Welcome to the Dynamics 365 Partner Community blog series for April. I am excited about this month's topic here and on our April 11 partner call - using Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow with Dynamics 365. These new services provide you with new opportunities to enhance and extend Dynamics 365 for your customers.
Introduction to the business application platform
The discussion about Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow starts with the business application platform, the foundation for building nimble, innovative business applications across both the Microsoft platform and third-party applications.
This is important for two reasons.
- Customer business processes do not sit in silos, but instead span across those silos, requiring customers to spend money and time on integration to meet the needs of their business users.
- The resources spent on integration detract from a customer's ability to enhance its applications. Those business applications can be difficult to use and clunky, and lack the simple and intuitive nature of the apps that we enjoy using in our personal lives.
Now, what if we could make it easier and quicker for customers to integrate and build modern applications? The business application platform can do just that, focusing on the main components of any application: measure, act, and automate. These tools for building solutions are not only for the IT developer, but also the power user.
The first layer of tools includes Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow. These software as a service tools allow the power user to build solutions without writing code. This creates a new opportunity for the business user to quickly create solutions that meet business needs, without requiring IT resources.
When the business has more complicated applications, IT developer can enhance and extend applications by leveraging the second layer of Azure platform tools. And, we would not get very far without the ability to connect to business data. The connectors and gateways allow you to connect to cloud or on premise data that you are using today, or you can use the common data service to consolidate key business data into a cloud resident database for use across applications.
Now that we better understand the platform, let’s focus on two of the power user tools: Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow.
Microsoft PowerApps overview
Microsoft PowerApps is a service for creating, sharing, and using custom business apps on web or mobile platforms. The first step to creating an application is to connect to the services and data you need. PowerApps has built-in connectors to Microsoft platforms like Office 365, SQL Server, and Dynamics 365, and also offers connectors common third-party services such as Dropbox, Salesforce, and Twitter.
Once you make the connection, PowerApps can automatically create an application for you based on the data. This auto-generated application may meet your needs, but usually it's a starting point that you can tweak and change to include the functionality that you require. Once it's created, you can immediately share the web and mobile application with your team or organization.
The PowerApps visual designer makes it easy to build apps without writing code. As you can see in the image below, the designer provides a PowerPoint-like experience for creating your application forms and screens. You can include functionality in your application that takes advantage of tablet or mobile phone capabilities, like a camera or GPS. And PowerApps includes an expression language, so that you can build business logic into your applications.
Microsoft Flow overview
Microsoft Flow is a service for creating workflows that automate processes across apps and services. The service has many of the same built-in connectors to the Microsoft platform and other third party services that PowerApp offers. There are also templates to help you get started with common workflow scenarios.
A flow gets executed based on a trigger. Once the trigger is identified, the flow will run a series of steps that can include conditional logic. The trigger can be an application event, such as the creation of a new lead in Dynamics 365 or a file created in SharePoint, or the click of a button in a PowerApp application.
Microsoft Flow includes a visual designer to make it easy to build the workflows. The designer will help you create the initial trigger, and then add a series of steps. The graphical interface makes it easy to understand what service you are connecting to with each step of the process, and to run the workflow to make sure it executes properly.
The partner opportunity
Successful Microsoft Dynamics partners develop end to end solutions that are vertically focused for their customers. This focus allows them to differentiate from their competition with deeper business process expertise. They also build their own intellectual property (IP) to drive higher gross margins with packaged and repeatable solutions. Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow make it easier for you to accomplish these two things.
Here are examples where you can use PowerApps and Microsoft Flow with your customers to provide new capabilities:
- Build an onsite customer visit app that combines sales and operations data
- Create an events app to collect and input customer contact information in SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics
- Collect social media mentions of your company and create new sales leads
- Send SMS message to field service tech when new work orders are assigned
Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow licenses are included with Microsoft Dynamics 365. If your customer owns Dynamics 365, they already own these tools, and you can start working with them to build applications and workflows today.
New Extensibility Options for Dynamics 365
- Business application platform innovation page
- Business application platform blog post
- PowerApps site
- PowerApps community
- PowerApps documentation
- Microsoft Flow site
- Microsoft Flow community
- Microsoft Flow documentation