The Ultimate Guide to Power Platform

This article offers a comprehensive review of Microsoft’s Power Platform and its underlying applications. 

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Aaron Klein

What is Power Platform?

Microsoft 365 has rolled out its version of a low-code no-code developer platform. The Power Platform integrates seamlessly within the Office 365 tenant and further enhances Dynamics 365 for all Microsoft clients. The platform consists of four main components: Microsoft PowerApps, Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. The low-code no-code strategy around developing is an asset to professional and novice developers. You can build automated business process workflows with your data quickly and securely. In this post, we will be giving a high-level overview of the solution to get you started in the Power Platform.

Power Platform integrates with Dynamics 365 Finance

Power Platform Terms to Know

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) – Covers governance, development and maintenance of all applications to provide a standardized system for communication and collaboration

Canvas App – A custom design-focused app built and managed from Power Apps. You can add dynamic components and arrange them based on what experience you want to present to the end-user and run from virtually anywhere.

Center of Excellence – Natural maintenance and organic growth support system that organizations can use to achieve business outcome goals and manage their tenant and users

Cloud Flow – This system allows a series of commands to be executed based on a trigger, ranging from a scheduled trigger, manual trigger, or a specified action item.

Dataverse – Data storage system that allows you to store and manage data used by business applications securely. 

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) – helps you prevent the unintentional or accidental sharing of sensitive information

Environment – This is the space where you keep, collect, and share business data, Power Apps, and flows. These typically consist of a sandbox (test) and production environment

Application Lifecycle Management– The maintenance of environments and their relevant applications.

Maker – The developer or creator

Model-driven App – Application design approach focuses on the data and content vs. overall aesthetic and end-user experience through little to no code.

Power Apps – Application development platform for custom apps

Power Automate (Flow) – Used for business processes and workflows

Power BI – Business analytics and reporting

Power Virtual Agents – Custom chatbots to answer questions for your customers

How to Manage Power Platform

All Microsoft clients have accessibility to the Center of Excellence (CoE) Starter Kit. The CoE drives innovation and development through standardized maintenance, governance, and consistency within a client’s tenant. The starter kit comprises numerous tools used for strategy, administration, adoption, governance, and nurture tools.

Center of Excellence

The primary toolset in the CoE consists of the Admin Center, Platform Extensions, Templates, and Customizations. These four items will ensure that you have adequate governance to manage the platform through automation and maintenance fully. This can be in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) flows, auditing, and reporting structures through Power BI.

Understanding Power Apps

Microsoft Power Apps is a suite of apps, services, connectors, and data platforms that allow users access to a development environment where you can build customs apps for your business’s needs. Apps built in Power Apps provide diverse business logic and workflow capabilities to transform manual business processes into digital, automated processes. Apps made in Power Apps have a responsive and intuitive design that allows them to run in browsers and mobile devices. Additionally, you can build Power Apps Portals to manage your data intake with clients and external users to further your end-to-end business process automation. The custom business app experience is enhanced by enabling citizen developers to build feature-rich, custom business apps without writing any code.

Understanding Power Apps
Pictured above is the studio editor when creating a Canvas App inside of Power Platform

Power Apps can interface across all Microsoft products seamlessly and efficiently to create robust process automation across businesses. This was the case for Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) when observing outdated, time-consuming, manual processes with their sales team. The sales teams and managers would often waste time through outdated paper processes to ensure sales professionals were properly allocated and on the sales floor throughout the day. Through the creation of a Canvas App they were able to develop their CheKowt app. Dozens of field managers can now check sales professionals’ locations within the store, manage breaks, and ensure there is a proper amount of sales team members on the floor at all times.


Once the CheKowt app was successful the NFM was able to continue to develop Apps for other pain points in their processes. They were able to streamline their sign-up processes that required sales professionals to register for cleaning and resetting specific areas within the store during closing procedures. They were previously photographing the map of the store and sending it to all department employees via email in order to communicate designated areas to sales professionals. These two apps scratch the surface of what NFM has been able to do within Power Apps, Microsoft Teams, and OneDrive to improve frontline workers’ delivery service anywhere. You can read more about their


Download the Power Platform Readiness List

Canvas Apps Versus Model Driven Apps

Makers can build two types of no-code/low-code applications: model driven and power apps. Both follow the theme of no-code/low-code, but the most significant differentiator is the overall appearance of the application.

Model-Driven apps enable users to design and develop data-driven apps to automate end-to-end business processes. The data backed by model-driven apps can be pulled from multiple sources, but often you will see them supported by Dataverse, which integrates with dual-write and Dynamics 365. These applications are going to model your business data and help you in defining your business processes further.

These applications typically derive from processes and are more data-dense. This makes it easier for an end-user to navigate the data and metadata. Model-driven apps are usually backed by the Dataverse, originating from an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD). Your ERD will comprise your entities (tables), attributes (descriptive facts), and relationships.

Power Apps Model Driven App
Pictured above is an example of a model-driven app inside of Microsoft's Power Platform

Canvas apps heavily focus on the overall aesthetic, design, and flexibility of the accessed apps, whether creating a mobile or tablet version. These apps are highly tailored applications and focused on the design components heavily. You will create these within Microsoft’s Canvas studio.

Canvas Apps can be connected from numerous data sources. These most common data sources are connected data sources (cloud), local data sources, or tables (Dataverse). When creating a Canvas App you can generate it from a template or choose a sample app from the Power Apps gallery.

The Power Platform allows developers to write business apps from a canvas without writing code in a traditional programming language such as C#. This is achieved through the drag and drop method, just like a slide in PowerPoint. Developers can utilize excel-like expressions for logic and data input and output. The Canvas apps allow you to express your creativity and generate an application that runs smoothly on mobile devices like phones and tablets.

Canvas App Example
Pictured above is an example of a Canvas App built on Microsoft's Power Platform

Canvas Apps consists of 6 major components. The gallery, screen, card, control, property, and function. The gallery is typically made up of all these components combined. For example, if you create a Power App from a SharePoint list you will get a default gallery already pre-built for you. In the screenshot below you can see that this Canvas App easily displays the data in a cumulative view.

Canvas Apps consists of 6 major components. The gallery, screen, card, control, property, and function. The gallery is typically made up of all these components combined. For example, if you create a Power App from a SharePoint list you will get a default gallery already pre-built for you. In the screenshot below you can see that this Canvas App easily displays the data in a cumulative view.

Canvas App Screen Example

Canvas Apps screens are a way to visualize specific sets of data or they allow you to input, edit, and delete data. You will almost always have a screen designated to view all entries that exist within a Canvas App.

Canvas App Cards

Within Canvas App’s screens, they are typically built up of numerous cards. Cards exist within the screen and they show you a given record from whatever data source you have selected. For example, below you will see the Image URL. This is a data card that resides within a Canvas App screen.

Canvas App Function

Power Apps can be complemented by Power Apps Portals built within the Dataverse. Power Apps Portals allow organizations to securely target users outside of their organization and interact with your data. 


Understanding Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s tool to visualize and transform data using the Microsoft Power Platform to unify and scale the platform for self-service and enterprise business intelligence (BI) in a way that allows you to understand the data on a deeper level. Power BI will enable you to drive your organization forward based on data-driven decisions that enhance and support change. The complex data visualizations allow your organization to consume and transform data more efficiently. This unique tool compliments the rest of the Power Platform by granting the end-users or report readers digestible data seamlessly.

Power BI Dashboards

Power BI data visualizations allow you to push your business forward by connecting raw numbers and data. By transforming your data through Power BI reports, you can leverage a tool that will enable you to tell a story well represented through charts, graphs, Power Apps, and more. You can see the bigger picture, make informed decisions, track trends, and identify significance within data as an organization.

When COVID-19 struck Microsoft was dedicated to providing strong interactive visualizations as a part of Microsoft AI for Health. This is an initiatives that focuses on improving health globally. These data visualizations pull data from organizations like the World Health Organization, New York Times, and CDC Data Tracker. You can interact with these data visualizations to learn more about the spread analysis, testing rates, and risk levels here.

Microsoft provides some key questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out if a data visualization solution is the right fit for your business need:

  • What are your goals and needs?
  • What features do you require?
  • Where will your data come from?
  • Where will you need to see your data?
  • Where would you like to publish your data?

Understanding Power Automate

Microsoft’s Power Automate is formerly known as Microsoft flow. This tool is built to streamline repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This tool allows businesses to automate various tasks and will enable you to focus on higher-value business needs. Power Automate will enable you to automate processes quickly, securely, and efficiently. The tools themselves will allow the maker to record and visualize your end-to-end processes to boost efficiency. Power Automate compliments the rest of the suite to connect existing and intake data streams.

Microsoft Power Automate Screen Example

Retiring legacy systems and merging old data into new data is a prevalent issue across businesses of all sizes. Through Power Automate Desktop, customers like T-Mobile have integrated their manual steps and enhanced their customer initiatives and promotion systems by integrating with APIs and saving time.  When T-Mobile merged with Sprint they needed to merge their Orbit app with Sprint’s legacy back-end system. One of their biggest challenges was the incompatibility with legacy API’s. Through RPA and a UI-based approach, they were able to eliminate API’s and turn manual tasks into automated workflows with human-driven interaction. You can read more about the technical side of the integration here.   


Power Automate Versus Desktop Cloud

Power Automate cloud and desktop enable users to automate tedious, time-consuming tasks to focus on where it’s most important. The most significant difference between the two is the native integration vs. web-based tool. Power Automate Cloud has various triggers and templates that enable users to learn the platform.  Power Automate Desktop takes automation up a notch because of its more intricate integration with a computer’s desktop software based on clicks or other items.

Automating Business Process Flows

One attribute to Power Automate is leveraging automation in business process flows. Through automation, people can ensure that the data is consistent and follows the same path whenever working with a customer. Business process flows allow people to see the steps outlined to get them to the desired outcome.

Your primary components are stages and steps within a business process flow. Each location has a predetermined outline of steps it must follow. As a Maker, you can specify and manage data intake requirements within each stage. Business process flows are relatively straightforward compared to other processes. Still, they can be combined with other methods and customizations, saving people time, increasing adoption, and cost savings.

Microsoft Power Automate

Automate routine tasks anywhere within your organization.

Understanding Power Virtual Agents

Microsoft’s Power Virtual agents created intelligent chatbots to enhance the Power Platform’s other three components and strengthen the customer service experience. When organizations enable Power Virtual Agent, it can help you streamline how you answer questions for your customers, employees, and potential new clients who visit your website or service. Power Virtual Agents can build more intelligent, powerful bots and empower your employees to enhance customer service.

Guide to Microsoft Power Automate

The Hard Rock Stadium in Miami hosts the NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, and a wide range of events throughout the year. The Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium have connected their customers to find what they need faster through Power Virtual Agents through this service agreement. One of the biggest priorities for their organization was to meet their customers where they were looking for information. When COVID-19 hit, they experienced a massive surge of call volume, as did many other organizations. They could counter some of that call volume through a Power Virtual Agent to vet commonly asked questions. 

Understanding Data Verse

Microsoft’s Dataverse is their version of a Common Data Model that operates behind the Microsoft Power Platform, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 Applications. When trying to understand the Dataverse it’s easiest to think of it as one giant table with smaller tables inside of it. Within that giant table, you can specify how that data interacts and relates with each other. Once your data is built and imported into Dataverse you can then transform it utilizing Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents.

The Dataverse was engineered to interact with any type of data so that it can be easily managed, secure, and easy to transform across other Microsoft products. In turn, it also integrates with other systems and data to allow you to fully take advantage of data transformation.

You can schedule integration with other systems and keep it up to date with regular synchronization in addition to one-time imports. You can leverage these through Dataverse’s REST-based API, developer DSK or writing custom code. With Dataverse you have the ability to interface with any tool or application that your employees utilize for an inclusive database.

Microsoft Power Platform & Dynamics 365

Azure and Power Platform

By enabling the Power Platform within Dynamics 365, you unlock the ability to Dual write within both platforms. This setup can save organizations serious time through the automation and syncing of tables, data, and application enhancements. Additionally, you can transform your environment strategy by mapping the two together.

Many opportunities become unlocked with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform integration. One of those being business events, these allow you to receive notifications from Dynamic 365 Finance and Operations applications which can be automated further leveraging Power Automate flow to modify those events. This will enable you to see events happening in any app like Finance, Supply Chain Management, Sales, and more. In relation to business events, data events can also be brought to attention more efficiently. This could be a change to a record inside of Finance and Operations or a notification whenever it is manipulated to enhance transparency.

Extending Dynamics 365 With Power Platform

Learn how extending Dynamics 365 applications using Microsoft's Power Platform can benefit your business


When observing the Microsoft Power Platform, it’s vital to keep its current state and future state in mind. This tool can be leveraged to enhance your organization’s goals and promote long-term cost savings as it continues to grow within your IT Department and organization. The Power Platform has tremendous opportunities to continuously improve what’s new and next. The next step to implementing the Microsoft Power Platform is evaluating your organization’s readiness and seeing the products live. You can schedule a Power Platform demo today!

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