Power Apps can be compared to PowerPoint or WordPress website/blog builder in the sense that users across all these platforms deal with blocks of information that they can structure the way they want relying on the visual interface and without necessarily having to deal directly with the underlying code.
Below is a brief overview of pros and cons of Power Apps to help companies make an informed decision about how this tool can serve their business.
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Pros of Power Apps
Power Apps has a lot of advantages and below are some of them:
- Visualisation – apps can be built through the visual interface and without having to rely on the underlying code; thus, previous development experience is unnecessary to get started.
- Numerous Connectors – it is possible to connect seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics 365 products such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365BC) and other ERP systems and beyond to consume data from them and to feed data back (e.g. Power Apps users’ input).
- Multiple data sources – data from multiple sources (e.g. an ERP system + an Excel file) can be combined to create an app. Moreover, users can create an app from scratch (Canvas App) or they can choose a data source (Data Driven Model) which will be used by their App.
- Mobile friendly – Power Apps can run on desktops, laptops and mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones.
- Online & offline – it is possible to create apps that work when a device is online or offline; when offline, the data can be synced with the online source (e.g. an ERP system) once the device is back online (see point B in the “Further Reading” section of this post for additional information and an example).
The next section discusses some cons associated with using Power Apps.
Cons of Power Apps
Here are some CONSiderations in connection with using Power Apps:
- Training – while Power Apps is often marketed as a tool that requires no development (code) knowledge, some apps may still require some or extensive coding. Thus, training, including taking a full course or substantial self-education may be needed to create professional apps – even developers who know other Microsoft products may need training.
- Licenses – additional licenses (and, therefore, costs) are required to be able to use Power Apps. Two license models were available at the time this post was published: monthly per user per one app (1) or monthly per user, unlimited apps (for prices – navigate to Microsoft Power Platform License Calculator). Several users using several apps can result in substantial monthly license costs, especially for small businesses.
- Maintenance – as with other software, apps developed through Power Apps should be serviced regularly to keep them up-to-date and fully operational (e.g. working properly with new software and working stably with old software after an upgrade).
- Limited functionality – while it is true that creativity can take an app right to the target functionality, there are some limitations still (e.g. how much data can be stored offline) that should be considered prior to fully committing to Power Apps.
- External specialists – if a company chooses to hire an external specialist (rather than training its own), it may be a challenge to find local specialists who have the right Power Apps experience and have sufficient knowledge of the given industry to develop adequate understanding of the business needs fast enough. It may also be costly to work with an external specialist.
Power Apps is a visual tool to build desktop, laptop and mobile device apps with online and offline capabilities. The tool can connect to multiple data sources and combine with other Power Platform programs. It can help increase business efficiency and effectiveness by providing users (in finance, operations, marketing, etc.) with additional tools to perform their day-to-day business duties. At the same time, as other software, Power Apps requires time and money to be set up and maintained.
1 The software was relatively new at the time of publication of this post, and there was certain inconsistency around how the terminology was used. For example, PowerApps (one word) spelling was used sometimes. Redundant “Power Apps apps” word combination was used to refer to applications created with the help of Power Apps software. Edocation uses “Power Apps” spelling which is consistent with then recent documentation by Microsoft (ad fontes, see the Further Reading section in this post below). The apps created with the help of Power Apps are referred to as “Power Apps” (or “apps”) to avoid unnecessary repetition; consistent with that, the word combination “Power Apps” is used in the singular form (is) to refer to the app builder or in the plural form (are) to refer to the apps created with the help of the builder.