PowerApps is a service in Office 365 that allows users to create custom apps, leveraging many of the features of the Office 365 and Microsoft platforms. Apps can be accessed via mobile devices or via the browser.
What makes PowerApps different from other services is that while it can be used by developers, it can also be used by non-technical staff such as business analysts. Though It should be noted that realistically speaking, users will need to have some technical understanding, training, and appreciation of the tools and data they are working with. There’s a long way to go before everyone is creating their own apps and indeed you may need to bring in the developers to work on more complex functionalities.
Microsoft defines PowerApps as a “suite of apps, services, connectors and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment apps for your business needs.” While you can add integrations with other applications, its essential asset is its ability to build apps based on Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365. If you have a particular process that uses different parts of the Microsoft universe, for example SharePoint Online, Excel and Dynamics 365, then an app based on PowerApps has the potential to bring them all together for your users in one accessible, convenient experience.
The benefit of building your own app is that it is completely wrapped around your organisation’s unique user needs and the way your employees work.
This is what you see when you open the PowerApps via your Microsoft account:
You can start connecting your data and apps from your Home screen and making your own app based on the three in-built templates:
- Canvas app from blank
- Model-driven app from blank
- Portal from blank
Like Microsoft Flow and other Office 365 automation tools, PowerApps comes with features and tools to help create apps that don’t require any coding. These include:
- A library of sample apps that you can work from as a starting point and then customise.
- A library of over 200 connectors to integrate data and systems including those across the Office 365 universe
- An easy drag and drop interface for the creation of apps
- Good support structures, including an active PowerApps community.
- Close integration with other Office 365 and Dynamics tools
New powerful capability
An AI Builder capability allows PowerApps to tap into Microsoft’s AI and machine learning frameworks and develop smarter, more advanced apps. For example, Microsoft cite the ability for AI to analyse and categorise your customer feedback responses and then take actions, helping to bring marketing automation to the next level. They also quote a real example of how PowerApps injected with AI are helping workers in a manufacturing and distribution unit identify and track product items just by taking a photo.
How can any organisation use PowerApps?
You can use PowerApps for multiple processes involving workflow, automation, data visualisation and reporting, collaboration and more. It could involve teams, field workers, the management team and even the customers. Use cases can range from the relatively simple to the highly complex. PowerApps can be experienced as a mobile app, a website or even within an Office 365 tool like Microsoft Teams.
Here are a few ideas that can be achieved with PowerApps, including:
- Enabling field workers to enter data when out in the field, for example logging repairs needed or the results of site inspections
- Integrating the SharePoint list with SWMS forms by PowerApps to have a paperless digital SWMS.
- Building model standard documents such as contracts using automation based on different criteria and metadata.
- Building a customised 360 evaluation system with input from a variety of users, workflow, and handy reporting
- A system for IT departments to track assets such as hardware, mobile devices, and software licenses
- A variety of marketing automation tools to follow up with clients based on their interactions and responses.
Should you use PowerApps?
You should leverage the power of PowerApps for sure. We love working with PowerApps and our clients tell us they love the results. We, at 365 Digital Consulting, are confident that you’ll love PowerApps too, creating compelling apps that will help simplify ways of working, drive customer service, and more, potentially becoming more sophisticated as you expand capabilities with AI and website integrations.