PowerApps: Be a hero and transform business process, in 10 minutes (and without writing code!)

Introduction: This post will walk you thru how to create an application using PowerApps in 10 minutes.

PowerApps is a powerful tool from Microsoft that allows anyone (yes anyone) to build an application that connects to your existing data sources, that can run on iOS/Android/Windows Phone/Windows devices or in a web browser – all without writing any code. This is pure awesomeness, because you can solve business problems with real solutions, and drive real results.

The data you can connect to can range from Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, SharePoint lists, Dynamics 365 and even non-Microsoft applications such as Salesforce or Dropbox, and custom APIs (full list of sources PowerApps can connect to can be found here)

Scenario: The possibilities are endless. In this blog post we’ll use a scenario of time tracking and the challenge of having to enter that time into a system of record and make the interaction with the data as frictionless as possible. For this example, we’ll use SharePoint Online as that system of record, and will build a PowerApp to enter that data. For bonus points in a follow up post, we’ll explore how to visualize and make sense of that data using Power BI. (Of course, this is just an example – what’s an example from your business that you can use to build your first PowerApp?)

For the example, I’ll make it real by sharing with you this is a similar solution my team at Microsoft uses to keep track of time spent on projects and programs we manage and provide reporting on how we spend our time up to our leadership. This simple solution provides an easy way to not only perform data entry but also enables a very interesting way to provide visibility of the data to others outside the team who may not be familiar with the details.

Let’s do this!

To start, we’ll take an existing SharePoint site that has a list the team uses on a daily basis to perform time entry. This list contains the following columns:

  • Title
  • Date
  • Project
  • Hours spent
  • Team Member

Note: SharePoint is powerful and allows you to create lists that can perform data lookup from other sources (i.e. a drop down menu that looks up data in another list) and even personalize this for the user so they can only see time they entered. For purposes of this blog and example, I’m going to keep it simple and use free form text fields, date, and a few radio buttons. But I encourage you to play around with this and explore!

Here’s a screenshot of the list with columns:

And a view of the list, in data entry view on SharePoint:

Now, back to the SharePoint list, on the toolbar you will notice a menu for PowerApps. Click that menu and select Create an app:

On the flyout on the right, in the Name field type Time Entry and click Create:

A new browser window will launch, and you will be taken to create.powerapps.com. A dialog box will appear, select your country and click Get started:

The PowerApps Designer will be displayed:

At this point, the app can be further customized using the designer, however it is fully functional. To access the app, browse to http://powerapps.com and sign in:

IMPORTANT: You can also access this app by download the app PowerApps on your mobile device. Once signed in, you will see the same list of apps to access.

From the menu on the left click Apps:

Click the app you just created:

A new browser window will open and the web version of the PowerApp will be launched:

Click the + (plus) sign in the app and enter some data then click the check mark to submit the data:

Once the data is submitted, you will be returned to the home screen and can see a history of the data that was entered (note this view can be customized if needed):

Back in SharePoint, we can see the data populated in the list:

Conclusion: It really is that easy to create an easy to use application. Depending upon the use case you may need to use PowerApps Designer to customize the user interface. To see how to visualize and report this data in a dashboard in Power BI see PowerBI: Visualize your data in dashboard in 10 minutes. In addition, you can automate these tasks and workflows using Microsoft Flow, which I will write about in a future blog post as well.

As always, if you have feedback, comments on this post or ideas for future posts please let me know in the comments below. Also, I would love to hear how you are using PowerApps to digitally transform and create new scenarios.