Developing Faster with Low-Code - the middle ground between off the shelf and custom app development

Date: Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Up until recently, if you wanted to automate or improve business processes and procedures through app development you had two options: 1. Buy an off-the-shelf app solution, or 2.  Develop a custom app.

Off the shelf apps might not solve all your business problems as they are rarely customisable, and you can often end up having to modify your processes to fit in with the app functionality. However, they are generally affordable. Conversely, a bespoke app is developed specifically for your needs and processes. Bespoke apps may be desirable and necessary, but a solid rationale and generous budget needs to be applied before deciding to proceed.

Step forward Microsoft Power Apps – the world’s most complete low-code application development platform for mobile and web apps.


What is Power Apps?

Power Apps sits firmly in the market gap between off the shelf apps and custom apps.  Power Apps is a suite of apps, services, connectors and a data platform that delivers a rapid application development environment. It allows you to create innovative applications that automate and improve processes you use every day, with intuitive Microsoft tools, inbuilt templates and drag and drop simplicity.

Power Apps is part of the Microsoft’s Power Platform family, along with Power BI and Power Automate. Power Apps is transforming and ‘democratising’ app development by enabling non-developers to build feature-rich, custom business apps without having to write code.

With Power Apps you can quickly build custom apps that connect to your business data stored in either underlying data platform or in various on-premise data sources (SharePoint, Excel, Dynamics 365, SQL Server and so on).

Microsoft Power Apps overview video –


What does Power Apps actually do?

Unlike with custom apps where you need to prepare them for each operating system and browser, Power Apps lets you create apps that run on almost any internet browser and across all mobile operating systems, as standard.

This is done though a drag-and-drop interface, where you can customise text and field colour, add media, forms, and screens. You can also connect to external data sources or store data directly on the app. Once created, you can publish and share your new app with your entire organisation.


What doesn’t Power Apps do?

It is important to understand that Power Apps was created to improve business intelligence and operations within an organisation – it is not used for creating consumer Apps. Power Apps is focused on developing b2b within a network of known users such as internal, remote, contractor, supplier and client users. 


Power Apps or Custom Apps? 

Let’s compare and contrast Power Apps and Custom Apps across various criteria: 

  • Speed of deployment, cost and effort - For simple development Power Apps clear favourite. Customised apps require specialised development skills, whereas power Apps allows you to create low or no code apps, which increases deployment time and reduces effort and cost. However, if you have more elaborate needs then you may need a custom app. 
  • Responsive design – Power Apps natively supports mobile devices across platforms, therefore responsive design comes easy with Power Apps. With custom apps you’ll need an additional framework support for responsive design, and probably a separate app for mobile.
  • Integration – Microsoft has an extensive number of out-of-the-box connectors within the Power Apps suite. Custom apps require additional effort on this front and may also require third-party connectors.
  • Flexibility – This is where custom apps have an advantage as their frameworks allow for complete flexibility. That said, if you need more flexibility than Power Apps allows, workarounds are possible by connecting to any custom REST API.
  • Automation of tasks – Power Apps and custom apps both give notifications, collect data, and automate approvals (assuming you implement these features within your custom app). However, Custom apps won’t have native out-of-the-box integrations with workflow engines, which Power Apps does.
  • Data visualisation – Power Apps works alongside Power BI meaning you will be able to create beautiful data dashboard visualisations and insights.
  • Complex Interactions- The sweet point for PowerApps is data entry in boxes, dropdowns and simple grids and driving workflows off this. We have produced web applications that offer complex calendar scheduling, real-time factory floor command and control, road tunnel monitoring, chemical plate design - these things are outside the scope of Power Apps and require our bespoke software developers.


Free ‘Power Hour’: Attend a free Power Apps event and demo

We regularly host free Power Apps ‘Power Hours’, which includes a demo of how to make a simple app using Excel data. View all upcoming events here.


Thanks go to photographer "Altum Code" for the image.