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Why admins should use the Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit

Discover why Power Platform administrators should consider leveraging the Center of Excellence Starter Kit.

Organizations are increasingly turning to low-code or no-code platforms such as Microsoft Power Platform to accelerate their digital transformation. However, effectively managing and governing these platforms can be a daunting task for administrators. Where do you start? How do you ensure consistency, compliance, and efficiency across your Power Platform environment?

This is where the Microsoft Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit (COE) comes into play, offering a comprehensive set of tools and resources to streamline administrative tasks and optimize platform usage.

We recently held a webinar with Microsoft MVP Rene Modery about the Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit. Watch the entire webinar recording below or read this blog post for some key highlights and takeaways on why Power Platform administrators should consider leveraging the Center of Excellence Starter Kit.

What is the Center of Excellence Starter Kit?

The Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit is a free collection of components and tools provided by Microsoft. It is specifically designed to assist organizations in developing a robust strategy for adopting and supporting the Microsoft Power Platform. It encompasses various features aimed at enhancing administrative capabilities and driving better governance, adoption, and insights.

The COE Starter Kit can help you understand how the Power Platform gets used in your organization. You may have some apps and flows, but maybe you want to learn more about who’s creating flows. How many apps and flows do you have each month, who are your top makers for Power Apps, etc.? Maybe you’re trying to see how you can get more value out of the Power Platform because you know that there are citizen developers around, they are creating and managing Powerapps and flows and maybe even creating bots, etc., but you want to get more value out of it.

Center of Excellence Starter Kit - Dashboard

The Center of Excellence Starter Kit is not meant as a replacement for the Power Platform Admin Center. Rather they work nicely together, and the COE enhances the PPAC a lot. Some things are not available in the PPAC, which you can get through the COE.

Insights and analytics

One of the significant challenges faced by administrators is gaining comprehensive insights into their Power Platform environments. While the Power Platform Admin Center offers some level of visibility, it may lack a holistic overview. The PPAC is mostly meant to administrate those environments, but it doesn’t give you additional insights into the environments.

For example, how many of your environments are empty? How many environments do you have that don’t have a single app or a single flow in them? You created them, but nothing was ever done. You might not figure that out easily through the Power Platform Admin Center.

Center of Excellence Starter Kit - Insights and Analytics

You also want to know who created them and when. For example, do you have a flow that was created three years ago and is it still running? Maybe it was created by somebody who left the organization. So that’s where the COE shines a lot. It gives you insights into what kind of inventory we have here overall within the Power Platform.

Who are the top app makers? Maybe you want to provide them with some special support. Maybe you want to talk to the top app maker and say, “Hey, I saw you create three apps in the last month and five in the previous month. That’s great. How can I support you?”

You can get some information, obviously in the Power Platform admin center, but it’s very environment-based. The COE gives you that big overview of everything that you have. And you can start drilling down, filtering whichever way you want, whichever you think would be helpful and useful for you.

The Center of Excellence Starter Kit offers detailed insights into various aspects of the platform, such as:

Inventory Management: Easily identify the number of environments, active/inactive status, and their contents, including apps, flows, and connectors.

User Activity Tracking: Track app and flow creation, identify top makers, and analyze usage patterns to provide targeted support and training.

Connector Usage Analysis: Understand which connectors are extensively used and identify opportunities for standardization or optimization.

Governance and process standardization

Governance is important in any Power Platform deployment. The Center of Excellence Starter Kit doesn’t magically fix all our Power Platform governance issues, but it equips you with the tools to establish robust governance processes tailored to your organization’s needs. For instance, you can automate environment requests, streamline data loss prevention policies, and manage the lifecycle of Power Platform components effectively.

Once you put some citizen developer tools out there, they will do some things that they maybe shouldn’t be doing, or maybe they want to do something, but they can’t. It’s better to establish some proper governance best practices so that people know what they are allowed to do, and what are they not allowed to do.

But also, how can they get supported, through certain processes? For example, how do you request a new environment? What’s the process? Who reviews, who approves, etc.? That’s something that the COE can help you with.

With the dashboards, you can see those insights fairly up-to-date every day. The very important thing here about those insights is they help you drive additional processes. It helps with planning further activities and discussions.

And it’s not just about the technology itself that’s used, but also about the people. There could be someone with 300 flows. What if they leave the organization tomorrow? That’s a bit of a concern. Maybe you need to identify those top makers and start talking to them about service accounts.

Maintaining effective governance is crucial for ensuring compliance, security, and efficiency within the Power Platform ecosystem.

The Center of Excellence Starter Kit empowers administrators to establish and enforce governance processes effectively:

Environment Management: Standardize processes for requesting and provisioning environments, ensuring proper oversight and resource allocation.

Access Controls: Define roles and permissions, establish approval workflows, and enforce security policies to mitigate risks associated with unauthorized access.

Compliance Monitoring: Monitor app and flow creation for adherence to organizational guidelines, ensuring data protection and regulatory compliance.

Adoption and support

Just deploying the COE doesn’t immediately result in additional adoption, but it makes it a bit easier to communicate with your makers. Who do you need to talk to? Those are the kinds of things that are supported by the COE.

Driving user adoption and providing adequate support to citizen developers are key objectives for administrators. While the Center of Excellence Starter Kit doesn’t replace training initiatives, it facilitates adoption efforts by:

Data-Driven Insights: Utilize analytics to identify trends, gauge user engagement, and tailor support programs based on user needs and preferences.  

Community Engagement: Foster a community of practice by connecting with top makers, sharing best practices, and facilitating collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

Process Optimization: Streamline app development processes, provide resources and templates, and offer guidance to accelerate project delivery and enhance productivity.

Lifecycle management of the Power Platform

Managing the lifecycle of Power Platform components, such as apps and flows, can be challenging without proper oversight. The COE Starter Kit enables you to track the creation, usage, and retirement of these components. You can set thresholds for inactive components and automate the cleanup process, ensuring a clutter-free environment and optimal resource utilization.

So how do we know when somebody creates an app? Should we talk to that person immediately? What if we have a flow that I know was turned on seven years ago, and was turned off six years ago, but the flow is still there?

Power Platform Lifecycle Governance

There are a lot of apps and flows that get created for testing purposes and then they just sit on the Power Platform. Maybe they should be removed after some time because you want to make sure that you have relatively clean environments.

So, you could potentially clean it up. There’s that automated process, that could be used. And here it already helps you with governing the lifecycle a bit better and making sure that inactive components get removed.

When you request a new environment, what should happen? Should it go through a review process? If somebody requests something and it’s no longer required for example, should it be deleted?  Maybe it should be cleaned up after a certain amount of time because it’s only required for a small proof of concept.

Environment Request Process

With the Center of Excellence Starter Kit, you can automate the process of handling environment requests. Whether it’s creating new environments or reviewing existing ones, the toolkit provides a standardized approach. You can set up automated processes for requesting, reviewing, and approving environments, ensuring compliance with organizational policies.

Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a crucial aspect of governing Power Platform usage, and the Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit offers essential tools for managing it effectively.

Setting up DLP policies in the Power Platform Admin Center is straightforward. However, understanding their impact on existing apps and flows is essential before applying DLP policies. Without proper analysis, updating a DLP policy could inadvertently disrupt critical workflows, leading to productivity losses.

The COE Toolkit includes a DLP editor that facilitates impact analysis. This tool allows administrators to assess how DLP changes may affect various apps and flows. By identifying potential disruptions beforehand, organizations can make informed decisions about policy adjustments.

DLP Editor

Moreover, the Center of Excellence Starter Kit enhances the Power Platform Admin Center by providing additional functionalities, such as DLP impact analysis, that aren’t available natively. This integration streamlines governance processes and ensures a more comprehensive approach to data protection.

Ultimately, effective DLP management contributes to increased adoption of the Power Platform by fostering trust among users and ensuring the smooth functioning of critical business processes.

Supporting Power Platform citizen developers

Empowering citizen developers is essential for driving adoption and innovation within your organization. The COE Starter Kit helps you support these individuals right from the start. By providing a standardized welcome process, offering training opportunities, and establishing community forums, you create an environment where citizen developers can thrive and contribute meaningfully.

Effective communication is key to fostering collaboration and driving continuous improvement. The Center of Excellence Starter Kit facilitates communication with citizen developers through automated surveys, feedback mechanisms, and community platforms. By soliciting feedback and acting on it, you demonstrate your commitment to supporting and empowering your Power Platform users.

Where can citizen developers find further help? What kind of support models are there? Where can they find training opportunities? What kind of other events are taking place internally? All of that should go into that very first welcome email, because the moment somebody creates that first app or flow, they receive that welcome email and immediately they know everything in terms of where they need to go.

Center of Excellence Starter Kit - Welcome Email

Ask your makers, your citizen developers. Is there anything else that they need or is there something that they’re missing?  What else do they want to have? Do they need more training, was there too much training, etc.? Really reach out to them.

The COE doesn’t solve all your communication questions and issues, but again, it’s one way to continue that discussion. You need to follow up regularly with your citizen developers, your app makers, app creators, etc. Don’t just send them the welcome email and leave them alone for years and never talk to them again. Check-in with them regularly through the community forums and surveys, etc.

Innovation management

Capturing and prioritizing innovative ideas is crucial for driving business transformation. The Center of Excellence Starter Kit includes features like the Innovation Backlog, where users can submit ideas and suggestions for new solutions. Admins can review these submissions, assess their feasibility, and prioritize them based on organizational goals and priorities.

Center of Excellence Starter Kit - Innovation Backlog

If you’re a large organization or if you want to have that standardized process of reviewing any ideas for potential new tools, that’s where you could make use of that. The idea of the innovation backlog is that if somebody has a business problem or an idea how to solve a business problem, they can go in here and submit their idea, their problem, or their suggestion.

And the idea is not that anything that comes in here will get developed, but you will get an idea of what people are actually thinking of, what do they think might be valuable to be done? It might be a good starting point for discussions.

Tailored implementation

One size does not fit all when it comes to the Center of Excellence Starter Kit. You have the flexibility to choose which components are most relevant to your organization’s needs. Whether you focus on governance, adoption, lifecycle management, or innovation, you can tailor the implementation to align with your strategic objectives and priorities.

There are other certain things that didn’t seem too valuable to us a while ago. Maybe we will re-evaluate it again and see if it’s getting more important for us. But the key thing is really, you don’t need to use all of it. The COE toolkit is very big, but you can really focus on what is important to you.

If you say, I only care about all those additional insights. I don’t care about governance processes right now. I don’t care about, adoption processes. Still, go ahead, and use those insights. Figure out how many apps and flows you have, etc. that are providing a lot of value to you. You don’t need to leverage the full COE toolkit.

Conclusion

The Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit serves as a comprehensive toolkit for Power Platform administrators, offering a wide range of capabilities to streamline administrative tasks, drive adoption, and optimize platform governance. By leveraging the insights, governance frameworks, and support mechanisms provided by the Center of Excellence Starter Kit, organizations can unlock the full potential of the Microsoft Power Platform while ensuring compliance, security, and efficiency in their digital transformation journey.

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