Powering a business with low-code

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Power Apps – Calum Simpson will get you started!

Are you also seeing a shift to low-code solutions?

Developers are busier than ever, we have been working our tails off during COVID-19. Many businesses went through a quick digital transformation. In some cases, clients that have been talking about digital transformations to us for years, had a huge chunk of it actioned in the first month of the pandemic lockdown.

We have seen a large uptake of clients choosing to use the Microsoft Power Platform and in particular I’ve witnessed the rise of Power Apps as a low-code solution. I’ve seen a bunch of developers adapt quickly from a “full stack” developer to a low-code “happening stack” developer.

I was fascinated to read that in the next 5 years, 500 million new apps will be created. According to the IDC that’s more than all the apps built in the last 40 years.  There are just not enough software developers to facilitate that level of demand to modernize businesses. 

Enter the surge of solutions built on the Microsoft Power Platform.  Enter a new wave of best practices and enter a whole bunch of chaos as non-coders “hack” solutions together.

Good things about Power Apps 

  • Accelerated development – you can build an app in 1-day
  • Integrates with Office 365 out of the box 
  • No code required
  • It can be extended with real code, e.g. Azure functions can fill in any gaps
  • The popular Dynamics platform has easy points of entry. And if you want a full CRM later, it’s easy to add Dynamics – all Dynamics apps are 1st party Power Apps solutions  
  • Lots of easy features available that make Power Apps even better. E.g. Power Apps Portal, Power Virtual Agent, AI Builder etc.

Isn’t this Tweet too true?…

Bad things about Power Apps 

  • There are monthly licensing fees 
  • You feel locked into the platform
  • Licensing terms mean that it can be difficult to build as a service – it’s harder to on-sell 

I’m sold. When do I use a Power App? 

Firstly, it’s easy to get excited when you see what Power Apps can do, but they aren’t a panacea for every solution you need to solved. You should be looking at 3 different options:

  1. Find a pre-made solution as a service – a SaaS solution 
  2. Build a low-code solution e.g. Power Apps 
  3. Write a custom solution with lots of code e.g. .NET and React/Angular app

How do you know which option to choose? 

  • To start off with you might evaluate the pre-made solutions (SaaS) and consider their costs and features available. If they meet the requirements and the costs are acceptable then your search can stop here.   
  • If there are features required which are not available in the product, especially if you have pre-existing and well-established workflows, consider a low code solution. The first step would be to claim your free Power Apps Community license here: Make.powerapps.com so you can familiarize yourself with it. You can start building Power Apps with many provided templates, or you can watch tutorials to help get you started. 
  • If you’re planning to build a solution that can be easily on-sold to other companies in a similar situation, then it’s time to start cutting code with a custom solution. And since this is going to be expensive, I would document why you skipped a SaaS solution and low-code solution to cover your butt! 🔥

Power Apps in Action! 

I read a great case study from the UK that showed exactly how PowerApps can help a business to design their own solution, quickly and with a huge real-world benefit. 

London’s Air Ambulance needed a solution to track, record, and replace their critical care equipment. They had over 80 pieces of equipment, which is a lot to cross-check.  Previously the team had been trying to track this critical equipment using whiteboards, and it wasn’t reliable.

Mike Christian, Doctor & Research Clinician Effectiveness Lead from London’s Air Ambulance, explains the complexity of this process:

“It’s a very rigorous process. Everything is tracked, so we know what’s been completed and what still needs to be done. We do those checks every day, from the drugs we carry, to making sure the kits are available, to making sure the fridge temperature is just right. Those are all set out in the regulations we have to follow.” 

Microsoft Power Apps came to the rescue. 

An infographic showing LAA's digital transformation
Figure: Infographic showing how Power Apps have helped this team save lives though increased speed and efficiency.

Speed is the key to success

As Calum Simpson mentions in the above SSW TV video, the main advantage to using Power Apps is not that you don’t have to code, *but the speed* in which you can have a project up and running. Simon Chalfont, who helped London’s Air Ambulance build their PowerApps solution, agrees that speed was a key part of the process. 

“Because of how easy PowerApps is to use, the development speed was phenomenal,” he says. “The QR code idea was suggested during a Friday meeting, we had a proof of concept by the middle of the following week, and it was fully implemented the week after. That process would normally have taken weeks, or sometimes months. PowerApps fundamentally changes the way we think about digital transformation at organisations and how quickly the spark of an idea can be turned into reality.” – Simon Chalfort, Technical Director of Intelogy. 

The app has been so successful that a lot of other critical care units and hospitals have started exploring the solution.  

That’s it from me. Have you now changed your mind about the usefulness of low-code Power App Solutions? It’s easy to get started, and I recommend the following resources: 

Or if you get stuck, SSW can help: https://www.ssw.com.au/ssw/Consulting/Power-Platform.aspx