Democratizing application development inside Microsoft with the Power Platform
Application development today can present numerous challenges, especially for large organizations with numerous teams working across various workflows and apps at once. With digitalization increasing rapidly, so has the pressure on teams to develop and maintain a multitude of applications to meet current needs. As central dev teams struggle to keep pace with growing demands, it becomes increasingly difficult to address the needs of individual business units and results in painfully long lead times.
While Microsoft’s Power Platform enables individuals in the organization to develop apps for their team’s business needs without relying on central dev teams, a new set of challenges arise around the accessibility and reusability of data and apps across the organization. The lack of a central location for teams to co-develop and work from shared data led the Business Application Group (BAG) team at Microsoft to realize an immediate need to democratize app development within its own initiatives.
Enabling digital transformation through a centralized data hub
Leveraging the very platform that the Business Application Group uses to build and deliver applications to market, the group tapped into the robust capabilities of Power Platform to solve its own internal business problem and enable its goal of digital transformation. The BAG Ops team developed a centralized data hub that enables individual teams to build multiple applications—each with its own development cycles and roadmaps—while leveraging the same key data elements through a shared data model. With Microsoft Dataverse, the hub enables faster development and digital transformation for the BAG both internally and for customers through a continuous, 360-degree flow that supports successful app development—from empowering people to achieve more, to gathering feedback, and then implementing optimizations and product enhancements. From there the cycle continues.
Drawing on the capabilities of Power Platform, the hub provides dev teams with numerous advantages:
1. Shared apps and data: With data stored in a single Microsoft Dataverse instance, many apps can draw from the same data without redundancy (e.g., tables like account, contacts, product, etc. that are widely used across multiple apps). Leverage out-of-the-box common tables, extended attributes, and an open ecosystem enabled by the common data model.
2. Integration with other data sources: For apps that do need data from other systems (like sales data, support data, etc.), integrations are already enabled within the hub and available for any app.
3. Governance for co-development: Governance model enables multiple teams to co-develop at scale on a single platform while ensuring that changes don’t disturb or affect other apps.
4. Application Lifecycle Management (ALM): Easily manage dev environments, deployments, and more to get teams started quickly. Repeatably build, validate, and deploy apps using GitHub and Azure DevOps.
5. Compliance and security: The hub automatically takes care of the compliance, security, and privacy reviews on a regular basis, while leveraging advanced encryption, access control, and deep integration with Azure Active Directory.
6. Support and maintenance: App teams can leverage designated support and live site teams.
Driving impact and app development success
By democratizing app development, the hub enables teams to access the same backend data source and infrastructure to build additional applications while accelerating time to value. Data is centralized and readily accessible using a common framework that streamlines the entire app development process and allows for easy replication and reuse of existing app data. To date, there are 40+ business applications developed by dozens of teams running on the Power Platform-based hub—including high-yield, critical applications for release planning and customer implementations as mentioned below:
- Release planning: Dynamics 365 and Power Platform deliver two major updates annually, and continuous updates are delivered throughout the year providing security, reliability, and performance improvements. The BAG team delivers the early visibility of their releases through a public roadmap, a release calendar, and release plans. This is managed by an app to efficiently coordinate hundreds of their own product features. Right from collecting manual input from hundreds of product managers to developing one Power Apps solution to manage release plans.
- Implementations: At any given time, solution architects in the Microsoft FastTrack team are working concurrently on implementing thousands of projects. The FastTrack team helps their customers deploy Microsoft cloud solutions. They constantly onboard new customers, set project parameters, and check in with their clients at regular intervals to offer support and assess project implementation health.
The unique capabilities of Power Platform enable BAG Ops to achieve balance between agility and governance while achieving its goal of digital transformation. The hub is not only helping Microsoft’s internal development teams, but customers and partners to be even more successful in digitally transforming within their own organizations. With a centralized app development ecosystem, BAG has enabled teams to innovate on Power Platform faster and more freely.