In this article, you will learn what business benefits your organization will take thanks to the Power Platform. Power Platform is a Microsoft Low-Code platform that improves company business processes (if you do not know what Low-Code is, I encourage you to read my post on this topic). I grouped these benefits according to how quickly your organization will experience these benefits. For that, I used the “n-th order thinking” approach, which I discuss later in this article. You’ll learn:
- What is “n-th order thinking”?
- What benefits will you notice immediately when working with the Power Platform?
- What benefits will be revealed after the first month of using a Power Platform solution in the organization?
- Strategic goals in implementing Power Platform solutions?
For over two years I’ve been regularly realizing what Low-Code is and why it is so crucial for business development. I talk about its impact on the future of the labor market at the largest IT conferences in Poland and abroad, I appear at webinars and give lectures for students.
But just like the mythological hydra, as soon as I deal with one issue, three new ones appear in its place.
Hence today’s topic. However, it will be based on the example of the Power Platform. Without going into details (at least for now), Power Platform is Microsoft’s No-Code / Low-Code platform. I’ve always been associated with Microsoft technologies and have the most practical experience in them. And this experience will be necessary for this article.
So, after this lengthy introduction, let’s get straight to the point.
Why Why Why Why
I confess to you something. 90% of the completed projects were characterized by the decision-maker on the client’s side decided to start the project on the basis of “frustration-driven development” or “f*ckup-driven development”. In such projects, the person in the C-level role or the senior executive says one of the two things, depending on the option:
1. “the process is so dragging and so long that it is unacceptable. The company loses money because of it”
2. “again, someone has not synchronized these excels and one has to go back to the beginning of the process to fix the error. This is unacceptable because the company is losing money”
What makes such people decide to implement low-code tools such as Power Platform? Could this decision be made earlier?
Some time ago, an R&D manager at an international logistics company asked me:
- Michael, I understand everything you said and for me the implementation of the Power Platform in our organization makes sense! But how can I convince our CTO that the entire company needs these solutions? How will the generated benefits affect the way the company operates? How can I show him that the value of the Power Platform has a strategic dimension?
I smiled at first because the answer was obvious to me. But after a while, the smile turned to embarrassment. I realized that in the context of the Power Platform, and of all No-Code / Low-Code approach movement in general, there was a lot of talk about the obvious benefits – fast implementation, low cost – but little about the second and third-order benefits. And they are crucial for the organization. In fact, all these improvements: mobile applications, document flow automation, process robotization, and live real-time reports do not make sense without a deeper understanding.
WHY OUR BUSINESS NEEDS THESE SOLUTIONS?
WHAT BUSINESS BENEFITS WOULD WE TAKE BY USING POWER PLATFORM?
N-th order thinking
The concept of “n-th order thinking” is not new, but for those unfamiliar with it, a quick explanation.
Your every action produces some effects. When you create an interesting e-book, your subscribers will download it. This is the first order sequence. But what will happen next? What will be the second-order result? Well, for example, people who downloaded the e-book will buy your product from you.
And this is not a surprise, of course. Many people can see up to this level. On the other hand, with successive effects, the number of people who can predict them decreases. Will you simplify people’s lives by purchasing your product? Will they learn something that will be useful to them in other areas of life?
We would call such thinking a few steps ahead “strategic”. Chess players are strategists. They think about 3-4 moves ahead. Moreover, in chess there is something called “gambit”, i.e. sacrificing one or more pieces to get a better position. And this play reflects the real art of n-th order thinking:
A lot of extraordinary things in life are the result of things that are first-order negative, second-order positive. So just because things look like they have no immediate payoff, doesn’t mean that’s the case.(Second-Order Thinking: What Smart People Use to Outperform) https://fs.blog/2016/04/second-order-thinking/
In this article, I will introduce you to the first, second, and third-order business benefits that your company achieves with the No-Code / Low-Code solutions using the Power Platform.
First-Order business benefits
First-order business benefits are all the benefits that we are able to measure when building solutions based on the Power Platform. Such benefits include, for example, the openness of the Power Platform to integration with other systems and applications. With over 450 connectors, the application or flow can use information from other softwares – not only those from Microsoft. Thanks to this one can create and design business processes, even in a distributed ecosystem of IT applications. Importantly, Power Platform secures data transmission by asking the user to grant access to the application on his behalf. In other words, if your Power Apps application connects to the user’s mailbox, you can be sure that he will only see his emails, not his friend. It is worth adding that the user’s consent, the created ecosystem of applications and solutions, requires only one login and password from the user.
Another immediate benefit is the speed of building solutions. No-Code / Low-Code solutions are characterized by the possibility of building professional solutions without coding. Instead of code, ready-made components are used and moved to the screen using the drag-and-drop. Thanks to this, it is possible to implement projects in up to 8 times shorter construction time compared to standard programming (why 8 times, and not e.g. 10 times or 12 times? which I would need to write the same application in C # in the days when I was programming).
It is also important that building No-Code / Low-Code solutions can and even should deal with the so-called Citizen Developers, i.e. people who, being the so-called Process Owners perfectly understand the streamlined process, its business environment, its weaknesses and challenges, and they also know to what extent the business assumptions concerning the process can be changed.
On the one hand, this relieves the IT department, and on the other, it allows to reduce the number of people in the solution delivery chain. The fewer people in the supply chain, the less misunderstandings that always happen.
Finally, it should be added that Power Platform has a wide range of management and analysis tools. The Administration Center has a lot of information about the environment and allows you to manage user permissions or connectors available in the organization that can be used to build solutions. An example of an analysis tool is the Center of Excellence, which analyzes and provides all information about users, entitlements, application use, active flows, licenses, etc.
Second-Order business benefits
We will talk about second-order business benefits in the context of IT projects when they can be noticed only after the “GO LIVE” solution. Of course, the most frequently quoted value is the higher productivity of employees, e.g. by automating the circulation of documents and consents for business trips, it allowed to save a total of 10 hours of work per week for all people involved in the process.
Another advantage is reducing the susceptibility to errors – paper or excel will accept any information, but the application only as we allow it. For this, we can conditionally force some data to be completed before saving the form. Such increased precision increases the efficiency of the employees involved in the process.
In the Power Platform, data can go to one commonplace. Information provided by the user in the application or processed by Power Virtual Agent or Power Automate can be properly aggregated and standardized to create the so-called Single Source of Truth. And it will be possible thanks to the fact that we do not have data scattered over various, independent applications. At each stage of the process, we can check the current status of information. There is no situation when we do not know what is happening with a given piece of information. The worst possible situation is when, when calling with a complaint, the X system provider says that their system has left the information, and the Y system provider says that nothing went to their system – in the case of a consistent ecosystem such as Power Platform, we will not have such a situation.
And when it comes to the so-called vendor-dependency, i.e. dependence on the supplier, the Power Platform also has an unusual value to offer. The entire build environment and the applications themselves reside in the client’s environment. In addition, the idea of No-Code / Low-Code is the simplicity of implementation, therefore Power Platform solutions can be maintained inside the client’s organization. “In-house maintenance” is very profitable from the business perspective – any change of data or updating the solution does not require paying for expensive maintenance with the supplier.
Finally, I want to mention one more advantage, which is influenced by the high efficiency of the building and implementing changes in Power Platform solutions. It is about the possibility of conducting agile analyzes, prototyping, and building Proof of Concept or Minimum Viable Product solutions. Prototyping and PoC or MVP projects focus on the verification of business assumptions – the faster and with less work we are able to achieve it, the better. And if such PoC reveals that the selected platform is not the best, have you wasted your time? Absolutely not! Any analytical conclusions or even mockups can be easily used later, regardless of the technology chosen. For this reason, starting the project with Low-Code (instead of the standard PoC or MVP coding), we can save a lot of time if the project will be further implemented in the Power Platform, or in the worst case (if it turned out that you would have to choose to program in C # or React) we won’t lose a second.
Third-Order business benefits
So let’s say you’ve delivered the first application in your organization. Once you’ve done that then probably you’ve polish the implementation process drill as well. So now, you can start repeating the process and deliver more apps one after another, or maybe even share your knowledge to other people in your company and implement many apps at once. At some point in time you may have not one or ten apps but 100 apps and more. And that’s good! You now have a control over all apps through one place – Power Platform has its own dashboards and you can also take the usage of Center of Excellence.
Another aspect that reveals itself sometime after implementation is that the data collected and normalized in one common place can then be analyzed and displayed on the Power BI report. Thanks to this, we will be able to manage the organization due to data-driven development, e.g. when we notice that candidates employed from source X for junior positions produce the best results in implementation projects, we can decide to stop searching for these roles from other sources.
Since Power Platform has over 400 connectors for various systems at its disposal (and you can extend this number with your own connectors), you have access to data from the entire organization. And this is a step towards aggregating data into a Single Source of Truth and laying the foundations for the creation of the Executive Control Cockpit – i.e. such a company management panel. Because the management board is interested in indicators of a different type than people operationally involved in lower organizations. Often, information is also required from linking different data from different places in the organization – Power Platform projects are the fastest and most effective way to do such work.
Importantly, the benefits do not end there. Because having a standardized single data source, structured processes in the company, and automated key operations, we can focus on collecting and analyzing data. Such a way is a highway towards serious Data Intelligence, and the best way to develop an organization. Artificial intelligence, based on analyzing data, is able to see things that are time-consuming to achieve by a human.
Example? Based on the shots fired from the shooting range, used calibration missiles, and the components used to create a ballistic system, artificial intelligence will tell us which missiles, what gunpowder and how many casings of which type is best to order, what materials will allow for the fastest obtaining of the desired measurement parameters and what costs the organization should predict next year. A concrete example, also taken from real life.
To sum up the business value in Power Platform projects:
1st order business benefits:
- Possibility to create solutions in an environment with many independent solutions
- Security of communication and data transfer
- It enables the construction of applications, automation, and robotization without programming skills
- It engages a new role: Citizen Developers
- It has management and analysis tools
- Easier user access management
2nd order business benefits:
- It has a positive effect on the productivity of teams and the efficiency of the company’s processes
- It reduces the susceptibility to human error
- Single Source of Truth is born
- Development and maintenance solutions “in-house”
- Perfect for PoC or MVP projects
3rd order business benefits:
- Company Applications Hub that keeps all of your company apps and allow to control them from the one place
- Data aggregation and normalization within Single Source of Truth allows for the construction of the Executive Control Cockpit
- The results of the analysis and mockups can still be used, later it turns out that another technology is involved
- Building Data Intelligence solutions based on aggregated, structured and standardized data in the organization
Hopefully, with this post, you will feel more confident entering Low-Code technologies: especially Microsoft Power Platform. You will be like an experienced hockey player who knows that you should not be where the puck is, but where the puck is yet to be.
And finally, I have one last request – share your opinion in the comments. How many steps forward do you think is the most sensible way of looking at IT projects? What is your experience with Power Platform or other Low-Code projects?