Build a Business App with Microsoft PowerApps

Microsoft PowerApps

App Creation the Easy Way

How to Build a Business App with Microsoft PowerApps

PowerApps is a service provided by Microsoft for creating business apps. The developed apps are based on web technologies and run completely in the browser. These apps can also be published on Windows 10 devices, smartphones and tablets. In this blog post you’ll learn everything there is to know about PowerApps, its advantages and benefits.

What is PowerApps' Biggest Advantage?

You don’t need programming experience to create an app with PowerApps. This sets it apart from other methods of mobile app development such as programming an iOS app, which requires profound knowledge of Objective-C or Swift programming.

Fig. 1: PowerApps can be used on various devices and created without programming experience. Source: Microsoft

What Can You Achieve With PowerApps?

You can use PowerApps in many areas in your organization. Above all, this includes creating interfaces and forms for existing, internal company data. But entirely new development projects can also be created using PowerApps. Here you can draw on a broad array of components for the interface, including input fields for text, numbers, images and barcode scans, as well as buttons, diagrams or file previews.

These can be positioned anywhere you like or integrated within lists and gallery views and are placed and linked on the screens defined by you. This enables a direct connection between the components and your data.

Any employee can create and publish PowerApps. They’ll receive support in making the correct links with the data, as well as when publishing the app in the company.

One of the most familiar uses of PowerApps is in SharePoint forms. If, in the past, you’ve adjusted input and editing forms in SharePoint using InfoPath or Nintex Forms, you will now be pleased to get your hands on a worthy successor. Unlike with InfoPath, these modifications run immediately on mobile devices as well, among other things.

Types of Apps

At the moment you can create two types of apps that differ in terms of their underlying data. The most frequent applications are so-called "Canvas-Apps". In them, you have a free choice of the necessary screens and controls, which you position on your interface (like painting a picture). You then have connections to services and gateways to add data to the controls.

Build a Business App with Microsoft PowerApps
Fig. 2: Canvas Apps are one type of PowerApps. source: Microsoft

"Model Driven Apps" are another kind of PowerApp. In this case, the models determine the appearance of the application. Here, the term model means your defined representation of business processes and data. The data created in these applications can be placed in a data storage system created by Microsoft, known as the Common Data Services.

Build a Business App with Microsoft PowerApps
Fig. 3: Model Driven Apps are also possible, source: Microsoft

Using Company Data

In most cases PowerApps do not lead insular lives. Instead they use existing data and data sources from within the company. This starts with information about the organization , such as "Who is my manager" and continues along to information in proprietary databases and files from SharePoint.

PowerApps is organized using Connectors that allow you to link to any number of services. A Connector defines the interface to a service and which data can be processed by this service. The SharePoint Connector, for instance, allows you to extract information from lists, edit list entries and add new ones once you have entered the source page. In addition, files from document libraries can be read and stored. The Connector can work with SharePoint Online or alternatively the SharePoint Server within your company.

More than 125 Connectors are currently available, classified as Standard and Premium. You are only entitled to use Premium Connectors if you have licensed at least one PowerApps Plan 1 for your users.

But even the Standard Connectors provide all the important options for working with data from Microsoft products like Exchange, SharePoint, Teams or Dynamics.

Build a Business App with Microsoft PowerApps
Fig.4: The Connectors let you work with data from Microsoft products, source: Microsoft

A major advantage is the ability to connect with data using the on-premises Data Gateway. It is not necessary for your information and databases to be in the cloud. The Gateway creates a connection between PowerApps (as well as other tools like Flow and Power BI) and the local sources like SQL Server databases, file shares and SharePoint farms. This data can then be used in the PowerApp from any location in the world.

Publishing Apps in the Company

PowerApps can be published within yourentire company or made available to just certain user groups. For instance, the HR management app might only be of interest to employees in the human resources department. This enables you to control who uses the app, and each employee can also receive a set of apps that is tailored to their requirements.

If you want to deploy PowerApps on devices like iPhones or iPads, the procedure, in my opinion, is far simpler than when using the Apple App Store. Why? Because your applications don’t need to be checked by Apple. You could almost say that they piggyback onto the smartphones and tablets used by your employees on the shoulders of the PowerApps published by Microsoft.

Publication of updates also doesn’t require any review by the smartphone manufacturers, so they are available immediately.

Where are PowerApps Executed and Stored?

Since PowerApps are available directly on smartphones and in the browser, you can probably already guess where they are stored. In the Microsoft Cloud. It also looks after the complete hosting and distribution to the end devices.

You can continue to store your data on proprietary systems, so you don’t need to migrate all your systems to the cloud in order to use PowerApps.

What Will it Cost You to get PowerApps?

PowerApps are licensed per user and are available as monthly subscriptions. PowerApps are already included if you have licensed Office 365 for your users (in Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1, E3, E5, F1 Plans and others).

In addition, there are two Premium Plans (P1 and P2) that can be booked for individual users. These Premium Plans enable the use of Premium Connectors, as well as granular app management. If you have already licensed Dynamics 365, you will be entitled to all functions included in the P2 Premium Plan.

It is not necessary to equip all users with Premium Plans. In most cases, the functions included with Office 365 Plans will be sufficient for the necessary use scenarios.

The on-premises Data Gateway will only be available for PowerApps Plan 1 and above in future. However, current customers with Office 365 E3 or E5 Plans can continue to use the Gateway until the end of 2019, without requiring further licenses.

Do you want to learn more about the potential that Microsoft PowerApps offers for your business?

Let’s catch up and find out how we can implement PowerApps in your business.

Contact us
  • User Productivity
  • Apps, PowerApps, Microsoft

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Christoph Vollmann

Senior SharePoint Consultant

SharePoint consulting incl. requirements analysis, conceptual design and mapping of business processes

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