Microsoft Power Platform pros react to Power Fx announcement

March 9 2021

Microsoft's announcement of Power Fx at Ignite 2021 was one of several Power Platform-related updates at the event. But several people in the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform community picked up on the news as a key signal of the product line's ambition in the enterprise sector and vision for broad adoption across job roles.

Power Fx is a language "rooted in Excel" and already used in Power Apps canvas apps today, writes Microsoft director of program management for Power Apps Ryan Cunningham. By committing to the language with a product name and a plan to expand its use to other tools, Microsoft is providing a vision for the future of development on Power Platform. Cunnhingham also stated:

By delivering Power Fx with the tools a professional expects, including the ability to directly edit apps in text editors like Visual Studio Code and use source control, we’re making it possible for developers to go faster and find common ground with millions of makers.

Microsoft principal program manager Greg Lindhorst wrote separately:

We have a lot of work to do to extract Power Fx from the Power Apps home where it grew up.  We are actively working to integrate Power Fx into Microsoft Power Virtual AgentsMicrosoft Dataverse, and Model-driven Power Apps. We’ll use these as our test beds for getting the packages right for open source sharing.  

Views from the real world

Several bloggers from the Microsoft business apps community also took note of the announcement and shared their views on the implications of Power Fx in the coming years.

Clarina Claesson noted the broad range of places Microsoft plans to make Power Fx usable:

We already have [Power Fx] in Canvas apps and during Ignite the roadmap for expanding Power Fx to other parts of the platform was presented. It’s coming to Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, model-driven apps and I even spotted “Formula based Dataverse plugins, known as Data Components”. Will be interesting to see how that works.

Joe Griffin noted that expanding an existing tool like the Power Fx language rather than adding other development tools will reduce friction as it expands into the community:

Apart from its new name, this language remains unchanged, and the announcement starts to herald its coming importance within other areas of the Power Platform in the months and years ahead. So we can perhaps take some relief because, for a lot of people, you won’t need to learn something completely new...

Jukka Niiranen writes that the spread of Power Fx into the rest of the suite will be central to Microsoft's goal of providing a viable and uniform way for employees with different skills and experience levels to embrace the Power Platform.

When low-code moves up the enterprise ladder, from just being simple personal productivity apps for a small team (increasingly running on Dataverse for Teams), it will have to become compatible with existing development and governance practices.

After all, moving away from business logic buried within Excel workbook formulas isn’t going to make the digital business processes any more manageable if apps will be treated as personal documents. Excel formulas inside .xlsx documents and Power Fx formulas within .msapp documents are roughly the same thing – unless you leverage the platform features that the latter ones can work with.

Niiranen also noted that Microsoft's clear emphasis at Ignite on the needs of enterprise customers is playing into decisions like this, which fast track improvements to enterprise-grade DevOps.

The role that these new code-based features in Power Platform have in achieving [Microsoft's five focus areas for low-code] is quite central. While the cool new features for app and automation makers will most likely keep on rolling out throughout 2021, the strong enterprise emphasis is where Microsoft’s biggest investments are likely to be made. This is clearly visible from the Ignite announcements on new IT governance and admin tools.

Guido Preite took a more philosophical view on the nature of software development and the role that people writing Power Fx code will play alongside coders working in languages with more fine-grained capabilities.

[Do] I think less of who write code in Canvas Apps? Definitely not. I call them "citizen developers"? Definitely not, if you know how to develop good for you, if you found a tool that encourage you to write better and lesser code good for you. For me Power Fx is not a low-code language, it's just a code language, like C#, JavaScript, VBA Macros, etc etc. Why I say this? because I can be proficient in one of the most common code languages, but I am sure that there are plenty of developers (maybe proficient in Assembler) developing more complicated stuff than I do. But the moment we write some code we are all developers, that's matter.

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