Roaring/yawing lion

The Microsoft Power Platform is a group of products offered by Microsoft to develop and build complex business solutions, analyze and draw data visualizations, automate a business process, or build virtual agents for communication.

More than the sum of its parts

What is included in the Microsoft Power Platform?

  • Power BI – Used to analyze data from different data sources
  • Power Apps – Used to build powerful mobile apps for internal use by an organization
  • Power Automate – Used to design automated workflows to reduce manual tasks
  • Power Virtual Agents – Used to develop flexible “chatbots” that can communicate with external customers

Power BI Desktop

Taken together, the Power Platform is more than the sum of its parts. All four products offer a platform in which no code is required to build new applications. Using a simple GUI (Graphical User Interface), any user can create practical business applications, mobile apps, workflows, analytics, and more.

Eric McKinney can attest to that

Now you are probably wondering: Who is Eric McKinney? I cannot wait for you to meet Eric because you will hear a lot about him, about the Pepsi company in Ohio that he works for, and about the apps that he and his team built with no code! Because… they are not developers!!!

Eric McKinney is the Cloud Service Manager at G&J Pepsi and a member of the G&J Pepsi seven-person IT team, none of whom are developers.

G&J Pepsi LogoCase Study Demonstrates How Easily the Microsoft Power Platform Delivers Results

What I love about case studies is that they bring theory into practice in a real-world setting. Case studies tell a story where you have real people at actual companies, developing real apps, and delivering actual results.

I think these four quotes below are a great introduction to the story that follows. It is a long and incredible story, but I have taken the liberty of shortening it just a bit, so it is more easily consumed.

“I could tell immediately that Power Apps would be a game-changer for our org.
It brought app development down a notch, so our team could leverage it
to help improve business processes, gather insights and do it rapidly.”

Eric McKinney: Cloud Services Manager

G&J Pepsi

“The expectation was to deliver good apps quickly at a low cost.
Power Apps gave me the confidence that we could accomplish this in-house.”

Eric McKinney: Cloud Services Manager

G&J Pepsi

“When you build these raw, fresh ideas,
without the need to manage an underlying core infrastructure,
that’s incredible. That’s really empowering as an IT person.”

Eric McKinney: Cloud Services Manager

G&J Pepsi

“The final piece of this puzzle was a vision for the end product’s capabilities.
Even though we weren’t a team of coding experts,
we knew what we needed to accomplish.”

Eric McKinney: Cloud Services Manager

G&J Pepsi

The field teams at G&J Pepsi have always embraced technology on behalf of their customers. When the IT department was tasked with delivering more on-the-go services, they embraced the opportunities and challenges. By using Microsoft Power Apps, Power BI, and Microsoft Power Automate, the seven-person team created custom applications to automate the company’s store audit and merchandising process. They were able to build, deploy, and manage this scalable end-to-end solution without previous app development experience.

Delivering a better experience

G&J Pepsi, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, has more than 1,600 employees focused on manufacturing, distributing, and marketing the full line of Pepsi-Cola products. Most staff members spend their time in the field managing their retail accounts.

As the industry is becoming more reliant on mobile phones and tablets for business, Eric McKinney, Cloud Services Manager, and the G&J IT team, was tasked with delivering more on-the-go services for the company. With a goal of becoming more efficient, gaining new insights, and keeping the company better connected with its customers, he set out to create a better experience.

IT is delivering more

The IT department at G&J Pepsi consists of seven technology professionals capable of handling any problem that comes their way. Each team member knows a lot about networking, databases, leveraging applications, and more, but none of them class themselves as developers.

The team has worked in Microsoft Office 365 for a while as they dove headfirst into a cloud-first world. They successfully integrated Exchange Online, Yammer, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online into the organization. So, when McKinney learned about Microsoft Power Apps, he thought it could be an excellent fit for simplifying and mobilizing processes for G&J Pepsi field workers.

His team was already comfortable using cloud-based applications, and with Power Apps, they could create custom web and mobile apps without writing any code. McKinney hoped to create a rich mobile experience that matched what users were accustomed to on their personal devices.

“It was a no-brainer,” says McKinney. “We didn’t even need to look at anything other than Microsoft. It comes from our philosophy of integration, and we already had the authentication, data sources, and licensing in place. So, there was no need to get buy-in from the organization.”

Building the Store Audit and Merchandiser apps

The G&J Pepsi IT team used Power Apps to create Store Audit, an app that enables better mobility and flexibility for field personnel. Previously, they’d record essential information from a store audit on a piece of paper, then place it in a tray with little accountability and often no resolution. Now those in the field can inspect stores, collect data, provide an aggregated view to leadership, and better ensure customer satisfaction.

Similarly, they created a merchandiser app for better store tracking. If, for example, delivery personnel see displays that need to be fixed, they now know that submitting this information will trigger alerts to the supervisor and upwards. Previously, their only course of action was to email the salesperson, with no assurance the salesperson would be available to respond. “That email could just go in a black hole,” summarizes McKinney.

With both apps, information is now captured in real-time. Power BI dashboards visualize the data for quick overviews and deep dives into the numbers, and Microsoft Power Automate—another cloud-based service—triggers alerts to the relevant teams.

Creating in Power Apps helped the team steer clear of hurdles that could occur when developing without professional developers. With cloud systems already in place, they’ve been able to primarily lean on just two team members who can build applications. Even without scaling up staff, the apps were up and running in a matter of weeks.

Audit data from app feeds into SQL backend, from which Power BI dashboards are generatedAudit data from app feeds into SQL backend, from which Power BI dashboards are generated.

The roaring results

By learning while creating their essential line-of-business apps, the G&J Pepsi IT team has already built eight applications ranging from time trackers and driver notifications to sales operations requests. They continue to evolve the applications and identify new application opportunities to address challenges that IT teams without application development capabilities face.

G&J Pepsi field reps have already submitted more than 15,000 surveys via the store audit module. The enthusiasm about this new way of collecting and aggregating information and ultimately creating meaningful and actionable insights has started what McKinney calls an “app revolution.”

According to McKinney, “Power Apps was the only way we could overcome the big swirl of challenges that we face day in and day out.” Plus, improved communication and the ease of accessing data have empowered the field team and sales personnel to accomplish more.

The leadership team that gave the initial directive is appreciating the positive effect on their bottom line. The apps saved the organization about $500,000 in just the first year. Much of the savings come from McKinney’s team being able to avoid outsourcing another vendor’s merchandising app at the cost of $240,000 for the first year. And most importantly, this simplified—and more efficient—customer experience is already impacting customers via better communication and faster turnarounds on requests.

Eric’s final quote … in conclusion

“I’m proud of the way this team was able to unlock new insights
and deliver these new mobile services to more than 900 field personnel,
all without a professional developer on staff.”

Eric McKinney: Cloud Services Manager

G&J Pepsi

Take the next step

I hope you enjoyed this case study about the Microsoft Power Platform. For more information about the Power Platform in general or to dive deeply into Power BI for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, please call Strategic Systems Group (SSG) at (310) 539-4645 or reach out via our contact form today!

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