Countless businesses use custom applications to support their processes and get work done faster. However, building apps can cost serious money – even a basic tool can set you back thousands of pounds when outsourced.

But, in 2017, Microsoft launched Power Apps. Power Apps provide an easy to use interface which lets anyone build simple business applications. You do not need to know any programming languages to build a custom tool that can have a big impact on how your employees work.

So, what are Power Apps, who builds them and what kinds of things can they do?

What are Microsoft Power Apps?

Microsoft defines power apps as: “a suite of apps, services, connectors and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment to build custom apps for your business needs”.

Power Apps can be used in different ways by different people to create apps of varying levels of complexity. However, it is fundamentally a way of building tools that can automate or improve internal business processes.

It might take a little training at first, but Power Apps provides a drag and drop interface where you can build out the logic of an app. Once it is ready, any of your employees can download the app and use it in their day to day work.

Power Apps is available to anyone with a Microsoft 365 Enterprise Licence. An administrator needs to give users permission to build the tool. They can then start creating apps for their colleagues.

Who should build Power Apps?

Power Apps ties in with the citizen developer movement – the idea that anyone should be allowed to create applications that make their lives easier. Departments, teams, or even individual employees can simply build an app which will let them work faster or cut out a tedious and repetitive activity.

Because the system is so straightforward, the person building the app does not need to know any programming languages. Instead, they use a simple drag and drop interface that lets them build out the logic of the app.

Of course, not everyone in your business will necessarily want to start building Power Apps. Instead, the idea is to get more people involved in creating tools that really address specific problems their colleagues are facing.

What do Power Apps look like?

Microsoft has created an extensive list of case studies featuring companies, public sector organisations and charities which use Power Apps. A Power App could be built to replace almost any manual, repetitive or time-consuming work process.

Here are just three types of Power Apps that you could be building:

  1. Expense reporting app

When your employees go on business trips, they will normally collect receipts which they must then hold onto then hand over to your finance team once back at the office. This is a manual and time-consuming process, so you could build a Power App which would make this process much more efficient.

Whenever an employee pays for a hotel room or buys a client a coffee, they could open your Power App on their smartphone, take a photo of the receipt, enter time and date and any other details needed. The app would then log this information into your finance department’s expenses sheets and the employee could automatically claim the money back.

This would save time, mean the finance team don’t have to spend hours doing data entry and ensure the employee gets refunded in a timely manner.

  1. Inventory app

Many organisations hold large inventories of stock. Imagine a University Department which needs to keep an inventory of all its whiteboards, pens, printers, tables and so on. The inventory needs to be maintained, and any repairs and replacements must be logged into the system.

Creating a Microsoft Power App for this scenario would be very efficient. The building manager could see which rooms the inventory is currently located in or get alerts of routine maintenance for specific pieces of equipment. Meanwhile, lecturers and seminar leaders could use the app on their smartphone to log that paper supplies or pens are running low in a specific room, and get this automatically purchased and delivered.

Again, this kind of app would be straightforward to build in Power Apps and save staff a lot of time.

  1. Staff onboarding

Whenever companies hire new employees, they normally have to go through an extensive onboarding process which includes sharing paperwork, bank details, P45’s and so on. This can often take several days and lots of emails back and forth. What if you could just send that employee a simple in-house app where they can do everything on their smartphone?

By building a Power App, you could ask the new employee to provide all the specific details your company needs, upload them as photos or attachments and ensure it is all in the right format. This would make onboarding much faster, smoother and avoid any confusion later on.

Getting started with Microsoft Power Apps

We think that Power Apps is a fantastic tool from Microsoft, and has real potential to help companies cut costs, improve processes and empower staff to solve problems they are facing. That said, knowing how to layout and design an app so that it connects the data you need requires experience with app development.

At FITTS, we help our customers to make the most of tools like Power Apps. Our highly experienced consultants can provide training and support to any end-user who wishes to begin creating custom applications.

James Haworth will be presenting an introduction to the Microsoft Power Platform on Thursday 22nd October. Register here to attend this session.

To get started with Power Apps contact FITTS today.