PowerApps and Microsoft Flow target – part 1

In this article, you will understand the context for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. You will learn examples of implementations and whether those platforms are safe. You will also find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of the solutions built based on them. Finally, I will present you with a simple set of rules: When to use the PowerApps and Microsoft Flow applications, and when to not.

Disclaimer: it will be honest.

This article is also available in Polish 🇵🇱

Understand PowerApps i Microsoft Flow

Two weeks ago I published an article about what the Low-Code platform is and when you may need it. In the mentioned article, apart from the title issue, I briefly outlined what the purpose of the Low-Code platforms is and what the future is waiting for. The article went to the group Microsoft 365 User Group Poland, and there a very interesting discussion was initiated by Nataniel “nExoR” Zieliński.

nice article, I understand your approach as a fanboy … but personally I think it’s a small niche (I’m talking now about flow + PA) due to the performance of solutions, gruesome debugging and quite a lack of control over the entire process, depending on the connectors, and mass of intermediate elements. imho for a long time it will be only for small, frontend solutions, support processes or hobby applications. A bit like Access or even Excel instead of a normal database. which ‘biggest’ application did you have the opportunity to see? And out of curiosity – what is your opinion on the possibility of writing such a Low-Code application in the finance or security sector? (…)
For a long time I have been wondering what is the target for flow + PA. (…) On the one hand, there are simple templates for some end-user automation, on the other hand are connectors for serious systems that can be hurt in production systems. if I imagine an end-user who tries to connect the service logic and hooks to databases, CRM systems or something … I see the problems right away. I know how much time I sometimes take to write an IFa and add to this error service that I would not accidentally hurt myself … and here is such a powerful tool open to everyone and * giving the impression * of a simple. honestly – I have a serious problem if clients should be advised to take a flow license or not, because what end-user is, everyone knows. On the other hand, the tool is too weak (ok, I have little experience, only subjective assessment) for ‘serious’ use.

Nataniel “nExoR” Zieliński

First of all – nExoR, thank you very much for the extremely interesting perspective. Seriously. If the technologies were built by enthusiasts themselves, such as me, we might have ended up surrounded by insecure technologies. Only different views give the “upper light”. It allows everyone to get a full picture of the technology / solution / name it as you like. And in this context, your comment was like a bucket of cold water – as enthusiasts we haven’t had enough clear and honest communication.

PowerApps and Flow explained

A few issues have been raised, which I have grouped and I’m going to discuss as follows:

  • Examples of PowerApps and Microsoft Flow implementations
  • Who can build solutions in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
  • Security in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
  • When to use and when to use PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

Examples of implementations

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Low-Code platforms from the Microsoft stable bring measurable benefits to companies:

1. 70% less application development cost and effort
2. 362% return on investment over 3-year term
3. <3 months payback

Data from “The Total Economic Impact of PowerApps and Microsoft Flow” published by Forrester Consulting in June 2018(source)

In fact, there is no citation of actual implementations. Something that appeals to the imagination and shows that “actually you can”. Will PowerApps and Microsoft Flow prove themselves in solutions for really large clients? Are they suitable for solutions with greater responsibility than the “application for scanning business cards“? Let’s look at three examples.

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The first example is Virgin Atlantic. VA is an aviation company with over 10,000 employees. Manuela Pichler, Business Systems Development Manager and Microsoft MVP have already implemented several PowerApps solutions in VA. One of them is an application supporting engineers during the security audit of machines (more about the solution). The target group is modest and affects about 100 people, but it’s perfect for my needs (VA also has applications used by the entire organization).

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Another example is the AutoGlass company dealing with the repair and replacement of car windows. Thanks to Martin Lee, the company currently has over 40 applications implemented in production (other sources already provide more than 50) and are used by over 3,000 people! (read more about the solution)

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One of the largest banks in the financial sector has built an application targeted at over several thousand sellers and managers responsible for customer relations. The application was to verify the actions taken by the user in terms of the legislative law prevailing in the area. The app currently operates in more than 10 countries.

REAL Support for the business

As you can see in the above examples, we have 3 different companies operating in 3h different industries and in each of them the use of PowerApps is different:

  • What distinguished VA was undoubtedly the fact that PowerApps were used in areas related to security or a critical factor in the aviation industry.
  • In AutoGlass, it was a scale: 40 applications and over 3000 users, an absolutely amazing result.
  • The last of the examples was characterized by a specific industry which is the banking sector (in this place, you must forgive me that all is shrouded in secrecy, but I’m sure Microsoft will soon send official information on this subject. I do not want to do this by myself)

The above examples prove that, however, PowerApps and Microsoft Flow can really support business. The following thing should be noted here: PowerApps and Flow are not solutions in themselves. What does it mean? What are they?

1. Integration

The purpose of PowerApps in the above examples was mainly to collect data from users and send them to another site (or database). For this purpose, standards such as HTTP protocol, REST API and data format in JSON are used. They are supported by each newly created SaaS service (if it allows integration). And that’s what it’s about building solutions with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow – for integration based on generally accepted and trusted standards! PA and MS Flow are not used to replace specialized applications f.e.: Azure, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, WordPress, Magento, Mailchimp, Clickfunnels, Leadpages, Jira, Github to name a few. In the same way you shouldn’t try to use PA and MS FLow for integration with protocols like SIP or POSNET.

In building PowerApps and Microsoft Flow solutions, it’s about integration different services based on generally accepted standards

2. Scale over complexity

The applications themselves did not carry out operations with high risk of error and with high computation cost. They were displaying or collecting data and sending it on – little can go wrong here. These are universal platforms for communication with the user and automation of business processes.

To use a simple analogy, imagine that a company is a human. The brains of such a “man” are his employees. Then PowerApps would be his senses: eyes, hearing and voice. These senses receive signals or allow them to be verbalised. MS Flow, in turn, would be a nervous system: it sends signals between the decision center (brain) and specialized units (muscles, organs, receptors). Human eyes do not interpret what they see, and the mouth is not to plan what to say. The brain deals with all this. He makes decisions. Following this analogy, PowerApps in the company is not used to process the collected data – its only task is to collect this data or display it.

But let’s leave the analogies on the side and let’s get back to the main topic – what is PowerApps for? PowerApps works well in applications, where it’s not about complexity as such but about saving time on frequent need. Build 10 forms, each with other fields, and the scrolling list of results can be not only in PowerApps, but also using C #, JavaScript or PowerShell. But thanks to the use of PowerApps, you save time needed to build something very similar once again. This feature does not diminish the efficiency of the platform – I can bet that 80% of processes in all companies are very similar simple cases only differing in a few names, field types and application design. In fact, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn could be built on the same platform. What distinguishes them is mainly destiny (enforced by rules such as short messages on Twitter), not the engine that runs them. Of course Facebook is far more advanced than any PowerPlatform solution but I’m sure you know what I mean.

The effectiveness of PowerApps and Microsoft Flow results from time savings on creating solutions

Conclusion

Low-Code platforms, in particular PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, are used to:

  1. Integration
  2. Time savings

And that’s how much in the first part. And in the next part you will learn who can and should build solutions in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. Is anyone or maybe just programmers? Is the use of Low-Code platforms free of charge or is it a compromise?

STAY TUNED!

(Featured Image taken from http://pngimg.com)