Computers are supposed to make life easier, but the ability to create new functionality for them is only in the hands of a small number of highly skilled people. Microsoft wants computers to be a little more like automobiles: millions of people know how to drive a car, and owning one can be life changing, even though comparatively few know how to build an engine.
On stage at Microsoft’s Ignite Enterprise Developer Conference in Florida today, CEO Satya Nadella announced a host of new tools to make app development easier for anyone.
Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled the Power Platform, bringing together a set of programs that it has had for a few years that allow companies to transform their data into understandable visualizations and to create applications using this data and Microsoft technologies. Software updates are part of a growing number of Microsoft’s business services as it seeks to differentiate its cloud computing offerings from those of Amazon, Oracle and the burgeoning cloud business of Google.
The Power Platform and its precedents have attracted all kinds organizations, major public transport networks To Virgin atlantic charities like the American Red Cross, as well as small businesses that may not have been able to hire app developers in the past. Every company that sells business software explains how it can help businesses work easier, but with the Power Platform, businesses can really change How? ‘Or’ What they are doing their job.
Take Samit Saini, for example. Saini was a security guard at Heathrow Airport for 13 years, where much of the administrative work he had to do was on paper. Being a bit of a digital tinkerer with a fondness for Excel, he discovered PowerApps, the part of Power Platform that allows anyone to build an app on their own, and tried to create digital versions of the paper forms he used. . Heathrow’s IT department liked his job so much that they offered him a job. Him and his colleagues have since built 17 applications for various functions around the airport. Saini didn’t need to learn a single line of code to build his apps.
Saini’s story will become more and more mainstream, Nadella told Quartz. “Sixty percent of tech jobs are now outside of what is considered the tech industry,” he said, citing a statistic uncovered by LinkedIn, which Microsoft also owns. “And it will only grow.”
As more businesses begin to increasingly move their processes online, Nadella said he expects a shortage of around 1 million developers by 2030, creating the imperative to find ways for anyone who can use a computer to create applications. He compares what PowerApps can do for people to what Excel has done for data. “Once Excel was introduced, a lot of people were able to create spreadsheets and go digital and analytical,” Nadella said. “Think about all the white collar jobs that were created using Excel, because then people could sort of do that type of work – we want the same to happen with low-code / no-code. “
PowerApps is part of a growing movement to make it easier for anyone to build apps and programs, without having to learn coding languages. As Nadella suggests, there is already a shortage of developers, and companies like Microsoft are coming up with new solutions for figuring out how to fix development issues without them. With PowerApps, it’s a bit like creating a PowerPoint presentation: you move things around to make your app look what you want, inserting buttons, info, maps, or whatever else you need to show, just like you. would do this to create a presentation. . You can build full-fledged applications that can run on multiple operating systems, without even having to look at a single line of code. You can connect to many services already used by businesses, including Slack, Dropbox, Salesforce, and the entire suite of Microsoft apps.
Microsoft offers all kinds of templates for designs and use cases just like in PowerPoint. You can connect to the datasets you already own, import them into PowerApps, and have the system automatically create the app you want. Once it’s done all the hard development work in the background, you can redesign it however you want. For very simple tasks, you can create an application in less than five minutes.
But in the same way that Excel didn’t put accountants or financial services out of business, Nadella believes the status of developers will not change within organizations, even if more people are able to build apps. “Democratization improves the overall digital capacity of an organization,” Nadella said. “If anything, we’ll have more professional developers, and all these citizen-developers. Both, in fact, will be what I think a business will have as it improves its digital capabilities. “
Among a slew of updates to various corporate offerings from Microsoft, including Azure services, Cortana (the company’s virtual assistant) and Office365, Nadella also unveiled new features for the Power Platform. Any power user can now create their own bots for their site that business customers can talk to. “Power Virtual Agents, a low-code, no-code bot building solution, enables anyone in an organization, regardless of technical ability, to build and deploy intelligent virtual agents,” the company said. in a press release. The bot’s software is currently in beta testing and will generally be available on December 1.
There are also other PowerApps updates, such as users can include more of Microsoft’s AI capabilities in their apps. Powerful app makers can now include algorithms that will allow their app to read handwritten text, detect languages, and gauge sentiment in any text, such as social media posts or reviews. clients. With these updates, developers don’t need to know how to build machine learning algorithms to use them in their applications. And if those companies use Microsoft Teams, the company’s answer to Slack, they’ll soon be able to build apps that can live there directly or connect to channels within Teams.
Microsoft is also not forgetting traditional developers. Nadella said that GitHub, the code repository website that Microsoft bought in 2018, has more than 40 million developers on the site, and that includes many of the top Fortune 500 companies. At Ignite, Microsoft has showcased Live Share, allowing developers to collaborate on a piece of code together in real time, and said it was pulling GitHub’s knowledge into the Visual Studio coding tool. Now developers will see popular snippet suggestions on GitHub right in Visual Studio, so instead of having to rewrite something from scratch, they will be able to extract code that already does what they’re trying to do. .
While Nadella says it’s always been a part of how Microsoft helps its customers, it has recently opened up more than ever to potential competitors. If a customer uses Amazon Web Services and Office365, Nadella wants to make sure it all works together because that’s the reality of how businesses buy software. Everything does not happen at the same time. “It’s clearly a different way of partnering, but it’s all about our customers,” Nadella said. “Things become very clear about what you need to do to be successful, if you listen to your customers, and that’s what we did. “
“I call them the new Microsoft,” said Chad Brisendine, chief information officer at St. Luke’s University Health Network. He’s been CIO for 15 years, but believes that over the past two years Microsoft has provided “a different level of partnership and engagement, providing solutions and being better advocates for the technology they have.” His team has already created 20 PowerApps, taking into account the requests of network departments to create tools specific to their needs. The one his team has built takes the archaic faxed prescription requests and pulls them into the pharmacy’s computer database. By running on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud, her team was able to help in new ways they wouldn’t have had time before: “If you spend time patching servers, that time could be devoted to information analysis ”. Brisendine said.
The American Red Cross, which is helping relief efforts for the currently raging wildfires in California, is increasingly relying on the systems PowerApps enables it to build. “Our staff and volunteers have been instrumental in building applications to support disaster relief efforts,” LV Spencer, volunteer logistics manager, told Quartz via email. “We recently created an app to track the processing of our supply request during a disaster relief operation. As you can imagine, it took a long time for us to track these requests using a spreadsheet. In a disaster, it’s critical that we have the right supplies, the right amount, in the right place, at the right time.
As every organization begins to understand how apps can help their business, from large multinationals to the corner bakery, they’ll need to be able to find the people to build them. And when more people can build something as easily as they can put together a slide deck, maybe the balance of technological power will start to shift away from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world.
Nadella wants Microsoft to lead this charge: “I think as a technology company… our main focus is on how to take this technology and then democratize it, and access it, so that others can enjoy the benefits of. technology.