The time-saving promise of PowerApps
By Jason McDougall, Modern Workplace Consultant, Deptive
Power Apps can automate mundane processes and make you more productive in the process. Here’s Deptive’s top tips to get the most out of this powerful platform.
As someone who has worked in the Microsoft software environment for decades, I’ve come to live and breathe SharePoint and Excel, Outlook and Office.
But the biggest game changer in the Microsoft world in recent years has been the rise of Power Apps, the suite of apps, services, connectors and a data platform that allow you to rapidly develop applications to suit your needs – and extract more value from those key Microsoft products.
Every day, I’m seeing the potential of Microsoft Power Apps to save businesses time and reduce errors associated with manual processes.
Recently, we helped a leading supplier of water and waste management infrastructure develop a Power App to more easily keep track of outages and breakdowns in the specialised equipment it uses for its infrastructure projects.
Engineers were previously recording notes on any outages and breakdowns in an Excel spreadsheet. Using a Power App, we helped them create a simple form containing six fields and allowing users to record key information about a breakdown or outage via the app on their smartphone.
The information is now immediately sent to a manager for review, which has sped up the process of addressing outages and breakdowns, helping save the business time and money. We’ll soon be publishing a case study on this and other Power Apps we’ve been involved in creating.
Powering through Covid
Last winter, during the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent a few rainy Sundays developing a Power App for a major financial institution. They wanted an easy way for teams working across the organisation to know when their colleagues were planning to be in the office.
Again, a simple form-based Power App came into play. From a few drop-down menus, employees could indicate when they would work from the office, allowing others to plan office days accordingly. It cut out the need to send instant messages or peruse each other’s calendars to coordinate meet-ups at a time when people were really craving face time with colleagues. At peak usage, around 400 staff members were using the app.
Often, I’m presented with a paper-based process that can be replicated as a simple Power App based on the existing Microsoft products an organisation is already using. Previously, that may have required input from an Infopath or Sharepoint developer. But Power Apps is a low or no-code solution. The template-based approach to app development and the wide range of connectors on offer, means you don’t need coding skills to develop and deploy an app.
Once an organisation realises how simple and effective Power Apps can be, they start exploring how to take them further, drawing on Power Automate, PowerBI and Teams to increase their functionality. The process automation possible with Microsoft Power Apps, makes it an integral part of the Modern Workplace environment.
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can help you create simple forms through to more complex apps, with a methodology that ensures they are consistent, easy to maintain, and great to use.
Six tips to help you make the most of Microsoft PowerApps
1. Spend time on discovery
Ask as many questions as is practicable to get a good understanding of what a MLP (Minimum Loveable Product) would look like.
This will define deliverables such as the user experience (UX), data structure and security requirements and help contain project sprawl. Remember, there’s no point spending 40 hours on developing a Power App that will only save your team a few minutes a month. This discovery phase will test the case for an app and assess the value it could add.
2. Develop your style
Spend time developing your company style guide so that it is inclusive, responsive and easy to understand for Power Apps developers.
Think of physical retail stores you shop at. Major chains spend a lot of time designing a store layout so that it is consistent across locations to enhance the customer experience. No one likes feeling lost. It is exactly the same with software development – 15 different colour schemes and layouts across 15 different apps will prove a major turn-off.
3. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
A lot of what you will be creating can be reused in future applications. By creating a library of reusable components you will save countless hours of your valuable time while maintaining a common design language.
4. Pay it forward
Make life easier for the next person, who may need to troubleshoot or build upon your application, by adding markup notes within your code. The person you may save time and hassle next time, could also end up being yourself.
5. Leverage the Power Apps community
There is a great community of people online creating content to help you on your journey, make use of YouTube and Discord groups to learn and share with others. If you have a number of Power Platform enthusiasts within your own company, run ‘lunch & learn’ sessions internally or join a Meetup group online.
Someone in the Power Apps community will likely have tackled the use case you have in mind. Reach out for advice and take advantage of the many Power Apps templates that already exist.
6. Take a Teams-first approach
Teams is more than just a chat and conferencing app. It has its own ‘app store’ for people to easily find and use their Power Apps creations.
Make use of this by designing your applications with Teams in mind. Incorporate the default, dark and high contrast screen modes and format your application to respond to different screen layouts. Make use of adaptive cards, approvals and notifications within Teams to enhance how your users interact with your application.
Make Teams the go-to place for people across your organisation to access the time-saving apps you have created for them.
At Deptive, we can help you lay the groundwork for developing a Power App and to use the platform more widely across your organisation. Get in touch to tap into our Power Apps expertise and start saving time and money.
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