Microsoft has recently launched PowerApps, a new enterprise tool to enable businesses to easily create apps for iOS, Android and Windows. PowerApps is intended to enable anyone, regardless if they have coding skills or not, to create apps utilising templates and plug and play components. Whilst this all sounds promising, the reality could be more of a challenge.
Microsoft’s PowerApps is an extension of its earlier efforts to provide business tools to non developers, with Project Siena. It joins the likes of Lightning App Builder by Salesforce, Kony Modeler and Oracle Mobile Application Framework, all designed to help companies build simple apps with ease.
With PowerApps, users can put together mobile apps via templates that use drag and drop tools.
Once the app has been created, rather than putting the app on the App Store (or other stores from Android and Windows), it can be shared with others in the team, much like sending a document. To ensure data security, IT administrators can manage the data accessed and maintain corporate policies, according to Microsoft.
To help address one of the big challenges with creating apps, Microsoft has made it possible to connect to services like Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive, to get data to and from apps. This should make it possible to support companies who have moved to cloud services. Additionally, Microsoft has added support for Azure services, SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases and SAP. We’ll be interested to see what this means in the real world, as often intuitive integration is the biggest challenge with developing apps.
As we have spoken about in the past, off the shelf apps are used to tackle generic tasks more suitable for horizontal use cases, across a variety of departments. With PowerApps, Microsoft is allowing companies to create apps that are more tailored to their needs. However doing this via a platform poses certain issues.
Templates have their limitations, especially when it comes to anything other than very simple apps. Whilst it appears that Microsoft PowerApps will allow for integration and have been created to help companies create the apps they need, how this translates into the real world remains to be seen.
By 2018, more than 50% of all mobile apps will be created by business analysts without coding, according to Gartner. It is clear that there is a trend towards codeless app builders, as has been seen with website creation tools. Yet, anytime companies need anything more than a simple website, they will turn to custom coding to deliver what they need.
At the same time PowerApps is coming to market, enterprise apps are starting to become more complex. Bespoke development enables businesses to develop tools that are tailored to specific workflows, systems and that adhere to data regulations.
Still in its beta stage, we’re interested to see what happens with PowerApps. One of the main markets that it could potentially help with is the SME market, where companies don’t always have dedicated IT departments or IT skills. The ability to create relatively simple apps that integrate with their organisation could help to further spread the benefits of mobility.