Have you heard of PowerApps?
This tool is another release from the Microsoft Corporation, adding to their long list of computer software that we love to use. From Excel to Azure, Microsoft has really paved the way for computing and every release stirs up plenty of excitement.
So, it's no surprise that when PowerApps was released it caused a lot of people's attention, including ours. But what is PowerApps, why should you be interested, and how can you use it?
Find out more in our detailed guide.
If you're wondering what is Microsoft PowerApps? it's essentially an app building software. It's designed to simplify the app development process without skimping on quality.
These apps can run on pretty much anything, including Android, Windows, and iOS. Previously, a separate app would have to be developed to suit each of these systems. By using PowerApps, you can cut your development work and costs by a third, creating an app that runs on all systems.
At its center, PowerApps is a Platform as a Service (PaaS). It actually incorporates a lot of Microsoft's existing features that are found across Office 365 and other programs. For users who have worked with other Microsoft software, this gives it a sense of familiarity and makes it easier to use.
One of the main benefits of PowerApps is its simplicity. It's removed the need for in-depth developer knowledge, opening up the field to almost anyone. So, if you're looking to create an app for your business, you should be able to do it without hiring a whole team of experts.
Rather than using code, PowerApps incorporates a drag and drop method of building. You can see your app and easily add different functions and features, such as text fields, media, and forms.
You can also easily connect to external data or store data within your app. This is great for business purposes and can help enhance your business processes.
Having said that you need no in-depth knowledge, it is best if you have some idea about programming and app development. You don't need to be an expert, but an introduction to this world would be helpful before you start creating your own.
If you're using PowerApps, there are two different approaches you can take to developing. You can use either the canvas or the model-driven approach.The canvas approach takes its name from 'blank canvas'. You're starting from scratch, creating an interface using the drag and drop method, connecting your own data sources, and working entirely on your own. It gives you complete design control.If you want to take the canvas approach, you need to work from PowerApps Studio. This lets you design unhindered by any Microsoft templates whilst still keeping the process relatively simple and easy to use.The other approach, model-driven, lets you define your data structures and business rules first. This brings in Microsoft's Common Data Service which helps you build your app based on the information you've input. The data and business structure create the bare bones of your app, letting you design on top of it.If you want to build like this, you need to use App Designer.
If you're looking to make an app in PowerApps, the process is quite simple. The usual process starts with a data source. Here's a rough outline of what you can expect when building your app:
It's a good idea to set aside some time to first play around with the tool. Browse through the features and get to grips with how to use PowerApps. You can also look at tips from other users.
Here are some useful sources that can help you learn how to use PowerApps:
It really isn't hard to use PowerApps, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to build a great app with no help or experience. Take your time to get to know the tool first and it'll pay off.
Business Benefits of PowerApps
You might be wondering how can I use PowerApps? at this point. The first thing to note is that PowerApps is solely for business purposes and has to be kept in-house. You can't share your app with the public or monetize it.
There are tons of ways you can use a business app to optimize your processes and improve your company. Let's take a look at some examples.
When you hire new employees, an app can make the process a lot simpler. They can go through all policy guides, team information, and access contact details for other team members. Not only does this make the onboarding process more efficient, but it also means that they can keep the information on hand.
If you have policy updates, you can update the app for all employees to read. If the new team member needs to refresh their memory on a procedure, they can check easily without having to ask a manager. There are tons of uses for an employee onboarding app like this, so adapt it to your needs.
When out in the field, your employees can easily enter information. For example, they can log that equipment needs repairs or that orders need to be fulfilled. They can also fill out sales orders when connecting PowerApps with Microsoft Dynamics 365, making the process quicker and more efficient.
PowerApps can interact and connect with Office 365 easily. This means you can add data, like a schedule, from another source easily. Your team can then access their shifts wherever they are at whatever time.
You could also give them the ability to accept, decline, and switch shifts if allowed. This makes the process much simpler and makes it easier for your employees to plan their lives around work.
If you have a large company, it's likely you'll have a lot of in-house service requests, such as for IT issues. By using PowerApps, you can create an app to process these. Users can submit a ticket, notifying the service provider that they're needed, making communication between departments simple.
The idea of using apps in business isn't new, but with PowerApps it becomes a lot more simple. If you're thinking of creating one, ask you, employees, what their needs are, and get their feedback on what they want in an app. Once you know what they need, you can create an app without spending thousands of dollars.
PowerApps was released in October 2018 and it already contains new features that weren't included in the initial release. As the years go on, Microsoft continues to invest in PowerApps to make it better for their users. They take into account user feedback, too, so if you have any suggestions make sure you let them know.
To give you an example of how PowerApps evolves, they introduced an AI Builder to further the simplicity of their app development. The AI Builder uses Microsoft's own AI tech to create smarter apps that work to your advantage. For example, AI technology can help users identify equipment and track products simply by taking photos.You can expect the capabilities of PowerApps to become more advanced over the years, offering you more.
Do I Need PowerApps?
If you're looking to build a fairly simple but effective business application, you should definitely use PowerApps. It's the easiest app development tool out there that can be used by anyone. The integration with other Microsoft tools makes it great for businesses that already have a Microsoft environment set up, and the fact the apps can be used across operating systems makes them very flexible.
If you're looking to make a more sophisticated app, using PowerApps without an experienced developer might not get you the results you're looking for. This is when you need to bring in a team to help you create an app you can use and share.
Now we've answered what is PowerApps? you should have a better idea of whether or not its for you.At Bridgehead IT, we think PowerApps is a great tool, but we also know it has limitations. If you want to create a more advanced app to meet your business needs, get in touch with our team. We're a bunch of experienced IT experts that will be more than happy to chat about your project and tell you more about how we can help.