Microsoft Unveils PowerFx, RPA comes to the Windows Desktop at Ignite 2021
Hello Power Platform Pals. Are you looking for the scoop on what Microsoft announced today at Ignite for our precious Power Platform? Then look no further. I am going to give you the breakdown of what they said and a bit of commentary on what I think of the announcement. If that doesn’t sound like a fun read, I don’t know what does. I also promise to stop with the all assuming alliteration.
Below you will see I break down the two announcements I am most excited about and then close out with some quick pointers are the other major announcements. Overall, I give Microsoft an A for some interesting new features, even if the base products we know and love, didn’t get any real news.
Okay, before you freak out and worry this is some new crazy product you need to learn, it is not. As you get into this one it is more about doing things right going forward than doing things different today. How so?
Well, in the build-up for this announcement of Power Fx being a new low code language I was kind of nervous. I don’t want to learn a new language. I am no-code/low-code for a reason, I don’t like code. Thankfully when you cut through all of the fluff, Power Fx is now the name of the language we use today in Power Apps canvas apps. Shew! And nothing that we do today is changing. So why announce it this way?
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
The idea is that going forward Microsoft is going to quit inventing new languages for the Power Platform and instead standardize on Power Fx. So, when they bring formulas to Power Virtual Agents, they will use Power Fx, not some new language. Speeding adoption. When Dataverse calculated columns get a language, it will use Power Fx, not some new language. Hopefully, you get the idea.
The best part? It sounds like they also have visions of moving Power Automate away from its Azure Logic Apps-based expression language, which isn’t user-friendly, to Power Fx. Now don’t look for any changes tomorrow, the idea is over the next two years they are going to work toward this consistency.
The crazy part? They also announced they are going to open-source the language. ? That is right, they are going to take the source code for Power Fx functions and put it on Github. As a non-developer, I don’t care but for pro-developers, this continues the “no cliffs” mentality. Extend and build your own language or product from the Power Fx code base. How crazy is that?
So… Power Fx sounds super awesome and exciting or scary and annoying but at the end of the day it is neither. It is just Microsoft’s focus on getting out of the business of making new languages for every product and trying to make our lives easier. I think that is something we can all get behind. Approved!
RPA comes to the Windows Desktop
If you are not familiar with RPA, it means Robotic Process Automation. Better? Probably not. RPA is the ability to record doing something on your computer and then have it done automatically for you later. Think of it like macros on steroids.
The idea of RPA is to automate interacting with legacy computer systems and automate tasks like finding customer information or entering invoices when that system doesn’t have an API. Fun. It is super popular with old, large companies that have old business processes on old systems; they can use automation usually reserved for cloud-based systems. Go it? Cool, I am moving on.
Today Microsoft announced that they will begin offering personal desktop automation to all Windows 10 users for FREE. ? They will be able to install Power Automate Desktop and then combine the screen recorder and some 370 prebuilt actions to start automating their activities. Very fun.
I know a younger me would have learned this new tech just to see if I could have truly replaced my co-workers with a script. At my first job, I am almost positive the answer was yes. Even in my current older state, I plan to check this out. But instead of replacing co-workers, I am thinking email responses and Teams chats can be dealt with.
Check this one out when you get a chance. There is personal potential to get started but this quickly can grow into dealing with those manual business process.
Other quick hits
- Power BI Premium gets some new tricks and they finally released the preview price list for Premium Per User. I hope the pricing empowers us all to do more. And yes, that was a lot of Ps but that wasn’t my fault.
- Power Virtual Agents introduced new Artificial Intelligence capabilities. As someone who has built some bots, I can tell you building is easy, it is the tuning that is hard. The new AI features are going to help.
- More governance for Power Platform has also been announced. New tenant wide analytics reports to provide visibility and oversight. Also, better insight into usage and trends.