I was just approved for the Preview version of Microsoft’s upcoming offering: PowerApps. So, I wanted to share some initial thoughts as I try it out.
What is PowerApps?
PowerApps is a GUI based tool that allows business and IT users create mobile based organization applications without the need to write extensive code. For example, let’s say you’re a small company and you currently have all of your users submit an excel sheet for their time or expenses. At the end of the month someone in your organization consolidates those excel sheets into one big excel sheet, and send them over to the account for approval. Basically, a big and inefficient way of doing things.
A goal for PowerApps is to allow you to quickly and easily connect to a data source (in this case we can use it to connect to that consolidated excel sheet), where it can read the fields, and then create views that will allow you to Search, View, and Edit those fields in a mobile application. Also, you can add logic behind the scenes, so when Employee A uses this new App to submit their expenses to the data source, it can first go through an approval process before it is submitted. All without writing code (however, formulas will need to be added. I’ll dive into these in a later post), and presented in a mobile view users are comfortable with:
What can PowerApps do?
While this is still in preview, PowerApps can accomplish some very powerful tasks right out of the box. It currently has 10 predefined connectors to allow you to connect your PowerApps to several cloud based data sources. These include: Dropbox, Dynamics CRM Online, Google Drive, Microsoft Translator, Office 365 Outlook, Office 365 Users, OneDrive, SalesForce, SharePoint Online, and Twitter. But even in preview, you also have the option of connecting your own API’s to PowerApps through Azure. You’re not limited to just predefined data sources.
PowerApps also provides a Web Based builder GUI, and a Windows 10 App based builder GUI. While there are some limitations between using the Web Based GUI (Mostly around using predefined templates to build the App), the Windows 10 App fills in those gaps. Over the next few posts, I will get hands on in building a sample PowerApp, and flesh out those differences in greater detail.
Where is the benefit?
Organizations are becoming more diverse each day in how they expect their employees to create and consume data. Mobility is a key driver in that. One of the greatest disadvantages to many Corporate tools in recent years is the lack of mobility options for Line Of Business applications, whether they be 3rd party or just home grown business processes. This is Microsoft’s big attempt at bringing mobility to the forefront and allowing business users to develop applications on their terms, and not necessarily a vendor’s. It also can help business and IT collaborate in better ways, by bringing an easy to use and useful tool, that can be leveraged by both sides of the house.
I’m excited by the possibilities of PowerApps, and hope Microsoft can really execute on this vision, as it could become a widely used Application in man organizations if it is done right.