Watch, Read, or Listen to: Welcoming Getting Started with Power Apps for the Citizen Developer

In this podcast, Getting Started with Power Apps for the Citizen Developer, we discuss:

MinTopic
:01Danny transitioning the podcast to Marlene
:30Introduction to getting started with Power Apps
3:00Bruce’s Goal: To find out what the process is for business users to pick up the Power Platform
5:00Demonstration – Employee Engagement Survey

 


Transcript

Marlene Hoffman:Good morning. As we get started today, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Marlene Hoffman, a marketing manager at ThreeWill. I am going to be taking over for Danny Ryan as he transitions to a different position. It’s Thursday, December the 17th, and today I talk with Bruce Harple, the VP of delivery at ThreeWill. We are going to be discussing Power Platform for citizen developers. Enjoy.

 

Good morning, Bruce. How are you?

 

Bruce Harple:Hey, Marlene, good morning. Very good. Yeah, excited to be here and to talk about this topic of Power Apps and citizen developers. So yeah, very excited.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Very good. Well, I’m excited to hear your presentation.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, I guess the genesis of this presentation is, my background is originally… I mean, I go way back. So, I’m a legacy programmer, which means I’m a COBOL and assembler programmer, for those that even remember what that is, or was back in the day. And obviously, I’ve been away from that technology base for a long, long time, but one of the things that I wanted to do as part of our personal growth goals at ThreeWill.

I really wanted to dive into Power Apps. Get back to my roots a bit. And what intrigued me about Power Apps and the Power Platform is, Microsoft touts it as a platform for… I got it in quotes there on the slide, citizen developers. So, the idea from Microsoft is that business users who want to innovate, can actually use this platform and use Power Apps to build apps. So, that was what drove my interest is that whole concept of, can a business user really pick this tool up and run with it?

 

Marlene Hoffman:That sounds exciting.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, so what I have, Marlene, is I’ve got some slides. I’m going to go through them, then I switch over and actually show some things in Power Apps, and then come back to the slides. And then we’ll close things out. That make sense?

 

Marlene Hoffman:That sounds great. Thank you, Bruce.

 

Bruce Harple:I’m just going to scroll through it, and certainly Marlene, if you have questions as I go through it, stop me and I’ll see if I can answer your questions.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Okay.

 

Bruce Harple:And so, here is the agenda, what I wanted to cover. Why did I do this? What was the genesis of it? I talked a little bit about that. I wanted to go over, what did I do to prepare for this? Go through my demonstration. And it’s really to share insights. What did I learn from this? And what might be valuable to other clients that are out there, other organizations, based on what I learned? So, really just trying to share my learnings. And here’s my objective. It’s really pretty basic. I mean, I really wanted to prove, can this citizen developer, can a business user, really pick up the Power Platform, pick up the Power Apps and build apps? How simple is that? That was my goal.

 

And I wanted to share a little bit of insight into my preparation. So, this little table, I wanted to share what I did and my time investment. Which, if you look at my overall time investment, I didn’t invest a ton of time. Maybe 30 hours in total going through the preparation, actually building my app, tweaking it some, adding a power automated flow at the end. Not a lot of investment. And what I started with is, really, one of my goals was to pass the PL-900 exam, which is really kind of a Power Platform fundamentals exam. It really covers the entire Power Platform, Power Apps, Power Automate, AI, the chatbots. It really covers the entire platform.

But really, a lot of what I did is I focused on the Microsoft Learning content out on Microsoft’s site, which is incredibly valuable. Leveraged Pluralsight, which is a learning platform that we use internally at ThreeWill. And of course, YouTube. I mean, there is tons and tons and tons of videos out there on YouTube.

So, that was really where I invested some time. And then you can see the time I spent creating the app and playing around with it a bit, and then really trying to extend the app, and then adding the flow at the end. But I will say, I didn’t spend a lot of time really diving into Power Apps. I kind of just dove into the tool and started using it, which in retrospect, may not be the best way approach. I probably should have maybe done some more specific training on Power Apps, but I was anxious to dive in. So, I dove in. So, that was the prep I did.

 

And then, what I was going to do demonstration-wise is… What I did is I created something called the Employee Engagement Survey, and I ended up leveraging a Canvas app template. And a Canvas app and Power Apps is, really, you could think of it as starting from a blank canvas, and then you’re kind of painting on that canvas. So, I’m adding controls on that canvas and building out my app. I’m attaching it to a backend data store, and then creating the app. And my backend data store was Excel. And I picked that because in our experiences, we work with business units and business users, they all use Excel. That’s kind of their core platform and that’s what they use. So, I thought that was appropriate for me to take that as my data store. And as I mentioned, I added a workflow via Power Automate.

 

So, what I’m going to do now is end this and see if I can’t switch over. All right. Marlene, are you looking at my Chrome browser?

 

Marlene Hoffman:I can. I see that, thank you.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah. Yep. Sorry, it took me a while to get there. Yeah, so this is the home page inside of Power Apps. And some of the things you can see here, here are the different data sources that you can use to connect a Power App to. You can connect to… I listed SharePoint. We’re going to look at, what I’ve done is in Excel. You can actually connect to a relational database like a SQL server. And Microsoft has a data store that you can leverage, called a Common Data Service. It’s got a lot of built-in entities and attributes that you can tap into. You can add your own entities and attributes. So, it’s really a relational platform that you can extend and leverage. A lot of things you can start with there.

 

And then you can see the different types of apps. They have Canvas apps, which is what we’re going to look at. There’s something called a model-driven app, which really kind of builds an app from your data store or from a database. And then there’s a portal app, which portal apps tend to be more of those external-facing apps, a customer-facing, vendor or partner-facing application. So, there’s different types of apps you can create. I’m going to go in here, and here’s my app, this employee engagement survey. And what I’m going to do is just start out and I’m going to just run the app, so everybody can see what the app does.

 

And it is a simple survey that walks through a series of questions that you can see. It’s the ThreeWill Employee Engagement Survey. And I’m just going to click on “Get started.” Again, and you can see it, it tells me it’s got five questions it’s going to ask. And you’ll see I’ve done this so there’s different types of controls. So, here you can see radio buttons. So, it’s asking me what my practice is inside of ThreeWill, and I’ll say I’m part of the Innovation Practice. This is a multi-field select type thing, here it’s saying, “Am I proud to work at ThreeWill?” Of course, I’m going to select “Definitely. Absolutely love it here.”

 

A silly question to ask, but the reason here, I just wanted to show this slider control. It’s an out of the box control, which is kind of cool. So, I could say, “Yeah, I work 16 hours a week.” And then do I see myself working here? “I hope so.” And I’m just going to say, “Hey, I love it. Love it at ThreeWill.” I’m going to click, “Next.” And then it should say I’m done. And I have a little button down here to submit the survey. And we’ll see that, that actually sends an email when I click that submit button, once it processes. So, that’s the app. Pretty simple app. So, let me show you what’s behind the app.

 

So, I’m going to go first to the data store in Excel, which is here. Hopefully, it will refresh. There we go. And really what I’ve done here… And actually I started with a template, which was really nice. I got really a jump on this app. There’s actually an engagement survey template. You can see my email just came in, notifying me that a survey has been completed. And so, what it is, is I have a tab here with questions that I want to ask, the questions are numbered. You can see the Power App column here where it’s connected to the app. So, I can dynamically add other questions here. That’s the reason I did this.

 

And then, the options are kind of their responses. So, for question two, you can see there were different responses that appeared in that UX. And they have their own ID as well, one through five. But these were all the responses for question two. These were the responses for question three, and question four. So again, I could make this more dynamic. And then my responses are captured over here. You can see there’s a test response there. And then there’s another sheet where I can have some other text that could be used to drive the app. So it’s a pretty simple and straightforward, but I did this so I could actually ask more questions, provide more answers through Excel. Pretty simple way to do that.

 

So, I go back to the app now. And actually, let’s just look at the app. So, if I go in and edit the app, we can see what it looks like inside of Power Apps. And it’s just loading that up into the Canvas. And that will take just another minute. Yeah, so here we go. So, you can see this is my first page. And I picked a mobile device as how I wanted to create this app. So, it’s created as a mobile app. But it is a mobile responsive app, so it would work on a tablet, it would work on a browser. [Inaudible 00:11:19] What I went through was in a browser. So, this is my canvas in the center here, and to the left it really just shows all the different pages. So, there was a home page, there was a landing page, and then each question is a separate page. And this just helps me.

 

The left-hand side is really kind of my navigation, and you can see within each… If I hit this button here, it then has all the objects on that page are laid out. Well, I went to another question there. So, you have all that detail. I’m going to go back to question three here, or question two. And so, the other thing is, on the right side over here are all the properties, the things that drive what’s in this canvas. You can see real basic properties around what font am I using? What the size of the font is. Any kind of styling, the alignment, the coloring, all the basic kinds of things. And in this, if I click on the “Advanced” button, this is where it’s now you can see this look-up field. You can see it here at the right and you could see it across the top, up in here.

This look-up is where it’s pulling content from Excel. So, it’s pulling from the sheet that said “Questions,” and it’s pulling question ID number two. So, this is where it’s connected to Excel through this look-up feature.

 

And the questions are driven the same way. It’s really pointing back to that spreadsheet, the options part of that spreadsheet. Let’s say I wanted to insert another control. So, I’m going to hit this insert. You can see all of these controls. There’s labels, buttons, text. I can do a rich text editor. I can add that, which is here. It’s kind of small, but you can see the controls here that make it a rich text editor, which is kind of cool. That’s easy to do. So, if you have all these controls that can connect to other data.

I can create a form, different types of media, images, and things like that. I can connect in, add a picture, audio. and I can do a barcode scanner. A lot of things I could do. I mean, so a lot of capabilities as far as building out what’s on this canvas.

 

But I will say, even looking at this it’s probably not something that’s easily intuitive to a normal business user. You do have to be willing to poke around and try some things. You can really see that to make this work, you probably do need some level of training. And again, I started with a template. And I’ll tell you, one of the challenges I had when I was trying to add additional questions…

Like if I tried to add question six, I can come in here and I can actually duplicate this page and create another question. But what I’ve found out is, when I started creating more questions, when I tried to connect it all back to that Excel spreadsheet, it was difficult. It was not intuitive for me to find that connection. So, just a little bit about what it looks like on the inside of Power Apps.

 

And what I want to do now, Marlene is I’m going to go back to my slide deck, and we’ll see if I need to re-share. Nope, it looks like it kept it. So, let me do this. I think I had one more slide, which is really just to share my insights. Let me pull that up. I tried to summarize what I learned and what might be valuable to others. So, one of the things is, as I was going through training…

So, as you can imagine, Microsoft 365, it’s a cloud-based platform, which means it’s changing all the time. I mean, the good news is Microsoft is continually enhancing the platform, continually adding new capabilities and new functionality. The bad news if you’re trying to learn something is, as you go through training… A lot of the training I went through that was recorded a month ago even, some of that training was outdated because the platform changed. So, I had to go to the platform and say, “Well, they were clicking on this and doing that, but I don’t see that on the platform, or it got moved.”

 

For me, the lesson learned insight is, ideally training is more hands-on, something that’s guiding you through the platform as it is today. From a business user perspective, I mentioned it’s not totally intuitive. Oops, let me go back. I hit a button. Not totally intuitive. So, I think for any business user to pick Power Apps up, it would higher than the third bullet is, it would help if you had the experience. Previous experience with some kind of UX or HTML creation tools in the past, to understand the concept of a canvas and be able to add controls to that canvas, being able to connect it to a backend data store. I mean, it’s not simple, and not always intuitive.

 

That fourth bullet, templates are key. I mean, I started with a template, and there were still challenges for me in modifying that template. But I think for a business, for an enterprise to turn this loose on citizen developers, I think it would be valuable to create starting templates that were specific to your business and specific to your enterprise because it’s going to help a business user get started. Templates are key. And Microsoft’s done a great job, but you can create templates as well for your enterprise.

 

And one thing I will say, the template I picked was a survey, so it kind of walked you through a flow of a series of questions. But I will say, Power Apps is really good, I said, for basic crud operations. So, if I wanted to connect the Power App to just SharePoint list or just a simple Excel list, and I wanted to enable the ability to create and add a new item to the list, to view the list, to read the list, to update the list or delete something from the list, to connect a Power App to a basic list and to do basic crud operations, incredibly powerful. And that’s easy to than what I just went through. So, if you use it for that basic crud operation, it’s very powerful.

 

The next bullet there, yeah, definitely for an organization to turn this out and release it to their business user population, they’re going to need coaches and support for sure. No doubt about it. People are going to have a lot of questions. They’re going to need support in creating these apps. But the foundation is there. It’s very powerful. You can do a lot. But they’ll need those coaches and support. And we always say this, everybody says this with Microsoft 365, governance is critical. I think you want to control it. You want to control who gets access to it, make sure they get the right level of training, and make sure they have coaches and people that can support them.

 

And then the last bullet there, I mean, it requires a significant investment of time by the business and by business users. But I think the good news is, proficiency will scale. The more time you spend with it, the better you’re going to get at it, the more proficient you’re going to get at it, and you’ll be able to create more and more apps. So, I think the ability to scale is there, but it’s going to require that upfront investment by business users. I kind of went through that quickly, but I wanted to show a little bit of what I learned and what I did, and really share these insights, because I think that’s what could be valuable to others.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Right. I think it’s very exciting.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah. No, I’m excited by the platform. Only, the one thing I will say, and I didn’t really show when I added the workflow… So, I did add a workflow at the end of that when I hit that submit button. It actually sent me an email and I got that email in my inbox. I will say, the Power Automate piece is really very powerful and very easy to use. I found a template that just sends an email notification. And I just picked that template, created it, sent an email to myself saying a survey had been submitted. And I attached it to that submit button inside my app. So, adding the Power Automate piece was very, very easy.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Very good.

 

Bruce Harple:That part of it was easy. So, lots of opportunities, but I think you’ve got to go after it in an organized and structured way. I don’t think you want to just turn a business loose on it. It really is designed I think for true Power users. I mean, we know in your experience, there are business users that want to innovate. And they’re smart people, and I think they can take a set of tools like this and do a lot for their business. And so, I think empowering people to innovate is great. It’s what we believe in. I think this platform can get you there but definitely requires an investment, definitely requires governance, and definitely requires the support of those business users.

 

Marlene Hoffman:That sounds great.

 

Bruce Harple:Yeah, so anything else, Marlene? Again, I enjoy doing these and enjoy sharing what I’m learning. And it was a great experience for me. I mean, I’m glad I invested the time to get my hands on the platform. Especially Power Apps. That was where I targeted. [inaudible 00:21:29]

 

Danny Ryan:Hey guys. Just to sort of peekaboo on you here in the end, sorry about that. Just wanted to wrap up this podcast. And Marlene’s going to be leading up hosting the podcast for us in the future, so appreciate you doing that, Marlene, for us. And Bruce, thanks for continuing to do these really informative walkthroughs for us and staying on top of this. Yeah, I think in the upcoming years, enabling those citizen developers is going to be a really important thing for our clients. Yeah, thanks for doing these podcasts quarter after quarter. Appreciate it.

 

Bruce Harple:You bet.

 

Speaker 3:Thanks.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Thanks.

 

Danny Ryan:Thanks everybody for listening.

 

Bruce Harple:All right. Thank you.

 

Marlene Hoffman:Thank you.

 

Danny Ryan:Bye-bye.

 

Thank you for listening to the Work Together Better Podcast. We’re available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re looking for a partner to help you craft a modern digital workplace in the Microsoft cloud, please come by and see us at ThreeWill.com. That’s the number three spelled out, W-I-L-L.com. Thank you and have a great day.

 

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