. Ensure they are enabled and equipped to share their learnings with other internals through pre-defined channels. To even further support those activities and measure success you could implement regular workshops, sometimes called „Hackathons“ or Tech-Talks. It helps to share knowledge, cause no one can know everything, but they could become specialized and therefore „Champions“ and help to grow others. I prefer to recommend Ideation workshops to unlock digital innovation.

#4 Continuous Improvement

To ensure the success of your accelerator program, you should look after your pre-defined KPIs, monitor and measure them. You should also consider to adjust them when needed. Furthermore, take a look on how to improve with the help of other offers, such as bring-in external Subject Matter Experts to talk about their experiences inside one of your Tech-Talks. Check out new knowledge sharing technologies and try to figure out how people want to learn and improve. And finally, use this for reviewing your pre-setup on Governance and Admin tasks. You may find further actions to automate, processes to optimize or adjust.

This wraps-up my Quick Reference Guide on Power Platform Adoption and same as a piece of paper that I needed to unfold, follow and get my camera to work together with the software installed, I hope you now have an idea on how you could get started. Let me know your thoughts, comments and feedback – you know the channels.

Power Platform Illustrative Adoption Maturity Model

Well, that´s not all. I couldn´t stop here and expect you´re good to go. So, above visual can be used as a walk through template. Based on a Digital Capability Maturity Model, you fill this template with content to build your Adoption Accelerator Program and if you feel the „need of a helping hand“, I am sure a Microsoft Partner specialized on Power Platform close to you or a Microsoft Agent will be happy to support.

That´s all for today. Hope you like it. Until then,…

Power Platform | Talking about data

Recently, I got invited by the Power Platform Virtual Happy Hour team around Alison Mulligan and Carl Cookson to talk about data (The question is data yes or no) in context of Power Platform together with Claire Edgson – Group Manager – Power Platform – Europe at Avanade. You can watch the recording on YouTube now, if you couldn´t make it or want to speed-up in context of today´s blog post. As with many topics around the Power Platform, hanging out within our community, clock was ticking fast and an hour felt like a few seconds only.

Well, I thought data deserves a little more time, as we do see low-code citizen developers becoming risk managers of massive data and based on statista over the next five years up to 2025, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes. Satya Nadella covered the data topic inside his Inspire Keynote 2021 talking about Microsoft Cloud and security offered within. So we better start soon asking ourselves around our data strategy. So to continue the happy hour talk, let´s take a look at some principles that may help us.

The continuum to unlock digital innovation

First, when it comes to digital innovation there´re two streams or goals to follow. Talking about Intelligent Applications, it is to leave the foundational comfort zone of App migration and App modernization and take it to the innovation zone where strategic value is your main driver for building Smart apps infused with pre-built AI or cloud native Intelligent apps.

Talking about Data Intelligence, it is to leave the foundational zone of Data migration and Data modernization and decrease the effort to enter Advanced analytics or Data intelligence offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). When all this comes together, Microsoft often times refers to this as Digital Feedback Loop. You could think about it from Empowering employees, Engage with customers, Optimize Operations or Transform products. Any idea around creating an application will have a data aspect in it.

Microsoft´s vision of Collaborative applications

Take for instance the example of Microsoft´s vision around building Collaborative applications where Microsoft Teams start becoming your preferred UX. It´s both Pro-dev and low-code developers starting to deal with data more effectively, secure and in a governed manner. And what I mean by this, you can read about here, in an earlier published blog post. Businesses modernize for different reasons.

Power Platform for your Digital Transformation

Above visual gives you some guidelines around some of those reasons. The cosmos that surrounds the goals visualized is full of data. Understanding data from the past to prevent errors in the future. Analyzing historic data to retrieve and predict trends and improve in the future. If someone says, with the era of raising citizen developers we´re stepping into a new world of data security – my answer would be: No – we´re already into this.

Happy to further discuss this in upcoming posts or via Twitter. Until then, …

Power Platform | Building Collaborative Applications

Yesterday at Microsoft Inspire 2021, Satya Nadella talked about breaking down the silos between collaboration, communications, and business process to help creating collaborative applications for knowledge workers and front line workers. Key part of this being components of the Microsoft Cloud stack. This might raised a question of

How am I get started creating a Collaborative application?

Citizen Developer after watching Satya Nadella´s Keynote
Collaborative applications build with the Microsoft Cloud – Satya Nadella, Microsoft Inspire 2021 Keynote

This is a perfect opportunity of introducing one of the ways of describing the main team goal the Global Blackbelts are following at Microsoft – we are to unleash business outcomes to our customers digital transformation journey through solution innovation, building cross-cloud & industry solutions. So how can you make use of this in your day-to-day business or in regards to above question? Well, it all starts with you, our customers and partner ecosystem.

Customer Experience in Retail – an orchestration of cross-cloud industry solution

Above visual shows a possible output of an Envisioning workshop where together we identified possible areas of building a Collaborative application, looking at room for improvements, drilled into the root cause and setup an action plan to orchestrate services as a platform to fix issues and build business value with Collaborative applications.

Of course getting to these results is possible by running a Design Thinking workshop internally on your own as well. I have been talking about running Design Thinking workshops for shaping a company´s digital transformation in the past. Collecting your ideas around a problem statement that you´ve captured in your daily business, clustering the ideas next and group them wherever possible. And it works across industries.

End to end visibility of supply chain in Automotive industry

​Above visual shows you another example this time from Automotive industry, working on a problem statement of a better end-to-end visibility of supply chain. After clustering and grouping all the ideas you would start to categorize your clusters in a difficulty and importance matrix. From least difficulty and importance to most. This would help generating clarity around what is tactical, high value, luxury or strategic.

How to design a Smart Factory with a flexible Digital Shopfloor Management

And the same matrix work for another example – this time from Manufacturing industry. Next you are enabled to create your Action Plan, defining the action, who takes care of and when it should be done. All of this allows you to map the outcome to technology. Which means after those 4 steps, it´s time to think about the Technology that best fits to fix the issue, improve a process or close the gap of siloed data sources. That´s where the Microsoft Cloud stack comes into play and you may figure out how easy it is to use it as a Citizen Developer, building your next Collaborative application.

Looking forward to see your next generation Collaborative applications coming to live, solving a business problem and generate business value rapidly. Until then,…

Power Platform | Path to consumption-based licensing?

With the recent blog announcement of the Power Platform group regarding the upcoming pricing and licensing changes for Power Apps there was quite some noise ongoing. Positive, in terms of the price-cut and clarification introduced for the per App plans. Negative, in terms of discussing if the price cut on per App is 50% or not due to new entitlements and still being too far away for a business justification. These are only a few examples of the ongoing discussions. As this topic isn´t a new one and I´ve run through this in a lot of conversations, today I thought of sharing a story with you in terms of a path to consumption-based licensing.

Real-world example to outline current Power Apps licensing options

What I heard many of us saying before the price cut and the new entitlements was – the Power Apps per App licensing is a better way for us to

  • budget planning
  • scale-out and adoption
  • license management
  • business justification

Let´s dive into this, as we now know that the upcoming entitlements for per App plan licensing will be 1 app only. That simplifies the Power Apps per App plans and brings us down to my example, where I map this license with a One-day Ticket for a London travelcard. The Power Apps per User plan license is mapped to the Monthly travelcard. In above visual you do find the pricing for both, or you could visit London Travelcards – 1-day, Weekly, Monthly Pass Prices 2021 (city-guide.london) for cross-references. For the simplification of comparison, I selected Zones 1-9 at anytime.

Being a frequent traveler to London, I love to use public transport services. And as you can see from the visual above, as the passes allow for using multiple services, it can be easily compared to Power Apps licensing, where I am using either canvas, model-driven, portals or even flows running in context of an app as „services“. But not only due to pandemic, there is a question circling around on business justification of the monthly paid travel card or should I say per User licensing?

Wouldn´t it be better to switch to a consumption-based payment and gain higher business value?

Low-code Consultant

Of course, if I would be able to tell the amount of days I am about to travel in London and need a One-day travelcard only, the math is an easy one (same as with the Power Apps per App plan licenses). Less than 15-days of traveling in a month, the One-day option is cheaper, agreed?

Breaking down the monthly travelcard to daily payment (as you can see from the diagram in the visual above), there´s a pattern in it. It shows that on an average of 30-days, I am paying less than a One-day card. But I need to travel at least 15-days in a month in total to get the ROI of a monthly travelcard.

You may ask, where does this map with Power Apps licensing and the price-cut or the new entitlements? Well, same as before your business justification starts, when you consider each individual options benefit. Consider, same as I can travel only one-day with the One-day travelcard, I can only run one single App with a per App plan license. Next, comparing this with a monthly card I can travel anytime during a month which maps to our Power Apps per User licensing where I do have use-rights for unlimited apps.

So, is it the simple math then of saying – whenever you cross 4 apps to be used by a single user you should consider the per User plan to be cheaper? In fact not, it´s even earlier. And this is due to the additional entitlements that comes with each type of the license. API calls, storage capacity to name two of them.

Running a true business value assessment takes into account both of the licensing options including those entitlements that are covered by the Microsoft 365 licenses. It´s worth enterprise companies asking for assistance and including this part in an envisioning workshop.

Last but not least, let me deep dive into a true consumption-based licensing and why I think it would fail. Consider that we´re living in a world where more and more problems occur due to just thinking of our own benefits and less attraction of community health. What I mean by this? Well, just take into account the CO2 debate who is going to pay for it and in which ratio. If everyone just pays for their own individual created CO2 footprint, will there be enough return on invest to improve and solve today´s problems but also tomorrow´s?

If you would pay for running an app only (which would be a true consumption based model), would there be enough overhead to pay someone for improvements, leave room for fixing current issues and tomorrow´s challenges? I leave this an open question, looking forward to any comments or questions. Until then,…

Power Platform | A closer look at the Developer Plan

As you might have heard the previous Power Apps Community plan has evolved and we´re now talking about a Power Apps Developer Plan. So I was approached the other day in terms of questions upcoming like:

Do we sign-up for Developer plans for all our developers now and avoid us paying for premium licensing?

Anonymous CIO

And you know me, I love to deep dive into licensing discussions, so why not give the new Developer plan a chance, drill into the details and facts we currently know. Plus share some thoughts around the governance and licensing model around it. Before we get started, I should add that the Developer plan is an extension of the capabilities that previously were offered through a Community plan. It is worth studying the details inside the official documentation, as things may change over the next couple of months.

Entering Power Apps Maker Studio

First things first, even without a license being assigned, any user would be able to enter the Power Apps Maker experience by simply opening https://powerapps.microsoft.com/ – sign-in with their work account and they should be able to see above UI. Didn´t know that?

Carl Citizen – Assigned licenses

Above visual shows you that my test user Carl Citizen isn´t assigned any license, except being part of AAD and being able to sign-in. Being a Global Admin or Power Platform Admin, if you haven´t controlled access to above URL, your user would simply answer a one-time question around their location and things would be configured for them. As you can see from the first visual, the environment that will be used for this experience is the default environment of your organization – which typically follows the naming pattern [Your Orgname] (default).

That might already answer above question around licensing. Would I need a Developer plan license to create something? No. You can clearly create or make without a license. Though, at run-time you would need to have licenses to host your application, flow, chatbot or portal in your production environment. With that, let´s see what happens, if Carl Citizen follows the instructions from the landing page and signs up for a new Developer plan.

Welcome page of Developer Plan sign-up

Carl will be presented above page and needs to provide his country information and accepting the Power Apps terms of use and Microsoft privacy statement. Again, assuming that the Global- or Power Platform Admin in your company hasn´t implemented any other Governance model around this. Or in other words, we´re still talking about the out-of-box behaviour. So what´s next?

Carl´s Developer Environment

After a short preparation time, Carl will be forwarded directly into his new Developer Plan environment – this can be easily identified as the naming pattern would be „firstname lastname +’s Environment„. See above visual and check out the environment switcher to the right in the header (purple). Now check out the gray notification telling that this is a developer environment and not meant for production use. So that´s it. Carl created a new developer environment and signed up for a Developer plan. Pretty straight forward, right? But wait…

Carl Citizen – Licenses assigned

What happened behind the scenes? The Global Admin or License department will find a newly added licenses called Microsoft Power Automate Free valid for 10k (if not previously already existing). Everyone who signed up for a Developer plan will be assigned such license + your Global Admin. That´s why in my test case, 3 of the licenses have been assigned to users already.

Power Platform Admin Center – Carl´s view

Beside that, Carl now also is able to enter the Power Platform Admin Center. He will be able to monitor his personal development environment. Additionally, he will be able to create new environments as it is documented – Create more environments to exercise application lifecycle management (coming soon). While testing this function, I was presented an error message that the community plan doesn´t allow for adding additional environments. Let´s review this part in a follow-up.

Now, let´s check the Global- or Power Platform Admin side as it currently might feel a little uncomfortable by someone adding an environment to their Tenant.

Power Platform Settings

IT departments following the principle of least privileges, might have set the above setting. In other words, they´ve restricted environment creation to be valid only for specific roles. So the question resulting is:

Why was Carl able to create a Developer environment?

Power Platform Admin centrally managing Power Platform

The answer can be found, in the type of environment that got created.

Power Platform Admin Center – Environments overview

As you can see from above visual, both Renee and Carl in my test case created themselves Developer environments. The Power Platform settings indicate that you only restricted environment creation for production and sandbox environments + trial environments. Therefore, both of them were able to create those types of environments. You may ask where´s the setting to control those Developer plan environments? As I said, be aware of changes and upcoming features to this new Developer plan.

One of the next main concerns a Power Platform Admin may raise might be around DLP policies. So let´s take a look.

Example DLP policy that spans across environments except one selected

In my test case, the Power Platform Admin created a „General rule of thumb“ policy that spans across all environments, including those newly created, but excluding one specific environment. So from this point, you should be safe. But what about the fact you´re going to create a new DLP policy?

Power Platform Admin Center – Create new DLP policy

Again, you can calm down, as you should have been added to each of those environments automatically from a Global Admin perspective. So you are able to select those environments and you would be able to setup a Developer environment specific DLP policy.

I should note though – being a Power Platform Admin, you may not have been added automatically to those environments and therefore you´re not able to select those. The feature matrix talks about this specific behaviour. The fix here would be to get in co-ownership of those environments. So you may make a note for your Governance playbook to get this task covered.

Another note: Since both Renee and Carl in my case created Developer environments and own them, they are also allowed to setup individual DLP policies that work for owned or co-owned environments. Make a note in your Governance playbook to ensure those DLP policies being created by Developers later on might need sanity checks, especially if the Developer left the company.

Wrapping things up my current „assessment“ is as follows:

  • Do you want your users to individually setup Developer environments that over the time may become „troublemakers“ in terms of Governance?
  • Do you wish those Developers to add coworkers individually to those environments as Environment Makers and -admins?
  • Do you want them to create DLP policies additionally to your centrally provided DLP policy setup that remain valid for those environments they own or co-own?

Maybe a better idea – at least for an enterprise organization – would be to follow a different approach and setup dedicated, shared developer and test environment(s) instead. At least makes it easier,

  • from the amount of environments existing in a Tenant
  • from who is given Developer access to those environments
  • from who is under control of DLP policies around those environments in terms of management and adjustments
  • from training Developers on following ALM principles

Keep in mind the license creation and auto assignment I introduced at the beginning. You may prefer a clean license structure in your tenant due to internal cost center and invoicing processes. Additionally, think about using the Center of Excellence Starter Kit if not already in place, as it will offer you monitoring capabilities to identify those new Developer plan environments. And finally, let´s not forget – this is an extension of previous Community plan. Changes and improvements expected. Until then, …

Power Platform | Where to store my app data?

When talking to clients starting their low-code journey, one of their first asks is around data protection, data security and compliance handling and how to guide their users in terms of what is the optimal place to store data collected via apps? Of course many of those asks are around IT-controlled switches (toggles), but let´s look if there´re more options.

The past year has proven, low-code became mainstream. Those who started early onboarding now benefit from the agility boost in their digital transformation projects and our now considering how to make use of those benefits across more business projects. While low-code isn´t the answer to everything, many of the companies facing those challenges around adoption to work remotely have chosen to continue their digital transformation journey with a low-code company wide platform.

Power Platform – proven increased demand on low-code

No question, when working remotely one of the main asks is around data security, data protection, governance controls and providing users guidance in terms of

  • How to categorize their data in terms of privacy?
  • How to store and protect their data in a compliant, company-defined way?
  • How to avoid „shadowed services“ by copying data into Excel workbooks that then might be shared broadly and turn into unprotected, tough manageable data silos?

Many of you will agree, most companies still facing daily challenges with Excel workbooks that are used for bypassing business processes or inflexible business legacy software. Easy to use, easy to share, it has become a popular tool for many data-related tasks. The shift to more remote work has truly raised a couple of tasks for IT-folks in terms of managing devices, ensure company IT compliance and help users performing their work while in home office or other locations. CIOs and IT-teams being challenged by those tasks considered a hybrid app development approach by offering a company wide low code platform. This way, they could focus on new management tasks given, while still remaining operative in business. In fact, many of them assessed the benefits by even seeing business picking up on that, creating their low-code applications with or even without support from IT Professionals. Though, there was one remaining challenge around data processing.

Business users previously didn´t need to deal with being a risk manager. Data processed via legacy software, secured by IT-folks where always accessible for them. Them now entering the world of Makers, all of a sudden needed to be educated in terms of what kind of data sources they typically deal with, even better being upskilled in terms of data classification and what each classification category should cause as action.

Data classification wizard helping with labels and tagging

Above visualization provides an example of a data classification with internal labels offered for ensuring data processing. While software like Outlook offered IT an easy way to share those labels with users and help them dealing with data from an email perspective, low-code Makers needed a new way of quickly being educated and upskilled in terms of creating their own applications.

The easiest start of course for IT-folks using the platform capabilities itself and providing a wizard that helps Makers pre-classifying and selecting the best options for their app ideas. While Power Platform already offers a lot of Governance and Security assistance around data protection, data security and data classification, some of them inherited from Microsoft 365 or Azure services, there´re parts where education might be a better fit-in – helping Makers understand their data usage when building apps, truly is one of them.

Typical types of data sources requested by Citizen Developers

Consider implementing a triage model to identify the best architecture and integrate those guides in internal education programs around low-code community – think of a „virtual assistant“ – is another use-case, where Power Platform capabilities could help quickly and easily establish a culture of data processing in your company.

If you would like to further discuss this, please join the Power Platform Virtual Happy Hour 7pm BST, Wednesday 7th, July we will thoroughly try to find the best answer to this.

Power Addict

If you´re interested in learning more around why I always start envisioning workshops around this with a mantra like

Don´t let licensing be your app architect in general?“

Carsten Groth – Power Platform Architect

here´re a couple more articles, I´ve published around this common ask in the past.

As you can already see from the amount of articles around this, there´s certainly no single answer to it and there´s a lot of factors influencing the final decision or assessment each time you´re creating an app. Looking forward to discuss and further debate during Power Platform Virtual Happy Hour. Until then, …

Power Platform | How to: Business Value Assessment

It might be due to the all over Power Platform news around Microsoft Build 2021 and more developers onboarding – cause anyone can be a developer and if you don´t think so, watch this – I was texted and emailed several times, if I could help on how to get started with building a business value assessment around Power Platform, assuming your company is following the below approach of creating collaborative applications while pro- and citizen devs unite as Fusion Teams.

Power Platform – Collaborative applications

Well, of course this hasn´t been the first time I´ve seen this question upcoming and while there´s already a ton of guidance outside on how to govern and secure the power platform or how to get started creating your first app, chatbot or flow, there´s less information floating around on how to get started on building a business value assessment – for example in terms of internally convincing business decision makers to become exec sponsors and help growing the platform idea.

So let me start by outlining the three major pillars you should build your business value assessement around. No surprise, you might be already familiar to those, as they are not unique or specific to Power Platform itself. There´re more pillars possible, but those are the main three that come up across all industries.

Power Platform – Measuring business value

Above visual outlines the three main pillars to start with and now let me jump into each one of them and shed some light in terms of measurements.

  1. Reduce total cost of ownership

When it´s up to measurements you typically should look for some KPIs that fit into this bucket and help you building the business case around. In terms of the first pillar, those could be a reduction of effort on both the app development as well as on process workflow development. You may ask, what around data visualization or chat assistant creation?

Feel free to take them into account as well. You know Power BI and Power Virtual Agents are family members of the Power Platform, so there´s nothing wrong to define KPIs for them as well. Additionally, you should think of reduction of IT maintenance in general (as you´re signing up of SaaS offering – where there´s typically less effort spent in terms of maintenance, which is done by the service vendor instead). And another KPI could be the retirement of third-party software that has been used previously to enable such functionality and in future no longer will be needed.

While it might be an easy task to get to the KPIs, many are still not familiar in terms of what´s the benefit calculation for this. So how does a formula look like that can be used. So let´s take a closer look on the effort spend for development.

Impact = number of development projects * average development costs per project * savings (%)

Business Value Assessor

I guess the first parameter is not an issue for you to get to, but how to get to an average of development costs and how to get to savings? Lucky you, regarding Power Apps for instance, there´s a study out by Forrester, available here for download and you can get through the second and third parameter by reading through the study. In any other case, estimating the average development costs per project using traditional tools and a mix of internal and external resources should be something the budget owner of IT projects should know about.

2. Increase performance and efficiency

This second pillar is way more industry specific in terms of the KPIs that you may want to setup and follow here for measurement. If you´re customer facing, you might want to take a look at increasing customer retention or increasing up- and cross-sell. You may want in general look at improve profit margin.

In manufacturing, you might take a closer look on reducing unplanned machine downtime, decrease scrap and rework or reduce labor costs. As said, all of them are way more industry focused and therefore look different. That being said, the Impact formula looks very different for all of them, though in the end it is an impact number in a currency of your choice.

3. Faster time to value

The typical KPI measurement for this is improve time to market. That means you´re talking about the reduced time building business applications or process flows + allowing rapid prototyping including a proof of concept or any other demonstrator. It also takes into account being supportive in terms of rapidly changing business needs, because being able to innovate quickly and release more frequently in general provides you a huge competitive advantage.

So the impact formula for this looks a little like a modified one of the first given example – take a look

Impact = number of developed applications per year * average development costs * average project IT ROI / average ROI IT duration in months * time savings (in month)

Business Value Assessor

Wrapping up today´s topic – I hope that those insights get you started with a business value assessment. You´re equipped with the three main pillars now, you got examples for some typical KPI measurements and if you need more or more industry specific, I am pretty sure that any search engine will help you with more inspiration. And in case you still struggle, don´t hesitate to ask your Microsoft Team to help you with this task. I am pretty sure they will help you or connect with a partner who could help with this.

Comments, Feedback? Again, let me know using the known technologies. Until then, …

Power Platform | Accelerate time to value

Many of you might have missed Microsoft Build 2021 or since you claimed yourself not being a developer, you didn´t signed up for it. Therefore, you might have missed an important session that is available as an on-demand session talking about Dataverse for Developers. A question that is upcoming many times during my workshops is

What is Microsoft Dataverse and what are the capabilities of this service?

unknown workshop attendee
Microsoft Dataverse – part of Power Platform

In the past, I´ve been already talking about Microsoft Dataverse, so feel free to review this article to better understand this offering as part of Microsoft´s Power Platform. Microsoft Dataverse is a managed data platform or in a nutshell:

Dataverse easily structures a variety of data and business logic to support interconnected applications and processes in a secure and compliant manner

Gautam Thapar, Product Manager, Microsoft Dataverse

So instead of pro-developers being in the need of building their apps accross multiple infrastructure services and pay the tax of different APIs, pricing models, scale constraints, security, interoperability, monitoring, reporting and many more, they can simply familiarize with a single API. Microsoft´s Dataverse API.

Let´s take a look in terms of the impact on accelerating time to value on Digital Transformation projects. Obviously the as-is situation can be seen as something outlined in the following visual. You start with something like this:

Accelerate time to value

As you can see from the visual above as well, wouldn´t it be nicer to combine and orchestrate services, talking about a simplification in terms of access points, up-skilling and accelerating time to value? If you put all three buckets together, you get something that in many times during my workshops, I´d like to articulate as the Microsoft „Data Cloud“. It scales vertically in a better together fashion and horizontally in an expanded breath of your data sources. The following visual sums this up.

The horizontal and vertical scale out model

As you can see your Data Cloud strategy is mainly a decision around orchestration as a platform. Something, I´ve been talking about in the past as well. So again, please feel free to review and drill into the details. But why is it important? Why is there a need to step into this?

Microsoft Data cloud – endless possibilities

Take a look at the above visual that outlines a couple of arguments that comes with a Data Cloud strategy. Using the Microsoft Cloud ecosystem, all of a sudden there´s almost endless possibilities once data is in your Data Cloud. Various services interacting and orchestrated for and by you, ensuring a faster time to value in your Digital Transformation. With that, next time you´ve been asked – What comes next? Your answer should be an upcoming journey around orchestrated layers. If you´re interested in learning more around this, ensure to check out on-demand Microsoft Build Session BRK 222. Performing advanced analytics on business apps data made easier.

Until then,…