Expand the Value: Microsoft Teams + Power Platform

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You may already have it – Microsoft Teams, that is. And you’re most likely using it for chat, meetings, and calling. If that’s the case, you’re missing out on a whole host of functionality and potential efficiencies available by coupling Teams with the Power Platform.

It’s no secret Microsoft has been touting Teams not just as a meeting space, but as the ” work app” and hub for everything your team does. It’s also no secret that Microsoft touts the Power Platform as the low code/no-code platform for end-users to analyze and share data, build apps, and automate processes. Now, much of this can be done straight from Teams.

“People have been figuring out to do things quicker, faster, be more agile, using less to do more,” Microsoft senior director for Power Platform marketing Richard Riley told TechRepublic, an online technology magazine. “We’ve seen customers do incredible things that they historically just wouldn’t have been able to do—at least, not as quickly and certainly the people that did it wouldn’t have been able to do.”

What you can do

On the Teams platform, you can stretch far beyond chat, meeting, and calling. Key Power Platform components — Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate — are available via teams for everyone in your organization, without additional licensing if you have a Microsoft 365 tenant.

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI app for Teams is now generally available to install, pin, and interact with directly inside of Microsoft Teams. Once you’ve downloaded the Power BI app for Teams, you start using Teams to collaborate on Power BI dashboards, reports, visuals, and datasets — all from the Teams interface.

You can do almost everything in Microsoft Teams that you can do in the Power BI service:

  • Create, view, and edit dashboards, reports, and apps
  • Create and participate in workspaces
  • Share content, either through email or through Microsoft Teams

The Power BI app for Microsoft Teams is also available in Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office as a public preview, although those integrations are still under development prior to general availability.

Power Apps

Just like Power BI and Power Automate, Power Apps for Teams is available to install in your Teams environment. The new Power Apps app in Teams provides an integrated experience for app makers to create and edit apps and workflows within Teams, and quickly publish and share them for anyone on the team to use —all without having to switch between multiple apps and services.

All these capabilities are designed to make Teams the central hub for productivity, and for app makers to quickly put up and collaborate on apps using little to no code. Also, apps built with Power Apps and used in Teams can be used on both mobile devices and desktops.

In September, Gartner published a report where they predicted that by 2025, 70 percent of enterprise application development will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25 percent in 2020.

When to use Power Apps in Teams

Apps and flows for Microsoft Teams can be as simple or as complex as you need, from sending notifications to channels or users, to complex apps incorporating conversational bots and AI. You can build apps for an individual, your team, your organization, or for all Microsoft Teams users everywhere.

Think about some of the ways you can use Power Apps in Teams:

Enhancing communication & collaboration

Most successful Teams apps involve either some form of pulling information in from another system, having a conversation about it, and acting on the information from directly within the Teams client or pushing information to a targeted audience based on an event or action in an external system.

Streamlining common business processes

Teams can be an effective platform for launching, and helping the completion of, common business processes. Things like creating and sharing a sales call report, tracking your time against a project, reserving common resources, submitting help desk requests and more can make for effective Teams apps. Often there’s already some other system responsible for completing these actions. In those cases, using Teams as a bridge to start the process, and for communicating during the process can create an effective hybrid app.

Encouraging social interactions

Apps that focus on encouraging social interactions between team members work well. These are apps that send polls, let people send feedback to each other, connect them together, or are just for fun. Teams is a social platform, and social apps can encourage your team to extend your company culture into your collaboration space.

Sample Apps

To help realize value faster, you can use sample apps or templates, which are purpose-built apps for common application patterns. Although these templates can also work without modification so members of the team can customize and extend them for a specific need.

How do you get these templates? You can install the Power Apps personal app from Teams. Then you can install the sample apps directly from the Microsoft Teams store. The sample apps created with Power Apps and published to the Teams store can consist of multiple components such as apps, flows, and tables.

Here at Hitachi Solutions, our Rapid Solution Delivery (RSD) team created many of these templates to help speed up your adoption. The following screen illustration shows the apps we’ve created that are available in the Microsoft Teams Store. You can reach them by choosing the Power Apps icon in the left-hand rail of the Teams window.

Power Automate

Power Automate in Teams lets you implement automated workflows for dozens of repetitive work tasks, like alerts, notifications, and approvals, and trigger the flow right from Teams. The app can be installed directly from the Teams interface and can be set up as instant or scheduled.

Power Automate in one of its simplest applications is the approval workflow, that can be added to your Teams environment. You can start an approval flow from the same place you send a chat, a channel conversation, or from the approval app itself. Just select an approval type, add details, attach files, and choose approvers. Once submitted, approvers are notified and can review and act on the request.

Initially, users might be drawn to the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams, only to discover that workflows can do a lot more than just approval automation. Microsoft has made dozens of applicable templates available that can cut down the learning curve.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents (PVAs) lets you create chatbots that can answer questions posed by your customers, other employees, or visitors to your website or service. You can create chatbots in the Power Virtual Agents app in Teams and then share them with other people in your team, company, or organization. Like the other Power Platform apps for Teams, you can install the PVA app directly from the Teams workspace.

PVAs (also called chatbots) in Teams allow you to solve common internal issues automatically. Think about the most common queried questions for your IT or HR department. You could create a PVA for your company’s most common HR and IT queries. Questions could be answered round-the-clock and reduce support tickets substantially. Bots can also contact human HR or IT experts and notify them that an employee needs help for uncommon scenarios. No more searching your company’s intranet. If you’re interested in potential PVAs for your company, consider Hitachi Solutions’ PVA discovery workshop.

At Hitachi Solutions, as we continue to hear client stories about the need for process efficiencies, we look toward Power Platform, and often the Teams integration, as quick and cost-effective ways to solve business process problems. Here are a few examples of power app solutions we’ve created.

Modernized Inspection Process

Our client, a restaurant franchisor, needed a way to digitize its inspection process for both employees and managers. Employees needed a mobile solution for completing and uploading inspections, and regional managers needed the real-time ability to approve inspections, flag issues, and create related issue assignments.

A Power app was a great solution here and included versatile checklists that allow team members to complete routine inspections in the field, upload photos, and report and track issues through to resolution, all using a mobile or tablet device. Data is stored in a central database for easy reporting and runs from Microsoft Teams to optimize collaboration between employees at all levels, from front-line workers to regional store managers who may need to approve the inspection.

An inspection application is an appropriate solution in the manufacturing industry as well, where employees are commonly walking the operations floor, completing checklists to ensure safety compliance. The beauty of the Power App is that the process can be completed on a mobile phone or tablet — kicking off an issue reporting process, where a technician is assigned to fix the issue in real-time and reports back status or closes the issue all from a single application that notifies everyone on the Teams channel. It’s an entire end-to-end process, all managed by a power app.

Streamlined service transactions

In another example, using power apps to automate service transactions, Hitachi Solutions helped a leading headphone manufacturer modernize an antiquated product return process, where hundreds of service agents had to navigate between multiple, disparate systems and create multiple records to process a single return.

By building a process-driven Power App solution with automated logic, the agents could complete a transaction, while capturing and verifying important data in multiple back-end systems, including CRM and the company’s on-record ERP. A bot guided the user through the process, automatically verifying the customer information, creating the interaction, and retrieving details for service types and codes.

All great ideas, but how do we strike a balance between agility and governance?

Governance

The shared Teams environment gives users the freedom to build applications to suit their unique needs and share them across the organization, but it can’t be done without a governance plan in place. It’s no surprise that a key best practice here is establishing governance early. Without a governance plan, things can spiral out of control quickly. Proper guidance and guardrails are necessary for healthy productivity and to safeguard sensitive business data.

With the Microsoft Power Platform, data is governed and authenticated through Azure Active Directory (AD)— so administrators have full visibility into everything citizen developers and users do and can assign permissions accordingly. But keep in mind, you need a plan, and it’s best to get one from the outset.

Rapid Solution Delivery

RSD is Hitachi Solutions’ tech hub of Power Platform experts. We work closely with our clients using a unique approach that meets Power Platform users and app makers where they are. Our experienced team helps clients rationalize when they should, and shouldn’t, use low-code development tools.

This flexible model enables us to customize each engagement not only to each client’s goals, but also to their comfort level using the Power Platform. For first-time adopters, we offer a Power Pod — a digital factory setting that includes both Hitachi and client resources for in-tandem development. For seasoned Power Apps makers, we offer in-depth governance consulting and readiness assessment frameworks.

Do more with less

The Power Platform can be a great kickstart to doing more with less – less time, less code, and ultimately less money.

Adopting a modern technology with such broad applicability as the Power Platform in Teams can be a bit of a transition for any organization. You can encourage its growth by providing the tools, training, and guardrails for business personnel who want to explore the functionality. If you communicate your citizen developer/app maker strategy broadly and acknowledge early achievements, you can instill a culture of empowerment and start to realize efficiencies very quickly.

We’d be more than happy to get you started on the Power Platform and Teams journey. Contact our Rapid Solution Delivery team today!