In recent years, mobility has emerged as the primary focus of technological development and improvement in the ways we interact and carry out our daily tasks. Both time and connectivity are more precious than ever as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes the norm in more and more workplaces.
In 2017, Microsoft Power Apps was released to help organizations create mobile and desktop apps. From there, it has been used as an app-building tool for productivity improvement and business process automation.
Forrester’s Total Economic Impact states the following benefits of using Power Apps:
188% ROI over three years.
74% Reduction in app development costs.
3.2 hours/week Average improvement in line-of-business employee productivity.
This article will explain what Power Apps is, what its functionalities are, how to make use of its platform, and more.
What Is Microsoft Power Apps?
Microsoft Power Apps is a set of applications, services, connectors, and a data platform (Microsoft Dataverse) that lets you build and share custom apps based on a low-code development platform. It also gives users the tools they need to add new features to applications by using Azure Functions and custom connectors.
As Power Apps – alongside Power Automate, Power BI, Power Virtual Agents, and Power Pages – fall under Microsoft Power Platform, it plainly inherits the platform's specific features, including:
AI Builder: Users and developers may apply AI to workflows and Power Apps with AI Builder. AI Builder is a turnkey solution that adds intelligence to workflows and apps to boost business performance without coding.
Microsoft Dataverse: A scalable data service and app platform that allows users to store, manage data from many sources, and integrate it into business applications using a common data model. Microsoft Dataverse is the common currency for Microsoft Power Platform. It helps consolidate, display, and manipulate data.
Connectors: Connectors let you link cloud-based resources including apps, data, and devices. Consider Connectors the information and command bridge. Microsoft Power Platform has 600 connectors to connect your data and actions. Salesforce, Office 365, Twitter, Dropbox, and Google are common connectors.
With all of the features mentioned above, here's what Power Apps can do for you:
Power Apps offer extensive business logic and workflow to automate manual business activities.
Power Apps are responsive and perform nicely on mobile devices and browsers.
Power Apps make business app development easier for everyone by letting users make custom, feature-packed business apps without coding.
Power Apps also offers an extensible framework that helps developers programmatically access metadata and data, apply business logic, and build connectors.
5 Reasons Why Businesses Should Innovate with Power Apps
Customers like Ernst and Young, Walgreens, and Toyota have used this low-code app-building tool in their organizations to solve a wide range of business challenges.
If you want to know why Power Apps is the most comprehensive low-code solution for businesses in the world, here are the reasons:
A trusted cloud: Built on Microsoft Dataverse, a fully managed, secure, and scalable data platform, and the Azure cloud, reaching 250 million-plus users natively in Teams and Office 365, Power Apps enables seamless integration and scale to customers.
Supporting fusion teams: Fusion teams help companies build better apps faster with tech and business experts. Developers can evolve from no-code to mission-critical sophistication, allowing citizen developers to work directly with pros.
Proven enterprise reliability and support: Built on a world-class identity platform, Power Apps offers deep analytics, more compliance certifications than any other vendor, and market-leading governance controls.
Superior innovation: Power Apps use advanced AI, Mixed Reality, and hyper-automation in production. Microsoft continues to innovate to provide consumers with an upgraded, integrated, and superior experience. Recent announcements include Power Fx, a low-code programming language with Excel roots, and the addition of GPT-3 (a natural language model) to Power Apps.
A low-code development platform: Low-code doesn't require a development background to construct automation apps. Self-service apps with templates, pre-built forms, and elements help citizen developers build a working app rapidly. Organizations can do more by shortening a year's project to a few months—or weeks. Besides, low-code platforms let organizations better utilize their IT personnel so they can focus on vital tasks.
How Is Power Apps Used?
Power Apps is best utilized for business apps that will be accessed by verified users. The key benefit is its ease of use, which comes from relying on the existing data, security, and governance of its source apps.
You can quickly add a data source to Microsoft's Common Data Service (CDS) using the Connector Library. Think of CDS as a big database that connects records from different business applications. CDS has business logic and more than 200 pre-built schemas that speed up and improve the accuracy of queries.
You can use Microsoft sources like: OneDrive, Skype, Excel, SQL Server, Dynamics 365.
And possibly incorporate non-Microsoft data sources such as: Salesforce, SAP, Mailchimp, Google Drive, Custom APIs.
So, the purpose of Power Apps is to bring together data from various sources into a single app that can solve a specific problem.
Power Apps also allows both business and technical users to expand, modify, or create business app features. And apps from Power Apps come in two different types: Canvas and Model-Driven.
Canvas apps use drag-and-drop and Excel-like formulas to create mobile forms. Then, you can connect them to a data source such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Salesforce to import your chosen data into the app. Besides, pre-built templates make it easier to create apps for tasks like time off requests, guest registration, meeting room booking, etc. Usually, business logic rules are applied when building these apps. For example, after scheduling a meeting, meeting notes and to-do items might be distributed to all attendees.
Model-driven apps ensure that employees follow the same procedures consistently. It prioritizes functionality over appearances, so it has limited design features. Apps can be developed without coding.
Within Power Apps, users can easily configure steps sequence, UI, transition conditions, and data processing rules. The low-code environment allows everyone in your company (or even yourself!) to configure the system without developer involvement.
In fact, Microsoft has invested heavily in low-code app development over the past year. 92% of Fortune 500 companies use Power Apps each month to quickly adapt and create first-class digital experiences on a secure, scalable platform.
Along with that, Microsoft has been recognized as a Leader in the 2021 Gartner® Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms for Microsoft Power Apps.
“From an innovation standpoint, we can use Power Apps to spec and build a solution and continuously improve it, rather than waiting for someone else to do the work.”—Christopher Hitt, Assistant Manager, Field Technical Operations, Toyota Motor North America
Generally speaking, with low-code and its advantages, you should have nothing to worry about creating your first app.
Power Apps Do’s and Don’ts
Now you know what and how to use Power Apps. However, like other tech products, Power Apps will only benefit your organization if you use it effectively. Here are some do’s and don'ts when creating your first business app using Power Apps.
Leverage existing templates:
On the Power Apps maker portal's "Create" page, you'll find ready-made apps. They give a scenario's final solution (Help Desk, Budget Tracker, Leave Request, etc). By clicking on the template app, you can use it immediately. It's also a great way to understand Power Apps' structure, logic, controls, and operations.
Power Apps' full power comes from integrating with other platforms. Your app can utilize another service's capabilities. It can connect to 350+ services, not just Microsoft's.
Improve user experience:
Text, buttons, and icons should be easy to read and touch. For example, buttons and icons should be 42 to 72 pixels for an ideal size.
Know the difference between mobile apps and desktop apps:
Filling out a form or sending a photo is easier and faster with a mobile app. However, a desktop program is better for processing huge amounts of data or displaying complicated interfaces, such as a map and a list of places.
Define your data source:
Low-code app tasks require the correct data source. Excel spreadsheets, SharePoint lists, Azure SQL, and on-premise SQL servers are common data sources. However, each of these data sources has different capabilities. For example, certain Excel functions aren't possible in SQL. Knowing your data sources' capabilities can help you choose the best source for your app.
Skip offline mode:
The Internet isn't everywhere. You may handle this by creating an offline mode where data can be recorded and synchronized later.
Keep the app published only once:
Don't just publish the app once when it's launched. Instead, republish the apps often so you can use any new features.
Connect to too many data sources:
Don't connect the same app to more than 30 different data sources. Instead, improve the performance of your app by using fewer data connectors.
Assume Power Apps is easy:
Although Power Apps is easier to get used to than other traditional programmings, the learning curve for it is pretty steep. It is more on "objective-oriented". That means, for example, you need to know what you want to create or make, or where you want to store your data and retrieve.
Top 7 Power Apps Questions
What is Power Apps?
Microsoft Power Apps lets companies create 'low-code' apps in-house. They replace tedious, repetitive manual operations.
What is low-code?
Low-code is a visual way to build software that speeds up delivery by making the entire process more efficient. Low-code users may build simple or complicated web and mobile apps without coding skills, just by using templates and drag-and-drop.
What do organizations typically use Power Apps for?
There are many purposes for Power Apps, and some are organization-specific. However, there are several common usages for most enterprises:
Annual leave request
IT service request
Mobile apps for inspections/reviews
What skills do I need to create a Power App?
Power Apps doesn’t require coding skills. Microsoft has produced a wide library of templates you can use and install. IF statements and conditional policies can be used to extend Power Apps' functionality.
What devices does Power Apps support?
Power Apps can be used on any device type, from desktops and laptops to mobile phones, including iOS and Android.
Can I use Power Apps offline?
Yes. If you’re traveling and accessing your Power App on your phone or tablet, Power Apps will allow you to use and submit data from the app with or without an internet connection.
Is Power Apps a safe platform to use?
Absolutely! Microsoft backs it because it undergoes comprehensive security checks before release. If problems arise, Microsoft will offer a patch quickly.
Besides, Power Apps uses well-known authentication methods including Azure Active Directory, LinkedIn, and Microsoft Accounts. If your company uses Microsoft, you'll have no issue securing data.
Power Apps Pricing Plan
Power Apps is an enterprise-level apps building tool at a price point affordable for most businesses. It’s perfect for anyone from beginners to pro developers.
Get it if you want the best development environment and are willing to spend some time learning how to set up some simple behavior-based automations.
Here are 2 categories that you can go with:
Best for businesses that want predictable user-based licensing – with the flexibility to license users to run one app at a time or run unlimited apps.
It charges $5 per user/app/month, or $20 per user/month.
Best for businesses that want the agility to pay only when a user runs an app during a monthly period.
It charges $10 per active user/app/month.
Note: Microsoft Power Apps is available in all M365 licenses for business, enterprise and frontline workers, with the exception of Microsoft 365 F1.
Let’s Automate Your Business with Power Apps
Sure, Power Apps can definitely accelerate apps creation that helps your company automate several activities, including notifications, approvals, documents, record routing and so much more.
And when apps creation scales, your team can focus on amping up their productivity while crossing off time-waste manual tasks.
With the help of a technology platform like Power Apps, building a fully functional app to solve business challenges is easier than ever!
And finally, Power Apps has the same security ecosystem as Microsoft 365 so it’s really safe to use.
Interested in Power Apps, but not sure how to start?
That’s where we come in.
At Softline, we help our customers benefit from Microsoft technology at the lowest cost, including Microsoft Power Platform, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, etc. Our long-term partnership with industry-leading Microsoft Corporation enables us to deliver a full range of top-quality IT services.
If you need help with taking your business to the next level using Microsoft products and its deployment plan, Softline can help you every step of the way as well as offer 24/7 technical support for your company.