Low code Development with Microsoft Power Apps: Everyone Can Be a Developer
Microsoft predicts that more than 500 million new applications will be created in the next five years, more than the total number of applications created in the last 40 years.
Last year, Gartner estimated that by 2024, low-code and no-code software will account for over 65% of in-house app development. The growth of the low-code development market is driven by its flexibility and ease of use. Low-code application development frameworks are shifting the focus to general-purpose applications with the ability to add custom code when desired.
It may seem that today’s application market already has everything a consumer could want, including free options for app development. It might also appear that users have only one concern — to choose the right software from the wide variety available.
However, the huge number of available app products can be a lot to sort through, and it can be hard to find something that fits your exact needs. For a more optimal solution, it may be easier to develop your app from scratch rather than to waste time looking for "the same, only different" solution of a pre-existing app. Yet, finding a programmer or team to custom create or adapt your app for a reasonable price can also be a challenge.
Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of choosing traditional application development methods versus using a low-code development tool such as Microsoft Power Apps.
What To Choose > Traditional App or Low-Code Development?
Professionals cite several challenges that businesses face when developing applications with most current, commonly available options:
- There is a shortage of professional developers. The demand for applications is growing faster than the market of professional developers.
- The large amount of differing data sources creates different connection points. Creating universal applications that work with all possible sources is a complicated task.
- Company Policy and security may not accept risky applications or open source tools. Downloading ready-to-use applications from online stores is not always an acceptable risk, especially when it can put a company’s sensitive data on the line.
- Existing, ready-to-use applications are not always as robust as custom solutions and may not cover all of a business’s needs.
The straightforward solution to these issues is to make the application yourself and with a platform that makes it easy. This is the exact solution that Microsoft offers with the help of their intuitive product, Microsoft Power Apps.
Microsoft PowerApps lets the user create applications that work with a large collection of pre-existing data sources. These can be cloud services (Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive), various kinds of on-premise systems (SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, SAP applications) or local files, including Excel spreadsheets.
How To Develop An Application With Microsoft PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps allows users with no programming experience to create applications, and has extensions for more in-depth use by professional developers. PowerApps provides templated and pre-built options on an easy-to-use, visual interface to build cloud-based applications.
Power Apps is a high-productivity development platform for business apps, and has four major components:
- Canvas app - Build highly tailored applications
- Model-driven apps - Create sophisticated apps from your data
- Portals - Design low-code portals for external users
- Microsoft Dataverse and Connectors - Integrate and extend your apps
Users can create an app in PowerApps using canvas apps or model-driven apps. With the help of the visual Connections tool, the user can establish a connection between PowerApps and external sources, implement the logic for processing the data, and form the user interface -- accomplishing all after choosing the appropriate template from a predefined set of themes. As a result, a new application is built, and with only a few inputs needed from the user.
To see multiple themes and builds in action, explore all Microsoft Power Apps demos. For a direct example of a Power Apps build in minutes with Microsoft Azure, check out the following video:
Microsoft Power Apps: Pros and Cons
Microsoft assures that Power Apps is a platform that benefits both "professional” and "amateur” developers. Is it that black-and-white though? Let’s identify the list of pros and cons that many current users share about their experience with the tool.
Microsoft Power Apps Advantages
- Available to be used by those with minimum coding skills
In a traditional development environment, only professional developers can be involved in the process of creating an application. With Power Apps, everyone has the ability to create the apps they need using advanced functionality that is pre-built into the platform.
- Speed and versatility
In traditional application development, the full process flows down from design to develop to release. It can take a considerable amount of time before the user actually sees the final product. Even with more dedicated development approaches, such as agile, app completion time can be considerable.
With Power Apps, you can quickly build a functioning version of your app with their visual designer. Power Apps enforces the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design principle, so users get the actual working application very early in the development process. With this system, if new requirements arise, new features can be added in the next version very easily.
- Great UI for easy maneuverability
The Microsoft Power Apps dashboard and visual designer have simplistic and easy to navigate user interfaces (UIs) compared to other options on the market. While Microsoft Power Apps is not as minimalistic as the Google App Maker and Zoho Creator UIs, it provides quick access to all of your apps, workflows, integrations, data connectors, and notifications without flooding you with the kind of cluttered user experience that Salesforce App provides its customers with.
- Set of app diagnostic solutions to ensure working at capacity
The included App Checker function is designed to help customers track bugs and resolve issues easily and in a timely manner. Proactive alerts for formulas and accessibility issues are likely to help users build a better application faster, and avoid any pitfalls that could cause further complications down the road in the application’s lifetime.
- Common Data Module for safer data integration
With common data stores, your key business data lives in a secure database managed by a cloud platform such as Microsoft Azure. These data stores help organize your data in a standardized but extensible form. Standardization makes it easy to create new applications and develop insightful workflows. Many Power Platform products, such as PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI, support this shared data model by default.
The app easily connects to over 220 data sources from Microsoft and third-party vendors, with an extensive collection to choose from to cover all your businesses’ needs.
Microsoft Power Apps Disadvantages And Limitations
- Variable Pricing
The major application services require a license, with variable costs based on many factors, including platform and connector requirements.
- PowerApps Applications cannot be published in the Windows Store, Apps Store, or to Google Play.
PowerApps has a separate platform for Android and iOS through which applications developed on the O365 platform can be accessed.
- Integration with proprietary systems is limited
While there are 200+ connectors in the Power Platform ecosystem, some closed systems do not allow integration with external programs. Customizing your Power App to work with these types of systems would be difficult. You will need to develop APIs or other ways to connect to your data that could require a team of experienced developers.
- Power Apps created can only be used within your own environment
PowerApps exists as a product inside your organization’s Microsoft environment. Apps created on the PowerApps Platform are meant for internal use only, as only those in your organization can gain permissions inside the environment. Therefore, users cannot share it outside of the organization. This restriction is due to Microsoft’s licensing model, as well as technical and security limitations that are introduced with external exposure.
Get Started & Easily Build Your App Today
Introducing Power Apps, and the full Power Platform, into your organization can empower your staff to create, expand, and improve on solutions for your business. With its ease-of-use, security, and the support of Microsoft, it makes sense to go for Power Apps as your app creation solution.
When it comes to some of the identified Power Apps pain points, there is help available to move around most limitations. Partner with Wimmer Solutions and its team of Power Platform experts to help you get started, remove any blockers, and get your company set up for success.