For years, pundits and vendors have predicted the democratization of data and the evolution of products built to help users gain a better understanding of the business. 2020 solidified many of these predictions. How are collaborative and connected applications like those in the Power Platform delivering on the promises in the old and new normal?
Prediction: The Rise of Low-Code Applications
Despite what people may say, coding isn’t easy. While one can learn, it takes a lot of time, effort, and searches on Stack Overflow to feel comfortable building an application. To address this, the past five years have given us the early age of the low-code and no-code applications.
In 2016, Forrester predicted that low-code would become a reality in a variety of segments and reach US$15.4 billion in revenue by 2020. The rise of low-code was built on the notion that it’s hard to find a developer. Many expected the skills gap would continue among developers, and they weren’t wrong.
If $15.4 billion sounded big, Globe Newswire predicts the market for low-code apps and automation is will exceed $50 Billion in 2024.
How Microsoft Made It Happen
Something we discussed earlier this year, there have been many attempts to bring low-code to the forefront. Few have been as successful as PowerApps. Introduced as part of the larger Power Platform, PowerApps is Microsoft’s answer to the low-code needs. PowerApps lets you build custom applications with simple point and click, drag and drop functionality that lets your people do more.
With low-code Power Apps, you can create custom applications for customers in just hours using simple drag-and-drop components and templates. This opens the door to new ways to expand your practice. Start small with one solution and then build out other scenarios and processes across the customer’s organization. You can also help customers create their own apps.
Prediction: Democratization of Data Science
A 2009 prediction from Hal Varian, professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Varian said that “the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians.”
In our article, Empowering the Citizen Data Scientist with Business Intelligence, we noted that while he was right—data science did become a sexy field—it’s likely he didn’t see just how unaffordable data scientists would become and how far technology would advance.
Business intelligence software isn’t new. A 2002 article in KM World touted a lending technology company’s graduation from spreadsheets and celebrated the ability to put data in the right hands to increase collaboration.
Both of these highlighted the need for analysis and the rise of tools to deliver. But in the words of Bill Gates, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”
Business intelligence democratization went far beyond ‘the ability of a billion-dollar firm to provide reports to stakeholders’ and statistical analysis went far beyond the role of the data scientist.
How Power BI Pushed the Data Democratization Issue
When Microsoft announced Power BI in 2015, the product had lofty goals. As discussed in a Solutions Review article, “the software aims to assist businesses create a culture of data within, putting information in the hands of more people, empowering them to gain never before seen insights.”
Did it deliver? Yes. Six months after announcing the product, Microsoft highlighted five trends in business intelligence, discussing terms like BI for Everyone, Self-Service Analytics, Integration, Mobility, and Real-Time Analytics.
BI for Everyone
Over the years, Microsoft continued to focus its innovation on these five areas, starting with BI for Everyone. The company was creating a market, and as our team noted, one of the biggest challenges was convincing users that something so cheap could be so robust.
“Most of the time when I speak to someone from a small company […] their first reaction is that it is something too fancy, or advanced, that their small company doesn’t really need. The second thing is, that it probably costs way too much for their small company. […]
When I speak to someone from a larger company […] a funny thing happens when they learn the cost associated to the product. Since there is no initial large purchase required, and the product price varies from free to just under ten dollars a month per user, they assume that it is a simple and not very advanced tool.”
But at that time, both statements were true. It was robust, it was affordable, and it was easy to use. It only got better. Microsoft built the accessible business intelligence market and pushed others to do the same.
Real-Time, Self-Serve, Mobile Analytics
The cloud-based BI reporting and visualization tools we know and love today have changed the way business leaders leverage data and make decisions. Part of Microsoft’s core focus was to deliver real-time analytics anytime and anywhere.
Built in the cloud, users gained access to real time data wherever they are. Built to integrate, users could even gain insights from on-premises products. Built for mobility, people could share reports and even dig into data from mobile devices. This has only gotten better throughout the years.
But user adoption and the democratization of data relied on Power BI delivering insights from the applications that were in use. Power BI makes this easy. Power BI is not just a visualization tool, it is a powerful analytical engine that can produce amazing insights.
But the real value comes in its flexibility. Excel spreadsheets, cloud services, streaming data, and on-premises databases—they all integrate into Power BI. With hundreds of integrations and a common language, businesses can get incredible value from their data, no matter where it lives or what form it’s in.
Prediction: The Rise of Digital Workforces and the Need for Connected Workflows
Though no one could predict the unprecedented year that was 2020, many feel it was just a hefty shove toward change. Even before this year, employees were getting tired of stressful commutes and roughly a quarter to a half of employees telecommuted occasionally.
Many had predicted a continuation of this trend, with more employees spending time at home instead of the office. Some companies had systems in place to handle this. Many didn’t. But as this year progressed, leaders stepped up—connecting their flows with Flow and their teams with Teams.
How Microsoft Power Automate and Teams Kept People Connected
By connecting people, processes, and technologies with affordable tools, even the least prepared companies were able to give their workforce a semblance of normalcy. Microsoft continued to deliver more functionality into teams, reducing the burden of collaboration and the tedium of emails.
But Teams only went so far. Companies needed to up their workflow game—and those using Flow made that happen. Microsoft Power Automate (formerly Flow) is a service that helps you create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data and more.
Microsoft Flow can do things as simple as sending you a push notification with today’s weather, notify you when a new file was added to a team OneDrive account, match a Tweet to a contact in your CRM, or you could initiate much more complex Flows using the AI Builder or the Common Data Service.
Empower Your People and Power Your Business
Microsoft continues to improve its applications and push the button on the business side. The Nadella era has rebuilt Microsoft and made it into a collaborative, technologically advanced, and empowering brand.
As a specialist in Microsoft applications and the Power Platform as a whole, MIBAR can help you to get Flow, PowerApps, and Power BI up and running so that you can do more. In the coming months, we will explore more about these applications, but if you are looking for assistance getting set up, get to know MIBAR. Contact us for more information.
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