Okay, I know it has been a while since I wrote a post. It’s been a very busy time, and since Mark Smith and I started do a weekly live show, I felt the base was sort of covered. But people have pointed out that my retweeter has run out of fresh content, so I am compelled to write this.
So I had a last minute change of plans, and headed over to Ignite for the first few days. Wow! It was the Power Platform show. If you have not been looking at the Power Platform yet, that train has left the station. Now you will have to run to catch up, but you better do just that. BAG is pouring the lion’s share of their investment into all things “Power”. There is no “catching your breath”, more things announced at Ignite, while we are still digesting the last things. The least interesting announcement was the official name change of Microsoft Flow to Power Automate… or as I like to call it, “Powerate” or “Pautomate”, we’ll see which one I can make stick… just to annoy Alysa. For now, let’s look at a couple of the real things that James announced in his post.
Power Virtual Agents
Finally we have accessible bots. Accessible because they are code-less. Yes, get used to hearing that term. Up until now, we have had the bot framework, but that was over the heads of too many. The new Power Virtual Agents provides an easy interface for creating simple to complex bots without a single line of code. It is in preview, so you can play with it today. Get ready for bots to take over the world now that anybody can build them. Hmm, maybe this is not a good thing…
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
This one will be interesting, and probably mostly Enterprise focused. Basically not everything out there has an API. Yes, believe it or not, there are many legacy applications in the wild that the only way to interact with them is via the UI. Mostly desktop, but even some web-based applications have no API. So there is this potential siloed data store, and we can’t have that in the CDS age. Microsoft has introduced UI Flows, their name for their RPA solution built on Selenium. Seems like it should have been called “Power UI Flows“, but it will probably change a few times anyway. It is interesting to see how far Microsoft has come, now building on top of open-source software, that was once called a “Cancer” by former CEO Steve Ballmer.
Clearly, Microsoft wants to “own” your desktop real estate. You can’t “own” it with a Power App alone, but you could own it with Teams… if it allowed you to do everything you needed from within it. So the Teams integration continues to see love from Microsoft. I have been on several enterprise calls lately where Microsoft was demoing Power Apps. I was caught off-guard when they launched Teams, and worked with the Power App entirely from there. As Power Platform SIs and ISVs we need to be taking note of this shift. I think it may quickly become “the way” people engage with our apps.
Her’s another one that probably should have been called “Power AI“, and may have some name changes also. Here we go again, code-less AI, utilizing pre-built templates that Microsoft has created. I have had a few discussions on my “Steve has a Chat” series with Microsoft leaders about the challenge of getting AI off the ground. Everybody wants it, but it was a lot of work to deploy. Well, heavy-duty AI is still going to be a lot of work to deploy, but you can have some simple, yet high value, AI in an hour now, with these templates. It’s all about creating the addiction.
I sat in on a couple of sessions by Microsoft people. Sessions that I had seen previously at UG Summit. It is interesting how they slant the narrative for a different audience. At UG Summit, which is primarily end-users, it was all about “You don’t need a developer to do any of this“, at Ignite which has a huge developer crowd, the same slide was presented as “The Citizen can’t do shit without developers“. I’ll keep watching this dance play out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one comparing notes.
Lately, there seems to have been some angst created in Enterprise IT departments with how Microsoft is pushing Power Platform directly to the end-users closest to the business. There were a lot of sessions and focus on this at Ignite. Clearly, Microsoft knows that if they gave IT a switch to turn things on, they would never do it. So let’s pivot the conversation, and they had several large IT organizations up talking about how their businesses have changed for the better by fostering this motion, instead of fighting it. In one session I saw, Ryan Cunningham had the best possible answer to the question of new “Shadow IT”: a single slide showing the Office 365 Login screen. Controlled by Azure Active Directory, “Shadows” are not really possible. Mic drop!
Adding a space
One minor item, that got almost lost in the buzz, was the space added to the name “PowerApps“, it is now officially “Power Apps“. It may seem insignificant, but it is another “alignment” for the future of “Power”. I have it on good authority that we will see more “Power things” in the future. I can’t wait!