Microsoft utilizes Power Platform to automate a leadership training program

Digital Transformation Platform (DTP) Group in Microsoft launched a new leadership development program to develop and prepare the next bench of leaders for DTP. This program includes a combination of classroom sessions and hands-on experience solving real-life customer, business, or technical challenges. Participants are divided into smaller teams and are assigned coaches who are leaders in the organization, who guide the participants through various phases in the program.

To help organize and manage this program efficiently, automation was instituted using a combination of Power Platform and Dynamics 365 products to

  • Automate training session management (send invites, gather participant feedback).
  • Deliver program value proposition and manage nomination.
  • Capture leaders’ feedback for the participants.
  • Distribute training information, participant assessment and program certificate.

This article describes how management of the program was transformed to save time, and holistically track and monitor the program and drive actionable insights using Power Platform and Dynamics 365.

Business Scenario

The new leadership training program launched by DTP aims to offer a highly experiential, discovery-based leadership development journey for aspiring leaders to accelerate role-readiness and build the next generation of talent for DTP. This program has a huge bias towards action and application and is taught by the leaders themselves.

While the program started with a small set of participants, organizing this program would take more than a few emails/invites, and took far more time than one can imagine given the need to customize communication based on participant learning track and stage of learning. As the program scales, the manual effort would exponentially multiply and create silos of information.

Before Microsoft Power Platform

The pilot of this program was run through manually curated invites and surveys, with all participant and course information scattered within emails and disconnected excel spreadsheets. The different parts of program information were disconnected. The Program organizer remained the only channel of information about the program.

Overall, this resulted in a large manual overhead for the program organizer, and sub-optimal user experience for the participants.

Microsoft Power Platform Solution

This Power Platform and Dynamics 365 automation was developed with a goal of addressing most of the repeatable components of the training for the program organizers and provide insights for program improvement at one click. It would also aim at creating a space which brings together all information about the program for participants, leaders, and broader employees.

  • A Power Apps model driven app, together with events and sessions functionality in Dynamics 365 Marketing was built to automate the session management (meeting invites, communications) and nomination. Dynamics 365 Customer Voice was integrated with this application to obtain training evaluation from participants.
  • A Power Apps portal was developed to share program information broadly and facilitate nomination of participants into the program. Custom logged-in experiences for leaders and participants were also created to facilitate participant feedback gathering and track, manage and organize participant learning and evaluation.
  • Power BI reports were created to obtain actionable insights about the program quickly.

                    Home page screenshot

Below is a summary of some key features built into application:

  • Program site: Acts as a single source of all information related to the program.
    • Nomination Management: Allows managers to nominate their employees into the program, and program organizers to assess and select and assign participants to the program.
    • Participant Experience: Logged-in participant experience to view course content, assessment, evaluation and obtain course certificate.
    • Leader/Mentor Experience: Logged-in experience for leaders to provide feedback to feedback about program engagement for participants.
  • Session Management: Allows program organizers to send automated course invites, customized by participant’s learning track and stage. Following the training, participants are sent a thank-you email with a course-specific training evaluation survey.
  • Program Feedback: Consolidated data from participants, session, training feedback is visualized to easily understand the impact of the training on the participants. This provides actionable feedback to identify and prioritize next improvement areas. All data is homed within one Dataverse instance, and includes data on participants, learning tracks, sessions, feedback, etc.

Solution architecture and implementation details

This end-to-end automation application has been possible through various products across Power Platform and Dynamics 365, all of which come together seamlessly as one solution.

High level architecture diagram

Power Apps portals

To introduce the program and make a strong impression, a program site was created utilizing Power Apps portals to serve as a one stop shop destination for all resources about the program. Personalized experiences were also created for participants to bring together the list of trainings, pending actions from the trainings, and obtain a course certificate. The leaders experience provided a form for leaders to provide feedback about participants engagement in the program.

Participant and leader experience

Power Apps model driven apps and integration with Dynamics 365 Marketing

Management of training communication and follow-up with minimal manual effort was one of the key objectives of automation. Dynamics 365 Marketing offered an intuitive event management experience to create sessions, automatically pulling in participants, invite message and training evaluation based on type of training and stage of the participant. Auto-registering participants based on the course type and structure, team each participant belongs to and managing the nomination process are functionality built into the Power Apps model driven apps.

Events

Sessions

Integration with Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

Post training, evaluation surveys are sent to participants to obtain feedback to drive further training improvements. Dynamics 365 Customer Voice surveys with questions relevant to specific courses were sent to participants using survey variables. This data is hosted on the same Dataverse instance and is easily sliceable for reporting.

Integration with Power Automate

Power Automate was utilized to extend the functionality of Dynamics 365 Marketing to meet more specific needs of this training. The email templates are all sourced through the out-of-box capabilities of Marketing emails within Dynamics 365 Marketing.

  • Automate sending an outlook calendar invite to participants upon creation of a session in Dynamics 365 Marketing.
  • Automated communication to participants (updating of a calendar invite) when a session gets rescheduled.

Outlook Invite

Thank you email

Integration with Power BI

Power BI reports were built to understand how the participants felt about the effectiveness of the program. These reports were aimed at helping understand participants perception about the program quantitatively (through satisfaction scores) and qualitatively (through comments). These reports and dashboards through one click, provides a glimpse into top patterns of feedback. Azure Insights has been utilized to power text analytics.

Power BI Reports

Impact and benefits

The automation has been invaluable in scaling this program and has transformed the way organizers run the program and has driven clarity of information across various stakeholders in the program. It has allowed program organizers to quickly make changes to speakers, session times, and program participants and automatically obtain feedback so that they can spend more time focusing on delivering the highest quality content, and less time focused on administrative coordination.

Next Steps

The next phase of automation is focused on created a holistic participant experience by bringing together all participant resources associated with the sessions into the program site, for anytime, anywhere reference to support the program to scale with additional curriculums, disciplines, and geos. New features will also be added to support any evolution of the program structure.

Resources

The Power Automate solutions to extend the functionality of Dynamics 365 Marketing and enable to automatically send an outlook event/session invite and update this invite if an event/session is rescheduled, are available for download on GitHub.

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