This article focuses on how to leverage PowerApps and the Common Data Service to build integrated solutions with business applications.
We’ll look at how Dynamics 365 fits into the overall Microsoft Business Application Platform strategy and the fundamentals of each of the tools and how they connect to and interact with Dynamics 365’s applications to get insights into scenarios that would be a good fit using these rapid application development tools.
1. Intelligent Business Cloud Components
Before going to PowerApps, we should look at the overall intelligence business cloud that Microsoft has and the components that make it up.
We see on there the PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Azure all being the low-level infrastructure components. On top of them, we build the other applications such as Dynamics 365.
But these all work together and, through the connectors that we have available that are in use by PowerApps and Flow, we can connect to things like the Office 365 services.
We can connect to external services that are provided by third-party business applications and, using the Common Data Service, we can store data that are relevant to these.
The focus of this article is PowerApps, the Common Data Service, and the connectors. I will describe them one by one so we can understand how it all works.
2. What Is Business Application Platform?
The business application platform focuses on the internal line of business applications, which are productivity applications that make users more productive.
For the applications we’re talking about as part of this article, you can really divide them into three core pillars.
- Measure: This is all about analytics and measuring performance and how are we doing on things, and then using that information to ultimately decide how to act.
- Act: This includes what is done with the PowerApps that we’ll be talking about in this article. That’s where a user is interactively using the application that’s been built.
- Automate is that background, something that happens either on a timely basis or in the background started by another process, but it runs without guidance automating something that might be either too complex or too tedious for users to do on their own and we want to automate the process for connecting across multiple systems.
Sometimes that can also include the developers who would customize Dynamics 365 or would require developer assistance; for example, they can build things in Azure App Services or Azure Functions that can be called from PowerApps and are able to extend PowerApps to integrate with those more complex operations, allowing that seamless transition from power user-created applications to developer-created functionality.
But the key thing to understand here is that the focus is on empowering the power users and the customizers to be able to build applications without requiring developer level skill sets or knowledge of the underlying developer technologies.
To make it easy to understand: We use PowerApps to quickly build custom apps that combine data and actions from multiple apps.
3. Common Data Service Overview
We need to store integration data needed by composition applications and automation.
We also need to connect PowerApps to data and services across the enterprise, as well as external services, to bring in and orchestrate processes across the different applications.
And that’s where we have the connectors and the gateways that allow us to access the services
In addition, the Common Data Service has a Common Data Model that allows us either to store working data for integrations across these applications or to build applications that wholly contain the data inside that Common Data Service.
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PowerApps, on the other hand, is simply a canvas on which you can put data from multiple applications. Dynamics 365 is just one of those applications from which you might bring the data into the PowerApps and display it on the surface.
One of the things that’s powerful about PowerApps is that you can have data from multiple systems appear in the visual space of the user and each of them comes from its own place. But from the user’s perspective, it looks as if it’s all stitched together in one place for them to use.
In next article, I will so you how to build a PowerApps extension with Dynamics 365 and what it takes to get that off the ground and make it available to other users in your organization.
Thank you for reading!