Power Platform - Common Scenarios for Measurable Impact

February 3, 2023
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Unleashing the power of human capital throughout an organization with a breadth of solutions and ease of implementation is a clear advantage for businesses. Our customers continue to realize a measurable return on their investment in these solutions from Microsoft. In this article, I highlighted only a few examples.
Common Scenarios for Measurable Impact with Power Platform

Power Platform is a suite of solutions from Microsoft designed to enable organizations to harness resources both within and outside of IT with low to no-code tools, thus unleashing innovation throughout an organization while speeding solutions development. The suite includes automation of workflows (Power Automate), application and web development (Power Apps and Power Pages), business intelligence (Power BI), and chatbots (Virtual Agents).

According to the financial analysis of an August 2022 Forrester Research report, a composite organization of 10,000 employees that leverages the capabilities of Power Platform would experience on average “benefits of $14.25 million over three years versus costs of $5.93 million, adding up to a net present value (NPV) of $8.32 million and an ROI of 140%”.

There are a variety of reasons for this substantial return including leveraging latent talent throughout the business (“citizen developers” outside of IT) with a common language and GUI interface to simplify common development tasks, elimination of rogue or shadow IT, reduction of outages and errors through automation of common tasks, consolidation and presentation of data to inform business decision-making through a common Dataverse, lower cost of delivery and faster speed to market for applications, reduction of resources required to build solutions, retirement of orphaned and redundant applications, and the creation of more collaborative and effective “fusion teams” to build solutions that map directly to business priorities.

In this article, we will explore four solutions to common business scenarios that we have deployed with customers who consistently praise the measurable impacts. These solutions include automating invoice management, retirement, and consolidation of legacy applications, enabling data-driven decision-making, and enhancing human resources effectiveness with virtual agents.

Scenario 1: Automating Invoice Management with Power Platform

Businesses regularly receive invoices from vendors, resellers, and partners. They typically get these invoices via mail to an individual, or email to an individual or distribution list. These invoices are often lost in a human-intensive workflow, moving from buyer to finance AP, through an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system and eventually through financial institutions for printed and mailed checks or EFT. Many of the steps in the process are manual and prone to error or delay. The goals for automating the payables process include reducing administrative burden/costs while freeing time for more strategic endeavors, eliminating the costs associated with errors and rework, and establishing an audit trail to provide insights into approvals and processing times. These benefits prove to have a measurable impact upon businesses. To be clear, automation does not imply immediate or faster payment. Rather, it means that payment terms established on behalf of the business and expected by the vendor will be met with minimal effort.

How is this accomplished with Power Platform?

Leveraging Power Automate, invoices emailed to a distribution list can be read and processed. For paper invoices or email sent to individuals, both require manual forwarding to be processed and entered into a back-end finance or ERP system. A simple tool built with Power Apps can snap a picture of these invoices and automate the workflow, including approvals and entry into the back-end systems for payment. Power Automate can read and breakdown by AI (Artificial Intelligence) the invoice based on Machine Learning over time, and workflows can be applied for human and/or automated approvals based on set criteria. Approved invoices can be moved into any finance system, and approved invoices are automatically scheduled for payment.

After implementing a solution like this for one customer in just a few weeks' time, the measurable results were clear. “The ability to automate our invoice management process has freed up time not only for processing and approval, but also time spent responding to vendors inquiries related to lost or overdue invoices. My team and I can now focus on valued business tasks without the administrative burden” – Director of Finance, Global Manufacturing Company.

Scenario 2: Retirement and Consolidation of Legacy Applications

Software, particularly in a subscription-based consumption marketplace, is purchased and deployed throughout most businesses. For example, there are dozens of Marketing software packages, and most are evaluated and purchased by the marketing department. It does not matter if it is HR, finance, or building security, hundreds of applications are often floating throughout most organizations without the knowledge of, and outside the control of, IT. This “sprawl” leads to security and performance challenges as well as redundant purchases and orphaned applications that can be unnecessarily costly. Here is an example of one customer scenario in which they bought a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that only partially met their business needs.

This customer, a global consumer goods company, needed to assign UPCs/ SKUs to variations of products that they design and manufacture. The SaaS solution they purchased was intended to address end-to-end project creation to delivery. In reality, there are features of the SaaS solution that they did not leverage while other requirements were not being met. Not only did customizing the existing solution come with ongoing costs that were unforeseen, but the limitations of this application delayed approval workflows by days leading to slower product to market.

In this case, the low costs and ease of use of Power Platform was a good fit to design workflows and data connections quickly and effectively. We helped this customer replace their SaaS based application with a Power Apps and Power Automate solution. The Power Apps solution was based on a model-driven app, which supports their business process flow. In addition, there are various supporting canvas apps that drive simplified user experience (UX). The app allows their users to create new projects supporting the products they design and manufacture. After they define the products and their variations, they can start a workflow approval request for a UPC/ SKU to be applied to the variations of products. Once approved, Power Automate communicates directly with SAP to request UPCs/ SKUs and apply them to the various products. Additionally, Azure Blob storage is utilized for newly uploaded product artifacts (images, PDFs, etc.).

The solution, which was quick and inexpensive to build with Power Platform, is providing measurable results to the business. In addition to elevated levels of confidence in the accuracy of UPC/ SKU information throughout various systems, UPC/ SKU requests and approvals now happen in minutes versus days. Add to that the significant cost reduction moving away from an expensive, niche SaaS application, and this customer realized a quick and significant return on investment.

Scenario 3: Enabling Data-Driven Decision-Making

Many of the insights that could enable businesses to improve operations sit latent in diverse and disconnected data sources. This often includes data hosted by SaaS providers, departmental Excel workbooks, and enterprise on-premises applications. Businesses often find themselves unable to connect and expose data from these varied sources, while those that can find themselves able to make informed decisions quickly. Businesses able to address this challenge effectively find themselves with a meaningful competitive advantage.

Many of our customers’ leverage Power BI, Dataverse and connectors within the Power Platform suite to pull together data into a common data architecture (Azure SQL, Data Lake, Synapse) while eliminating manual collection of data through automation and low-code applications. These organizations can leverage Dataverse to drive applications and automation scenarios. For example, processing of formulated data occurring off-hours, so that visualizations and slicing are ready for business decision makers when business is happening. This creation of standardized and common reporting scenarios, or “democratization” of data, not only gives every decision-maker and influencer within an organization the tools to be more effective, but it is also empowering and unleashing latent talent, harnessing more human intelligence throughout an organization.

Some concrete examples of how enabling data-driven decision-making can deliver meaningful and measurable results to businesses include:

  • Time savings from standardized or common reporting scenarios for the business
  • Empowerment of users to form additional scenarios/outcomes to be added to common libraries
  • Single source of truth, minimizing bad/aging data from interrupting decision making. Meetings will be shorter as debates over the validity of the data are eliminated, and the focus is on business issues
  • Reduced time waiting for data to be collected and formulated outcomes to be created. Ad-hoc queries can be executed by anyone, answering business questions put forth in business language with facts rather than supposition

Scenario 4: Human Resources Effectiveness Using Virtual Agents

By implementing Virtual Agents to offload common Q&A about employer benefits, HR can achieve significant measurable results, including:

  • Reduction in HR time in fielding questions: Virtual Agents can handle a large volume of frequently asked questions, reducing the time HR staff spends answering emails, chats, and phone calls. This can free up HR staff to focus on other areas that drive more value for the business, such as recruitment, employee engagement, and talent management.
  • Improved employee satisfaction: Virtual Agents provide employees with quick and easy access to information about their benefits, reducing frustration and confusion. This can improve employee satisfaction and engagement with their employer, leading to better retention rates.
  • Cost savings: Virtual Agents can operate 24/7 without requiring additional staffing resources. This can result in significant cost savings for the organization, as HR staff will spend less time answering questions and putting together benefits materials. - Increased accuracy: Virtual Agents can be programmed to provide consistent and accurate responses to employee questions, reducing the risk of errors and misunderstandings.
  • Data collection: Virtual Agents can collect data on employee questions, which can be analyzed to identify trends and improve the benefits program. This can help HR to make data-driven decisions about benefits and identify areas for improvement.

Overall, implementing Virtual Agents to handle common Q&A about employer benefits can provide significant benefits for both HR staff and employees, resulting in improved efficiency, cost savings, and employee satisfaction.

To summarize, it is clear from our work with customers that Power Platform is a revolutionary step towards faster and more effective technical solutions to meet the demands of business in real time. Unleashing the power of human capital throughout an organization with a breadth of solutions and ease of implementation is a clear advantage for businesses. Our customers continue to realize a measurable return on their investment in these solutions from Microsoft. In this article, I highlighted only a few examples. If you are interested in discussing various other scenarios, please send a note to [email protected]. I am always a bit geeked-up to discuss how Power Platform solutions can drive measurable business value.

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