The Microsoft Power Platform is the collective term for four Microsoft products: Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents. More than the sum of its parts, the Power Platform is a no-code to low-code platform that users with no coding experience can use to analyse data, build solutions, automate processes and engage online.Although perfectly at home integrating with third-party apps, the Power Platform truly shines when used with your Office 365 subscription, and being a low to no code platform means it can be used without the need to rely heavily on IT or coding experts.
What is Power BI?
Power BI is a cloud-based data analytics and visualisation tool used to bring together data from a wide range of sources to provide business intelligence and insight beyond merely data reporting.
Power BI allows users to create a visualized view of data to deliver easily digestible reports and dashboards, bringing a whole new experience to data reporting of complex analytics. Powerful API capabilities are available in Power BI, enabling integration with a vast array of applications and data sources.
One of the most compelling benefits of Power BI is the ability to combine multiple data sources into a single dashboard. For example, you could combine client demographic information from your marketing platform (eg: Mailchimp or HubSpot) with financial information from your accounting system (eg: Xero) and plot the resulting information on a map of Australia, offering new insight into where your most engaged and profitable clients are located.
What are Power Apps?
The Power Apps platform enables no-code creation of desktop and mobile applications by both developers and non-developers alike. This enables your business to creatively build powerful applications to solve everyday challenges without the need for heavy coding skills.
Even though Power Apps runs on a simple drag-and-drop interface to allow for low-coding app development, more advanced features and capabilities are available for more experienced app developers to utilise. Power App capabilities can be further extended with Microsoft Azure functions and the ability to connect to third party connectors and integrated apps.
What is Power Automate?
Formerly known as Microsoft Flow, Power Automate lets you create an automated environment with workflows so you can have a faster way of tackling daily tasks that you would have otherwise handled manually. No heavy coding skills are required. You can choose from a set of pre-defined templates to start your automated workflow but, if you’d like to start from scratch, you can do that too.
The simple drag-and-drop interface allows for an easy build of automated workflows that work by customising desired triggers and subsequent actions (e.g. emails, push notifications, chat alerts, etc) to follow.
This means less time, effort and resources being spent on repeat manual processes that can be automated, as well as reducing the risk for human error in these processes. If you have two or more existing applications that require manual human involvement to share information and activities, Power Automate can automate that for you.
What are Power Virtual Agents?
Power Virtual Agents is a bot building service for businesses that allows for no-code automated chat bot agents. With its drag-and-drop GUI, users can build the entire chatbot development cycle and integrate with chat channels like Teams and automated workflows from Power Automate to trigger job completions.
Power Virtual Agent chat bots can be used in a range of situations such as responding to client queries on your website or providing information and guidance to staff on an internal platform.
What applications can integrate with Power Platform?
There are quite literally hundreds of applications and data sources that the Power Platform can integrate with. As part of the Microsoft ecosystem, extensive integration is available with other Microsoft apps, as well as those in the Office 365 suite, such as SharePoint and Teams.
Numerous third-party app integrations are available, including Salesforce, Dropbox, Xero and Slack. For apps without any native integration with the Power Platform, custom APIs, data gateways and robotic automation provide powerful connectivity options for almost any situation.
How much does Power Platform cost?
The Microsoft Power Platform products are included in a Microsoft 365 Enterprise E5 subscription, which costs $78.30 per user per month. If you don’t have an E5 Enterprise subscription, you can easily upgrade your existing Microsoft 365 or Office 365 plan, or subscribe individually to each of the four Power Platform products.
There are three versions of Power BI currently available:
- Power BI Desktop
This version of Power BI can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Store on your Windows computer.
- Power BI Pro Service
Monthly fee of $12.90 per user which allows your account to be hosted on the cloud and maximise the use of Power BI features, like sharing content, collaborating with other Power BI Pro users and embedding the Power BI Dashboards in other web applications.
- Power BI Premium
The Premium version caters to businesses with larger data volumes that require multiple access to dashboards, reports and apps. The cost will depend on the number of users and deployment capacity.
Power Apps offers two licensing options for its standalone plan:
- Power Apps per plan - $10 per user/per app/per month
This allows for two apps and a single portal for every individual to access full capabilities of Power Apps. This is ideal for users that are getting started with the Power Apps platform before fully committing to the full-scale adoption.
- Power Apps per user plan - $40 per user/per month
This allows a user to run unlimited applications and access full capabilities of Power Apps.
Power Automate offers two licensing options for its standalone plan:
- Power Automate per user plan - $15 per user
This allows users to create unlimited workflows and business processes (source: docs.microsoft.com).
- Power Automate per flow - $500 per month/for up to 5 active flows ($100 per month for every additional active flow)
This allows for unlimited number of users to create a limited number of workflows.
Power Virtual Agents
Please reach out to us (or your own trusted IT consultant) to discuss pricing for Power Virtual Agent. Australian pricing for this product is not yet available as of writing.
Although each of the four products included in the Microsoft Power Platform serves a different purpose, they truly shine when used together across multiple business processes.
You can take advantage of Power Apps to build simple business applications, harness the benefits of automated processes with Power Automate, analyse your data in an easily digestible way with Power BI and engage with your community using automated chatbots with Power Virtual Agents – all without the need for heavy coding or software development skills.
How do I get started with Power Platform?
Microsoft has resources available on their website to help you learn more about the Power Platform products. If you require expert advice and assistance to utilise Microsoft Power Platform in your organisation, please reach out to us and we will be glad to help you work out how to use Power Platform to drive positive change in your business.