Power Apps is part of Microsoft’s Power Platform. A suite of tools developed and licensed by Microsoft, that allow business to run various solutions that have traditionally been development-heavy, in a low or no code way. You can find out more about the tools offered on the Power Platform via our Power Platform page.
Power Apps is used to build business applications. These can be used internally to simplify processes, move offline processes online or to automate them. They can also be customer-facing in shops, to book an appointment or for customers to view policy documents for example.
Depending on how they're set-up, Power Apps can also be responsive to work across any device size. Again, supporting their multiple uses as they can be used on the go, in an office or at home.
Power Apps uses ‘Rapid Application Development’ techniques, which means they’re quick to put together. This is largely because they’re low or no code. This also means there is little up-front cost, compared to developing something from scratch, making them a cost-effective and agile solution.
But whilst they are relatively simple to produce, certainly for someone with development experience, they don’t have to be simple apps. With the right implementation, they can make use of some very progressive features. And you can expand on them further, taking the core functionality and writing your own code to integrate with it.
Some slightly more technical detail on Power Apps.
You can choose your applications from a wide range of templates or produce something completely bespoke. The interface contains drag-and-drop functionality to insert text, forms, images and video.
Power Apps comes with over 200 ‘connectors’ to integrate data with other systems that your business might already be using including: Excel, Office 365, SQL Server, SharePoint, SalesForce, Microsoft Teams, Twitter and Slack to name just a few.
Data can also be taken from within the app and from Microsoft’s secure data storage system, Dataverse.
It’s worth mentioning that if you’re already using any Dynamic 365 tools such as Sales, Customer Service and Marketing, then these will integrate seamlessly with Power Apps without the need for a connector. This is because they’re also built on the Dataverse platform and use the same interface.
From a technical perspective, it’s worth noting that, while some elements such as the interface are simple in parts, it’s still unlikely that everyone in your team will able to produce solid, useful apps off the cuff. They do need some developer knowledge, if not code as such. And you do need absolute confidence that the data being pulled through isn’t skewed. But in terms of set-up, they’re still in a different league for speed and simplicity compared to developing something from scratch.
Setting up a Power App?
There are three main types of Power App, these are briefly, outlined below.
Canvas apps are ideal if you want something creative, individual and custom. Canvas apps (a blank canvas) give you freedom to custom design your user experience via the drag-and-drop interface. It’s described as feeling a little like building a PowerPoint presentation but you can apply formulas and specify logic like in Excel. This approach lets you make use of Power App’s 200+ connectors to integrate your app with your data sources be this Power BI, SharePont, Microsoft Teams, Excel or a multitude of other sources. You can build for web, mobile and tablet and once complete, your app can be shared with others for them to embed in, and run via, SharePoint, Power BI or Teams. Or to use via their browser.
This option would be suited to Dynamic 365 users because the structure of your data within Dataverse (the platform supporting Dynamic 365) shapes your app’s design. You configure your processes and rules in Dataverse. This means the user experience is far more rigid than with Canvas but, being led by the data can make model-driven a better choice for complex data sets. And being led by the data does tend to lend itself to strong UI. This app uses multiple component types including views, charts, forms and dashboards. Once finished, model-driven apps are responsive for use on mobile, desktop and tablet.
These give internal users and customers secure access to your data. Users can easily log-on and access what you want to show them, they can even sign-in via third party accounts such as Google, LinkedIn and Facebook. Data can be customised for the user so they can submit their data privately and anonymously if required.
What can Power Apps do for me?
You can find our more about the benefits on our Power Apps service page. But as a brief summary, Power Apps can remove delays and allow teams to be more pro-active and agile, by preventing lengthy delays in process changes or long sign-off processes for bespoke development work.
This means team members can become change agents across the business and start taking personal initiatives to remove delays, excess admin and areas of data confusion within their roles and departments.
Power Apps, are an extremely low-risk way to start making the changes that would otherwise, be long and drawn out, and possibly never happen - to the determent of the business.
What’s truly exciting about Power Apps, is that Microsoft never stops developing. When we work with customers to develop bespoke software, we always look to future needs because you don’t want to be lumbered with outdated software or software that requires multiple plug-ins. Microsoft’s commitment to keeping Power Apps cutting edge is a real comfort to anyone considering this platform.
We should mention though, that with a constantly progressive list of features comes an added layer of complication. Microsoft Power Apps is a simplified, speedy business app solution but it’s not as simple as it’s sometimes billed. If you’re not 100% confident that the data going isn’t skewed and it is representative of what you think it is, then you’ll likely require developer support for implementation. Especially if you want to make the process risk free and to confidently enjoy some of the more compelling and progressive features.