2021-02-22

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been taking my first steps in learning about the Power Platform with a view towards passing the PL-900 Microsoft exam. My initial problem was where to begin! This triggered a bunch of questions. Where do I find valuable resources and training materials to set me on the right track? What is my preferred method of learning? We all learn and retain information in different ways, some prefer reading and making notes, but I’m more of a ‘practical’ learner and learn best by following visually and executing tasks myself.

First of all, I already have a fundamental concept of the Power Platform and the Microsoft 365 products available (essentially I know what they are used for) from my time assisting and running conferences with the Collab365 team. I have (at the time of writing this blog) over 300+ sessions and training material at my disposal from the past catalog of sessions broadcast at the our conferences.

However to pass an exam, I needed something much more linear and less ‘use case’, and until the release of 365ERS I will be taking a look at other great resources.

I have been looking at PluralSight, where I have embarked on a 9-hour video training course called “Power Platform: Getting Started” which is exactly what I need to get my foot in the door.

Today, I have completed the first module of the course which covers the fundementals of the Power Platform and this is what I’ve learned today!

What is the Power Platform?

The Power Platform represents a group of 4 Microsoft 365 products:

  • Power Apps
  • Power Automate
  • Power BI
  • Power Virtual Agents

It is a Microsoft 365 service that allows you to build business solutions to assist with your workflow in the company.

What is Power Apps?

Power Apps is a service used for creating applications using little to no-code at all. Fully functional applications can be built using a drag and drop interface.

Looking at Power Apps capabilities, I can see plenty of benefits for using Power Apps and the uses it poses. A few ideas to solve business solutions could be

  • A staff holiday booking request application
  • An RSS feed aggregator to display a list of blog post articles

What is Power Automate?

Power Automate allows me to create automated workflows to control and manage repetitive and manual tasks that would otherwise be time consuming. I can automate processes such as sending emails, uploading files or posting to social media. From my experience at Collab365, the processes you can automate extend far beyond these that I have listed and makes me extremely excited to be diving in to.

Automation in Power Automate is endless. Power Automate makes use of ‘connectors’ which are tools connected to the Power Platform to enhance automated processes through third-party apps. You also have the ability to create your own connector using custom API’s. I’m familiar with what an API is, but would not know how to implement one into the Power Platform. This could be very advanced and beneficial to a lot of businesses with a custom platform they want to bring in to the Power Platform.

A few possible uses for Power Automate could be

  • Scheduling automation to occur at a specific time of day, maybe to send an email or update a list of new blog posts.
  • Create approval workflows when someone submits an item or request.
  • Manage large amounts of data automatically.

What is Power BI?

Power BI looks incredible. It is a analytics service used for managing all sorts of data with-in your business. My first impression from the explanation provided in this course, is that you can also automate processes based on information in Power BI, which would make for some interesting use cases in marketing and social.

I will be investigating how we can trigger automation based on data received to analyse a collection of blog posts into most clicked, newly trending and most engaged with.

What is Power Virtual Agents?

Power Virtual Agents can be used for creating chatbots using a drag and drop interface without the need for a developer.

What’s Next?

The next part of my course goes into an overview of Administration and Security, along side the governance and compliance uses that are built in to the Power Platform.

At Collab365 we have decided on a solution that I will be building as my first Power Platform development making use of SharePoint and the Power Platform. We will look towards creating an “Industry News Feed” which will populate a SharePoint list with articles over the web, and display them in multiple views in a Power App. After some careful thought as to how it will be built, the team and myself think this will be a great way for me to get involved with all aspects of the Power Platform to set me along an interesting and exciting learning path.

I’ll let you know how I get on every step of the way!

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About the author 

Connor Deasey

It's my ambition to learn and share my experiences with Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform, to provide a fantastic learning experience. I'm a keen videographer and also assist with daily operations at Collab365.

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