As you may know by now, Power Apps is a low code applications development platform from Microsoft. Power Apps is part of the broader Power Platform set of tools which also includes Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents.
What you may not realize is how quickly and inexpensively you can deploy a Power App. We developed and launched an Aircraft Maintenance web application this weekend that took 9 hours to build.
At our typical consulting rates, that’s a $1,000 application that has a high level of functionality, is very secure, and can be accessed on any device.
Why were we developing a Power App this weekend? Good question. We recently worked with a client where we had enhanced their Excel-based aircraft maintenance workbook by adding some VBA automation. This approach was working well for our client, but they realized they needed to bring this solution to the cloud so that more people could access the data. We’ve done a fair share of Google Apps scripts, so we assumed it would be an easy conversion from. To make a long story short, it was more difficult than expected to replicate the automations in Google sheets and deliver the same user experience.
With the project deadline fast approaching, we needed a solution fast and realized that a Model-Driven Power App was one possibility. Microsoft Power Apps come in two basic flavors: Model-Driven Apps and Canvas Apps. Canvas apps are what the name suggests, a blank canvas where you have full control over most elements of your application. A Model-Driven Power App, on the other hand, comes with more pre-built configuration and components. This type of app is driven by the data model and can be deployed very quickly. If you want to learn more about these two types of Power Apps and see some examples, click here: Microsoft Power Apps Developers
Here are the steps we took in our weekend Model-Driven Power App project and how long each step took to accomplish:
Application Design (2 hours)
We had a good understanding of the required functionality because of our past experience with the Excel version of the process. From a design perspective, we just needed to visualize how this same functionality could be delivered in a Power App. The resulting app design was a big step up in data organization, process efficiency, and user experience.
Data Model (2 hours)
When using a Model-Driven Power App, everything starts with the data model. These types of apps work with a Microsoft database called Dataverse (previously known as the Common Data Service). Dataverse comes with some pre-configured data tables and also allows you to add your own. In this case, we utilized the existing Accounts and Contacts tables but also added 4 custom tables for Aircraft, Flights, Maintenance Events, and Discrepancies. After adding the required fields to each table, we also added the necessary relationships between the tables.
Forms and Views (2 hours)
Data entry Forms and Views (lists of records) are how the users will interact with the data in this application. Using drag-and-drop editors, we were able to quickly build these elements into the application to provide an efficient user experience. Model-Driven Power Apps also come with some powerful built-in functionality such as: exporting records to Excel, adding notes and attachments to records, sorting and filtering, global search, and much more.
Power Automate Flow (3 hours)
One of the core requirements of this application is to subtotal key data points from detail records (flights/maintenance) to summary records (aircraft). To accomplish this task, we utilized Power Automate, another powerful tool in the Power Platform. Each time a record is added or modified in the application, a Power Automate flow is triggered which does the necessary math and updates the related records accordingly. The automations we accomplished using VBA in the Excel approach are accomplished with in the new approach.
Microsoft Power Apps is a platform used for the rapid development of web and mobile business applications. When a business process calls for a custom application, Power Apps provides a fast and inexpensive way to get it done. A Model-Driven Power App can often be delivered in a day or two, allowing you to realize the business benefits much more quickly than traditional custom software.
About the author: Brian Busscher is Founder and CEO of Thesis Technologies which pursues a mission to “help you get your systems right.” If you would like to learn more about Microsoft Power Apps, please contact our Power Apps Consultants at (888) 705-7253.
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