You’re probably aware that developing and rolling out software is incredibly complex and time-consuming. But do you know why? As an award-winning technology company, we have a pretty good idea. Software development is:
- Multi-faceted with many moving parts involving lots of different steps, including requirements gathering, design, development, testing and deployment.
- A creative process with no single “right way” to execute any given step.
- Iterative, with many changes and revisions made throughout the process.
- Collaborative in nature, involving many different people with different skills and expertise.
Plus, software development is a constantly evolving field, with new technologies and techniques emerging all the time. Most notably, low-code and no-code platforms constitute a growing percentage of new software development. These tools, like the suite of apps in Microsoft Power Platform – especially Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents, offer several benefits over traditional development methods, including:
- Accelerated development: Use a visual drag-and-drop interface, which makes it quick and easy to create applications without writing code.
- Minimized development expenditure: Do not require the same level of expertise as traditional development methods, so costs are inherently lower.
- Increased agility: Empower businesses to quickly develop new applications in response to changing business needs.
- Increased teamwork: Quickly enable non-technical users – or citizen developers – to contribute to development.
- Enhanced user experience: Provide a more intuitive and user-friendly interface.
- Enhanced creativity: Bring all users into the development process, exponentially increasing the innovative spirit.
It all begs a simple question: if your organization is not yet using low/no-code tools, why?
According to Gartner, in fact, the global market for low-code development technologies is projected to total $26.9 billion in 2023, a 20% increase from 2022. This growth is being driven by several factors:
- Ever-increasing demand for digital transformation
- Growing number of non-technical users who need to create apps to help them in their own jobs
- Increasing availability of low/no-code platforms
In March 2023, Microsoft began rolling out test versions of a next-generation low/no-code solution that will change the way the world creates and uses software applications. Power Apps Copilot is a new AI-powered tool that makes it even easier to build apps. Wait, how can Power Apps be any easier? Well, get this…
With Copilot, you simply describe in natural language what you want your app to do and it will generate the code for you! For example, if you need help tracking inventory, you could say something like, “I want an app to track the inventory of my store.” Copilot will then generate the code for an app with a table to store your inventory items, as well as all forms and reports you’ll need to help you manage your inventory.
We are truly entering a new era. With the help of large language models (LLMs), we are moving to the next stage in the evolution of code abstraction, from custom code to low code to natural language authoring, where humans and machines work together to create applications.
Using the Copilot control, users can interact with applications in a more intuitive way, using natural language queries and refinements as well as the help of an AI assistant embedded directly in the app. Users can ask questions and the AI assistant will help find the answers. For example, a user could ask, “What is our average monthly sales number?” or “What are the top five products we sold last year?”
The AI assistant can also help users refine their queries. For example, in response to the What is our average monthly sales number? query, the AI assistant might suggest narrowing it down by specifying a particular product or region, making it easier for users to get the insights they need from their data.
Quite simply, Copilot will greatly improve the usability and efficiency of Power Platform – a set of tools that was already intuitive and efficient. And while it is still under development, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we build apps: faster, with less code and fewer errors.
So, how does it all work?
Power Apps Copilot features
- Improve insights
The AI-powered assistant helps you gain insights about the data in your apps through conversation in natural language. Makers can add this control to any app and choose what data it can answer questions about.
- Build apps through conversations
Describe the app you want to build, and AI will design it. You can also get in-app guidance using natural language processing to help build your app. For example, you can say, “I want an app to track office attendance” and the copilot will create the app with the required back-end in mere seconds.
- Microsoft Power Virtual Agents chatbots can now be embedded directly into Power Apps
Native integration of AI-powered Power Virtual Agents chatbots in Power Apps is a powerful new feature that can help you create more effective and engaging apps. With native integration, you can:
- Embed chatbots in your apps with just a few clicks.
- Use chatbots to provide customer support, answer questions, and automate tasks.
- Create more natural and conversational user experiences.
Power Virtual Agent Copilot features
Instantly create a conversational dialog for your bot by simply describing what you want it to do in natural language, making it accessible for everyone to create conversations more easily than ever before. By utilizing Copilot, you can reduce the development cycle of bot building, turning what used to consume months or years into weeks or days. Below are some of the key capabilities:
- Topic creation: Creating topics is now as simple as typing a description; in seconds, trigger phrases, questions, variables and more are generated.
- Seamless updates: Make changes to topics like asking for updates to nodes or asking for additional questions.
- Summarization: Quickly summarize user-provided information in an adaptive card without the need to create JSON schema – because it is created for you.
- Conversation booster: Quickly and easily create a chatbot that can answer questions from your company’s website or internal knowledge base. Simply point Copilot to your resources, and it will start to answer questions in minutes, right out of the box. There is no need to write any code or train the chatbot.
- Advanced bot building: This has been enhanced with a more intuitive conversation authoring studio, end-to-end software as a service (SaaS), and thousands of prebuilt connectors. These enhancements make it easier for professional and citizen developers to create, collaborate, deploy and manage intelligent bots.
- Generative Answers: Deliver rich, multi-turn conversations by pulling knowledge from multiple sources, such as external sites, documents, internal SharePoint sites or a combination of these.
Power Automate Copilot
Describe the workflow you need in a conversational way and Copilot creates your automated flow. And it’s not limited to building new flows; it can help you understand existing, potentially complex flows and recommend changes and optimizations to improve your automations.
Copilot for Power BI and Power Pages are both in the works, as well. More on these in a future blogpost.
Well, we hope we were able to provide a sneak peek into the Copilot features that Microsoft is introducing with Power Platform to empower businesses to do more with less. And as the future unfolds and we see new technology challenges and the continued expansion of the developer community, we fully expect Copilot to be at the forefront, bringing down the TCO and technical debt that remains from the old ways of app development. In the meantime, let us continue learning and exploring as much as we can.