A Journey Through Microsoft’s Power Platform Evolution 

Power apps, Microsoft’s low code, no code solution that enables businesses to build and deploy fully functioning applications to peers and business owners, across multiple devices, without significant investment in tech-savvy resources is not as new as some of us imagine. We can trace the history of this innovative solution all the way back to 2016 and Windows 8.1 and a little heard of initiativeProject Siena. 

The Birth of Simplicity: Project Siena 

Project Siena provided a visual-based design window, which for those users with Microsoft Office experience, enabled access to a range of internal data sources that encompassed a vast range of industry-leading platforms such as Dynamics 365, SharePoint, and Salesforce to hundreds of additional sources. Where it stood out from traditional application development was the elimination of detailed knowledge and practical experience gained from a software developer’s background. Now users, competent in Microsoft Excel or with a practical knowledge of SQL could easily access data sources and produce and distribute applications bespoke to their organisation, which realised the value of data quickly and improved creativity and productivity. 

Power Platform’s Evolution: From Siena to Synergy 

Since those early days, the whole Microsoft Power Platform has undergone significant investment and appears to be the underpinning strategy driving the integration and improvements across the entire Microsoft suite of business products. From the early days of integration with Microsoft SharePoint and canvas apps, the strategy of Project Siena has delivered easy customisation in SharePoint lists; the introduction of model-driven apps driven, in turn driven by the introduction of the Common Data Service, Microsoft’s secure cloud-based data storage and management solution, and its recent (2020) renaming to the Dataverse. 

Now, once we define the structure of the data we need, Power Apps simplifies the creation of the necessary interfaces to access the data, with the ability to create and embed business rules and process flows into our applications that realise value and improve productivity at little cost. 

Gone are the days of software engineers and UI/UX designers owning the production of applications or proof of concept applications, Power Apps presents us with an intuitive design surface that takes a drag-and-drop approach to application development. Whilst we may lose some of the sexy design aspects of traditional product development, we can significantly improve our ability to test, validate and improve business processes and practises.  

Innovative Milestones: Power Pages and AI Builder 

And, in 2019, Microsoft released the further key pieces of the functionality jigsaw; the ability to build and release public-facing websites using the same low-code, no-code approach to business users, aptly named Power Pages and the ability for users to access artificial intelligence directly into their applications using AI Builder.  

Now the reliance on a working knowledge of HTML or JavaScript, or the necessity to hire extremely expensive data scientists to access AI, was significantly reduced. Power Pages connected to the Dataverse open the ability of businesses to connect live data collection to their data sources and AI Builder opened the potential to apply predictive analysis to large data sets. 

The 2024 Leap: Introduction of Copilot 

In January 2024, Microsoft granted at an additional low cost to user licences, access to Copilot, their in-house AI product.  

Power Platform now delivers low-code technologies across Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Copilot Studio, to enhance business productivity. 

In Power Apps, Canvas Apps connect to hundreds of data sources, whilst Model Apps and Portal Apps are dependent on Dataverse. But the beauty of opening access to all those previously technically complex sources of data using a common platform offers businesses a real opportunity to drive value and productivity at a scale and pace previously available to only those with deep pockets. 

Power Automate is a cloud service enabling businesses to create and automate workflows across their business. It offers connections to multiple data sources and the same low/no-code interfaces. 

Power BI offers businesses a self-service analytical ability to gain valuable insights into their data, merge data to produce actionable dashboards, and create models to test business ideas. 

CoPilot Studio brings the power of chatbots to every business without the requirement to write the code to support the product.  

All these tools are underpinned by the Dataverse, Connectors, AI Builder, and an understanding of the Common Data Model. Together, they provide seamless data access and services, ensuring standardization and interoperability. 

  • Dataverse provides the functionality and access to the data and services on which Dynamics 365 model-driven apps run.  
  • Connectors provide what they say on the label; defining the services and data sources the Power Platform tools can access and utilise.  
  • AI Builder brings the power to access models for prediction, category classification, entity extraction, form processing and object detection to businesses. 
  • The Common Data Model is an open-source data model delivering a standardised schema to ensure consistency and interoperability of data across systems. See https://github.com/Microsoft/CDM and https://docs.microsoft.com/common-data-model/ for more details. 

Empowering Your Business Journey with MPWR-365 

At MPWR-365, we champion the transformative impact of these technologies, guiding businesses to harness their full potential. For more insights and guidance on leveraging the Power Platform for your business, stay tuned to MPWR-365 – where innovation meets empowerment. 

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