Microsoft Empowers "Citizen Developers" with Low-Code Power Platform Enhancements

Microsoft is upping its low-code development game with new capabilities across its Power Platform bundle, the company announced this week.

Launched in 2019, Power Platform comprises the Power BI tool for data analysis and report authoring; the Power Automate tool for creating and automating workflows; the Power Apps suite of apps, services, connectors, and data platform for rapid application development; and Power Virtual Agents for creating chatbots. It's built on top of Azure and integrates with it. And it's built around an extensibility model for M365 and Office 365.

The list of its new capabilities in Power Platform aimed at "citizen developers" includes:

  • Microsoft Power Automate Desktop is now available for all Windows 10 users at no cost, providing a RPA solution to automate tasks across any application.
  • Microsoft Power FX, a low code, open-source programming language across the Power Platform.
  • New and enhanced governance, security, and administration capabilities to enable IT professionals to safely manage and scale the growth of low-code solutions within the organization.
  • Next generation of Power BI Premium. Power BI Premium Per User will be generally available on April 2nd for $20 per user, per month. We are introducing a new Autoscale option with pay-as-you-go, and improved utilization metrics.
  • New AI capabilities in Power Virtual Agent enable bot to learn and improve over time, automatically

The new capabilities were announced by Charles Lamanna, CVP of Microsoft's Low Code Application Platform group, at this year's Ignite 2021 event, currently underway online. Microsoft is seeing "surging demand" for low-code support, Lamanna said.

"Over the next few years, over 500 million new applications will need to be built, which is more than all the apps built in the last 40 years," he said. "Additionally, 50% of tasks done in the office and by information workers could be automated with current technology, but it's going on automated. So, all of our customers are really struggling to respond to this huge wave of digital transformation."

Adding to the challenge, Lamanna said, there simply aren't enough developers out there to satisfy this demand.

"There's a million developers shortfall in just the United States alone," he said, "and 86% of the customers who work with reports are struggling to hire and find the right technical talent." Compounding the problem, he added is "the great lockdown." Because of Covid-19, 40% of people in the United States are currently working remotely, he said, and we've seen a 5% contraction in the GDP, worldwide.

The only practical solution to this daunting challenge--short of turning everyone into an actual software developer--is to provide low-code tools. "We have to make it so that, no matter what your background is, you can become a developer to automate things and understand data," Lamanna said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].