Thousands of enhancements released twice a year. That’s the promise Microsoft made regarding its Dynamics and Power Platform applications. In this, Wave 2 represents the series of improvements made between October 2019 and March 2020, and this wave certainly does not disappoint.
While we can’t cover every single item in the nearly 200-page document, we are excited to announce some of our favorite additions and discuss how these will help you do more, see more, and work faster. Let’s get started.
What is the Power Platform?
The Microsoft Power Platform was initially designed as a series of add-ons to Microsoft Products, but has evolved since then to exist and thrive on their own. Whether you need to build an application, slice, dice, and visualize complex data, or automate workflows, these products deliver affordably.
Power Platform applications—Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow—connect to all your Microsoft applications, offer pre-built connections for a variety of third-party ones, and can be easily customized and connected by Microsoft Partners to deliver the exact functionality you need.
As discussed, these applications have continued to evolve, both in the form of twice-yearly updates and consistent improvements made by community members.
The AI Builder: Delivering Artificial Intelligence to the Power Platform
AI is a big deal, and Microsoft is working to incorporate it into future releases. In Wave 2, Microsoft is featuring an AI Builder Preview, a brand-new Power Platform capability for teams with the business expertise to easily automate processes and predict outcomes to improve business performance.
AI Builder is a turnkey solution that brings the power of Microsoft AI through a point-and-click experience and is directly integrated into PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. You can now build AI without knowing programming or data science. A few examples of how AI Builder will deliver:
- AI-Empowered Microsoft Flow: Flow makers can create flows that parse content from a PDF form or classify the objects in an image.
- AI Builder for PowerApps: AI Builder will continue to improve, but in today’s release, users will have the ability to leverage binary classification (predict one of two outcomes based on historical data), text classification (tag any snippet of text based on historical data), object detection (locate selected objects in an image), business card OCR (scan business cards), and process forms.
Learn more about use cases for AI Builder in the Power Platform here, and learn more about the rise of the citizen developer from a recent MIBAR blog.
What’s New in PowerApps?
PowerApps gives your people the ability to build custom applications with simple point and click, drag and drop functionality that lets your people do more. In Wave 2, the additional functionality was built around both ease of use for traditional end users and advanced functionality for power users.
Improvements in PowerApps focus not only on introducing capabilities but also on simplifying existing concepts to improve maker and end-user productivity in PowerApps and Dynamics 365 apps built upon the Unified Interface.
In addition to the AI Builder enhancements listed above, PowerApps will feature a scalable solution that can deliver for enterprises, leverage the Unified interface, and offer an integrated experience for end users, makers, and analysts. But one of the most exciting additions? PowerApps Portals.
One of the key additions to this platform in Wave 2 was a new experience called PowerApps Portals: web portals that surface data stored in Common Data Service to employees or users outside their organizations.
As part of this feature, PowerApps and Dynamics 365 makers can create a new type of app called Portals to create a website that can be extended to users who are outside your organization and can sign in with a wide variety of identities, or even browse the content anonymously. With these new capabilities, makers can deliver rich, web-based experiences to users far beyond their fellow employees, unlocking a host of business scenarios for employees, business to business (B2B) partners, and end customers.
Wave 2 Enhancements for Microsoft Flow
If you’ve ever used automation apps like IFTTT or Zapier, but wanted even more than these powerful applications could provide, then Microsoft Flow is for you.
Microsoft Flow is the popular process automation and workflow product from Microsoft. Every month, over a million people automate everything from simple notifications to highly tailored multi-step approval processes spanning organizational boundaries.
Flow fits into your business processes, whether you need a single trigger-action relationship or want to automate a complex multi-step process like our client Dexmet Corporation.
Between October and December, Flow will feature improvements that make connections more intelligent and easier to use, give administrators more power to customize, and deliver expanded business process capabilities.
Power BI: Continued improvements to an Already-Powerful BI Solution
The longest-standing application in the Power Platform, Power BI transforms paper and screen based output into a rich interactive experiences that are low cost and high value. Easily build and share reports with a centralized data experience, collaborate with other users in your organization, and free yourself from data silos.
As the application has continued to evolve, Wave 2 delivers a variety of rich, user-friendly features while expanding availability and improving its connections with other applications. The focus of Wave 2 revolves around Microsoft’s ability to provide self-service analytics for anyone, enable global organizations with an enterprise BI, connect traditionally disparate applications through Azure data services, and leverage AI-empowered BI solutions.
Advancements are spread across Power BI including Power BI Pro, Power BI Desktop, Power BI Embedded, Power BI Mobile, and Power BI Report Server. Notably, Power BI relies on a monthly release schedule, and many of the improvements are planned.
- Power BI Desktop: With each monthly release, Microsoft Power BI Desktop continues to deliver simple, intuitive experiences that make authoring content easier and provide powerful tools to create amazing experiences for report users. Improvements include the ability to add live data to PowerPoint, easier use for users, improved infrastructure, and better authoring experiences.
- Power BI Embedded: Power BI Embedded enables developers of SaaS services and enterprise portals to embed stunning interactive reports and dashboards. Power BI Embedded will continue to support large-scale enterprise BI deployments with rich tooling and a focus on performance to enable at-scale solution management, using either Power BI or an external application.
- Power BI Mobile: Power BI Mobile continues to support data-driven cultures within organizations by providing access to business data, anytime, anywhere, and from any device. Microsoft is continually focused on delivering simple, fast, and intuitive experiences to get business users more engaged with their data and to collaborate with others to share their insights.
- Power BI Report Server: Power BI Report Server provides customers with the flexibility to deploy reporting on-premises for circumstances where they are unable to use the cloud service due to various compliance or policy reasons. Focuses in these improvements include bringing most of the reporting, modeling, and analytics capabilities of Power BI reports available in the Power BI Desktop.
It would be implausible to improve the Power Platform without making improvements to the integration capabilities.
For both Microsoft and third-party apps, this is done through the Common Data Model, designed to provide a seamless experience for companies looking to extract, transform, and load data into Common Data Service and Azure Data Lake Storage from any data source, and to provide structure and meaning to that data through the Common Data Model.
Microsoft has focused its enhancements on the following areas:
- Common Data Model: Establishes industry-wide structure and semantics of underlying data so that customers can then reason about that data through various business application solutions, analytics, and machine learning (ML) algorithms. In this milestone, we will extend the reach of the Common Data Model through SDKs and object models to support developers and partners, better in-product experiences, and more.
- Power Platform Dataflows: Power Query is the industry-leading smart data preparation tool and evolves by infusing AI and ML into data transformations, and by extending dataflows to all of the Microsoft Power Platform.
- Enable analytics on Common Data Service data: Enhanced data integration through Office data integration, new and enhanced connectors, improvements to the connectivity platform, extending Dual Write, improving the data export service, and enhancing on-premises gateways for enterprises.
Check out all the improvements here and get to know more about why the Common Data Model is so important here.
Empower Your Business: Make the Most of Your Power Platform Applications with Help from MIBAR
At MIBAR, we’ve long specialized in delivering Microsoft products for our customers. What started with a focus on Dynamics has continued to evolve, and we’ve quickly become a leading provider of services for companies who want to make the most of Power Platform applications.
Whether it was our Power BI and Dynamics GP integration for AP&G, our ability to help Wildlife Trading Company make a seamless transition from Pre-NetSuite sales data to current data using Power BI, our success helping Dexmet Corporation see a 50% savings in storage costs by optimizing their Dynamics CRM with Microsoft Flow, or one of the many other clients for whom we don’t have a case study, we know a thing or two about the Power Platform.
Get to know more about how to make your business more successful with the Power Platform. Contact us to learn more.