Azure for Executives

Microsoft’s Low Code Platform with Charles Lamanna and Ryan Cunningham

Episode Summary

Listen to why Low Code is picking up steam. Our guests today take us through Microsoft’s Low Code platform and introduce us to why its use in enterprises is leading to significant cost reduction and improved performance. This episode will help you understand what Low Code really means and the strategic place Low Code platforms can play in your organization.

Episode Notes

Low Code solution creation is all the rage. A Gartner report even forecasts, “By 2024, 75% of large enterprises will be using low-code development tools.” In this episode we’re discussing Microsoft’s Low Code platform. We’ll hear why it can matter for you at a strategic level in your organization and we’ll also be digging down into the capabilities of the platform.

Our guests today, Charles Lamanna and Ryan Cunningham, talk about what types of solutions people are building using the platform, who uses the platform and who the most common type of “Low Code” users are, Microsoft’s Dataverse as a key part of the Power Platform and what it is, and how someone new to these technologies gets up and running to try it out and get started.

Episode Links:

Episode Transcript
Low Code Application Development on Azure
Microsoft Power Apps on Azure
Power Automate
Power Automate Robotic Process Automation


Charles Lamanna is the Corporate Vice President of the Business Applications & Platform (BAP) at Microsoft. He leads the engineering teams in the business applications & platform across both Product Management and Development. 

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Ryan Cunningham is the GM for Power Apps at Microsoft. Power Apps is the Low Code platform used by millions of people around the world to build apps that make their working lives better.

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Paul Maher is General Manager of the Industry Experiences Team at Microsoft. He was formerly CTO at Milliman.

Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

David Starr is a Principal Azure Solutions Architect in the Marketplace Onboarding, Enablement, and Growth team at Microsoft. 

Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Episode Transcription

DAVID: Welcome to the Azure for Executives Podcast, the show for technology leaders. This podcast covers trends and technologies in industries and how Microsoft Azure is enabling them. Here, you'll hear from thought leaders in various industries and technologies on topics important to you. You'll also learn how to partner with Microsoft to enable your organization and your customers with Microsoft Azure.

DAVID: Hello, listeners. This week we're talking about low-code, and low-code solution creation is all the rage these days. In fact, there's a Gartner report out there that suggests that by 2024, 75% of large enterprises will be using low-code development tools. So, in this episode, we're discussing Microsoft's low-code platform. We'll hear why it can matter for you at a strategic level in your organization. And we'll also be digging into some of the distinct capabilities of the platform.  

And to join us here today, we've got a couple of folks who know quite a bit about low-code platforms and particularly the Microsoft low-code platform. So I want to introduce them real quick. First is Charles Lamanna who is the Corporate Vice President of the Business Applications & Platform at Microsoft. He leads the engineering teams in the business applications & platform across both product management and development. Charles, welcome to the show.  

CHARLES: Thanks for having me.

DAVID: You bet. And Ryan Cunningham is the General Manager for Power Apps at Microsoft. Power Apps is the low-code platform that he brings to us used by millions of people around the world to build apps that make their working lives better. So that's a great way to start off, by understanding a little bit about what the low-code platform might look like. And so let's start with Charles. Charles, you lead the low-code platform in Microsoft engineering. So I wonder if you could tell our listeners a little bit about that platform.  

CHARLES: Absolutely. So when we talk about low-code, we like to have people imagine something that's a cross between maybe Excel and PowerPoint. So the idea is you can drag and drop just through some clicks as opposed to writing code to go build interesting applications or explore data or do automation. And just like Excel though, you can always go use a Formula Bar or even use VB to go write more advanced capabilities. So it's that type of level of ease of use and rapid development experience.

And in Microsoft, our Power Platform offering is really what we focus on when we talk about low-code. And Power Platform has Power Apps for low-code web and mobile application development, Power BI for low-code, data exploration, analytics and reporting, Power Automate for low-code, robotic process automation or workflow automation, and Power Virtual Agent for low-code chatbots and conversational agents. And altogether, these offerings make it super easy and super simple for business users who would never consider themselves a developer to get started and create solutions, so people in finance or marketing or HR. It makes non-coding IT professionals able to go build amazingly complex and robust systems, which they normally wouldn't write say through Visual Studio. And it goes and enables pro devs just to build things a heck of a lot faster. Given all the demand for developers and development these days, we think a tool like this is just super important for the coming decade, and that's what the Gartner report is all about as well.

PAUL: That's awesome. Thank you, Charles. I appreciate the introduction to the low-code platform. I'm excited to really explore it through our conversation here today. So let's get our listeners excited and let's talk about...Now we understand what the low-code platform is. Let's talk about what solutions people are building. So, could you share some of your thoughts, and what you're seeing? Are customers out there using the low-code platform?  

CHARLES: Absolutely. So some of the most common use cases are internal line of business applications, so things having to do with improving your financials or your supply chain or better engaging your customers. And these types of solutions are actually where the majority of development happens today. It's not the big .com that's external, but it's all these little applications, thousands and tens of thousands of them that takes to run a business. And where we see Power Platform really shine for our customers is where there is changing, highly dynamic conditions. And one of the best examples of this recently is COVID-19 and the associated response. And we've been able to be very fortunate and work with a lot of state, local, and federal governments to, for example, build a whole bunch of workflow applications to improve COVID-19 response to go do things like contact tracing or benefit release or even go do the vaccine management offerings. And these types of complex workflows would normally take a year, and a small fortune, and a small army of developers to get built but instead, people were able to use the local capabilities of the Power Platform to get them built in just a couple of days or a couple of weeks. And so those are the types of examples that we really see, you know, very fast response, quickly building out internal solutions and internal workflows.

And within Microsoft, I have a little story I like to always share which is amazing, which is we have over 150,000 Power Apps built inside of Microsoft. This is to go operate and run Microsoft. And these are really covering basically anything you can imagine in terms of getting our business done. And basically, every Microsoft employee touches a Power App every single month. And in the case of Power BI, it's the same thing. People go use Power BI across the entire company to get reports and understand data and make smart decisions. So really it's about speed. It's about internal applications, internal solutions. And really every department, every function can go pick up and use these technologies to go build amazing solutions incredibly fast.

DAVID: You're talking about various people being able to go out and build solutions, not just developers it sounds like. So I wonder, for Ryan, who is the prototypical common user of low-code solutions, not just the user of the end product but someone who might build a low-code solution?  

RYAN: One of the things that I would say is really special about Power Platform and what's really driving a lot of this momentum is that we're intentionally not focusing on just one niche pattern of a person or maker or developer but actually intentionally trying to embrace a continuum or a spectrum of people who participate in solving problems for their companies today. And that starts with regular people sitting in business units, whether they're sitting in finance or operations or even being software developers here in Microsoft, but people whose job it is not to write apps for the company but understand their business, and understand logic, and understand concepts like Excel, and have for years been using Microsoft tools including things like Excel to solve those problems. But being able to serve those people and serve them on a platform that is also addressable by professional software developers whose job it is to write software for the organization and keep it secure and scalable and everyone in between.  

There's a lot of people who work in a technical capacity inside a company like Microsoft and many of our customers who are technical people but aren't writing production software code every day. And being able to meet each one of those people where they're at, that we all know this person’s services, the person that builds that really advanced Excel spreadsheet that the entire department ends up running on for a mission-critical process, all the way up to the IT professional who's responsible for security or compliance or regulatory and is technical and hands-on and can start to solve problems themselves, and then including the professional software developer. Being able to meet each of those people where they're at and help them go faster, huge advantage to Power Apps. And we have great examples of all of them working today in the platform.  

DAVID: And that makes me curious about the more traditionally code-level folks, engineers who might think this technology is a little bit outside their area of concern. So why would a typical traditional I'm writing code software developer take low-code technology seriously? 

CHARLES: That's a great question, David. And it reminds me of the normal progression that developer tools and software has gone through. I mean, Binary to Assembly to third-generation languages or from IaaS to Paas to SaaS. There's this constant progression of increased abstraction and increased trade-off between control for speed of development, and that's really what we're seeing with low-code today. And it's not just about business users using these low-code tools. It's also about pro developers, like Ryan was saying, picking up these tools to go a lot faster.  

And what's really interesting is that the mechanism by which pro devs can develop solutions has fundamentally changed because it's not possible to do things like what Gartner calls a fusion development team, which is where you have business users, and dev, and IT all working together on a single solution in a single environment. That just wasn't possible before when you only had a code-first or code-only development environment because you weren't going to send someone from HR or marketing, individual studio to go build out a solution with a developer. But it's different. It's changed because you have that visual experience, and you have that ability to go from writing code and writing expressions all the way down to a purely visual environment.  

And in this world, there's actually a ton of amazing hooks and escape hatches where pro devs can build reusable components and to tap into this cloud extensibility model, so things like custom controls for a Power App or a custom visual in Power BI or custom API connectivity to be used across the entire Power Platform. Those are all examples where pro devs can write real standard code but register it and expose it in a low-code way. So really what we're telling customers at Microsoft is that it's not about low-code or code-first. It's not about Power Platform or Azure or Power Platform or Visual Studio. It's actually both Power Platform and Azure, Power Platform and Visual Studio, Power Platform and GitHub. And by combining all these different tools, you have just this amazing palette of capabilities to get jobs done faster than ever before.  

The reality is employees and customers and partners don't care what happened underneath the hood. They just want solutions faster, better, that are more intelligent, and support all the new, different experience types that we have. And you can really start to do that with low-code by mixing and matching with your existing pro dev technology choices and tools.  

PAUL: I'm thinking that through Charles, that's awesome. So basically, it's kind of something for everyone. I love the diversity in there as we think about whether it be the pro devs wanting to have the hooks and the extensibility, but at the high-end is the opportunity to have drag and drop and leverage the building blocks. So now that we start to get hopefully our listeners excited and we see that there's an opportunity for everyone here, Ryan, let's double click a little bit. And so I'll put myself in the shoes of the listeners. Let's say I'm sitting at an enterprise. We have lots of organizations that are looking to modernize their portfolio of applications to bring them up to modern technology standards that probably are going to be using it on the deadlines that they need to adhere to, thinking about cost, and thinking about budget. And really, how do they effectively keep pace, and how do they transform, and how do they innovate? And so with that, how does low-code help in building new applications but also evolving existing ones?  

RYAN: I would say it's more than about helping at the scale and pace that a lot of organizations especially large ones need to transform. There are just not a lot of other viable paths. If you think about it, Microsoft built 150,000 Power Apps over the last few years. We didn't build 150,000 pieces of custom internal-facing employee software, and there's no way we could have, even a company like Microsoft. And if you think of all of those spreadsheet-based processes and even completely non-digital processes or pieces of siloed software sitting out there, to your point, there's a portfolio of software in every large company, in every medium-sized company, and even in every small company today. The way you bring it forward into the modern era is not through business as usual; it just doesn't happen that way.  

I think what a lot of us have learned, especially over the last 18 months, is this whole digital transformation thing is not just something nice to talk about at a conference. It's really existential for a lot of organizations to have to rethink how they work overnight and do it quickly and do it with experts that are already around the table. And the low-code platform really helps in two dimensions there. One, like we were talking about earlier, it helps existing technologists move faster, frankly, using a lot of the same things that we've been doing for software developers for the last 30 years. We write less low-level Assembly code. We reuse things, and componentize, and plug and play. And in a lot of ways, you can look at low-code as just the next logical evolution of that.  

As a developer, let me not think of every problem as a full-stack problem, and let me think about actually where do I need to expose data that already exists in the company? Where do I need to build a building block that somebody else can build on? Where can I use a building block in a platform that I shouldn't have to write from scratch? And why should I have to try to integrate every internal line of business app with AAD over and over and over again? Why should I maintain my own iOS and Android app packages? Why should I do all of my own data integration every single time when those problems are already solved and easy to leverage in a low-code world?

But the other thing that slows us down a lot in software is not the software, it's the humans. A lot of what makes software slow is the fact that we treat users like research subjects. And to really modernize an internal process to make a month-end close finance process work great or make a vaccine rollout process works great, or make a tax accounting process work great, you have to take all the expertise about tax accounting or vaccines out of the head of one employee and try to put it in the head of a software developer. And when you can actually get those people at the table building and participating directly or indirectly, you go a lot faster on the human part of solving the problem in addition to the technology part of solving the problem. And it's really those two factors together that are helping get to the volume and the pace that we see in the market today.  

PAUL: Thanks, Ryan. Great summary, great perspective. And so let's carry on that dialogue. So now we understand the opportunity, the why, and how it can benefit. Let's think about folks that have made existing investments and existing tools and development environments. Charles, perhaps you could share a little bit about how people get up and running and adopt a low-code platform, but hopefully, complementing their existing investment.  

CHARLES: Yeah, and this is one of the most important considerations as people go through that low-code journey. And one of the things we've been very focused on in the Power Platform is how do you go docking and connect to all the existing investments that our customers already have? And one way that we do that is something we call our data connectors. There are over 500 data connectors available inside the Power Platform, and what these data connectors make possible is you can go reach out and pull or write data to a SQL database or to an Oracle database or even data sources inside of AWS. You can do all of that right inside the Power Platform without having to go move all your existing data estate or application estate. And that's something we just recognize at Microsoft these days, which is a typical IT environment is incredibly heterogeneous and most likely has been built out over decades. So being able to go connect to your existing systems to interact with data or take action is just a fundamental requirement to be successful with these low-code tools.  

Another big part of what we have inside the Power Platform is the Robotic Process Automation or RPA capabilities of Power Automate. For folks that aren't familiar with RPA, is it allows our customers to go record mouse clicks, and keyboard inputs, and UI interaction on a PC, and then it will play it back in an automated fashion later on. And what this allows a lot of our customers to do is for the first time to go build applications, automations that will pull data from those legacy systems, which are at the heart of most enterprises but don't have any API. We're talking about the mainframes that run banks, insurance companies, or transportation companies, or the legacy SAP applications that have been around for 15 or 10 years, and you can't otherwise get data out of them or otherwise take actions in them. And this RPA capability makes it possible. So all of your Power Platform solutions can connect and deliver value without having to go replace those legacy systems.  

And this is all in addition, of course, to what I was talking about earlier where you can go use those pro dev tools like Visual Studio or VS Code to build custom components or to go use your APIs or OData REST endpoints as building blocks inside the platform. So no matter where you are in your journey to the cloud or where you are in your journey to low-code, you can start from one app or one bot or one dashboard or report and get a ton of value and really start to feel like a little bit of a magician using these higher-level capabilities. So I'd say don't be afraid to get started. Don't worry about what you already have deployed because Power Platform you can get your first app built in a day or less, and it can go connect to whatever you already have on-premise, in the cloud, modern or classic legacy, and ancient solutions. It's all possible inside the Power Platform.  

DAVID: Well Dynamics 365 was mentioned earlier, and I'm wondering how it might tie into low-code solutions because Microsoft's Dynamics 365 products have been kind of a go-to platform for enterprise applications for a long while. And I'm wondering how we should think about the relationship between the Power Platform and D 365 business apps. And maybe, Charles, could you handle that one?

CHARLES: Absolutely. And I think a good way, at least for me, from my engineering background to think about these things is always the architecture diagram and how they layer together. What we have done at Microsoft is that Dynamics 365 actually builds on the Power Platform. So when you're customizing or editing or changing the Dynamics 365 sales app or a customer service app or supply chain app, you're actually doing that through the Power Platform. And so what that means is that basically the same platform that our customers use to go build those line of business applications and custom bespoke solutions it's the same platform that we use internally at Microsoft to go build those Dynamics 365 apps. And the reason you would go choose a Dynamics application is when you want those specific workloads or functional capabilities, things like universal resource scheduling for the field service module inside of Dynamics or things like managing financials and general ledger and tax code inside the finance application. Those are amazing pieces of IP and amazing pieces of technology, which you would want to use for so many solutions that you build out but of course, you wouldn't want to go reinvent those.  

And just like low-code is a layer on top of pro code capabilities, the applications are a layer on top of the Power Platform and really embracing the composition of Azure and Power Platform and Dynamics together inside a single solution is how you can go faster than just about anybody else out there right now. And that's really what being a developer is all about, how you can copy-paste or leverage services that already exist, whether it's open source or SaaS or PaaS or IaaS, and just deliver solutions faster and better for your users.

DAVID: So I'm going to follow that with a quick side note that it sounds like we're building yet another abstraction on top of an abstraction on top of an abstraction kind of leading into the next generation of application development. Would you agree with that, or is that an unrealistic explanation?

CHARLES: That is exactly what I think is happening. I'm a little biased, of course, based on what I work on, David. But I would say it's the evolution from code to composition, this idea of instead of writing everything in an IDE you can start to assemble and leverage these building blocks to create things faster and better.

DAVID: Okay. So in addition to that, I get to ask about what I think is probably the coolest term that we're going to talk about in the show, which is the word Dataverse. I think that's awesome. And Microsoft's Dataverse is a key part of the Power Platform as I understand it. So I wonder, Charles, if you could explain that to us and how it might fit in

CHARLES: Yup. I'd have to agree that Dataverse is probably my favorite name too. And what's great about Dataverse is that it provides that single low-code business data platform for all of your solutions as you build out in Power Apps, in Power BI, in Power Automate, or with Dynamics apps. And what it provides is a single place to go collect all that important data. It has a well-defined schema, a well-defined meta-model, so you can describe the data that you're storing there, as well as the ability to go attach logic and rules and events to all the information you store. And a good way to look at it is it's a little bit of a combination of a database plus an API tier, plus a logic tier, all available in one low-code fully managed capability.  

And Dataverse isn't always front and center, but it's this amazing supporting actor for so many Microsoft products. Power Apps its native data storage is Dataverse. Dynamics 365 all of its data is stored and managed inside of Dataverse as well, inside of Office 365 of the Approvals application, as well as some of the new financial services application and workflow capabilities in Microsoft Teams, those all store their data in Dataverse as well. So it's the single rendezvous point for all interesting business data across the entire Microsoft cloud. And it's delivered in a super simple, super-easy way to consume compared to say some lower-level services that you may be looking at.  

PAUL: That's awesome. So, David, I will take your Dataverse, and I will raise you with Process Advisor. So, Charles, I believe we have some new capabilities in the Power Platform around Process Advisor. Could you tell us about what the Process Advisor does and perhaps get us a little excited about where we are here and now? And, of course, maybe if you could share with the listeners some sneak peeks on what's coming in the future, that would be awesome.

CHARLES: Yep. Absolutely. So Process Advisor is this new type of solution, something called process mining or task mining. And what it does is it has users record what they do on a PC or across different systems and then uses AI and a bunch of complex algorithms and rules that we've created to go create a single view of a workflow or a business process across a particular department or function. And what's magical about this is that most new development projects start with requirements gathering. What do people do today, and what do they want to do tomorrow? With Process Advisor to figure out what people are doing today, you don't have to ask, you don't have to document it. You don't have to create a thousand Visio charts. Process Advisor can tell you automatically in a secure, privacy-conscious way across the employees. And with this understanding, you can then start to imagine how you can transform it with things like artificial intelligence or machine learning, or Power Platform, or Azure. And all of this is available as part of the Power Automate product at no additional cost. And the way we think about it is over time, in the future, Process Advisor will even start to generate solutions for you to get you started based on the processes that are actually running.  

And one of my favorite customer stories out there right now is from The Coca-Cola Company and a process they had around managing concentrate refills and concentrate supplies for their bottlers. And they wanted to go transform that with a dev project, and they started by using Process Advisor to understand exactly what people were doing today. And they could see that people were downloading Excel spreadsheets, emailing spreadsheets around, entering that into SAP, and then go build a Power App and Power Automate bot, which completely transformed and improved the end-to-end process. So that's kind of the future of a lot of these solutions and tools. Really, you can take the guessing work out of what's being done and where you can really go drive tons of value inside of a company or inside of a business.  

DAVID: That leads me back to something that was already talked about. And I understand that Process Advisor is going to model out and help me understand what's happening today. But also, isn't that kind of the role of robotic process automation? I mean, that's a hot topic out there. And this is meant to help automate tedious and repetitive tasks too. So how does Power Automate drive digital transformation maybe by enabling RPA?  

CHARLES: This is a great question. I look at it as Process Advisor helps you understand the automation opportunities and then the RPA capabilities and Power Automate help you actually automate and improve those processes. So it's like understanding versus automated in a way. And for Power Automate, what's really amazing is that it supports API-based automation. So it doesn't always have to do UI-based automation. So for a modern cloud offering like all your Azure Microservices or Salesforce or ServiceNow, or Workday, you can just automate via API. But where there is no API available, you can then use the standard UI-based automation that most people know as RPA or even go use AI to do document understanding or content understanding.  

Power Automate mixes across all those three types of automation so that no matter what your IT landscape looks like, you can start to deliver value, get cost out, improve your customer experience, and so on. And so that complement of Process Advisor to tell you what's happening, and where the opportunity is in Power Automate, where you can actually seize that opportunity, is a one-two punch, which makes it really the easiest it's ever been to go transform business processes in the back office or in the front office.

PAUL: Fantastic. So I am excited to jump in and start to take what we've just learned and put it into practical action. So, Charles, perhaps now that the listeners have got a feel for the landscape of the low-code platform, some of the capabilities, the types of users, what they're doing, could you share maybe a real-world story about how folks are using low-code? And maybe we say how are non-developers perhaps using the Microsoft low-code platform to drive and enable their business transformation?  

CHARLES: I think probably one of my favorite examples I hinted at the beginning of it with Coca-Cola earlier and just how they've been able to successfully roll out over 4,000 Power Automate bots and thousands of Power Apps to start to transform really every aspect of their business. And what's great there is that it started out largely as an IT-led effort, so technical non-coding folks building out these solutions, but it's now expanded to be something that pro devs as well as business users are participating in. And this idea of supporting all these different parts of the company or organization to go build amazing solutions is why we think low-code is really a full company transformation capability.  

Another one of my favorite stories out there right now is something that we've done with one of our partners related to the PPP programs. So basically, economic relief during the COVID-19 crisis where they were able to go build Power Automate workflows, Power Apps experiences to go manage applications and approvals for the payroll protection program. And they were able to go do this so quickly because it was low-code based. And this is a great example of how in the public sector you can really start to respond to changing regulatory or economic conditions to deliver value to your citizenry using these low-code tools.

Another great example out there right now is something that we've seen inside of the Tacoma School District right around here in the Seattle area where an assistant principal was able to use Power Apps to go transform how they track students and basically manage things like improvement plans and reading programs and things like that, and she comes from a non-coding background as well. And so all these different examples whether it's public sector, education, private organizations, really the theme is pretty consistent, which is you're able to go faster than ever before. And you're able to tap into expertise, which historically did not get to participate in development and in software. And by doing these two things, you really are able to dramatically increase the tech intensity as well as the digital presence of your organization. And that's something that we've seen across a whole bunch of different companies. And in aggregate, it's something like 97% of the Fortune 500 uses the Power Platform today, and it's all for these same types of stories.

DAVID: 97%. Wow. That's incredible, actually. But I'm going to ask about something that is typically true about almost every technology or platform we come up with at Microsoft and that is that there are people out there doing next-level really cool things. And I'm wondering what some of those might be that people are building on the low-code platform that we have. And maybe, Ryan, that one's for you.  

RYAN: I'm happy to jump back in here. We got tons of stories of people really pushing the envelope beyond traditional forms over data business apps and really embracing the full platform on mobile and even in mixed reality in low-code. In fact, one story that I love precisely because it's not from one of the Fortune 500 is one that we recently featured in Keynote Inspire, a company called Custom Air Products & Services just a couple of hundred employees based outside of Houston, Texas. They produce your custom HVAC machines, basically heating and cooling units for industrial and residential firms. A couple of hundred employees at this outfit and they have a full-time Power Platform developer on staff. Her name is Rebecca, and she has a background in tech like Access and Excel, not necessarily a traditional software developer but has been able to use her knowledge of technology and her knowledge of this business to really transform it.  

It has built dozens of apps for every single job function including now is able to take the 3D models that they CAD design of the units that they produce, export them into Power Apps, and display them in augmented reality on an iPad or an Android tablet so that a seller at this company can go on-site with a customer and project a life-sized rendering of that unit in virtual space, make sure it's going to fit, make sure everything is right and frankly, help them get a competitive edge and seal that deal. And for a low-code developer at a small company to be able to pull that off in addition to digitizing the entire company around it, is just really indicative of the type of pace and transformation of what's possible in the hands of any developer in any organization.

PAUL: Thanks, Ryan. So as we get a little closer to the end of the podcast, I'm just going to throw a couple of things out there. And so we've now got a really good feeling about the low-code platform in terms of where we are here and now and the opportunity. To our listeners out there…and, Charles, maybe I'll ask this question to you. There are listeners out there that are perhaps on the fence about low-code or perhaps have had previous experiences of low-code technologies. What would be your messaging to them in terms of as you look to the future, what are we going to see? And then maybe for anyone who's on the fence considering should they at least go and get more aware on low-code or had previously had experiences, what would you do to give them a nudge to get them off the fence and join the low-code revolution? So, Charles, I'll start with you.  

CHARLES: It's this interesting journey. Low-code has bounced around the edges of computing for a couple of decades now. And I remember once I was talking to a CIO of a company and he told me, "Low-code has been around longer than you've been alive, Charles. What's so different now?”  [chuckles] And I think we really are at a tipping point where low-code is just going to become completely pervasive inside of every enterprise. And the reason that's happening is things like every company is mostly SaaS for standard productivity as well as standard biz apps. Every company has an API strategy. Every company has a huge app backlog for mobile and conversational experiences. And every company wants to go bring AI and BI to the field and to their office workers. And all of that means that you have to just build a massive amount of applications, build a massive amount of data expertise, a massive amount of automation. And the reality is there just aren't enough developers and IT resources to do that. Instead, what we're going to see is that the business users are going to start solving these problems themselves. And they're going to do what business users do, which is go into a browser, go to a search engine, and try to look for a solution. And they're going to go find and pick up low-code offerings.  

So what I tell people all the time now is you want to be proactive in the adoption of low-code inside of your organization. It's much easier to create policies, and rules, and guidance, and create a pit of success for your employees across the business IT and dev if you do it beforehand. Because the low-code revolution is happening and the best way to go make sure it's a success is to be there as it happens as opposed to picking up the pieces after it happens. So I really encourage everybody whatever the vendor of choice is but definitely develop a low-code strategy as a company, and figure out how you can go embrace it, and welcome it, and ensure people use it safely and securely. And that proactive aspect is how you can really ultimately be successful. And we've seen this trend in the past with things like SaaS or bring your own device, like your own mobile device, or even things like Zero Trust. They just happen inside the enterprise, and it's better to be on the front of the wave as opposed to the back of it.  

In terms of where we see low-code going as a category and product capability, I'd say just two quick things I'd add on before we start to sign off. And the first one is this idea that the same set of folks who use Excel and PowerPoint today those same users will be using Power Platform in the future. It really is the next generation of productivity is to become a developer with these low-code tools, and that's really what we've been going and pushing towards across the board. You can see that with Power Apps included inside of Office 365 licenses, or Power Automate desktop, included in the next version of Windows. Really everywhere you look we think that people are going to need these types of tools to get their job done.  

And the second part is that we really see AI being a game-changer for low-code. AI-assisted development and AI power development environments are going to make people unbelievably productive and make it so things like natural language and programming, by example, become the norm. And this will only feed all the other things I just talked about because it'll make it easier for more people to build solutions faster. So that's kind of how I think we can all best prepare for the future and what the next decade holds and also, two of the aspects that will only further feed and accelerate that low-code trend across the enterprises.  

PAUL: I love that, Charles. I'm certainly excited. I hope the listeners are. Ryan, as we push this revolution forward, and you can bring the podcast to a close, how do the people get up and running? What are the next steps? We want to keep the conversation going, so over to you.

RYAN: The number one best way to do it is just get hands-on with the tools. Head to, sign in with your existing Office 365, Microsoft 365 identity, and get to work, play with a template, take an app in a day training, watch some videos, join the community. Certainly the same thing at the front door of Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, et cetera. These are tools that everyone from professional software developers to security guards and former bricklayers have been able to pick up and start learning and learn together in a community. And to Charles's point, as an essential skill for every information worker in addition to every IT organization and broader organization, getting started today, starting small, playing with individual use cases, and building skills, and learning and adjusting as you go, is absolutely the best way to start. And so we welcome people to dive right in.  

DAVID: Well, it sounds like there's a pretty low barrier to entry. So it hopefully is going to be part of our listeners' portfolio as they move forward. And it might just be part of the equation for your organization's digital transformation if you're a listener to this show. And with that, I want to thank both Charles and Ryan for being on the show. It's been an excellent conversation. Thanks, folks.  

RYAN: Thank you both.

CHARLES: Thank you for the opportunity.

DAVID: Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Azure for Executives Podcast. We love hearing from you. And if you have suggestions for topics, questions about issues discussed on the show, or other feedback, contact the show host, David Starr or Paul Maher through the social media links included in the show notes for each episode. We look forward to hearing from you.