Power Platform

The first Microsoft Power Platform 2021 release wave brings joy for both developers and users

9 February 2021


This year the Power Platform Release Wave 1 features a whole raft of interesting improvements to existing services. Smaller improvements and larger impact changes go hand in hand in this release, bringing lots of joy to citizen developers, pro developers, and business users. A review by our experts.

Meet our Power Platform experts

Joris is a solution architect who has worked with the Microsoft stack for over 20 years now. For the last five years, his main work has been for large Dynamics 365 Sales and Customer Service clients. He’s a former SharePoint MVP and a board member of the Belux Dynamics CRM User Group. Read all about it on his own blog.

Senior Data Insights Consultant and Data Platform MVP, those are the ‘official’ terms for describing Benni’s activities. On a daily basis, he converts copious amounts of coffee into insights on customer data.

Jeroen is a consultant in the Digital Workplace team that specialises in building digital environments to support all business users in their daily activities. His main focus lies with Office 365 and related technologies.

Which announcement immediately caught your eye, and maybe caught you by surprise?   

No big announcements for new features are forthcoming, but quite a few improvements in the daily use of Power Automate are on their way.  For Power Automate creators, improvements in handling connections within and between flows are coming soon,” says Jeroen. “Currently, when flows are imported as part of a solution, they still require some work to get all of the connections up and running. By using connection references in flows, it should be possible to simply import the solution, add the connections to the references, and have the flow run smoothly from the get-go.”    

Jeroen also has some good news for admins: “For Power Platform admins, better usage and licensing reporting is coming that should finally shed some light on API usage per flow and per user. This should make it easier for admins to ensure that they are operating within the license's limitations.   

Another improvement for them concerns the risk of data loss. Current data loss policies are rather blunt. The new announcement will provide more options and granularity for preventing data loss. It will be possible to put restrictions on specific actions for connectors (instead of restricting the entire connector), restrict connector sharing, perform endpoint filtering, etc.”

It is important to understand that these release plans are not static documents,” says Joris. “The release documentation will be continuously updated in the coming weeks, just as they were in previous waves. One of the things I want to see more details on are the announcements about enhanced support for Power Automate Cloud Flows, along with Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. when you need to extend an ERP system, you want to keep the core clean, and by leveraging the Power Platform, you can achieve this while not being forced to compromise on user requirements.”   

“With my data focus, I’m eager for all the Power BI news, which will arrive in the coming weeks,” says Benni. ”With the current public information, I am truly excited about the love Power BI dataflows is receiving. With the Visual Query Plan and Query Folding Indicators being already released, this is just a glimpse of what we'll see in the future. Power BI dataflows will become a first-class citizen in many organizatons, especially with the upcoming integration of deployment pipelines, and some of the work that is already being done in the background on the Enhanced Compute Engine.”  

Any news about Power Virtual Agents?   

“Up to this point, it's hard to work with variables in Power Virtual Agents. For example, in a bot topic it's impossible to work with arrays which make many scenarios (such as dynamically proposing options and capturing multiple user inputs) hard to do,” explains Jeroen. ”I'm happy to see improvements on this front. It will be easier to perform basic operations without relying on a Power Automate flow, and it will also be easier to send inputs to flows and parse the results from flows. Finally, the announcement to simply integrate Microsoft Adaptive Cards, which work great in approval workflows and Microsoft Teams, is a big plus as well.”   

Lots of announcements again in this new wave, but what other updates should we be on the look out for?

“AI Builder continues to evolve into a more mature product with the addition of new AI models to perform specific operations, such as invoice and receipt processing. This should make it easier to tackle these common scenarios for many organizations,” states Jeroen.   

“On the governance front, two announcements stand out for me. The ability for a Power Platform Environment administrator to manage Dataverse roles for groups of users instead of individual users, right from the admin center, makes the pesky task of security management less complicated. Second, the tenant level admin reports on apps & flows usage will provide valuable insights for administrators and owners. To achieve this level of reporting today, a lot of extra configuration is needed (the Power Platform Center of Excellence starter kit is an ideal template to start from). So, it's great to see Microsoft making inroads to native production of these insights,” he continues.

“Fusion developer teams - combining both code-first developers and citizen developers - working together to solve business problems are the key to truly leveraging the full potential of the Power Platform. The recent announcements on source code file support for canvas apps and roadmap items on feature enhancements  on Power Platform Build Tools and integration with Azure API management shows that Microsoft also recognizes that combining the skills of pro-devs and citizen developers is a sweet spot for innovation,” says Joris.

“Most of my professional Power BI activities revolve around the Governance & Administration aspects these days. The public preview of Azure Purview (some might refer to it as 'Azure Data Catalog v2'), and its integration with Power BI will open so many exciting options for me. On top of that, the APIs are being intensely worked on, and will give us more flexibility in investigating the Usage & Adoption patterns in clients' organizations,” concludes Benni.

Our Power Lab Team loves new features. Let us put that enthusiasm to work for you!

We work for a very broad group of customers in different sectors and in different departments. This enables us to share best practices and ideas. We also work closely with the Microsoft experts and thereby acquire first-hand experience.

We established our virtual Power Lab team by combining the accumulated knowledge of our Office 365, Dynamics CRM, and Data Insights teams. This enables us to merge expertise on various platforms and bring to life the Microsoft “Better Together” philosophy.

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