Microsoft today unveiled a fresh batch of updates to PowerApps and Flow, the company's no-code business application builder and workflow automation platform, respectively.
Betting that given the right tools, so-called power users can on their own to create applications and work flows that boost productivity and efficiency, Microsoft released PowerApps and Flow last fall. Power users are knowledgeable in the inner workings of their organizations' business processes and what it takes to get the job done, but they're typically not developers that can code the apps they rely upon.
PowerApps enables users to build mobile and web business apps without a lick of code. Flow, meanwhile, can be used to create automated workflows that can encompass multiple software-as-a-service applications and online services, including third-party products like Salesforce.
The gamble has paid off, said Ryan Cunningham, group program manager at Microsoft PowerApps. The business community has taken PowerApps and Flow and run with them.
"The types of things customers are building on the platform are things that they would otherwise never have built," Cunningham told eWEEK, adding that for many organizations, it is cost-prohibitive to develop a custom application. PowerApps and Flow are "bringing that automation and customization where people are already working," he added.
Now, PowerApps users can also add a dash of business analytics to mix.
The company has added a new Power BI tile control, enabling users to embed visualizations generated by the company's cloud-based business intelligence solution into their apps. And next week, users will no longer have save app files (.msapp) locally and move them manually to migrate their PowerApps to a production environment.
A new app-packaging option will appear on web.powerapps.com website, allowing users to export apps, along with their associated Common Data Services and flows, as a package, which Microsoft says can then be imported into another environment with ease. Finally, Microsoft has added new two new functions, Coalesce and EndsWith, along with the ability to use the And, Or and Not operators in formulas.
Microsoft Flow, meanwhile, gained a richer set of management features, including the ability to import and export complete solutions based on Flow, similar to the app-packaging functionality added to PowerApps. For advanced users who want to use Flow as a springboard for more sophisticated business processes and workflows, the solution now allows them to save flows as an Azure Logic App resource template.
Even Teams, Microsoft's chat-based group collaboration service, is getting in on the act with the help of a bot.
"Today, we are announcing a Microsoft Flow 'Bot'—bringing automation into Teams workspaces. Using this bot, team members will be able to trigger flows right inside of Teams conversations," wrote Stephen Siciliano, Principal Group PM Manager, Microsoft Flow, in a July 27 blog post. "For example, team members can easily run a flow that sends a text message to a support engineer about an impending issue, or, log an issue in an Excel spreadsheet."
Also new are improvements to the Flow admin center, new third-party connectors and additional integrations with various other Microsoft business software products. A comprehensive list of the new Flow features is available in this blog post.