If you follow Kiefer Consulting and read our blogs on a regular basis, it’s pretty obvious that we are very excited about Microsoft Flow and Microsoft PowerApps being added to the Government Community Cloud (GCC).
We know there are still a lot of questions about Flow and PowerApps. This blog will hopefully answer a few of those burning questions. We also published a free infographic that explains what Flow and PowerApps are, what they can do and the benefits of using these applications to improve processes.
Over the past year, our team has been playing around with the Flow and PowerApps and patiently awaiting an announcement from Microsoft, telling all government agencies that the solutions were now available.
We’ve been able to build applications and automate workflows in preparation for GCC availability. The availability of these applications in the Office 365 Commercial Cloud ahead of the release to government agencies, gave us an opportunity to think about how state and local government agencies could benefit from solutions like Flow and PowerApps.
Flow automates the PRA Request Process
Last year, the Kiefer team started working on a workflow framework called the Simple Solution Suite. The framework allowed us to quickly build workflow solutions that helped automate and optimize critical business workflows that are common in state and local government.
We built two versions of a solution to improve the Public Records Act (PRA) Request process. One was built using Nintex and the other was built using Microsoft Flow. This solution enables state agencies to leverage workflow to collect all required materials to respond to a PRA request without relying on e-mail. Dashboards show where requests are in the process and alert team members when deadlines are approaching.
Automate and optimize. Fast!
We have been very impressed with the flexibility and capabilities of these applications that round out the Microsoft Power Platform. Like power BI that came before, these Microsoft solutions also allow users to build, iterate, and deploy without having to have the expertise in coding and software development.
As IT seeks to address the needs of the enterprise, users at the department level need easy and flexible tools to address critical business needs and challenges. Microsoft Flow and PowerApps allow users to build applications and automate workflows without having to seek out support from IT. This cuts down on the time that departments have to wait to get the support to improve a process. Digital transformation is more accessible (and more likely) when there are platforms and tools that enable a level of self-service. This is why we see Microsoft Flow and PowerApps as a game-changer as it relates to digital transformation.
If you get stuck… we can help.
In our evaluation of Flow, we discovered that many simple workflows could be automated and optimized by “power users”, however, as workflows become more complex, it may be necessary to leverage the expertise of a business analyst who can help you assess and analyze your current processes and workflow.
Like Microsoft Flow, Microsoft PowerApps is also extremely easy to use. You can build applications that work on any device and allow you to capture critical business information. You do not need to have a lot of experience in application development to use PowerApps, but if your application is more complex, you may consider working with the team that has experience with software development and understands best practices, usability, and user interface. This will help ensure that the application is easy to use and users adopt the application.
Now that these applications are available in the GCC, we recognize that there are still a lot of questions about pricing, functionality and security.
Both Microsoft Flow and Microsoft PowerApps can be licensed to an unlimited number of users. There are two standalone plans available, Plan 1 and Plan 2. Additional information about the difference between the two plans can be found on these Microsoft licensing information pages. Essentially Plan 1 is designed for general use, and Plan 2 is designed for power users and administrators.
PowerApps and Flow integrate with other Microsoft enterprise service offerings such as Office 365 US Government. However, there are some features that are available in the commercial version of Flow and PowerApps that are not available to US Government customers. According to Microsoft, the PowerApps and Flow teams or are working on adding functionality to these two applications.
Like other Office 365 applications in GCC, Data is segregated at both the application level and infrastructure level. This includes clients that are using Azure in the government cloud. In addition to segregating data, content stays at rest in data centers that are physically located only in the US. Access to that data is restricted to personnel that are US citizens. It is also important to note, support and service engineering staff do not have access to customer content hosted in the government cloud. Microsoft Flow and Microsoft PowerApps use a different set of URLs to access the applications. The URLs are specific to US Government.
We have been asked several times by state and local government agencies if Flow and PowerApps will meet security requirements for state and local government. Both applications are designed to support the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) accreditation at a high impact level. At this present time, PowerApps and Flow are under review with FedRAMP but have been granted a Security Assessment Report (SAR) by a qualified third-party assessment organization.
We will continue to keep you updated as these two products become more prevalent within state and local government. We believe that these highly anticipated additions to the Office 365 suite will be in demand and many organizations will be eager to put them to use. As new capabilities and features are made available, we will share our findings with you! If you were looking to deploy Microsoft Flow or Microsoft PowerApps and would like to speak with members of our Modern Workplace Consulting Practice, please contact Kiefer Consulting at 916-932-7220.