Start Learning About PowerApps

   In this post I’ll talk about PowerApps, a new enterprise service for building enterprise applications and share resources on where to find out more information.

   Note: PowerApps is currently in private preview and is subject to change after this article is posted.  As such this article may contain out of date information by the time you read this.  Additionally I am a Microsoft employee but the views and opinions expressed in this article are my own and not reflective of Microsoft or the PowerApps product group.

 

Background

   On Nov 30th, 2015 at the European Convergence conference Microsoft unveiled a new enterprise service for building enterprise applications called PowerApps.  At a high level PowerApps allows power users and developers to build scalable applications that connect to numerous services (Office 365, SalesForce, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.) using PowerPoint and Excel-like tools to be consumed on Windows, iOS, and Android.  These applications can be built once and then consumed on any platform.  No need to re-compile, design separate UIs per platform, etc. like you see with the current state of most mobile or web development.

 

Components

   I’ll briefly walk through some of the highlights for different components or aspects of which to be aware.

 

Tools and client player

   Currently it is possible to create and consume PowerApps apps on Windows and iOS.  I can’t speak to the final plans but it is my understanding that it is on the roadmap to be able to create and consume on all platforms including Windows (PC and mobile), iOS, Android, and web.  You will not be limited to only consuming from the platform that you created on though.

 

Design language

   PowerApps is designed to be able to author apps using Excel and PowerPoint type skills.  There is no need to code your solution.  That said if you are a developer and wish to code backend interactions or create a custom API to connect to that is available (with the Enterprise plan, more on that below).

 

Connectors

   Out of the box PowerApps ships with a dozen or so connectors for pulling or pushing data to the following sources.  By configuring a connector to these services you can perform simple CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) operations on data in these sources.

  • Dropbox
  • Dynamics CRM Online
  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft Translator
  • Office 365 Outlook
  • Office 365 Users
  • OneDrive [consumer version]
  • Salesforce
  • SharePoint Online
  • Twitter

   Establishing a connection to these services is as simple as logging into the service.  Once you establish a connection it is persisted to the PowerApps cloud and will be available on any device that you log into your account.

 

Authentication

   Speaking of logging into accounts, authentication for PowerApps is handled by Azure Active Directory.  As such you will need to have an Azure Active Directory identity / domain in order to utilize PowerApps.  Thus you can view PowerApps as an enterprise solution more than a consumer solution even though you do have access to consumed focused connections (e.g. Twitter, OneDrive, etc.).

 

PowerFlows

   PowerFlows (also called Logic Flows) are still a work in progress but the goal is to provide simple yet robust workflows for data.  Think along the lines of If This Then That (IFTTT, www.ifttt.com) which is a popular website for connecting data from disparate sources and taking action when specific triggers are met.  Ex. when the forecast is predicting rain tomorrow send me a text message and put a calendar entry on my calendar to bring an umbrella to work.  IFTTT also integrates with home automation software, smartphone devices, design websites, and more.

   On the PowerFlows side you can define a triggers and then take actions based on that incoming trigger.  Ex. when a new tweet from Twitter contains specific data create a new entry in a SharePoint list, send me an email, and then create a case in Salesforce.  When used in conjunction with apps from PowerApps this can be a powerful complimentary toolset.

 

Sharing

   When it comes time to share your PowerApps app with others you can simply type in their email address and share it with them.  No need to worry about downloading the application, incompatibility of the OS, or other traditional blockers for enterprise applications.  In the enterprise plan it is possible to restrict access to the app so that only specific users are able to view and access your app.

 

Plans

   Speaking of plans there are 3 plan levels.  They are as follows.

  • Free – create and use unlimited apps, 2 connections to SaaS data per user, shared infrastructure
  • Standard – create and use unlimited apps, unlimited connections to SaaS data per user, shared infrastructure
  • Enterprise – create and use unlimited apps, unlimited connections to SaaS data per user, dedicated infrastructure, app governance, API management

   The last piece of the Enterprise plan is interesting to me.  This allows an organization to package up an API to line of business (LOB) or other data (i.e. SQL Server, on-prem SharePoint, etc.) and publish it to Azure.  That data source can then be consumed by PowerApps apps.

 

Sign up for preview

   PowerApps is currently in private preview but I encourage everyone to request an invite to gain access at the following URL.  Note that you may not be accepted in right away but you will be added to the list for future inclusion.

 

Request invite to PowerApps

https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/signup/

 

Conclusion

   I am very excited to see PowerApps finally come to private preview.  I have been following Project Siena (precursor to PowerApps) for over a year now and tinkering around with the alpha and beta builds of both.  There is no release date yet for PowerApps but I encourage you and your organization to sign up for the preview and take a look at the videos and tutorials linked below.

   Lastly a few parting thoughts.  Think of all of the LOB apps that exist in your company or organizations and all of the time, effort, and money that goes into developers and / or designers creating and maintaining those applications.  Many of these applications are simple data entry, approval workflow, or similar type applications.  By exposing enterprise data in a structured and secure manner you can empower end users to create those types of applications much more quickly while freeing up resources and people for other business needs.

 

      -Frog Out

 

Additional Resources

Introducing Microsoft PowerApps
https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/introducing-microsoft-powerapps/

Microsoft PowerApps main site (and registration)
https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/

 

Microsoft PowerApps tutorials

https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/tutorials/

 

Microsoft PowerApps videos on Channel 9 

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Microsoft-Azure/PowerApps

 

Microsoft takes the wraps off PowerApps
http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-takes-wraps-off-powerapps-mobile-app-creation-service/

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