When we did a profile of the low-code/no-code tools from Microsoft, Amazon, and Google last year, Microsoft’s offering was the most robust offering, due in part to the toolset’s ability to authenticate and communicate with data sources across a wide range of Microsoft 365 services.
At Build 2021 last month, Microsoft continued to enhance their Power Platform suite of tools to extend the platform’s capabilities for customers in their Microsoft 365 ecosystem.
That work continues to push Microsoft’s Power Platform and low-code/no-code tools as the de facto development platform for anyone using Microsoft 365 products and services. These new announcements improve the platform by encouraging collaboration between citizen developers and professional developers in an organization. The tools allow quick solutions to be built out by those who understand the business process at hand but then, by connecting the two sets of developers together, that solution can be further tweaked and enhanced to become even more robust.
This is an acknowledgement by Microsoft that while no-code possibilities can address many situations across an enterprise, there are times when a little additional coding is necessary to create an effective business tool. That enables those apps and processes that need a little more than a simple no-code solution but not a full-blown code-based development process.
These are features that will be critical for enterprise company’s as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and look at a very hybrid workforce in the future. In addition, it is expected that the low-code/no-code trend will help lift business value in 2021.
The announcements around the Microsoft Power Platform and low-code/no-code tools from Microsoft Build 2021 line up those priorities and roadmaps for the company and its customer base.
Microsoft 365 Developer Plan and the Power Platform
In a move that acknowledges the value around Microsoft’s low-code/no-code platform and the importance of connecting citizen and professional developers together in their work, Microsoft is integrating the Power Platform and Power Apps tools into the overall Microsoft 365 Developer Plan. A separate stand-alone Power Apps Developer Plan and learning path will help these developers to build, test and experience the use of Power Apps and automation flows in this plan.
Microsoft calls this solution of bringing together citizen and professional developers’ "fusion development" and they are offering a Power Platform Fusion Development learning path at Microsoft Learn to assist developers in fully understanding this new development scenario.
The Microsoft 365 Developer subscription is a renewable, free 90-day subscription to Microsoft 365 E5 that includes 25 licenses to create a sandbox development area for coding various solutions.
Support For Fusion Teams
With the integration of the Power Platform’s low-code/no-code abilities into the Microsoft 365 Developer Plan, that means Microsoft is also planning to elevate the professional tools used for this developer-based fusion team approach to have access to more powerful developer tools and services.
Enhancements included in these upcoming updates for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code include:
- Power Platform Command Line Interface (CLI) support for packages and canvas source files. This update enables these teams of developers to use established enterprise continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines for testing and deployment for these apps.
- Power Platform tools for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code will become native in these development interfaces and enable tools that not only help with development but also with packaging and deploying the app code.
Integrating Power Platform with Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code means citizen and professional developers can continue to work in comfortable and familiar tool sets. It enables a robust development platform and elevates many low-code/no-code solutions to become even more robust solutions for companies.
In addition to these upcoming improvements, Microsoft announced other Power Platform updates at Build 2021 which included:
- A new Process Advisor service in Microsoft Power Automate will assist users in identifying repetitive, enterprise-relevant activities that consume most of their available time. The recommendations can then be automated along with the robotic process automation (RPA) that is already part of Power Automate. The automation of these repetitive tasks should result in more time for work processes that create a broader impact on critical work processes that require their focused attention.
- Microsoft Power Virtual Agents are being integrated into Microsoft’s Bot Framework Composer. Developers and businesses can now build their conversational bots collaboratively once again potentially bringing together citizen and professional developers to extend their Power Virtual Agent bots’ capabilities. These virtual agents help low-code/no-code citizen developers build conversational agents that can be used for routine support requests for information and other entry level solution needs.
Why Are These Changes Important?
Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for communications, explained the importance of developers at all levels in an organization.
“Developers have been critical to helping businesses remain resilient and agile over the past year,” he said. “As we look across our customers and partners, we’re seeing the business impact of developers increasing as the world begins to rebuild and industries continue to innovate.”
The low-code/no-code tools at Microsoft continue to expand in their capabilities which enable either citizen developers to continue creating their own business process solutions or easily connect with professional developers in their organization to make these solutions robust and integrated across the enterprise. In a post-pandemic business world that includes a hybrid workforce, the ability to easily create individually and then collaborate as necessary is the new norm for any business process.