Nkgwete IT’s Siddika Osman discusses Microsoft’s Power Platform and the rise of citizen developers


Siddika Osman, CEO at Nkgwete IT, says that Microsoft’s Power Platform is a powerful set of tools, but its flexibility comes with challenges where governance is concerned.

The Microsoft Power Platform has become a very powerful set of tools that many enterprise users have access to and are using, simply through their Microsoft 365 enterprise licences. Business users are able to quickly develop applications using Power Apps or automate business flows using Power Automate. 

This has given rise to what is called the citizen developer. TechTarget defines citizen developers as empowered business users who create new or change existing business applications without the need to involve IT departments. Notably, citizen developers are likely to be more agile than IT developers, and can respond quickly to changes in the business landscape.

This empowers business users to create solutions quickly for the company, but this flexibility also comes with challenges for the company and the IT department. 

According to a 2023 KPMG study, 43 percent of surveyed companies are using low code platforms and 20 percent of companies had it as a formal software development strategy. Seventy-six percent of surveyed low code planners in this study stated that governance rules were not yet in place. 

Bridging the gap between creation and business use case

There are many solutions and practices available for these governance challenges, but they are often overlooked. The solutions developed within the Power Platform are not typically performed by IT teams, with all the discipline and rigour that IT teams use to implement and deploy solutions. 

The challenges arise in the bridge between the stage where the business user develops a solution useful to the business, and the stage where the solution becomes critical to the day-to-day operations of the business. This creates four challenges that must be overcome.

Challenge 1: Power Platform configuration. Most companies have the Power Platform available based on their Microsoft 365 enterprise licensing. Business users start to use the platform with its default settings. It is important to remember that the platform will not allow the user to perform any activity they would not be able to perform without any automation, but the platform does allow the user to do it more efficiently and at greater speed.

There are best practices that companies are advised to implement, which include: the creation of separate environments where users create personal efficiency projects vs. production automation, setting up of DLP policies to restrict the use of connectors, or restricting access to environments not meant for all employees in the company. 

Challenge 2: Power Platform standards. Solutions developed by business users often become business-critical automations. When dealing with many of these business-critical automations, it is important that proper standards are followed. These may be standards like naming conventions or different mechanisms to authenticate connections to resources within the company.

IT teams are very familiar with these standards and how critical they are in supporting applications daily. This can be resolved by defining standards upfront, or to take solutions through a process of bringing the solution in line with the company standards if the solution becomes business-critical.

Challenge 3: Power Platform governance. As with any platform within the enterprise, the platform must be monitored, and controls must be in place to track the use of the platform. The recommended practice is to implement a centre of excellence toolkit, which provides a set of tools and reports that assist in reporting on the platform. 

There are also basic reports and controls that can be implemented for companies who do not want to deploy the full centre of excellence toolkit. Enterprises should then use these reports or the CoE toolkit periodically to assess the state of the platform within the organisation.

Challenge 4: Power Platform ongoing support. The business user is able to develop solutions that are very useful to the business, as the user is very familiar with business requirements. Business users are typically less focused on the ongoing support of the solution, as the user simply expects the solution to work with little day-to-day intervention. 

The business users may initially support the application themselves, but these users may also move on creating a risk in the support model. Solutions have to be brought to the company standards and the appropriate monitoring as well as support material must be put in place to support business critical applications in line with the company standards.

The Power Platform is powerful, because it empowers business users with the understanding of the business’s needs, to easily develop applications or automations. Many companies underestimate the extent to which their own business users are using the platforms and how it enables the business. These solutions often become business-critical, and as with any platform, must have controls put in place to monitor its use.

There are well established practices in aligning these platforms with the controls expected within an enterprise, but these practices are often overlooked as the platform is not regarded as a “serious” development platform. It is a serious platform and can easily be managed at enterprise standards by implementing the suggested practices and toolkits.

Nkgwete is here to help, for those who are not familiar with implementing the platforms with the required controls. Nkgwete can help your organisation navigate these challenges, coupled with ongoing monthly governance and support of solutions developed on your Power Platform.

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