What is Microsoft Power Platform?

The Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of products designed to provide low-code access to data and services in Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure and many other services. A low-code approach means solutions can be built by power users and IT staff who are not professional developers; however, the rapid development environment that this platform provides also means that developers can benefit from using the Microsoft Power Platform.

Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents

The senior member of the Power Platform, Power BI, is probably the best-known component having been available for the longest time. Power BI's primary role is data visualisation, allowing users to manipulate and view their data in different ways with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Another leading star of this platform, Power Apps,allows you to easily create apps (or user interfaces) to interact (view, create and modify) the data that you work with. These apps can be run on PCs, Macs, tablets and mobile phones giving great flexibility to users. As an example, a Power App can be an easy data-entry solution that runs on a mobile phone and can take advantage of the phone's camera and location services.

The primary uses of Power Automate (previously called Microsoft Flow) are to streamline repetitive tasks and replace manual paper-driven processes. Most often, Power Automate flows are used to copy or manipulate data, but they are also frequently used to notify users of data-driven events and provide a framework for approval processes.

To help streamline interactions with your staff (and potentially customers and other external users), Power Virtual Agents allows you to easily build chatbots to engage in automated conversation and provide quick answers to frequently asked questions. These chatbots can then be used in different communications channels, including Microsoft Teams.

Dataverse, Dataverse for Teams and Power Fx

Many Power Platform solutions will use standard Office 365 services, including SharePoint online and OneDrive for Business, to store data. Dynamics 365 customers and other Power Platform users with appropriate licensing can also use Dataverse, a cloud-based storage system. It provides tables to store data in, as well as built-in business logic and dataflows to help manage that data. More recently, Microsoft has also launched Dataverse for Teams, a cut-down version of Dataverse available to anyone with a Microsoft Teams license, allowing the same feature- rich storage environment within a team.

Although the Microsoft Power Platform is a low-code solution, there will still be solutions that require the use of functions and expressions. Currently each of the services uses a different expression language. At the recent Microsoft Ignite event, Microsoft announced Power Fx as a common expression language for the Power Platform. Power Fx is the expression language used in Power Apps (although until Ignite 2021 it wasn't called Power Fx), and over the next couple of years it will be rolled out to the other products within the Power Platform family.

Learning more

To find out more about the Power Platform, QA runs the Microsoft Official Curriculum course Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals. This two-day course covers an introduction to Dataverse, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Power Virtual Agents.

To start creating solutions using the Power Platform services, you should look at the QA-authored courses: Microsoft Power Apps Essentials, Microsoft Power Automate Essentials, Microsoft Power BI Reports and Dashboards for Business Users. These are the entry-level courses, but there are also more in-depth versions available – your account manager will be able to help you choose the correct course.

These courses are all available for both classroom and virtual delivery.

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