PowerApps is a powerful tool aimed at power users. Since teams use SharePoint lists to access, share and collaborate around structured data, PowerApps utilizes SharePoint lists as the data source. By bringing PowerApps, Flow and SharePoint together, capturing data and producing useable business apps is a natural progression for cross platform data integration.
PowerApps can be created on mobile (PowerApps Mobile), on the web (PowerApps Studio) or on-prem (On-Premises Data Gateway) and can be published on the web or on mobile. Not only can data be derived from SharePoint lists, but the data can also be derived from Excel files, Dynamics CRM record, custom APIs, Dropbox, Azure Blob, Azure Service Bus and a host of other sources. As with Flow, PowerApps does not require any coding on your part. PowerApps supplies a variety of templates which are customizable to your business needs. The business apps that you build can use the device’s capabilities such as the camera, pen control and GPS.
There is a major difference between Forms and PowerApps. The functionality and purpose of each is very different. Forms, which is currently under preview in the Education module, behaves very much like a questionnaire whereby the creator poses questions and the user will answer the questions in multiple choice style. For more details of how Forms works, please refer to my article Microsoft Forms in Office 365 and SharePoint 2016.
PowerApps, on the other hand, is not a questionnaire, but a business application which provides the user information that is derived from actual data via an app that is created with PowerApps and SharePoint lists. For example, from the SharePoint list view menu, you will have an option to create a PowerApp for this list. By initializing the Create PowerApp option, the PowerApps web designer will open in your web browser and the web designer will automatically create a default app for you based on the schema and data of that list. You can then customize the app to suit your business needs. These apps will show up as views and can be shared and launched from the SharePoint list.
By leveraging the functionality of PowerApps to build custom and mobile capable views of your existing lists and sharing them with your team, it further enhances the collaboration aspect of SharePoint. PowerApps is a cross-platform service and can run on all your devices, including Windows, Android, iOS and web browsers.
Microsoft continues to build upon the collaboration aspect of SharePoint and is integrating many of its services to strengthen collaboration amongst team members. SharePoint and Office 365 are continuing to become stronger applications with greater versatility and functionality with the integration of PowerApps.
Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years, but one of the issues has been how do we get all these different apps to talk to each other across different platforms? Is there a product that can be the seamless handshake between these apps? Absolutely! This is where Microsoft Flow steps in.
The integration of Flow with SharePoint addresses the issues of cross application action-reaction events, or IF this, then that scenarios. There is no need to write a single line of code to achieve this as Flow has templates integrated within it so creating and managing your flows are simple while saving you precious time to focus on more important tasks.
By integrating Flow as a workflow tool into SharePoint Online lists and libraries, Microsoft has achieved a powerhouse which is able to quickly deliver automated information with ease to your audiences on-prem or in the Cloud. The ability to automate and receive notifications, synchronize files and obtain data between your favorite apps and services provides you the ability to reach out beyond your intranet.
The templates that are currently included in Flow allow you to create workflows with 43 services, including Office 365, SharePoint, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Mail Chimp, One Drive, Dynamics CRM, Google Drive, Slack, Dropbox, Salesforce, SQL, GitHub, Wunderlist and Instagram. Microsoft has indicated that they will continue to add more services and templates as they continue to work with the integration of the two programs. One key feature, as with most Microsoft products, there is the option for community members to contribute their flow for other members to use.
Unlike SharePoint Designer, Flow does not require lists and items to be in one site. With Flow, it will search for your items no matter where they are stored in SharePoint, even if the site resides in different site collections or a different tenant. This provides the power to initiate and generate notifications based on events across your corporation to your targeted audience.
Not only does Flow and SharePoint reach out to your audience, your audiences’ actions reaches back to Flow. Every event that you have indicated as a trigger, whether it be the project name, a hashtag, or a person’s name, each generated notification is logged into a SharePoint list or an Excel file and each time your audience uses these triggers, it logs this information. The data can then be analyzed at a later time. Not only is this beneficial for analytics, but the ability to add a recurrent step for delivery of this data is built into Flow. The recurrence can be set to occur weekly, daily, hourly or as frequently as minutes and seconds.
Microsoft continues to integrate their products so there is more cohesion between their various applications and third party ware. In this case, the integration of Flow with SharePoint has provided greater accessibility for users and better analytics for the corporation all the while increasing productivity and lessening the workload.
After Microsoft announced the deprecation of InfoPath Web Forms in 2014, there has been much speculation as to what would be coming forth to replace InfoPath. As explained during this announcement, Microsoft was setting itself on a path to develop an integrated forms technology that allows the user to design and deploy intelligent forms across various platforms including tablets, smart phones and PCs all the while providing quick access to the data.
In April 2016, Microsoft announced Microsoft Forms would be available in its early format in Office 365 but only for the Education module. There has been some ability to access the preview, and from what can be seen, Microsoft Forms is not a replacement for InfoPath. Rather, it is an excellent tool for forms collaboration across platforms and audiences on both PC and mobile.
Once launched in the preview, Microsoft Forms has a look and feel like any other Microsoft application – top three dots in the top right corner provides the options to provide Feedback, ask for Help, navigate to your Office 365 Account Profile, or sign out.
The site has integrated the look and feel of Sway with each created form represented by a tile. If you’re not familiar with Sway, Sway is an application that allows the user to create and interactively share presentations, stories, reports and much more. Similar to SharePoint Mobile App, Sway has the intelligence to provide suggestions for adding content like images, videos, and tweets that are relevant to your project without you having to exit and search on the web.
Sway provides an organized and clean view of your forms. Each form is represented by a tile and each tile clearly shows the title of the form along with its subtitle. From this page, you have the ability to create a new form by selecting New Form.
Once selected, you can begin creating your form by naming your form and providing a subtitle. You are now ready for the next step – creating the form. Creating the form is very simple. You must decide upon the format of the form and there are three styles that you can choose: Choice, Text and Rating.
Choice is set up as a question and answer form with choices. You have the option of adding additional questions to the default two question slots. The form can be customized to an extent. There is the capability of adding the parameter of “Answer Required” to ensure that the question is answered. There is also the ability to add a subset question to the main question if more context is needed. Quite often, the answer for a subset question is one that the responder answers in their own words, and this can be done through the Other option.
Text is a simple and straightforward question and answer form. You develop the questions and the responder is provided space to respond with their own answers. Answers can be limited or unlimited in character count.
Rating forms provide your audience the opportunity to rate something such as skill, applicability, abilities, taste, or satisfaction. The rating scale is set at either 5 or 10 with the option of expressing the rating with stars or numbers.
Microsoft Forms web app continually and automatically saves your work and once you have finished designing your form, you have the ability to either preview it before sharing or share without previewing. If you choose Preview, then you will have the opportunity of previewing from two views: a computer view and a mobile view.
Once you are satisfied with your form, you can proceed to share it with your audience. Sharing your form, or quiz, can be as simple as sharing in an email the URL, a QR code or the embed code. There is also the opportunity to provide additional information to your audience such as whether they need to login to access the questions, whether it is a one-time only quiz or if they can answer the quiz multiple times, and the deadline to complete the quiz. Because this will be launched with the Education module, there is an excellent option that allows you to shuffle the questions when they load. This is great for administering classroom quizzes.
Providing a form for a quiz or survey is only as good as the information that can be gathered from it. Microsoft Forms provides a summary of how your audience has answered the quiz or survey. Under the Responses tab, one can find the results of the quiz including the number of responses, the average time to complete, whether the form is still active and open for submissions, a visual graph of the responses and the average rating. Currently, there is the option to download your quiz to your PC with the Open in Excel option. Perhaps in the future, this option will be replaced with Save in OneDrive to maintain consistency with the direction of SharePoint Mobile App and Office 365.
Though Microsoft Forms for Office 365 and SharePoint 2016 have not been released, it has been released as a preview for the Education Module. From this preview, we can see that this application provides the user the flexibility to elicit information from a targeted audience, gather analytics, and based on this, provide solutions. Microsoft Forms is another step towards the direction of integrated, cross platform, collaborative, and mobile applications.