A Point Solution App vs a Platform Approach to the Microsoft Power Platform and Digital Transformation

Many organisations are looking to digitally transform and become more mobile as COVID and Hybrid working will be here for the foreseeable future. I see many companies fall into an app-based mentality that come from the “we’ve got an app for that” culture. This manifests when we talk about the Power Platform with our clients and they start to compare one app or business process with alternative SaaS or off the shelf apps. In the short term this may save some money but will create many other issues in the medium and long term.

The key issue with this is that they miss the point of the Power Platform being a platform for innovation not just a point solution to a business problem.

Issues With an App-Based Approach

If each business problem is solved using a variety of SaaS, off the shelf, or home-grown applications, you will end up with a significant management and security headache. Each app will have its own authentication and security standards as well as data protection methods. The overhead on IT is significant.

Maintenance and updates will also be on ongoing challenge, managing this across 10’s of apps is very complex, costly and time consuming.

Integration is another challenge. Many of these apps don’t talk to each other by design, so moving data between them will be time consuming and painful.

Cost is also a significant factor. All of these applications will have an annual subscription cost as well as a support component as well. Access to skills across a broad range of applications is expensive and challenging.

The Benefits of a Platform-Based Approach

The Microsoft Power Platform consists of a set of tools for business to use including: PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Portals and Power Virtual Agents. The benefits of having a strategic approach to the platform are significant.

This is as opposed to purchasing different solutions for each aspect or worse point solution applications. I’ve seen clients with a patchwork of tools that may come close to doing the same thing, but the management, complexity and cost overhead is huge.

Security

The Power Platform is built on Azure, so it has all the security benefits as well as the 90 odd compliance certifications of Azure. In addition, the Power Platform is part of Office 365, so it natively integrates with Azure Active Directory and it has all the built-in security controls of Office365. There is also a holistic management and compliance dashboard you can use to oversee all aspects of the platform as well as Data Loss Protection and Information Management features.

Very few other vendors invest in security as much as Microsoft does and having access to thousands of security experts for your platform is a safe place to be. This is a stark contrast to the vast majority of SaaS or off the shelf applications you can purchase. The risk and cost of these factors must be considered.

Cost

Microsoft delivers a large proportion of the Power Platform as part of standard Office 365 and M365 E1, E3 and E5 licenses. This allows companies to take it for a test drive and solve many business issues without spending a single cent on licensing!! Yes, you do need to purchase additional licenses for connecting to some legacy on-premises apps but compared to buying or building an app this is extremely cost effective.

The Power Apps licensing model is complex-like all Microsoft licensing. However there are many options and when an organisation takes a Platform approach and starts using 4-5 apps or processes on the platform it starts to become comparatively very cheap compared to the alternative of buying these as separate apps or worse-doing nothing.

Critically, given the low code/no-code nature of the platform it is incredibly quick (yet not always simple) to deliver business value. You can easily solve problems like expense claims and budget requests in days and weeks vs months for alternative solutions.

One built there are no ongoing maintenance cost you have to pay anyone or have to keep expensive developer resources on board. This results in an ROI that we’ve seen take 2-3 weeks for some clients!!

Pace of Innovation

Microsoft is continually innovating, improving and enhancing the platform., on most occasions at no additional cost. This can be either evolutionary features or entire new offerings for example the Power Automate for Desktop which is free for all Windows 10 Enterprise clients.

I don’t know of any other vendor that can do this at the scale and speed that Microsoft can. I am certain that 99.9% of SaaS and off the shelf vendors cannot.

Integration

As mentioned earlier the Power Platform is built on top of Azure and integrated into Office365. It is also integrated into Dynamics 365 and importantly SharePoint online. This makes it relatively easy to enhance and add to these solutions.

It also has out of the box over 370 connectors to other applications and databases including: SAP, Salesforce, ServiceNow, SQL, Oracle, AWS Redshift and many others. This means that an organisation can rapidly connect and integrate with existing applications and databases and start digitising and automating processes.

The effort to do this with alternative solutions and a patchwork of SaaS and off the shelf applications in significant, costly and daunting and means it usually never happens.

Community

The Power Platform has a community of over a million users across the world all contributing, developing and sharing solutions and information at no cost to everyone else. Microsoft is not unique in this, but the sheer size, scale and diversity of the community is unique.

The value of this is that anyone can join, learn and collaborate with others, get ideas from people in similar roles and industries as to how to solve their business issues.

Limited by Your Imagination

The only challenge / opportunity to the platform approach is that it requires upfront work, planning and buy in from the senior business leaders. It is much easier in the short term to take the point solution app approach as you don’t need to engage with your CXO to get budget and buy in, in the same way you would need to, to purchase an app for a specific problem. Most organisations are used to working this way.

Taking the time to engage, workshop and envision with a Platform like the Microsoft Power Platform will require an initial time and consulting investment, but when you have buy-in and a roadmap for success aligned to the business goals can you afford not to?

In a post Covid world what is the cost of not digitising, automating and transforming with an enabling Platform? 

 

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