Microsoft Power Platform is designed to help you develop business solutions, analyse data and automate processes. In other words, it’s Microsoft’s answer to creating citizen developers - users who are empowered to develop new or change existing business solutions without needing the IT team’s help.
For manufacturers, this offers many opportunities to streamline business processes, replace manual work with automation, improve productivity and more. This is what we discuss in the fourth episode of our podcast series, ColumbusCast.
Our Head of Shared Consulting Services Martin Clothier and I sit down to talk about the Power Platform and how it can be used operationally in manufacturing and distribution organisations.
What are the individual components of the Power Platform?
As a quick overview, here are the products that make up the Power Platform stack:
- Power Apps - visually explore and analyse our shared data
- Power Automate - create automate workflows, triggered or on a timer that processes data for us
- Power BI - act on the combined data from different sources or input new data from various locations
- Power Virtual Agents - the latest addition to the family, Power Virtual Agents allows you to easily build chatbots
Here are some additional products you should know about:
- Common Data Service (CDS) - a platform where you can directly connect to your data via Power BI, create reports and publish them to Power BI. These reports can then be used in dashboards, shared, accessed via mobile apps etc
- AI builder - enhance your business processes via AI models that are specifically designed to do this
- Common Data Model (CDM) - unify data across all your business processes
Are you limited to predefined data sets or can you create your own?
No. While you have a common data model (which is shared), you can also create your own. There’s no limitation in the data definition set - you can create your own and customise existing entities as and when you need.
Apps Power users can build
There are two main types of apps that Power users can build: a canvas app and a model-driven app (also known as data-driven).
Canvas app vs model-driven app
A canvas app is exactly how it sounds - Power Apps provides you with a blank canvas and you can move the components where you need them to build your user interface.
A model-driven app follows a more data-focused approach than the canvas app. While you can still quickly add components (e.g. dashboards, charts, forms etc) to your apps, most of the user interface components will be based on data that you choose. So, the design process is typically more rigid but there is still some room for customisation.
This makes the model-driven app the better choice for apps that need complex business logic - such as end-to-end solutions that involve multiple processes and users from different teams. Canvas apps are more ideal for task-based or role-based solutions.
How the Power Platform can improve manufacturing operations
So, I’ve covered the basics of Power Platform - what it is and what it can do. But how does that translate in the manufacturing world? Here are some real world examples of the Power Platform in action.
If something goes wrong in the field, rather than physically writing down the issue and sending it to head office to be solved, remote case logging allows you to immediately submit information about the issue from the field. Complete with pics, videos and any other supporting media/evidence.
Not only does this eliminate the need for manual work and keeping hard copies, but issues can be flagged and corrected faster.
Here’s another example: Microsoft Power Platform can simplify data, making it easier for you to find and analyse what you need, when you need it. This is particularly vital if you’re in a meeting or you’re out in the field and you need to find a specific set of data.
Power Platform presents a subset of the data you should be focusing on, plus the ability to quickly update it as you go.
Overall, it’s about being able to digitise data so you can act on it quickly and make timely, better informed decisions.
Listen to our podcast episode for deeper insights
In addition to the above, Martin and I also dig into:
- Licensing models for D365 Finance and Supply Chain Management (D365 Finance & Operations)
- The role of a partner and their trusted advisor status
- The pitfalls to avoid when implementing all of this new technology
- How to address the technical knowledge gaps among workforce
- The importance of liberating data so innovation isn’t restricted to the IT department
Scroll up to listen to the episode or search for ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app to listen to it on your mobile phone or tablet.
To find out more about the Power Platform and how you can wield it to your advantage, download our guide. We cover data mobility projects, how to ensure they succeed and the importance of user adoption.