Power Apps is the user interface to your business processes
Apps used to be something special. Be it a readymade SaaS product or a custom developed mobile app, often there was a big barrier to overcome after the need for an app had been identified. Are we going to build it or buy it? How much time and money should we reserve for the project? What kind of a team are we going to need to assemble to make it all happen?
Today, with low-code tools readily available in the Microsoft cloud, the concept of an app is turning into an everyday thing. Just like everyone is creating, sharing and using documents today - tomorrow they could be doing those same things with apps.
Keep it simple with canvas apps
When thinking of places where a Power App could help your business run more smoothly, it's a good idea to start with data. What information are you already capturing and where is it stored? This is because the Power Platform enables you to easily connect with the systems and data sources you already have, via its 1000+ connectors.
Like the name suggests, canvas apps give you the freedom to draw the "missing UI" on top your business data. Envision a simple screen that would present the users with the right fields and relevant buttons for completing a specific task in your process. Then draw it on the digital canvas with tools that resemble the creation of a PowerPoint slide. Connect the forms and lists with data via connectors. Add calculations and other business logic into the app via Power Fx formulas that are familiar to all Excel power users. That's it! The first draft version of your app is ready to be shown to others.
Sure, there's probably a lot of work left in finalizing the app at this point. Yet with the speed and flexibility that canvas app development offers, communicating your ideas through a working draft app can be more efficient than static UI mockups and diagrams. For the simple scenarios, you might realize that app is good enough for experimenting in the real world. The faster you can get to collecting feedback from the app users, the easier it is to know where to allocate your resources.
Your internal Power Apps can be made to look as pretty as commercial products found in the app stores. Their feature set can be extended for quite complex scenarios. At this point you may find it more efficient to get professional low-code developers involved in the process.
Manage your processes with model-driven apps
Your organization is likely to have several processes where the detailed data structure is unique. The types of objects that you deal with may be specific to the industry and your product offering. The actions you need to plan, execute and monitor can represent the very thing that makes you stand out from the competition. Furthermore, you need to be able to modify all of this when the realities of your business evolve.
Model-driven Power Apps are designed to tackle the needs of complex business processes with a high number of records to work on. Instead of simplified, task based mobile apps with just one or two buttons, model-driven apps cater to the business power users. Sorting and filtering lists of records, navigating across different forms, editing data one by one or in bulk.
These apps are grounded on the data tables that the app makers can configure in Dataverse. Relationships between tables are translated automatically into consistent navigation experiences on the UI. Like the name suggests, the app design is driven by the underlying data model. Instead of having to adjust every field and pixel on a blank canvas, much of the functionality is generated from the work you do on defining data types and relationships.
How could you get started with building such a Power App? You don't necessarily need a formal description of the detailed process steps. Most of the time you already have a process in place - it just might be based on different Excel sheets, email messaging and one-off reports created. Instead of everyone working on top of the same Excel file that is both the UI and the data all at once, model-driven Power Apps can bring structure into the way your team members create, consume and update data.