Driving value, lowering costs, and building your organization’s future with Microsoft’s next great business technology

Lately, I’ve been helping folks understand the Microsoft Power Platform (MPP) by sharing two simple diagrams.

The first one is below and is my stab (others have made theirs) at contextualizing the platform’s various components in relation to one another.

The Common Data Service (CDS) is the real magic, I tell people. No matter which app you are using, the data lives there in that one CDS across your entire environment. (And no, folks outside your organization don’t get to use it.) This means that data available to one of your apps can be re-used and re-purposed by your other apps, no wizardry or custom integration required. I promise, it just works. Think expansively about the power of this in your organization, and you’ll come up with some cockamamie/brilliant ideas about what you can do.

These are the types of data-driving-business-function that geeks like me always dreamed of.

A diagram of Microsoft Power Platform components

Then there’s PowerApps, in purple. Most folks think of this as a low-code/no-code app development tool. It is, but it’s more. Imagine that there are three flavors of PowerApps:

  1. Dynamics 365, which in the end is a set of really big PowerApps developed by Microsoft
  2. COTS apps developed by Microsoft partners (including AIS), available for organizations to license and use
  3. Custom apps you build yourself

Point Microsoft PowerBI at all of this, then mash it up with data from outside of your CDS that you get to via hundreds of out-of-the-box connectors, automate it all together with workflows in Flow…and you’ve got Power Platform in a nutshell.

When I’m presenting this to a group, I turn to my next slide pretty quickly at this point.

A rearranged look at Microsoft Power Platform

Here I’ve essentially re-arranged the pieces to make my broader point: When we think about the Power Platform, the emphasis needs to be on the Platform bit. When your organization invests in this technology, say via working with an implementation partner such as AIS or purchasing PowerApps P1/P2 licenses, you’re not just getting a product or a one-off app solution.

What you’re getting is a platform on which to build your modern business. You’re not just extending Office 365. Instead, you’re creating a future where your organization’s data and business processes are deeply integrated with, driving, and learning intelligently from one another.

The more you leverage the platform, the higher the ROI and the lower the marginal costs of those licenses become. A central goal of any implementing partner ought to be guiding organizations on the journey of migrating legacy systems onto the platform (i.e., retiring legacy licensing + O&M costs) and empowering workers to make the platform even more valuable.

We don’t invest in one-off apps anymore, i.e. a CRM in one corner of your network where you run your sales, something in another where you manage your delivery, clunky Human Resources Management off over there where you take care of your people, etc.. No, what we care about here is the platform where you integrate all of the above — not through monolithic one-size-fits-all ERP — but rather through elegant app experiences across all your users’ devices that tie back to that magical Common Data Service.

This is what I mean when I tell folks sky’s the limit, and thinking about your entire business is what’s called for here. It’s because Power Platform gives us the ability to learn and grow with our customers, constituents, vendors, employees, and other stakeholders like never before.

That’s what has everyone at Microsoft so excited. I am as well.

I want to learn from you. How do you make Power Platform understandable to those who haven’t thought about it too deeply? How does your organization make it valuable as a platform rather than just a product? I love to build beautiful things, so inspire me!

Join us tomorrow for a free webinar with AIS’ CTO and Microsoft MVP Vishwas Lele on Microsoft PowerApps and Flow. This webinar is designed to show you how to easily create PowerApps applications, and how to best take advantage of the recently introduced PowerApps custom visual for Power BI.

Vishwas will showcase a PowerApps application that is essentially a “portal” for existing Line of Business Enterprise Applications (inventory, contracts, etc.) and Services (Dynamics, O365, DropBox, etc.) Through the use of PowerApps features like the out-of-the-box connectors, integration with Flow and mobile enablement, you’ll learn how easy it is to build an app that allows users to have all the information they need in one location and on the device of their choice.

The webinar kicks off TOMORROW at 10 a.m. ET. Watch it right here or on Microsoft’s Power BI YouTube.

Steve Michelotti and I presented a session on AzureGov last week at Microsoft Ignite 2017 in Orlando. It focused on demonstrating the innovative capabilities in AzureGov that are specifically designed to help government agencies with their mission. We dedicated about 80% of the session to live demos.

Steve started out with a brief description of AzureGov and how to get started…along with some recent news announcements, including API Management and Key Vault. Steve then quickly transitioned into demos related to Cognitive Services, Azure IOT and Power BI. I conducted two demos related to Cosmos DB Graph database and the CNTK deep learning algorithm on an N Series GPU machine.

Please watch the video below and let us know if you have any questions.

Recently we collaborated with Microsoft and Prospect Silicon Valley (ProspectSV) on a project to assess the viability and value of several Azure services. Specifically, we were asked to demonstrate how the cloud-based platform could be used to retrieve, store, visualize and predict trends based on data from multiple sources. In order to demonstrate these capabilities, we built an ASP.NET MVC application leveraging the following Azure components:

  • Azure App Services
  • Azure Machine Learning
  • Azure Power BI Embedded
  • Azure Storage

Figure 1: ProspectSV Application Architecture depicts how the system uses these four Azure components. This diagram also describes which external data sources are used and where that data is stored.
Read More…

When you read about the Internet of Things, you often hear about connected cars, connected kitchen appliances, small devices that let you order things quickly, or other consumer-grade applications. In this post, I will quickly describe a recent IoT project I worked on where the devices are not small consumer-grade sensors…they are large industrial manufacturing machines.

In this case, machines arranged on a shop floor are responsible for cutting metal into various shapes. These machines must be both very powerful and very precise, and they have robotic arms that are programmed to grip specialized tools for this activity. These machines use the MT Connect protocol as the language for communicating their operational status and the results of any action taken. On collection, the data is streamed to a collection point for analysis. In older machines, adapters are installed to stream the machine’s data using the common language.

Our work on this project helped the engineers identify optimal cut times by analyzing the machine activity data. First, we needed to enhance the collection process so that all data was readily available, then apply the appropriate business rules to identify cut time, and finally provide quick, actionable feedback on the outcome. Read More…

Data Analytics, Cortana Intelligence Suite, Data Visualization The Cortana Intelligence Suite is a fully managed data analytics platform that offers a range of services aimed at helping businesses find meaning in all of the data they are collecting. This post will dive into the services that are offered by the platform. Prior to discussing these services in detail, let’s take a quick lap around data analytics specific to goals, what to expect when building and maturing a competency for your business, and challenges businesses experience while on this journey. After laying this groundwork, we’ll discuss the Cortana Intelligence Suite in a bit more detail and provide a list of the services offered by the platform. Additionally, we’ll cover how the Cortana Intelligence Suite can offer the tools needed to implement a robust strategy to address the key challenge areas we’ve described. Read More…