Throughout my career, I have encountered many organisations who choose to take the path of custom software. In some cases, the solution they were looking for was simply not available; in others, they thought they could do it better or cheaper. Unfortunately, the outcome often fails to deliver on expectations and ends up costing time. More expansive solutions that an organisation depends on for its operations can become hobbled by poor support and lack of upgradeability.
Twenty years ago, the go-to idea was to implement a monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that would offer one integrated solution to all an organisation’s operational woes. However, the reality is that while these core solutions can address most requirements of most organisations, they can still leave gaps. And if the ongoing pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses can’t afford to be reactive in bridging those inconsistencies.
So, what do you do when you have issues you know you can solve with software, but you can’t find an off-the-shelf solution? You build it. Today, businesses can explore a low code development platform such as Microsoft Power Apps to help fill those gaps.
Such a platform allows you to build a solution with little or even no custom code. Using advanced tools and interfaces, a proficient individual with some initiative can build apps that can streamline various organisational processes. These apps are easier to manage, and if the platform is widely supported you will be able to maintain it even if the person leaves your organisation.
It’s important to note that ‘low code’ is not ‘no code’ but imagine the difference between writing a solution from scratch versus spending a fraction of the effort for an outcome that is often better. That is the benefit of a low code development platform. For instance, Davyn adapted the Dynamics Great Plain’s (GP) Extended Pricing module to work in tandem with an Extended Pricing solution on Dynamics 365 for our client, Malabar Farms. This gave Power App users the ability to manage their price lists by customer and date range out of the box.
There are likely several areas of your business where you can address a gap with a low code development platform. They are cost effective and, in the case of Microsoft Power Apps, available for free if you are already using Microsoft 365.
However, although creating apps is simpler, it doesn’t remove the requirement for good governance, planning, development principles and processes. Apps can become part of an organisation’s critical business processes and grow in complexity, so problems can have a severe impact.
Here are some simple pointers that can make your initial foray into app building much more successful:
- Take the time to document the design of your app. Describe the purpose and functions of your app. This can be as simple as a paragraph followed by a set of bullet points for each capability.
- Start with the minimum functionality to accomplish your stated purpose. This will help you manage the scope of your project.
- Use online resources to help you understand the platform and best practices for working with it. You will find an abundance of information on Microsoft Power Platform online.
- Look at examples of other solutions.
- Collaborate with other people in your organisation that may also be interested in building apps. If you have a lot of interest, have a competition!
After you have successfully built your first app, you will begin to appreciate the capabilities of the platform and it will likely open your mind to many possibilities for addressing technology gaps in your business. The good thing is that help is widely available. Aside from online resources there are consulting organisations with the expertise to assist you in realising your vision. This can be through training on the platform, design and development best practices, agile methodologies or how to leverage tools such as Azure DevOps to track and control the process.
A great thing about this technology is that you are not going to get stuck depending on a single developer or vendor to help you. You can make your investment with confidence and start realising value quickly. Good luck on your low code journey!
Derrick Villeneuve is chairman and director of strategy at Davyn
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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