• November 4, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Microsoft Announces Upgrades to Power Platform at Its Ignite Conference

Microsoft today introduced several updates to the Microsoft Power Platform for businesses. These announcements, made at the company's Microsoft Ignite 2019 user conference in Orlando, Fla., include robotic process automation, virtual agents, security enhancements, and tighter integrations between applications in the Power Platform and between Power applications and other Microsoft products.

"These new features and products substantially advance our vision for the Power Platform, an unmatched set of capabilities that enable everyone to analyze, act, and automate across their organization to transform businesses from the ground up," said James Phillips, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Applications Group.

Chief among the new capabilities is the launch of Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, which will enable anyone to build a no-code/low-code virtual agents.

Now in preview, Microsoft Power Virtual Agents will enable subject matter experts in customer service, sales, marketing, finance, or other departments to create virtual agents using a guided, no-code/low-code point-and-click graphical interface. Customer service questions and other types of inquiries can be serviced by a virtual agent. And because the virtual agents are already integrated with Microsoft's Power Platform, Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, and Microsoft Bot Framework, companies can use hundreds of prebuilt connectors so virtual agents can talk to back-end systems with a few clicks.

Microsoft also today introduced new capabilities in Power BI data protection. These enhancements enable organizations to do the following:

  • Classify and label sensitive Power BI data using the same Microsoft Information Protection sensitivity labels used in Office;
  • Enforce governance policies, even when Power BI content is exported to Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF; and
  • Monitor and protect user activity on sensitive data in real time with alerts, session monitoring, and risk remediation using Microsoft Cloud App Security.

Now in preview, these capabilities engage when Power BI is paired with Microsoft Information Protection and Microsoft Cloud App Security.

Another significant change is that Microsoft Flow is being renamed to Microsoft Power Automate to better align with the Microsoft Power Platform. Microsoft Power Automate is also being supplemented with robotic process automation (RPA). This new capability is being called UI flows.

"Creating a UI flow is a simple and familiar point-and-click, low-code experience that makes it easy for users to turn manual tasks into automated workflows by recording and playing back human-driven interaction with software systems that don't support API automation," Phillips said. "Couple the capabilities of UI flows with Power Automate's prebuilt connectors for more than 275 widely-used apps and services that support API automation, and you have an end-to-end automation platform capable of reinventing business processes for a wide range of workloads across industries."

Microsoft also is rolling out tighter integration between the Microsoft Power Platform and Microsoft Teams its collaboration app.

"As organizations encourage a data-driven culture, it's important they break down silos and ensure that the right people in the organization have the data they need to be involved in the decision-making process," Phillips said. "The pairing of Teams and Power Platform brings together the best of workplace collaboration and data-driven business into one place."

With this integration, users' dashboards, apps, and automations are available within Teams. Power Apps creators can now publish their apps directly to their company's app library in Teams. By the end of 2019, users will be able to pin Power Apps to their Teams left rail.

New triggers and actions for Power Automate are now available within Teams. New features coming to Power BI in 2020 include the ability to create rich adaptive cards in Teams conversations, which help users see and act on their data. An improved Power BI tab experience in Teams will also make selecting reports easier.

And finally, new prebuilt models for AI Builder that add even more advanced AI models to Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft Power Apps are now available as well.

AI Builder enables organizations to tailor AI to their specific business needs and their unique data. AI Builder takes common AI scenarios and provides point-and-click solutions for app makers to solve everyday tasks like forms processing, object detection, and text and binary classification.

Now available in preview, these prebuilt scenarios include the following:

  • Key phrase extraction, to identify the main talking points from text;
  • Language detection, to identify the predominant language from text;
  • Text recognition, to extract embedded, printed, and handwritten text from images into machine-readable character streams; and
  • Sentiment analysis, to detect positive, negative, neutral, or mixed sentiment in social media, customer reviews, or other textual data.

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