Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has provided new details on Dataflex, its new low-code/no-code platform for building and deploying apps and chatbots directly into Teams.

Dataflex was announced at Microsoft’s recent Inspire partner conference on July 21st. Built on the Common Data Service – now somewhat confusingly called Microsoft Dataflex Pro – the platform is designed to make it easy for users with little or no coding skills to build new capabilities into Teams using Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft Power Virtual Agents.

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Many businesses have been looking to automate time-consuming manual processes since the coronavirus forced them to divert time and resources away from lengthy development processes. As such, low-code/no-code solutions have enjoyed a surge in popularity by allowing organisations to automate workflows quickly, and with minimal resource investment.

As Microsoft explained in its original announcement, Dataflex aims to remove the hassle of back-end tech logistics for creating and deploying new business tools for its enterprise customers. Power Virtual Agents allow users to easily create chatbots using Microsoft’s natural language processing and AI smarts, and then integrate these into workflows using Power Automate. Microsoft’s Power BI is also included in Dataflex, offering users a unified visualisation hub and searchable repository for data across the organisation.

Dataflex assigns access and security roles automatically, based on whether they are an Owner, Member or Guest, though these can be customised by administrators. Because Dataflex is integrated directly into Teams, users don’t need to switch applications or connect to additional data sources in order to build and deploy new Teams apps. Instead, organisations can find, filter and sort relational data directly within Teams, and then create scenario specific, custom data tables based on the Common Data Model (CDM). Support for additional CDM-based tables is coming soon, Microsoft said.

The included User table is based on the Common Data Model (CDM).
Image: Microsoft

In Dataflex for Teams, data, apps, chatbots and workflows are stored within a single environment that supports backup, point-in-time-restore, and disaster recovery. This means that when a team is deleted, its associated environment is also deleted. Each Team environment features 2GB capacity, capable of storing approximately one million rows of data, according to Microsoft.

In addition to building custom bots and applications that can be shared with other users and departments across the organisation, Dataflex also features a gallery of pre-made templates that can be tailored to a business’ own requirements. Teams users can then automate workflows with these solutions using Power Automate.

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Dataflex will be bundled for no additional charge with every Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscription that includes a Teams license, which will appear in public preview from August. “In Teams, people collaborate around documents in different ways – some you create yourself, some you create in collaboration with teammates, or others you acquire from trusted sources,” said Marc Mercuri, Microsoft’s principal product project manager for Dataflex.

“Power Platform and Dataflex for Teams bring this same model to building and using apps, chatbots, flows, and data.”