Skip to main content

American Red Cross: Power platform customer success story

Headshot of article author Sameer Bhangar

Nick Gill was a Training Specialist at the American Red Cross. He presented his Power Platform adoption story at the Microsoft Business Applications Summit. You can watch his presentation here. Below is his story in his own words.


Hi, I’m Nick Gill, a Training Specialist at the American Red Cross. I have no formal IT background but had some prior knowledge in SharePoint. I taught myself the PowerApps, Power BI and Microsoft Flow tools and used them to transform the process that 650 instructors use to order supplies needed for their training classes. I have since been promoted to the Manager of Logistics for the Preparedness, Safety, and Services department for the entire country, where I will be replacing many of our antiquated processes with the Power platform.

There are several others building apps at the American Red Cross as well. I have included some of their examples below, including one from a volunteer who created an app while deployed in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. I hope you enjoy this story and share it with others to motivate them to jump in and start creating apps on the Power platform.

Business scenario

The American Red Cross staff and volunteers work to deliver vital services – from providing relief and support to those in crisis, to helping you be prepared to respond in emergencies. Every day, a team of 650 instructors (paid employees and volunteers) across the country are teaching First Aid, CPR, and other lifesaving trainings. They utilize supplies such as gloves, face shields, pocket masks, and manikin lungs to deliver these trainings. After feedback was received from the instructor team with concerns of the length of time it took to receive supplies, a workgroup was formed to create a solution to measure and shorten the order lifecycle for instructor supplies.

Before PowerApps – business process & challenges

A paper form was completed by instructors, scanned and submitted to group email inboxes. The form was then sent to the local Logistics Coordinator, who in turn ordered the supplies. From there we had no visibility of the status of supply orders or any of the data from the forms. When leadership asked for data on the number of orders filled each month and the usage of supplies, we found ourselves unable to answer these basic questions.

Supply order form before Power platform solution

The previous paper based process posed a number of challenges:

– Orders were lost with no way for the Logistics team to account for them

– Instructors were unsure if their orders were even received, let alone when they would be receiving them

– No visibility into order volume and item demand

Power Platform solution – “Supply Hub”

My journey started when I noticed the PowerApps icon appear in the Office 365 app launcher and began to familiarize myself with the tool. I soon realized that this would be a great tool for gathering data around the supply order process. I utilized the PowerApps documentation, YouTube videos created by users and Microsoft employees, and the community forum to learn the product.

I created a shopping cart app from a blank canvas and connected it to SharePoint lists that I built for the back-end. The app allows instructors to add supplies to a shopping cart, provide the address where they would like the supplies shipped, and then checkout the items when ready – an intuitive online ‘shopping’ experience we are all already familiar with.

A Power Automate approval workflow is triggered on item creation. This provides an extra level of oversight that was never previously part of the order process. This workflow is also used to send email notifications to the instructors to provide feedback on the status of their orders.

The app was shared with 3 territories and approximately 200 instructors, where it was piloted for 6 months. During that pilot, I found that Power BI was able to easily connect to the SharePoint data and provided daily updates on the progress. The solution is now being rolled out to all 650 paid and volunteer instructors and the SharePoint approval workflows are being replaced with Microsoft Flow.

Supply Hub app screenshotSupply Hub app screenshot

Benefits from using the Power Platform

  • Order lifecycle was reduced from a 3-4 week lifecycle to 4-5 business days.
  • There was visibility into the entire order lifecycle and logistics staff workload.
  • Instructors loved the app and found it easy to use. It has become a catalyst for creating other mobile apps.
  • Because the app was built by the business itself, there was a sense that my ideas and suggestions count. As one example, an instructor Claudia called to ask if I could make a change to delete the string in a textbox when the page was refreshed. Within ten minutes, boom, right on the phone I was able to update and deploy the apps.
  • For the first time, instructors could receive regular status updates on the orders.
  • Even volunteers are now creating PowerApps. It has turned into a new volunteer opportunity where they meet through Skype for Business and build solutions.

Looking beyond a single app

The American Red Cross is now building PowerApps for many of its business challenges. The organization has deployed the Power BI service and is working with multiple lines of business to remove data silos and create a community of data sharing.

Asset tracking & assignment: “Gear Hub”

I’ve created an asset tracking solution and working on a warehouse management solution. The approach that we’re taking as I’m starting up this new team is to take “bite size chunks out of this elephant”. First – we’ll look at the asset piece, then barcode scanning, followed by a more complex warehouse management system. We’re building the system ourselves, but in small chunks which is less daunting.

Gear Hub app screenshot

Disaster Transportation Tool

This app was created by volunteers to optimize usage of rental cars for people arriving at the same destination together. The app allows grouping volunteers together, thereby reducing rental car costs.

Disaster Transportation Tool - screenshot

Hurricane Harvey Volunteer Status Check

This app was created by a volunteer while she was deployed to Houston during Hurricane Harvey. The volunteer was part of the team that managed disaster logistics and technology. She saw a need to simplify the check-in process for new volunteers arriving at the site and created a simple form using PowerApps.

Hurricane Harvey volunteer status check - app screenshot

Related links: