PowerApps is a set of technologies from Microsoft that helps us solve what I like to call the last mile of digital transformation. You have systems in place for your primary business functions: marketing automation, finance, field services, call center systems and more. These systems are generally packaged apps that you might have bought from Microsoft or other providers. But often these systems leave what I like to call “app gaps.”
In the image above, the gray dots, or gaps, represent business requirements that the apps you already have may not cover. You may not have configured your system to do so, or you are running a legacy platform that isn’t configurable, or you filled these gaps with Excel spreadsheets or Access databases. But these are partial solutions at best.
What is PowerApps?
The easiest way to explain it is: when other app platforms stop, PowerApps keeps going. Developer extensibility is natively built into the platform, allowing developers to seamlessly extend app capabilities using Azure Functions or use custom connectors to connect to custom or legacy systems.
PowerApps is a platform and service for creating and running apps using very little code or no code at all (low code/no code). It uses the Common Data Service, along with hundreds of predefined, standard business entities so that all of your company’s apps can share the same definition of, for example, “client,” “product,” “lead,” and so on.
Three Ways to Use PowerApps
Here are the top three uses for PowerApps in your business:
Web and mobile apps from PowerApps are handy when the user interface is of the utmost importance. For instance, you are a retailer and need to audit product and shelving in one of your stores. Once you’ve opened the design interface within PowerApps, you can connect to any data source that you need, such as a SharePoint list, an Excel file, or even non-Microsoft sources such as Box.com or DocuSign (there are 200+ connectors). Then you can integrate any data that you want to surface and design the user interface using canvas apps within PowerApps. Once designed, users can access these on their mobile device by installing PowerApps and connecting to your company’s private app store.
In the case of the retailer, it can tell a user what store to go to, route them to that store, and when they get there, to the specific areas they should be checking. They click on a certain display within the app and they can provide feedback if there something wrong with the display, or if more product is needed to it, etc.
Model-driven apps are great when your data model is your requirement, and you need to develop an app very quickly (the user interface is not as important). A good example for this is when you perform an inventory check of all the IT equipment that you have for your employees. You don’t care about creating a mobile app or user interface, you just want to create a quick form, collect data, and have simple workflows. You simply create the data model, add the fields, select data types, and then you have a basic app that people can fill out, letting you know what equipment they have. [screen shot from webinar]
With PowerApps, you can keep users on track and ensure data consistency regardless of where it's entered with multi-stage business process flows. For example, you can create a flow to have everyone handle customer service requests the same way, or to require approvals before submitting an order.
In a sales scenario example, let’s say you have a sales quote, but you’re discounting the product. Based on the amount of discount, it might need to go to higher or multiple levels of approval. Microsoft Flow has multi-level approvals built out already, and you're just going to drag and drop. If the discount is greater than 5%, send it to this team. If it's greater than 10%, send it to this person, and then that person, and so on until your approval steps are built.
The Microsoft PowerApps framework gives you options beyond the classic “build versus buy” paradigm, with a framework your company may already own and have expertise in. Watch this webinar, An Introduction to Microsoft PowerApps that will provide an overview and demo of this framework.