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Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits: Software Grants

Microsoft makes it easy for nonprofits to get the software they need for office productivity through grants of Microsoft 365 to eligible organizations.   Microsoft 365 is a suite which includes Windows and Office 365.  It is available in Basic, Standard, and Premium editions which contain different products: Microsoft 365 Business Basic -- Free up to 300 users Microsoft 365 Business Standard -- $3/user/mo. Microsoft 365 Business Premium -- Free up to 10 users and $5/user/mo.  You can begin the eligibility process to show that your organization meets all five of these criteria: Organization muts be a nonprofit or non-governmental organization Mission must benefit the local community Users must meet eligible categories Meet license restrictions Meet Microsoft non-discrimination qualifications Combined with the Microsoft Nonprofit Cloud that I have discussed in other posts, this offer means that Microsoft provides a broad suite of products at no or low cost. 

Microsoft Power Apps Community Plan

  If you follow this blog or have attended any webinars or other events where I present, you know that Microsoft Power Apps is growing like gangbusters and that many people are turning to Power Apps for their line of business solutions. But where should you start?  For some organizations, the best way is to choose a Dynamics 365 app such as Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise or Customer Service and roll it out for your organization.  These off-the-shelf apps are built on Power Apps but are fully functional from the start.  You can learn Power Apps by configuring and customizing them with your own new tables, fields, workflows and reports. This is the best scenario when you have a business need that maps closely to one of these apps. Another way to start is to build a custom Power App from the group up, either as a canvas app or model-driven app.  You can purchase Power Apps for all the users who need these apps and start with one which is simple enough to build quickly. You can also start l

Meet Power Fx: The Language of Microsoft Power Apps Canvas Apps

Last week Microsoft made many announcements on Power Apps.  One of the most important was naming  Power Fx , the unified language used in Power Apps Canvas Apps and other Power Platform products. This announcement is more than just naming a language because it unveils a long-term plan for standardizing the Power Platform stack of development tools.  April Dunnam of Microsoft provides a concise explanation in the video above, relating the announcement to the groups of products and developers who are affected by the change.  Formulas in Power Apps are based on Power Fx which uses expressions derived from Microsoft Excel. Power Fx is easier to learn than JavaScript.  It gives immediate results (or error messages) to the developer in a similar way to Excel.  The following shows functions highlighted in green which are shared by Power Fx and Excel. Source: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/what-is-microsoft-power-fx/ Microsoft is targeting citizen developers or power users as a key

Low Code Software Tradeoffs

Recently I wrote on The Enduring Appeal of Low Code Software Development  and 6 Reasons to Choose Microsoft for your Low Code Application Platform which explain why low code development is popular and why Microsoft is especially successful among the low code application development platforms.  Like many decisions, moving to low code software involves tradeoffs, so this post is devoted to some of the considerations that may shape your decision on whether and how far to move toward low code. Performance The first tradeoff is performance.  If your goal is to squeeze every bit of performance out of a system, low code may not be the best option.  Low code platforms involve layers of abstraction and code that introduce overhead,  For extremely large data sets, intensive calculations, or real time operations, you do not see many low code systems.  Instead, the highest performance systems use full code and get as close to the data as possible to max out speed.  User Experience Low code syste

More Microsoft Clouds for Industries, Including Nonprofits

Today Microsoft announced three new industry computing clouds for financial, manufacturing and nonprofit.  The new clouds join the healthcare and retail clouds.  Based on Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform and other Microsoft services, the industry clouds consolidate components, tools, solutions, and data models that are geared toward industry needs and standards.  Since my focus is public sector, I am most interested in the nonprofit cloud among these three new clouds.   According to Justin Spelhaug, who leads Tech for Social Impact at Microsoft, "Specifically, we are bringing together the power of Microsoft 365, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Azure and LinkedIn. This will make engagement and fundraising, staff collaboration, volunteer engagement and management, and program design and delivery more efficient. In addition, Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit is underpinned by a Common Data Model for Nonprofits, making it easier and less expensive for nonprofits to integ

Multi-Channel Customer Support

Customer service automation is evolving rapidly, and I experienced this myself this week.  Here is an example of excellent use of multi-channel customer service from SiriusXM Satellite radio.  The entire transaction went smoothly even though it switched between four channels. Channel 1: Mail I received a letter telling me that my SiriusXM Satellite Radio subscription was up for renewal, and my credit card would be charged for another year.  I no longer owned the car associated with the subscription and had forgotten to cancel it.   I called the phone number on the letter.  My phone number was associated with the account and used to look up my account information.  I was told that to avoid a wait for a customer service rep I could switch to text message (SMS) support.  SiriusXM sent a text to my phone number. Channel 2: SMS Text Message The text message told me it was from SiriusXM and asked me to confirm my account number and vehicle information.  I was cautioned not to enter this in t

More on Microsoft Power Apps: Model-driven Apps, Canvas Apps and Portals

  As I have written elsewhere in this blog, Microsoft is one of the leading providers of low code software development platforms with its Power Apps family including Power Automate, Power BI and much more. One of your key design decisions is when to use model-driven apps , canvas apps and portals . One place to start is with your database.  The most low code approach is to use model-driven apps with your data stored in the Dataverse data platform that comes with Power Apps. This is the same database that powers Dynamics 365 apps such as Sales, Marketing, Field Service and Customer Service. Dataverse makes it easy to create a database and data relationships, and has the largest number of built-in functions that require no coding.  If you want integration with Excel, Word, or Outlook, these are all out-of-the-box features.  Your data will be hosted in the Microsoft cloud and accessed via Office 365 login. The more standard your application is, the more likely there is already a Power A