Microsoft Excel is widely recognized as the original low-code tool. However, when it comes to handling data and business logic in an Excel spreadsheet, things get a bit messy. The data and logic in Excel are not well-managed or easily shared with other users, making it difficult to reuse them outside of that specific file. But fear not! Microsoft’s Power Platform comes to the rescue with its data platform called Dataverse. This bad boy offers a more sophisticated solution. The data stored in Dataverse is not just your average data – it’s richer! It includes nifty metadata that tags business objects like email addresses, invoices, and order numbers, giving you all the juicy details about what they should contain and how they should be handled. And that’s not all! Dataverse also supports cool features like business logic, authorization, intelligence, and analytics, making your life a whole lot easier when it comes to managing and analysing your data.


Microsoft’s Power Apps Copilot, a fantastic AI-powered tool, is already revolutionizing application development in Microsoft Dataverse. Users can simply describe in natural language what they want their app to do, and Copilot will take care of the rest. Need more screens, controls, or features? Just ask Copilot and it will incorporate them into your app as your ideas evolve.


There’s more! Introducing Excel to App, a brand-new tool currently in preview. This tool is designed to assist users in seamlessly bringing in their existing spreadsheet data. As the name suggests, you can effortlessly drag and drop unstructured data from Excel, or even provide Copilot with a link to the file. The Power Platform will then work its magic by analysing the data, enriching it with the necessary additional information required by Dataverse, and transforming it into a fully functional app. Nirav Shah, VP of Dataverse at Microsoft, shared these exciting developments ahead of the Microsoft Build event from 23 to 25 May at the Seattle Convention Centre. He said:

“Because it’s Power Apps Copilot-enabled, it’s inferring what the table structure should be, how should it name it, what are the descriptions, what are the columns that need to exist and the data types of those columns.”


Giving all that Excel data a new home in Dataverse is great for data governance. Shah pointed out:

“Taking that unmanaged and citizen data out there that’s ungoverned across the enterprise and turning it into a fully managed, structured cloud back end with full authorization policies, governance and security that can scale as the business needs can help alleviate the shadow IT that exists across the enterprise.”


Dataverse’s latest addition, elastic tables, is a game-changer when it comes to managing vast amounts of non-relational data. These tables have the incredible capacity to handle large volumes of information, capable of ingesting tens of millions of rows within a single hour. With elastic tables, you can effortlessly process and store massive datasets, opening up new possibilities for efficient data management and analysis within Dataverse.


While data in Excel may be user-friendly for individual work, the real magic happens when you bring that data into Dataverse. Connecting your Excel data to Dataverse unlocks a whole new world of possibilities and access to an array of exciting AI tools. This integration opens up avenues for advanced data analysis, intelligent automation, and enhanced decision-making capabilities. By leveraging the power of Dataverse, your data transcends its individual limitations, paving the way for transformative insights and streamlined workflows.


Once your data finds its home in Dataverse, it becomes readily available for utilization by Power Virtual Agents chatbots, including the newly introduced Teams bots. Imagine this scenario: Instead of maintaining a list of company hardware assets, such as projectors, in Excel, you bring it into Dataverse. Now, this data can seamlessly integrate into an onboarding chatbot, working hand in hand with the official HR tools, to assist new employees in navigating their way through various tasks and processes.


But here’s where things get even more exciting! These chatbots can leverage the Azure Open AI Service to go beyond their original design. They can now handle questions and queries that the bot’s creator might not have explicitly programmed. For example, if someone adds new items like VR headsets and HoloLens to the hardware list, they can simply instruct Copilot to include them in the app. Consequently, the bot would be able to answer questions about these newly added items without the bot author manually inputting those details.


If you frequently come across tasks that can benefit from automation, creating a Power Apps app might be a suitable solution. This allows you to streamline and automate specific processes. Alternatively, once your data is in Dataverse, you can easily request status updates from Copilot, such as information about the best sales opportunities or a list of the most significant customer issues in the past week. The beauty of it all is that users don’t have to choose one approach over the other. Power Apps Copilot apps are designed to include Copilot directly within them, enabling users to interact with Copilot seamlessly while utilizing the app’s functionalities. This integration greatly enhances the user experience by enabling seamless requests and actions within the app itself.


Now that data in Dataverse is seamlessly integrated for AI-driven applications, it’s super important to have clean, complete, and accurate data. You don’t want any missing info in addresses or messed up invoice details, right? Well, good news! Dataverse has got your back with some cool AI-powered data hygiene tools. These tools are like magic—they can detect and remove duplicates and even validate and improve stuff like email addresses, URLs, and physical addresses. With these tools in action, you can keep your data in Dataverse squeaky clean and top-notch, making it super reliable and perfect for all your AI-powered applications. Shah emphasised:

“Dataverse has the semantic data model with a deeper knowledge of what the implicit value of the data is for emails and addresses because those are concrete data types, so it can automatically provide a lot more richness in terms of data validation.”


When it comes to keeping our precious data safe and sound in Dataverse, organizations are always on the lookout for extra security measures. Now, users can step up their security game by bringing their own encryption keys with the Bring Your Own Key feature. This means they have full control over protecting their data by managing the encryption keys in Azure Key Vault. There’s also a cool new IP firewall feature that organizations can use to restrict access to Dataverse in almost real-time. The security team can set up and manage an IP range from which users are allowed to connect. By doing this, they can tighten up security and make sure only authorized peeps can access the data. With these beefed-up security options, organizations can sleep better at night knowing their data in Dataverse is well protected from any unauthorized access or funny business.


When it comes to sensitive stuff like deleting an account, Azure Active Directory continuous access evaluation steps in to keep things secure. This fancy mechanism checks the way the account is authenticated and where the connection is coming from. So, if a user suddenly changes their IP address, like when they switch locations or connect from an unfamiliar spot, and it doesn’t fall within the allowed IP range, boom! The request gets blocked. This clever move helps prevent any sneaky unauthorized actions, even if the user is already logged in and usually has the right permissions. With these extra security options, organizations have more power and control over their precious data in Dataverse. They can keep a close eye on sensitive operations and quickly spot any suspicious activity. Absolutely no funny business allowed. Shah said:

“Workforces are more remote and hybrid and moving across the world in ways which they haven’t been historically. If you don’t want users to join from a coffee shop down the street, or you want to keep them in your corporate network, the IP firewall provides a mechanism, another defence in-depth capability for folks to secure their infrastructure and protect their precious asset, which is their data.”


With almost 20 years in the business of professional IT support, I understand the importance of growing and adapting with the times. Like Microsoft, with its innovative Dataverse, you too can transform your business through automation and integration. Let’s make a plan to take your SME to new heights of productivity and efficiency. Contact me today and make it happen!

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