The Microsoft Power Platform is an incredible low-code platform that enables people to create their own apps and automation to address business needs. However, the platform is huge and it can be overwhelming.
Do I build an app or a bot?
What type of app?
What licenses are required?
Where should the data be stored?
What are the security considerations?
Is it even worth building an app?
These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered when building a Power Platform solution.
Based on my experience, if these questions are not answered properly then there is risk of building solutions that...
Are built with the wrong components
Become difficult and costly to maintain
Are not licensed properly
Do not deliver a good return on investment
Do not meet business objectives
For a lot of people, this all starts to get very overwhelming.
And this is why I have designed the Solution Canvas. 👇
The Solution Canvas is 1-page document that teams use to design and plan all aspects of a Power Platform solution. It is designed to be a checklist that teams can work on collaboratively to understand and quickly validate that their solution is going to succeed.
Once a Solution Canvas is complete, stakeholders will have the information required to answer the following questions:
How much will it cost?
What resources do I need?
How long will it take to build?
Is it worth progressing further?
This article describes the Solution Canvas and how you use it.
You can download a copy of the canvas for free here 👇
When to use the Solution Canvas
The Power Platform Solution Canvas is ideally suited for fusion teams (business and IT working together) who want to collaborate on solution design.
It is particularly useful when...
Premium Power Platform licensing may be required
The solution will be used by many people
The solution includes complex or sensitive data
The outcomes delivered by the solution are critical to the business
Alignment across all stakeholders is required
Who participates in building the Solution Canvas?
The Solution Canvas should be populated in collaboration with a diverse group of people so that different ideas, skills, knowledge and backgrounds can all be taken advantage of. The group should include the following people at a minimum:
2x Power Platform technical specialists
How to populate the Solution Canvas
It is recommended that a digital whiteboard tool, such as Miro, Mural, Microsoft Whiteboard, is used to collaborate on the canvas. You are going to want to iterate and change things as the solution develops.
As a group, work together to populate the different sections of the canvas with sticky notes. Each section contains questions to help prompt the process.
Let's look at each section of the canvas in more detail.
The business case row should primarily be populated by the business owner of the envisioned solution. This row sets the scene. Defining the purpose of the solution, what it should do and the desired outcomes.
Describe what the solution is intended to do. What problem will it solve? Why are we building it?
E.g. To reduce the amount of time spent on a paper-based processes.
Which high-level features and functions should be included in the solution? What will not be included?
E.g. In scope: a mobile application and workflow automation. Out of scope: new document management system to manage digital documents.
How do we measure if the solution is successful and achieves its purpose? List the key metrics that will be used expressed as SMART goals.
E.g. Reduce the time an engineer spends compiling customer documentation by 50% with the first 3 months of go live.
Once the solution is built and delivered to the end users, what is the result we want to achieve? If the Purpose is achieved, then what are the outcomes as a result?
E.g. Once the purpose of "reducing the time spent on a paper-based process" the outcomes we desire are improved employee experience, more time to spend on tasks that deliver value etc.
The people row considers all of the people involved with making the solution a success. This row is extremely important as ultimately it is people that will determine the success or failure of the solution.
Who are the people we building the solution for? What are their jobs? Don't forget about administrators!
List the people who have an interest in the success of the solution. Who is the product (solution) owner and sponsor?
Support & Maintenance
Once the solution is built, who is going to troubleshoot issues or implement enhancements?
Do you have the right people to build the solution? Do they have the right skills? Do you need additional support?
How will you ensure that the users and the business are ready to adopt the change that the Power Platform solution introduces. This one box is very important and covers a lot!
User Acceptance Testing
The solution row is where things start to get technical and we consider all aspects of the Power Platform solution. It is a good idea to have two or more people who have technical knowledge of the Power Platform included at this stage. We want to have all ideas up for consideration so that we can select the best components for the solution.
Getting the solution row 100% correct the first time is not the goal here. It is best to get ideas down as quickly as possible (e.g. via an ideation workshop) and then work together to choose the best ones. The solution row has sections that relate to one another so decisions that you make in one section may affect another. Work through the sections iteratively.
What Power Platform components should be considered for the solution? Remember that a Power Platform solution is not just confined to the Power Platform. Take advantage of Office 365 and Azure services.
Image from Microsoft Build 2022 Power up your development efforts with the latest low code innovations (microsoft.com)
What will be the main data source for your solution? Dataverse, SharePoint Lists, SQL. What other data services will the solution connect to?
Considering the components and data sources that the solution uses. What licenses are required? Do these licenses exist already? Or do you need to purchase them?
How will you give uses access to the solution components and data sources? Will you use Microsoft 365 Groups or Azure AD Security Groups?
Does the solution contain sensitive data? Do you need to have role based access to certain parts of the solution and its data?
Application Lifecyle Management
What environments will you use to build and maintain the solution? How will changes be propagated from one environment to the next? Do you need to set up Azure DevOps CI/CD pipelines for example?
Do you have Power Automate flows included in the solution? Make sure you are using service accounts for the connections rather than personal accounts.
Once you have completed the first round of populating the Solution Canvas. It does not end there. You are likely to go off and start prototyping, getting feedback from users etc. and there may be changes to the solution design. Come back and update the solution row of the Solution Canvas as you go. It will ultimately become part of the supporting 'As Built' documentation. Once the solution is delivered, the canvas will become a reference point to reflect back on and determine whether the solution was a success or not based on the success criteria.
This is my first iteration of the Solution Canvas. I am looking to develop it further, whilst keeping it a free resource for anyone who wants to use it. I would love to get your feedback on the Solution Canvas in the comments below, or start a conversation with me on LinkedIn 👉 Hamish Sheild | LinkedIn.
What do you like about the Solution Canvas?
What is missing?
What could be improved?