If you followed any news about Dynamics 365 in the last couple of years, you’ve probably bumped into the word “PowerApp.” Microsoft has been pushing the concept for a while, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop anytime soon.
Want to know what PowerApps are? How are they used and how can you get them? You came to the right place.
What’s a PowerApp? What’s new this year?
For ages, building apps required coding skills and professional developers, designers, testers, etc. You needed to have a technical background to even think about getting an app out. With the increase in demand for custom apps, Microsoft saw an opportunity to provide a platform to build apps that:
- Are easy to use
- Don’t require coding skills
- Easily connect to one or more data sources
- Provide Cross-Platform support
From this idea, PowerApps were born. They are super easy to use tools to help build your app in minutes! They are also deeply integrated with Microsoft Flow allowing you to kick off workflows directly from your app.
This year (2018), Microsoft introduced two PowerApp types: Canvas Driven Apps and Model Driven Apps.
Common Data Service Updates
While Common Data Service existed before, it has been recently updated to CDS for Apps and is now the base layer of Dynamics 365, bringing all your business data in one centralized location so you can focus on building and delivering apps. Microsoft also announced Common Data Service for Analytics which focuses on the PowerBI side.
Canvas Driven Apps
Previously, these were the only type of PowerApps. You drag and drop components onto a canvas without writing a single line of code. You choose the data source from where to pull the data from, and that’s it. The App designer is smart enough to pull data from your source during the design phase to give you a real-life preview of how the data will look for the end users. Once the app looks the way you want, it can be run and shared on Windows, web browsers, iOS or Android devices.
Model Driven Apps
This is the new type of PowerApps Microsoft introduced in 2018. The concept is the same; the interface lets you drag and drop to insert components code-free. Unlike Canvas driven apps where you choose the design and drop items on the canvas, model-driven apps map out the design for you. They build apps on top of Dynamics 365. You get different component types such as dashboards, views, forms, charts, business processes…all the same components existing in the current Dynamics 365 instances. As we mentioned earlier, Microsoft updated the Common Data Service for Apps making it the parent data source to all your apps. Now the Dynamics 365 Sales app, Customer Service app and all other apps are in fact Model Driven Apps built on top of CDS. Using connectors, you can add data from 200 data sources directly into your CDS instance, allowing you to easily build your apps for Dynamics 365 in one place. The data model can be extended with custom entities and custom fields to cover all your unique business needs.
- Powerful tools to create apps with a drag and drop interface
- Centralized data model with over 200 existing connectors to different data sources
- All the data in Common Data Service for Apps can benefit from rich server-side logic, the same way we’re used to in Dynamics 365 (Calculated Fields, Business Rules, Workflows, and Business Process Flows)
- PowerApps can be easily published on the AppSource (Store for Dynamics 365 related apps) to be used by other businesses
- They can be extended by Developers to incorporate complex logic, plugins, and Azure extensions
- Apps can be built for specific purposes (for example, you can build an app so your technical support field engineers have only one form to fill in while they’re on site. The form can directly connect and sync to your Dynamics 365 instance to eliminate the extra time of downloading the Dynamics 365 app for mobile and searching for the entities they want to fill in).
PowerApps for Office 365
PowerApps Plan 1
PowerApps Plan 2
PowerApps for Dynamics 365
|Included in select Office 365 plans||$7 per user/month||$40 per user/month||Included in select Dynamics 365 plans|
|Extending Office 365 capabilities||Extending Office 365 capabilities||Extending Office 365 capabilities||Extending Office 365 capabilities|
|Canvas Apps||Canvas Apps||Canvas Apps||Canvas Apps|
|Microsoft Flow||Microsoft Flow||Microsoft Flow||Microsoft Flow|
|Use server-side validation and logic for Common Data Services Apps||Use server-side validation and logic for Common Data Services Apps||Use server-side validation and logic for Common Data Services Apps
|Model Driven Apps||Model Driven Apps|
|Business Process Flows||Business Process Flows|
|Manage Instances of Common Data Service for Apps||Manage Instances of Common Data Service for Apps|
|Code Add-ins in CDS for Apps Entities||Code Add-ins in CDS for Apps Entities|
|Real-time Workflows||Real-time Workflows|
|Enterprise-grade administration of the environments||Enterprise-grade administration of the environments|
|Access Restricted Dynamics 365 entities and APIs|
As the world went mobile, apps became the “new websites.” Everybody needs to have apps to stay relevant, and Microsoft understands that. PowerApps were first released in 2016; they’ve been a subject of discussion ever since. Before the latest update, this worked fine, but there was much confusion about where data was coming from and how many data sources were connected.
Microsoft has done the work and made a significant change to the overall product architecture to have all the data in one place. Common Data Service for Apps is the ultimate star of the day. With all the existing connectors, building an app that connects to your data has never been easier. It’s simple to begin; just go to https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/ and get started!