Yesterday I had the pleasure to present a webinar on building LOB “portals” using Microsoft PowerApps and Flow. Here is quick background on why we think this is an import topic when it comes to the overall theme of digital transformation. (The full webinar is embedded below, should you wish to explore further.)
Challenges That Information Workers Face Today
Information Workers simply have too many line of business (LOB) applications to deal with when completing their everyday tasks. These systems are often legacy, based on different authentication and access schemes, and ultimately require the user to leave their current context to retrieve another piece of information, (And forget about the ability to retrieve this information on a mobile device of their choice!)
Unfortunately, modernizing these applications for a newer platform is fraught with peril. Just listen to the wisdom from self-proclaimed software euthanizer Chad Flower as he makes a case against massive rewrites. Of course, enterprises are seeing increased success by moving to a modern SaaS offering as an alternative for their core systems. But this move presents another challenge: How do we integrate these systems to present a unified view for our Information Workers? Gartner believes that as much 70% of the move’s cost can be attributed to integrating these systems.
PowerApps and Flow Can Help
At a high level, these services offer three key attributes:
- Low-Code platform – A graphical designer for rapid (think days) development of cross-platform apps. When it comes to programming, “think Excel” – use a set of Excel-like formulas to glue the screen together.
- Connectors – Given the challenge regarding integrating disparate systems, PowerApps provide a robust collection of connectors out of the box (and a great extensibility story to custom applications).
- Workflow – A lightweight workflow technology allows IWs to automate tasks like approving expenses reports, update an order request, etc.
LOB Enterprise “Portal”
During the session yesterday, we demonstrated an enterprise “portal” built using PowerApps and Flow. Think of this “portal” as collection of micro-apps. Each micro-app pulls in “just-in-time” and “just-what-is-needed” information into a centralized “portal.” The application I demonstrated pulled information from Office 365 SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, Custom API, WunderList, DropBox and even a mainframe system of record (via Azure API Management).
The goal was to show how easy it is for IWs to not only access contextual information from the underlying LOB systems, but also to perform quick actions such as approvals without leaving the portal. Furthermore, a push-based notification system makes it easy for IWs to respond to critical events (the example I showed was a customer sharing a new file in the DropBox folder). Finally, having this “portal” available on any device of choice is really the key enhancing productivity. Please watch the video and let us know what you think.