A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Although the origins of digital transformation can be traced back to the age of computer-aided design in the late 1970s, it was only in 2013 that the business world began to realise the power of this transformative strategy. Nowadays, digital transformation is the integration of technology into all the areas of your business, changing the way you operate, delivering even more value to your customers and nurturing an inclusive culture within the organisation. Typically, digital transformation includes strategies such as transitioning to a remote-first work environment, automating customer service, and using AI to drive sales efficiency. But it also opens the door to a whole new world of customised web applications that empower you to automate, problem-solve and scale. Enter Microsoft Power Apps.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Power Apps was initially rolled out by Microsoft in autumn 2015 with its official release date to the public on 31 April 2016. The Redmond-headquartered tech giant envisaged a suite of apps, services, and connectors, as well as a data platform that would enable users to build new capabilities via apps using low-code development. Put simply, the Power Apps initiative was designed to allow developers and nontechnical users to build mobile applications from selectable templates without requiring code expertise. By October 2016, six months after its official launch, over 124,000 users from 46,000 organizations in 143 countries had created web and mobile apps using PowerApps. In September 2021, Gartner’s report comparing Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms ranked Microsoft as the leader in this field. Predicting the future popularity of the platform, Garner believes that by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020.
POWER APPS INS AND OUTS
Using Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform for application management, users can create, manage and share business apps on iOS, Android and Windows devices. As we said, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to develop in Power Apps, although the first-time user may find the learning curve quite steep. As such, non-developers should ideally work with a Microsoft Partner to design and build anything but the simplest applications. Power Apps also has an intuitive visual design, with drag-and-drop functionality and a familiar look and feel taken from applications like PowerPoint. It can be connected to Microsoft’s SQL Server, SharePoint and OneDrive as well as third-party applications such as Amazon, Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Docs and Oracle.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS?
Microsoft has two types of payment plans for Power Apps. The subscription plans are for those of us wanting predictable user-based licensing – with the flexibility to license users to run one app at a time or run unlimited apps. The pay-as-you-go plan is ideal for businesses that want the agility to pay only when a user runs an app during a monthly period. All three plans are fully scalable. Here is a summary of the different subscriptions:
- Per app plan – £3.80 per user/app/month
- Per user plan – £15.10 per user/month with unlimited apps and portals
- Pay-as-you-go plan – £7.45 per active user/app/month – requires Microsoft Azure
Conventional app development can be costly and time-consuming in comparison to Power Apps and due to the low-code approach, development time can be kept to a minimum.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
When you can’t find an off-the-shelf and need to build a custom app to fulfil a business need or solve a problem, Power Apps is your one-stop shop. Bespoke solutions include creating an app for employees to input their leave, capturing sales leads, event registration and employee expenses. Power Apps users also benefit from mobile access, integration with Microsoft tools, and enhanced security leveraging the Microsoft Dataverse, a low-code data storage and management platform. An added key benefit is that with the low-code approach, Power Apps is much faster to deploy an app compared to traditional development methods.
POWER APPS SUCCESS STORY
Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) wanted its team to contribute to corporate innovation. One way to facilitate this was to give employees access to no-code and low-code Power Apps for the development of business solutions. As of March 2021, Toyota employees have used the platform to create over 400 apps that help with everything from product quality control to COVID-19 screening. TMNA also established a Centre of Excellence to support this development, offering ongoing training while still maintaining Toyota’s rigorous governance requirements for app creation. Tim Holman, TMNA’s Head of Enterprise Architecture Business Intelligence, spoke of one of the positive outcomes of the endeavour:
“We’ve trained thousands of people since our inception,” he says. “I remember one employee in our very first training class who went back and translated the Excel spreadsheets she’d been using for years into Power BI dashboards. That switch saved her 10 hours of work every month.”
Chris Hitt, the company’s Field Technical Operations Manager, added:
“With Power Apps, we’re able to go from surveying 5 percent of our dealers to surveying 100 percent of our dealers, which is a tremendous productivity gain.”
POWER UP WITH ME
I have IT in my blood and in my bones. For almost 20 years have been helping people with their IT so that ultimately they can help themselves. Working closely with business professionals, particularly the owners of SMEs, I have seen CEOs and other C-management transform their operations through enhanced cybersecurity, good cyber hygiene, cloud computing and automation tools such as Power Apps. Call me today and let’s get your IT powered up.