Maybe you’ve heard about Microsoft’s Power Platform suite or one of the tools that comprise it—Power BI, Power Automate, and PowerApps—and wondered whether your nonprofit should look into it. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about it and wanted to provide some clarification about what this powerful suite of tools can do and how your nonprofit might use them.
Individually, each piece offers beneficial features. Power BI is a strong data visualization tool, Power Automate lets you automate complicated or frequent processes or tasks to free up time and increase efficiency, and Power Apps lets you design and create custom apps without knowing a software programming language. But when you connect them together—and to a wide range of other Microsoft and third-party software—these tools combine to create powerful solutions for your organization.
The big advantage is that you can streamline a lot of workflow processes that take up a lot of time, freeing up staff for other things. You can also eliminate errors and create efficiencies by automating the tasks your organization does every day.
In fact, at Tech Impact, we use these tools in a variety of ways.
For example, my team is responsible for, among other things, creating publications and reports for our nonprofit audience. Using Microsoft Forms, we’ve created a content suggestion form that people can use to submit ideas for new publications. Power Automate checks the form every week to see how many submissions there are and emails the team to let us know. We also set triggers and actions in Power Automate so that anytime someone submits an idea and marks it “high priority,” it also emails the team.
Power Automate includes hundreds of pre-designed templates that you modify and customize for your own needs, making it easy to get started. Just set the triggers and actions based on your user-defined criteria. It’s very user-friendly but gets more complicated as your automations grow in complexity. While it connects with most Microsoft solutions, it will also integrate with more than 400 third-party ones.
At Tech Impact, we also use Power BI to create and share our annual report with our audience, our sponsors, and our board of directors. Rather than a static print or PDF report, ours is a dynamic visualization of our key data metrics—everything from how many people have downloaded our publications to how many students our workforce development programs have served. (You can explore our annual report here.) By automating this data gathering and display, we’ve made it easy to share a real-time picture of our work with the world.
You might also use Power BI to display metrics to organizational leadership for decisionmaking—for example, to aggregate and display key performance indicators to show progress each month. Power BI will do all the data manipulation and spit out the numbers as visualization. You can also collect multiple sets of data and filter them against each other. We see a lot of organizations using Power BI to enhance the out-of-box reporting of third-party software solutions like Salesforce—it can connect directly with more than 200 programs.
Power Apps makes app development approachable for people who don’t know software development languages, but it’s aimed more at advanced users than novice ones. As an example of how your nonprofit might use it, imagine creating an app for your human resources department to bring new employees on-board. The app might tell them who their team members are and connect to them in Office 365; show them company policies and procedures; provide important links to payroll and file storage locations; and give them all the materials and information they need to get started in one location. When they log in to the app, it might walk them through the tasks they need to complete, such as filling out direct deposit information and signing the necessary paperwork, for example, and then show them video training modules to get them started.
Power Platform has two pricing tiers related to Power Apps and Power Automate: Basic and Premium. The pricing model is complex and depends on the connectors used—to learn more, contact a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partner. Microsoft offers a Free and Pro version of Power BI, which costs $3 per user, per month with the nonprofit discount.
Want to learn more? Sign up for our free webinar on November 17.
Tech Impact’s consulting team can also help you implement and configure these tools. Contact us to learn more.