Microsoft PowerApps Community Plan for Developers Provides New Opportunities

Agile development. Agile customer service. Agile delivery.

What does the word agile really mean in each of these phrases?

Fast. Nimble. Flexible. Every possible connotation of the word agile implies action. Let’s face reality — today’s customers, business or individual, expect agility and everything implied by that single, powerful word.

The good news for developers is that businesses that provide developer tools have received the message as clearly as we have. All of us know that agility matters and the tools that help us achieve our goals are available — and, incredibly, the cost of joining is low.

Microsoft now offers a community plan for building PowerApps for free. That’s right, free. Free as in no cost. Free as in free beer. Free as in jump in the pool; the water’s fine and what have you got to lose?

What are PowerApps?

Good enough, but what are these PowerApps? The simplest answer is that PowerApps are applications built on Microsoft data technologies like Azure, Microsoft 365, SharePoint, and most importantly, Common Data Services. PowerApps can be developed rapidly — and can be built without extensive coding. After development PowerApps can be shared to the web, iOS, Android and Windows 10.

How does it work?

PowerApps provide a method of creation called Canvass apps. Canvass apps allow the developer to start by building the app’s user interface in a canvas, adding user interface elements at will to design the user experience in ways that make sense to you, your organization, your users. Microsoft gives examples of building Canvass apps from a data, from a sample, from a Common Data Service source or from a blank canvas.

Another option is build PowerApps that are model-driven. Microsoft says that building model-driven apps allows the use of Common Data Service to configure forms, business rules and process flows.

The Common Data Service for Apps is a secure storage and data management system within what Microsoft calls an entity. What is an entity, you may ask. The simplest answer is an entity is a tool for storing data — imagine a database table or an Excel spreadsheet.

What are the advantages?

PowerApp development is fast. Really fast. A developer for the United Kingdom’s National Trust created a series of PowerApps that the agency uses to track their massive conservation holdings across Great Britain in just eight weeks!

PowerApps can be developed without traditional coding. It’s possible to develop PowerApps using Microsoft Flow to design the logic of PowerApps. The developer uses Flow’s point and click interface to design app logic without having to code. If more powerful logic is required a simple Excel-like expression set extends the power of the process.

PowerApps extend other Microsoft products. Because PowerApps are integrated with SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Dynamics 365 your PowerApps work with and provide automation in contexts that users understand.

Data entities for  the Common Data Service reside in the cloud. These means easy shareability and management. Role based management provides PowerApp developers with easy methods to ensure users can only access the data they need.

And for greater flexibility PowerApps can be extended programmatically with .NET tools.

What about this free thing?

Microsoft is allowing members of their Community Plan to develop PowerApps for free. It’s a great opportunity to start using powerful new tools to build or grow your business for free while you learn to use those tools for free. Find out more here. Users of Office 365 can also develop PowerApps for Office 365 at no additional charge. You can find out more about this option here.

If you’d like to talk with us about agile business or almost any other topic related to your needs, why not contact us?

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