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Less Code, More Power II

A few weeks ago Brian Dang shared his story in a blog post titled  “Less Code, More Power” – prompted by a tweet by Dona Sarkar introducing the hashtag #LessCodeMorePower.

Manuela Pichler and Brian Dang wearing T-Shirts that say 'Less Code More Power'
Brian and I wearing our #LessCodeMorePower t-shirts at Microsoft Ignite 2019

During Microsoft Ignite 2019, Ryan Cunningham called out how #LessCodeMorePower changes the way we all work.

Power Apps changed the way I work – I am a computer science graduate and always thought I loved being a coder. But actually what I love is being a maker.

Background

I spent 13 years as a software developer in ‘quick win’ development teams in the industry – the main purpose of those teams was to address the gap where an off the shelf product didn’t fit the needs of the business or the business justification wasn’t strong enough to fund a development project.

Typical work items included

  • turning tedious manual processes that usually involved email and various systems into an integrated streamlined solution
  • digitizing paper forms and approvals
  • moving Excel macros or Access databases to an IT supported platform

In my last role, my ‘quick win’ items backlog was 86 items long – and this list was growing every week, as the buzzword Digital Transformation became embedded into the company’s strategy and everyone’s thinking. There was a lot to do, and nothing started to feel like a ‘quick win’ anymore when the wait time to even start was over a year.

Redefining the role of IT

My first Power Apps project had been sitting in my backlog for a while; and it was a common one – someone in the business unit had created a very complex Excel macro, that they now wanted “turned into an app” and available on a mobile device for the large remote workforce as well as on a desktop for office workers.

I had put it to the bottom of my list earlier due to the complexity involved in implementing this – multi-platform support, security and authentication across devices and integration with various back-end systems to address the problem of data duplication that the Excel spreadsheet currently had didn’t scream quick-win to me.

I had come across Power Apps recently, when looking at the tools available as part of Office 365 and – as always – my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to give it a shot and see what impact the promise of low-code could have and if it would stand to test of enterprise-scale readiness.

Power Apps far exceeded my expectations, I was able to quickly

  • import the Excel data into SharePoint
  • create a stunning UI, designing the interface with out of the box controls and icons
  • integrate with back-end systems using an existing API by creating a custom connector
  • publish the app within a week to be used on both a tablet and desktop device, secured by the Azure AD conditional access and authentication policies

Not only that, after the initial development, I was able to on-board the end users as new makers enabling them to modify the UI or add new fields themselves, without relying on IT to make those changes. But unlike Excel macros and Access databases, through using the Admin Connectors and Admin Center I had full visibility of what any makers were creating, what data sources they were using, who they’re sharing their apps with & how often those apps were being used.

I realized then that the Power Platform could be the solution not just to my 86 items long backlog, but to many more – as of yet undiscovered – workloads that needed to be lifted into this century.

Throughout my career in IT, I was used to there being a closed door between business and IT; the business didn’t understand the cost and time associated with IT projects; IT didn’t understand business demands and requirements. The Power Platform allowed me to open that door and build a bridge. I went from having requirements gathering meetings and going away for my development sprint, to starting the app there and then in the meeting. I went from end users drawing their UI ideas on a whiteboard, to them creating their UI directly in Power Apps. 

As a coder, being a problem solver is part of my core mindset. With the Power Platform, I couldn’t just solve problems – I could enable and empower my friends and colleagues to solve problems too.

Power Apps for the coders

Here’s how Power Apps helped my colleagues and me do my job better

  • Power Apps is integrated with Azure AD and comes with built-in security and authentication
  • Power Apps has a rich connector system you can leverage out of the box and enables you to integrate custom connectors with a few clicks
  • Power Apps is multi-platform by default, meaning whatever you build can be consumed on a mobile, tablet or desktop device
  • All the above mean you can really focus on the business logic and problem that needs solving

And here’s what you can contribute, if you have a coding background

  • You can write custom connectors to your enterprise systems, empowering makers to connect securely to this data ensuring everyone operates of one version of the truth
  • You can create re-usable canvas or PCF components, or app starter templates giving your makers a head start in achieving their goals.
  • The buck doesn’t stop with you anymore, you can build solutions together with the people who’ll end up using them – allowing them to own their digital transformation.

Less Code, More Power

To me, having ‘Less Code’ removed barriers and obstacles, it build a bridge to new makers who now all have ‘More Power’ to solve their problems.

The Power Platform is for everyone. If you’re a security officer, this platform is for you. If you’re a full stack developer, this platform is for you. If you’re an assistant school principle or teacher, this platform is for you. If you’re a coder, innovator, dreamer – like me – this platform is for you.

What does ‘Less Code More Power’ mean to you? Tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #LessCodeMorePower.

Manuela Pichler, Brian Dang and Dona Sarkar pose for a picture at Microsoft Ignite 2019
Dona, Brian and I at Microsoft Ignite 2019