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Building Dynamic Line-of-Business Applications with Microsoft PowerApps

Businesses have a mix of unique business processes and problems alongside more commonly found workday tasks. This creates a need for a range of developed applications; from those which are purely custom to those purchased off-the-shelf. But consistently we find clients have needs that are somewhere in-between. They have challenges which are unique enough that off-the-shelf products do not exactly fit, however, custom development would prove far too costly and time consuming. Enter Microsoft PowerApps. Microsoft PowerApps is a platform for rapidly building low-code applications for the web and mobile workplace.

Designing PowerApps

When you build PowerApps, you bring together a series of screens, controls, and properties (data) to create a fully interactive application. There are options to start from a template, a SharePoint list, or blank canvas. The interface has simple drag-and-drop capabilities to put these components together. PowerApps you design can run in the browser or on a phone or tablet.

Formula Based Logic

PowerApps is a low-code platform. Logic is built into apps using Excel-like formulas. Apps are configured to respond to events, handle changes of state, and calculate values using easy formula expressions. You can use functions such as Lookup to query information from sources. There are also functions to take advantage of device features such as the camera and GPS.

Connectors

The center of applications is often it’s data. PowerApps has the capability to pull in data from multiple data sources. This is accomplished via connectors. By means of connectors, PowerApps can tap into data from services such as SharePoint, SQL Server, Excel, Azure Blob Storage, DropBox, etc. In fact, there are well over 100 different connectors currently from which to retrieve data. There is also the option to connect to custom built services and APIs by registering those connections. PowerApps delivers the ability to read and write to many of these data sources. The capacity for multiple data sources opens the opportunity to build truly dynamic applications.

Integration

Many information workers value applications which bring many tools together in a central location. PowerApps enables you to integrate services and tools such as SharePoint, PowerBI, and Microsoft Flow. This offers the capability to build dynamic dashboards and mashups of data. It's also quite easy to build PowerApps that are then embedded into SharePoint or Power BI dashboard. You can also integrate with services like Microsoft Cognitive Services and incorporate video, facial, speech, vision, or text detection into your app.

Administration and ALM

Key to any successful use of a platform is administration, governance, and security. PowerApps is equipped with an admin center which allows IT to manage users, roles, data loss prevention, and environments. This allows the organization to provide answers to such questions: Who is able to use the platform? What data is accessible? What environments are created (dev, test, production, etc.)? There are also powerful analytics built right within the product. So, IT can monitor the use of the platform and understand what apps have been created, by who, and how they are being consumed. Lastly, manage the application lifecycle by building policies on how applications are published and deployed, and where and when bug fixes occur. Good governance should allow IT to feel comfortable with empowering trained information workers to build PowerApps.

Get Started Right Away

Microsoft PowerApps is an intriguing product that can provide great value to many organizations. The advantage is clear as it already exists within your Office 365 licensing. So, it is very easy to get started. PowerApps has an ever-growing community. There are a wide-range of apps being created that are enhancing line-of-business applications and processes. Contact us at info@cardinalsolutions.com if you are interested in a demo or would like to learn more about how PowerApps can benefit your enterprise. 

You can also view a recording of our Microsoft Flow and PowerApps webinar that demos how to build an employee on-boarding mobile and web experience available for immediate use.

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About The Author

Business Productivity Consultant

Michael is a Principal Consultant in Cardinal Solutions Tampa Office. He has been a SharePoint administrator and developer since the release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. Michael has a passion for using Microsoft technologies such as Office 365, SharePoint, and Azure PaaS to solve business problems.