The term PowerApp have been around for a while now. Some people may have heard it mentioned, some may even have a good understanding of what it is, and some may not even know of it yet. In my experience, there are still many who do not know exactly what PowerApps is, or why it should be of any interest. This article will provide a short explanation of what PowerApps is, and what it can provide. When most people hear the word ‘app’, they immediately think of something you download to your phone, but PowerApps provides much more than that.
PowerApps is part of the Microsoft package of offerings, and quite closely linked to Dynamics365 and Office365. The product is included in some existing license packages from Microsoft but can also be obtained on its own. When talking PowerApps, we usually split it into two main categories:
Canvas Apps and Model-driven Apps. They provide different functions and can be used for different purposes.
Canvas App, as the name implies, provides you with ‘a blank canvas’ (though templates can be used) on which you can built your ‘app’. This app can be deployed to phones (through the Microsoft PowerApps app) and you can create as many as you like for different purposes. Building a PowerApp does not require you to be a developer or technical person. It is drag’n’drop for most parts, and then allows further adjustments in an Excel-like command way. You can use existing data sources of many kinds, including files (like excel), CRM data, Office data and much more. You can then add components for displaying and editing your data. Canvas Apps provides you a very quick and easy way to built good looking apps with 100% control of the user experience and look. When finished, the app can be deployed and accessed both on phones, tablets and computers alike (in a browser or an app).
One of the best features in my opinion though, is that it will soon be possible to deploy a Canvas App in your Dynamics 365 CE (or CRM) forms, allowing you to add custom functionality, fully supported to your solution, without having to spend a lot of time and resources on having developers built custom HTML resources for this exact purpose. In the example below, a Canvas App displaying contacts with their photo is embedded in the Account form, providing a simple, yet personal approach to knowing what people you are dealing with. This is of course just a simple example, but the possibilities for using Canvas Apps is endless.
Then there is the Model-driven apps, and for those familiar with customizing Dynamics365 CRM, this will be familiar. Model-driven apps allows less freedom of the design and feel of the app, but instead provides an easy way of managing data. In many ways, it is like CRM but without sales, marketing and service, but with functionality like adding entities, forms and views to display them as well as business rules and workflows to help support processes. The main difference from the old ways of using CRM as an xRM solution, is that you can add single purpose apps instead of having one large solution for all. In this way, you can deploy multiple apps or solutions that can be used by different people or functions. If you are already using a Dynamics365 CRM solution, you can add these apps next to your primary solution, so that centralized administration still gets access to all the functions needed in the CRM solution, but sales or service people may get an app with simplified interface to allow them to fulfil their functions more easily. Best of all, you can re-use existing functionality across the different apps.
Personally, I think that Microsoft’s PowerApps offerings is making it possible to achieve a lot of things quickly and personalised. You can create and adjust apps without the need for developers. If you want to learn more about PowerApps and how you can benefit from them, please contact me, and I will be happy to help you get started.