A large portion of Microsoft’s Ignite 2021 premier conference was devoted to updates to the Microsoft Power Platform, but what exactly was covered? What updates were made? In this blog, we’ll go through what I think are the top key updates for Power Apps and Power Automate. We go through each update one by one and talk about its advantages and implications to the Microsoft Power Platform. You can watch the full video of this tutorial at the bottom of this blog.
New Features & Updates Within Microsoft Power Platform
Native Mobile Apps In Power Apps
One of the best developments that we heard about in the Microsoft Ignite 2021 was the ability to produce native mobile apps in Power Apps.
In the old world, in order for your users to get a Power App that you had created, you first had to download the Power App wrapper application from the App store. And then, and only then you could launch the Power Apps that you yourself had created for your users. So, users had to take two steps – to first download the Power Apps app, and then your app.
What this new feature allows you to do is to produce your Power Apps and actually deploy them right to the App store directly. That means, as your user can skip step one, they can get your app directly from the App store.
Think about the power of this. You can basically create your own app in Power Apps and deploy one version to the Google Play store and the Apple App store. You don’t need to make any modifications that you usually need to make with low code Power App platforms. Also, what that means is that when users actually download your app, they have a notification or an identifier for your app directly on their home screen.
They don’t have to go into Power Apps, and then choose from a list of apps. It’s right on their home screen. It allows you to wrap your app in your branding. So, you don’t need to have that first step where your users need to log into Microsoft’s platform, and then open your app. They just open your app directly.
Now that being said, one caveat is that they still need to make sure that you’re registered with the tenants. So, you can’t make an app, for example, that all users use. The first step in your application must be the ability for your users to log into that tenant or to that Microsoft environment. But you can still put your branding and your application around it, as opposed to Microsoft’s. This is very powerful especially for Power Apps user adoption.
Collaboration Features With The Microsoft Power Platform
Another big feature that we learned about that Ignite 2021 showed us is more collaboration features with the Power Platform. This means that they’ve added certain features that improve collaboration in these tools.
They’ve added here is the ability for you to comment on things, similar to what you would have in an Excel file or Word file. You can have all those comments within integrated right in the Power Apps or Power Automate platform.
An additional feature that they’re going to add in as well is co-authoring, which means that two users can be using or developing on the same app at the same time.
Right now, if I wanted to share my application with someone else and they are developing it now, I can’t go back in and develop it for me. It says I’m locked out. And that is so annoying, especially when you’re developing something with the team, right? So, I’m really excited about this feature that Microsoft is allowing you to co-author the same app at the same time.
The final feature in terms of collaboration that we see is the ability to add your code to any Get platform that you want. Usually, with low code Power Apps, they’re drag and drop systems, right? So that makes it difficult. You would have code that you then check in to a version control system. But Power Apps is now producing an extension that you can add to Get where you can track all of that. So, you get all the abilities and the benefits that you would get with Get like version control, branches, and different things like that.
Microsoft does really challenge this here and mixes in the combination of citizen developers with professional developers. So, you can have your citizen developers, for example, developing right on your Power Platform. And you can have your professional developers, maybe doing version control and branch management, etc. in the background, which makes this very powerful and improves collaboration.
Pricing & Licensing Fees
Another announcement that Microsoft made is an update to the Power Apps pricing and licensing fees. They’ve added a Pay-As-You-Go Plan to Power Apps. Before you had to pay $5 per user, per app, per month or $20 per user per month.
Access Connector To The Microsoft Power Platform
One quick announcement that they’ve also made is they’ve added an Access Connect to the Power Platform, which basically means that you can now create Power Apps using Access as your database. You can also use Power Automate to change things or update, delete new records, etc. on Microsoft Access. And how Microsoft has chosen to do this is that basically, Access will connect to Dataverse and there’ll be a sync there. And then, with Dataverse, you have access to all the Power Platform.
Azure API Management
The next feature is actually a feature that Microsoft had before, but they’ve carved out something, particularly for Power Platform. So, Microsoft has something called Azure, a management that allows you to create APIs and manage them as you’re creating endpoints.
This is so powerful because you will no longer need to rely on things like HTP requests and those kinds of effects to have Power Automate communicate with third-party websites. Your third-party website, API connects to Asia API management, which lets you create a custom connector. And then you can use that custom connector as you would, any connector like outlook, Excel, Twitter, Trello, Asana, etc., right in Power Automate and Power Apps.
When one person creates the connector, they can just share it with everyone. And now everyone has the ability to create automation and applications using that connector.
The next feature that they’ve announced is Power FX. It is a low-code programming language that they’ve announced in March of 2021. That is really the bread and butter behind the Power Platform, particularly Power Apps.
You can use Power FX, for example, as code when you’re creating any functions in Power Apps. Now they’ve updated this language and the libraries that are associated with these languages that will allow you to do very cool things. For example, they enable AI in your application.
The update now allows you to have that library access that can enable AI directly in your app. In the past, you had to go through a third-party endpoint system. But now, it’s right on your app, which makes this so much easier.
Microsoft has also made at some key updates to Process Advisor, specifically mining. Process mining here is the ability for Microsoft to compute and analyze the processes that you’ve put into Process Advisor, and using data, provide insights specifically on inefficiencies across your workflows.
Process mining, if you have your processes in Process Advisor, allows you to capture key insights on efficiencies, and how to improve the workflow. It’s consistent with Microsoft’s messaging to automate your workflow and provide you more creative time in your day.
Power Automate Desktop
Last, but certainly not least, is Power Automate Desktop, which will be included for free for every purchase of Windows 10 and Windows 11. So even if you have an existing copy of Windows 10, you can download Power Automate Desktop today. It allows you to automate workflows within your desktop or the web using RPA.
This isn’t the same thing as Power Automate Cloud or just Power Automate in general. For that, you still need a license. And in order to connect Power Automate Desktop to Power Automate, you can do that as well. So for example, if you want to create a workflow that’s connected to a third party like Trello, Asana, or anything where there’s a Power Automate cloud connector for it, you can still do that. But you need an additional license for that. If you want to automate things in your desktop, Power Automate Desktop is great and it’s completely free.
I’d personally say it was a very exciting Microsoft Ignite 2021. They covered all the features that we were expecting, and I’m very excited for what comes next. Let me know if you have any questions on the comments below.
All the best!
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