Adapting to our new normal via Power Apps

As the first wave of COVID-19 outbreak had started to slow down and people begun to think how they could return to the offices safely, a new need emerged: keeping track of who was planning to be in which space at what time.

No one had such a process in place yet, nor an IT system designed specifically for covering this scenario.

In the beginning of June, Timo Pertilä wrote on the FF blog about the Power App he built for tracking office occupancy rates.

With zero lines of code written and no new software licenses acquired, in a few days we had an app in that everyone in the company tenant with Microsoft 365 tools in place could be using to follow this new process.

The end user experience was simple:

  1. Open the app in your phone.
  2. Pick the days on which you’ll be at the office vs. at home.
  3. Submit the data.
"My Office Days" Power Apps v1

The speed at which a Power Apps maker could design and build a modern business application for a new process that didn’t exist yesterday was an eye opener for many companies.

“Yes! Since we are already using Microsoft cloud tools, this is obviously the most efficient way we can respond to this new need!”

Soon we delivered versions of this app to several companies in Finland, who wanted to be prepared for the controlled reopening of their offices after the summer vacation period.

One size does not fit all – so what?

Usually the problem we are solving looks pretty much the same for everyone. Still the actual solution for that problem varies in different organizations.

Examples of how our customers needed to change the underlying logic included:

  • Instead of booking one week’s worth of office days at a time, the form submit had to be extended to cover 2 weeks.
  • Some organizations were dividing their workforce into half and allowing office entrance only on odd/even weeks – unless someone from the other half released their bookings.
  • In one occasion it was discovered that the real issue isn’t the workspaces but the cafeteria, which lead to repurposing the app into the booking of lunch slots.
  • Language of the app UI needed to be selectable by the end user, as opposed to taken from device settings or AD.
  • Additional features were requested for offering visibility into which colleagues are coming to the office on the same dates (for the day in general / same building or floor), based on organization hierarchy information.

On the surface everything still looked pretty much the same, even though the app logic and data models were adjusted for each customer.

Platform vs. product

This is where the platform vs. product question comes along. You see, none of the My Office Days apps we’ve delivered for our customers work exactly the same way. Yes, they are all Power Apps canvas apps, easily accessible via a smart phone, but the business rules are unique.

And the rules are likely to change over time – and quickly.

Sure, creating an app through graphical tools requires some effort, but the price of changing your mind is usually much lower than in traditional software development projects. If we eliminate an unnecessary feature, no custom code is lost because it was never written to begin with!

It’s not an app, it’s a journey

When it comes to templates for using Power Platform in coordinating organization wide actions under the new restrictions imposed onto us by COVID-19, there’s no shortage of alternatives.

Microsoft themselves have released multiple sample apps, such as the Crisis Communication app, the Building Access app, or the most notable package of them all: Return to the workplace.

However, they are not products as such; They demonstrate the flexibility of the platform and give inspiration to app makers.

A Fortune 500 corporation will have quite different needs than a 500 person company working in a few different locations within a single country.

What’s common for them both is the imperative to act fast, learn from their past actions and continuously optimize the process.

At Forward Forever we would summarize this into three words:

BUILD. MEASURE. MANAGE.

The power of experimentation is ultimately what allows organizations to move forward. Any toolkit that accelerates this cycle of experimentation and removes earlier barriers can be a truly disruptive force.

In these days when every business is facing severe disruptions from the outside, having the tools and capabilities to rapidly respond to new surprising conditions can be much more critical than building the perfect solution.

Imagine how the way you build and improve business processes would be different if there was a possibility to have an app in place before you need to lock down your requirements?

The key thing is to get started on this journey and make the way your organization works visible to everyone via shared digital tools.

Need help on your Power Platform journey? Contact us and let’s plan the right steps together!

2 comments

  1. Cagri Akgul
    2020-09-10 at 07:39

    Looks nice and useful!
    What are the usage costs? Do everyone who has access to this app need to have a PowerApps licence?

    1. Timo Pertilä
      2020-09-10 at 08:35

      Hi Cagri,

      Whole solution is based on SharePoint lists and the only reason for that is the licensing. Microsoft 365 subscription for the users (includes PowerApps for Office 365) is all you need.

      No requirement for Power Apps per user or Power Apps per App plans.

Leave a Reply