The public appetite for creating software applications with less coding than traditional code-first development shows no sign of abating, which is little wonder given that it empowers businesses to build apps faster, more efficiently and at huge cost saving.
Coined by Forrester Research in 20142, the term ‘low-code development’ has become synonymous with the democratisation of technology as businesses relish the opportunity to develop the likes of apps with little to no coding experience within their ranks. It is estimated that developers outside of formal IT departments will account for at least 80% of the user base for low-code development tools by 2026, up from 80% five years earlier3, while Gartner is tipping annual sales of such technologies to reach $44.5 billion by 20264.
Given its reputation for cutting-edge innovation, it is no surprise that Microsoft is among the tech giants leading the way with its Power Apps solution. Part of the Microsoft Power Platform family, the suite of products allows both developers and non-technical users to build custom applications and access a data platform quickly, easily and without prior knowledge of code. Fundamentally a development platform for mobile and web apps, Power Apps has long been embraced by large-scale organisations - 86% of Fortune 500 companies have reportedly used the tool5 – while its cost and time-saving advantages are even more pronounced for small to medium businesses.
For all the talk of ‘simplicity’, ‘ease of use’ and ‘citizen developers’ though, it pays to remember that the organisations that gain the most benefit from Power Apps are those that leave no stone unturned in its application. Given that, we have designed this comprehensive guide to make life even easier for newcomers to the Power Apps world.
What is Power Platform?
Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of tools that allows businesses to use no-code to low-code technology to automate processes, build solutions, analyse data and create virtual agents. The products are designed so that even non-technical users can quickly build business apps that connect to various data sources and third-party, ultimately enabling the streamlining and automating of processes without complex IT projects. In addition to Power Apps, Power Platform’s products include:
- Power Automate - a powerful no-code workflow automation tool that allows users to easily automate, integrate and accelerate business processes
- Power BI – visualise and analyse your data in order to gain valuable insights rapidly so you make informed decisions and implement business process changes
- Power Virtual Agents – create chatbots without the help of developers or knowledge of complex code
- Power Pages – a low-code software-as-a-service platform for creating, hosting and administering external-facing websites.
What is Power Apps?
Power Apps combines apps, services, connectors and a data platform to provide a seamless development environment to quickly build custom apps for business needs. By connecting with data stored in Microsoft Dataverse or other online and on-premise data sources (eg: Microsoft 365, SharePoint), apps built using Power Apps can transform manual paper/excel forms and other forms, which are difficult to maintain & enhance. Crucially, those apps can be created without the need to write code and a responsive design allows them to run seamlessly across multiple devices including browsers, phones and tablets.
Highlights of Power Apps
- Low-code platform for faster app development.
- Integration with Azure and other Microsoft services.
- Built-in AI capabilities.
- Hosted in secure, reliable infrastructure.
- Integration with Power Automate to automate business processes.
When was Power Apps released?
Power Apps was originally released in November 2015 as Microsoft PowerApps, with the company saying the “unique solution” was designed to counter three problems – a lack of skilled mobile developers, business data proliferation and to overcome the "inherent friction in getting apps onto employee phones"6. The product’s name was changed to Power Apps in 2019 to align with the newly rebranded Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow) and Power BI.
How does Power Apps work?
Power Apps automates business operations by replacing paper forms and procedures with digital ones that can be accessed via a desktop or mobile device. It does this by rapidly connecting to company data that is stored in an online source such as SharePoint and Excel or an underlying data platform. Crucially, there are two key options for developing Power Apps:
- Canvas: ideal for creating custom interfaces and user experiences, this highly flexible approach is akin to working from a blank canvas where apps can be designed to meet the exact needs of a business. Drag and drop the likes of data tables, forms and charts onto the canvas and take advantage of the opportunity for highly visual and interactive designs.
- Model-driven: more rigid than canvas designs but ideal for businesses that manage complex data models and processes. Use pre-built components and templates for seamless design and faster turnarounds, while a Common Data Service allows users to store business application data in a secure, cloud-based storage space.
What are the benefits of Power Apps?
Power Apps allows businesses to reduce their development costs and increase agility by rapidly building apps the easy way.
- Saves time and money: creating a custom app once required businesses to hand the project to an in-house IT team or recruit external developers to manage the project. Power Apps flips this model on its head by allowing ‘citizen developers’ with little to no app development experience to create high-quality solutions and, crucially, oversee ongoing management and upgrades. Along with the obvious cost savings, speed to market is also markedly quicker as there is no need for lengthy recruitment and onboarding processes and Power Apps’ low-code nature means apps can be created and tested quickly.
- Version control: when it comes to data, Power Apps creates a single source of truth for multiple users across different levels of an organisation. A traditional Excel document may float around a team or business, with stakeholders adding or changing numbers in the original document and multiple versions ending up in different folders and potential confusion about where the most recent take sits. This is a thing of the past in the Power Apps world as its simple and easy-to-use apps ensure a definitive record that can accessed and updated in real-time, delivering a huge boost in terms of auditing, compliance and risk aversion. It is not so much about replacing the likes of Excel but using digitization to create a less cumbersome and more organised and compliance-friendly process.
- One platform: with omnichannel a modern buzzword, today’s apps need to work seamlessly across desktop browsers and mobile devices. Power Apps makes that a reality, with every app designed in the system automatically configured to work across all devices for convenience during both creation and post-release. No need for testing on every kind of device. No risk of employee complaints when working from home or travelling. Rather, the app accesses the same data sets regardless of the screen upon which it appears.
Why it pays to partner with experts
The pressure on modern businesses to keep pace with digital innovation cannot be understated. From generative AI to the automation of seemingly everything, many executives and managers run the risk of throwing too much money at tech projects or, conversely, moving too slowly for fear of getting it wrong.
Power Apps has changed the game as it has made low-cost and high-performing apps accessible to businesses. That said, the last thing they want to do is rush into a project without strategic vision, appropriate governance measures or failing to appreciate how an expert set of eyes can help set them up for digital transformation success.
At Innovior, we have a proud history of guiding clients on their Power Apps journeys. This includes helping identify the use cases that are best suited to the technology and ensuring any investment in apps is scalable and a quality return on investment. Our expert teams have extensive experience working with all areas of Microsoft Power Platform across various industries and our ability to mitigate risks and pinpoint opportunities means our partners cannot only realise their Power App goals sooner but reap their benefits long into the future.
Automation is no longer a luxury but a necessity for companies wanting to keep pace with their competitors. Discover how Microsoft Power Automate is allowing users to take care of what is important by automating the rest.
 The future of application development | Public Sector News (publicsectorexecutive.com)
 What's driving the growth of low-code software? - mrc's Cup of Joe Blog (mrc-productivity.com)
 Low-code development technologies market forecast to hit $44.5 billion by 2026 | InfoWorld
 Low Code Platforms Are Doing the Heavy Lifting for Developers: Here's How! | HackerNoon
 A Closer Look at Power Apps and its Soaring Popularity Among Fortune 500 Companies - ECF Data
 Introducing Microsoft PowerApps - The Official Microsoft Blog