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Balancing innovation and governance with Power Platform

Balancing innovation and governance with Power Platform

The rise of citizen development and low-code software platforms is really catching on in businesses, democratising process change by liberating it from coders and technical IT teams. With Microsoft’s Power Platform, for example, employees who don’t have coding skills are able to create their own solutions. It’s a great example of how ordinary business users can be empowered to improve their own workflows and applications, but Microsoft’s latest Power Platform releases also offer clues as to what can go wrong.

Last summer Microsoft launched a starter kit for the Centre of Excellence, which provides guardrails for adopting, maintaining and supporting Power Platform, enabling organic growth without relinquishing control. An update last month split the components into three solutions, one around core admin assets, another for compliance and a third for nurturing elements that guide people through building their own solutions.

New wave of shadow IT

What all of this is intended to address is ‘shadow IT’, not a new problem, but one that could potentially be exacerbated by self-service cloud platforms. Shadow IT is where individuals and even whole business units implement solutions or processes outside the oversight of IT departments. The risk is that carefully budgeted technology roadmaps are undone by rogue purchases which can take the company in unintended directions.

In the past, shadow IT could have been as simple as an Excel spreadsheet created to fulfil a particular administrative function, or someone sharing a new database to underpin a business process. With the cloud came a new wave of headaches, as entire business units opted to subscribe to software services like Salesforce. Without the visibility of the IT team, seemingly harmless endeavours could breach regulatory requirements or throw financial plans off course with unplanned subscriptions charges.

While Microsoft’s move into a more open ecosystem of IT services and DIY app development is to be applauded, it can also be pretty scary. With Power Platform comes the risk of IT or business mangers not knowing what’s happening with their own data or software.

The Centre of Excellence addresses the problem. It allows IT teams to monitor any apps that colleagues and employees are building. Not only can they see what users create and where they are created, they have visibility of what the basic connectors that Microsoft bundles with the platform are connecting to. As well as monitoring, CoE facilitates administration and auditing, making sure assets are being used in a quasi-production manner.

Self-service without risks

Another big part of CoE is nurturing people who want to create things and innovate. Rather than let them go native, developing random apps that run wild across a company’s governance, they are shown how to use the platform within guardrails set by the business and IT. When they first start, they receive a welcoming email and are steered towards best practice development using correct company branding. The aim is to encourage users to come up with new applications that can then be transitioned to IT support and conform to the wider IT organisation. You get all the advantages from self-build without any of the risks.

Microsoft is hoping that the guardrails will persuade parties who have so far proved resistant to Power Platform, including developers and IT leaders, will start to embrace it. To make the case even stronger, best practice behaviour encouraged by the CoE has been modelled on high profile customer success stories, such SNCF, the French National Railway Company, and Virgin Atlantic.

All good and impressive. But be warned, CoE is complicated and layered, and you will need guidance to implement it effectively. It is basically a starter kit that you can install and immediately make use of, but partnering with Ergo will deliver bigger and longer term benefits. We will help implement guardrails for IT infrastructure management that are specific to your business. At the end of the day, the risks around shadow IT are too big not to get help.

Find out more about Ergo’s Power Platform solutions.

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