Power Platform Terminology

Demystifying Microsoft Power Platform terminology

John PhillipsProduct Updates

We know it might be hard to understand the technical jargon surrounding the Microsoft Power Platform, so we’ve compiled a list of definitions to help give you clarification over any terms you may be struggling with.

Business Process Flow

Business Process Flows are used to ensure that users enter data in a consistent manner and follow the correct steps each time. For example, you might want to create a business process flow to have everyone handle customer service requests the same way, or to require that people get approval for an invoice before submitting an order.

As an example of a Sales Business Process Flow:

Business Process Flow

Multiple stages can be defined – in the above example, these are Qualify, Develop, Propose and Close. These track the Sales Lead process from start to finish, ensuring that the required information is captured at each stage before advancing.

Business Unit

A Business Unit is a logical grouping of related business activities. This grouping can made to suit an organisation’s needs, but typically they are used to segregate departments or regions. They can be used to ensure that users are only able to access data relevant to their role; this is achieved by applying a Security Role.

Points to note:

  • When an environment is created, an initial Business Unit is created, and all users are allocated to it by default.
  • Each business unit can have one parent business unit and multiple child business units, enabling complex hierarchies to be created.
  • A user can only belong to one business unit.

Canvas App

A Canvas App is a custom app which is built and managed from the Power Apps platform. Apps are built using an intuitive drag-and-drop editor where components such as forms and galleries can be arranged to create a bespoke experience. These apps can be run on mobile devices, laptops or within other apps such as Dynamics 365.

You can read more about canvas apps here.

Cloud Flow

A Cloud Flow is a component of Power Automate that allows for a series of commands to be carried out:

  • on a schedule – for example to send out a weekly report
  • on a trigger – for example, when a new lead is created, send a Teams notification to the sales team
  • manually – triggered by the click of a button

These automated commands ensure that steps are carried out in a predefined manner to ensure data consistency and to save time. Hundreds of connectors are available to integrate systems such as Dynamics 365, SharePoint, Teams plus numerous third-party systems.

Using a Cloud Flow, you can set up automated workflows between your favourite apps and services to synchronise files, get notifications, collect data, and more.

You can read more about cloud flows here.

Desktop Flow

Where a Cloud Flow can be used to work with online systems with pre-built connectors or APIs, a Desktop flow can be used to provide similar automation functionality with legacy systems. Using Power Automate Desktop, a user’s actions can be recorded to be played back later by Power Automate, for instance to automate data entry.

You can read more about desktop flows here.


An Environment (formerly referred to as an Instance) is a space to store, manage, and share an organisation’s business data, apps, and flows. It also serves as a container to separate apps that might have different roles, security requirements, or target audiences. As an example, you might have a production Environment which is a live system, a sandbox Environment where new functionality is tested and a training Environment for new starters.

There are two main types of Environment:

Production – a customer’s live system where a company’s day-to-day processing occurs.

Sandbox – an Environment designed to be used for testing or training. These are ideal for trialling new functionality or customisations prior to go-live, to ensure business continuity.


Forms provide the user interface that people will carry out their day-to-day work. They provide the input elements that best suit the data to be captured, including simple text input boxes and dropdown choices, but can also include more elaborate controls such as sliders and toggle switches.

Forms are used within both model-driven apps and canvas apps. Find out more about forms in model-driven apps here and forms in canvas apps here.

Model-driven App

A model-driven app is an application design approach which focuses on components and requires little to no code. Despite this, apps can be built to be made very simple or complex. Responsive apps can be created with a similar user experience across all devices. The core components of a model-driven app are:

Model-driven apps use a metadata-driven architecture so that designers can customise apps without writing code and are built and managed from the Power Apps Maker Portal. Find out more about model-driven apps here.

PCF Control

A PCF (PowerApps component framework) control enables professional developers and app makers to create code components for model-driven apps and canvas apps. This helps provide an improved experience for users working with data in formsviews, and dashboards.

You can read more about this here.

Power Apps

Power Apps give everyone the power to build apps with advanced functionality previously only available to professional developers.

With the Power Apps drag-and-drop editor, intuitive apps can be built directly in a web browser and can be deployed to other users of the organisation to use on a computer or mobile device. A wide range of functionality is supported, from simple form completion to camera and microphone utilisation. Apps can be constructed to complement Dynamics 365, streamlining business processes to better suit its users.

Read more on our dedicated Microsoft Power Apps page.

Power Apps per app plan

Power Apps per app plan licence allows an individual user to run two applications (such as canvas and model-driven applications) and one portal for a specific business scenario where the full capabilities of Power Apps can be utilised.

However, from October 1st this per app plan will only allow a single application to be run instead of two. This change in licensing means Microsoft will be reducing the licence costs; you can read more about this here.

Power Apps per user plan

Power Apps per app plan licence allows an individual user to run unlimited canvas and model-driven applications (within service limits) utilising the full capabilities of Power Apps. 

Power Automate

Power Automate is Microsoft’s automation platform, allowing for repetitive business processes to be streamlined and standardised.

Automation is a huge time-saver when working with Dynamics 365 data. Creating and updating records programmatically ensures that actions are carried out in a timely and accurate manner. Traditionally, this would be achieved by the creation of workflows; now, these can be created in Power Automate, with its user-friendly drop-and-drop interface. Plus, with over 400 available connectors, Power Automate makes it not only possible, but straightforward, to connect your Dynamics 365 data to many other data platforms.

Find out more, including licensing costs, on our dedicated Power Automate page.

Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s enterprise-grade reporting solution for the Power Platform providing complex visualisations and data shaping tools.

Although Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides some reporting, with dashboards, charts and a built-in report wizard, its scope is rather limited, and complex comparisons and calculations cannot be carried out. However, Power BI not only provides the tools to report on your data how you need to, it also makes it easy to bring in data from other sources and product combined analytics.

Find out more on our dedicated Power BI product page, including capabilities and pricing.

Security Role

A security role defines how different users access different types of records. To control access to data, existing security roles can be modified, new ones can be created, or the roles assigned to a user can be changed.

Points to note:

  • Each user can have multiple security roles. The effect of these is cumulative, with the least restrictive setting being applied. For example, if one role allows a user to read Account records and another role allows the user to edit an Account, if the two roles are applied to a user, they will be able to edit Account records as that is the least restrictive option. This applying of multiple roles is useful for employees who may perform multiple functions as part of their job; rather than creating a special Security Role for one person, the individual Security Roles can be applied instead.
  • Each security role consists of record-level privileges and task-based privileges:
    Record-level privileges – define which tasks a user with access to the record can perform, such as Read, Create, Delete, Write, Assign, Share, Append, and Append To.
    (Append means to attach another record, such as an activity or note, to a record. Append to means to be attached to a record)
    Task-based privileges – grants a user privileges to perform specific tasks, such as publishing articles and exporting data.

Site Map

A Site Map provides the navigation structure for a Dynamics 365 model-driven app. For every app that is configured there is a separate site map, defining its navigation, splitting appropriate tables into Groups and Areas to improve the user experience.

You can read more about site maps here.

If you want to find out the definition of terms relating to other Microsoft products, you can visit our full glossary page.

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