A Mountain of Shitty Little Apps

When Microsoft introduced the Power Platform as a “Citizen-Friendly” set of tools for non-technical business users to create apps to solve business challenges, it seemed a worthy endeavor. Well, enough time has passed to assess the outcome. Those who jumped in with both feet now have a mountain of shitty little apps. Those who watched from the sidelines decided, “We don’t need that!” So is that the end of the tale? Let’s see.

The First Mistake

To enable broad and rapid adoption of the Power Platform, Microsoft decided to add a “seeded” Power Apps capability to all Microsoft 365 licenses. Thus instantly putting a version of this technology into millions of “citizens” hands. While IT could turn this “off”, it was “on” by default. Microsoft knew that no IT Admin would ever enable it if it were the other way around. This led to many citizens seizing the opportunity to replace their shitty little Excel spreadsheets with a slightly less shitty app. Excel was the original Citizen tool, and many organizations have a ton of Excel spreadsheets floating around, which are now slowly but surely being replaced with shitty Power Apps built by people who not only don’t know what they are doing but don’t know that there is anything beyond those seeded capabilities.

The Second Mistake

Once IT figured out what was happening, many flipped the switch stopping this unchecked motion. In response to alleviate their concerns, Microsoft launched the “Center of Excellence” CoE. A tool that could wrangle this proliferation of shitty apps to be under IT’s control again. CoE was a solution to a Microsoft-created problem. Now IT could see all of the shitty apps that had been built, including apps that never got used, multiple apps trying to solve the same problems, apps connecting to external sources, apps exposing internal confidential sources, and users having access to apps they shouldn’t. There are few things more fun than watching the faces of fear of IT when a CoE lights up.

Going back to the Fork

I have written before about the poor citizen, oblivious to anything beyond the seeded capabilities, building some contorted solution only to months later learn there were better options. They unknowingly took a fork, unaware there was more than one fork to take. Their anger towards Microsoft is deserved. But they are not the only ones to take the wrong fork; Microsoft also did. Microsoft determined at the beginning that Joe NoNothing building his own app to solve his own problem was the best path. With rare exceptions, disaster ensued, or a least a lot of wasted time. Recognizing the obvious, that no organization wants a thousand shitty little apps, Microsoft took a pivot with an emphasis on a new idea, “Fusion Teams”. Pair Joe NoNothing with Sally KnowsAlot and Bob ProDev… this is a “Fusion Team”. Now instead of a shitty little app that does not do very much, you can expect a nice little app that does not do very much. Again, even the Fusion Team has taken the wrong fork.

What Other Fork is There?

There is another fork, but you can’t see it from the seeded Power Apps. Had Microsoft called the seeded Power Apps something like Power Apps Lite, you might have been given a clue, but inexplicably, they chose not to. So you are left thinking that you have seen Power Apps and are justifiably unimpressed. But there is another “Power Apps” in the Power Platform. One that is much more capable and runs on top of a relational database called Dataverse instead of a SharePoint list or Excel spreadsheet. Why did you not know about this? Why would you? In the time you have been struggling to create a Canvas app, you could have built an entire, bulletproof solution to your problem. A solution that could be easily extended also to solve related problems.

What’s the Catch?

Ok, you got me; the catch is that the “real” Power Platform is not included with your Microsoft 365 license. It will add either $5 or $20 to your monthly cost per app user. Still pretty cheap to actually “solve” a problem rather than just canvas over it with shit.

The Fork Microsoft Should Have Created

I am sure some inside of Microsoft would agree that mistakes were made.  Had they forgone the Citizen path and instead emphasized the Rapid Development low-code Power Platform as a way to solve mission-critical business challenges at a much lower cost than ever before in history, we would all be in a different place today.  Fusion Teams was the one bright spot in this series of missteps.

What about Citizens?

Don’t Citizens already have a job? Why are they wasting time pretending to be app developers? As an organization, your cost to have complex mission-critical applications built by professionals is a fraction of what it was only a few years ago. Seriously, drop a zero off of the end of what you previously paid! Do you really need to reduce those cost savings even further by having Sally build some shitty app on her own? Some of you reading this are already sitting on a pile of shitty apps and can see that the “savings” were never real.

So What is the Power Platform… Really?

I’m glad you finally asked! The Power Platform is a suite of capabilities, including Apps, Automation, ChatBots, Webpages, and AI. Individually, each component is pretty cool, but when combined, there are few business challenges that cannot be solved. Forget about your shitty little “Time Off” app. I am talking about enterprise-grade; run your entire organization level stuff. That $5-$20 is starting to sound pretty cheap now, isn’t it?

Why hasn’t anybody told you about this? It’s because of that $5-$20 thing. Microsoft and most partners would actually prefer that you buy their first-party business applications for a buttload more money. If word got out that instead of customizing Dynamics 365 Sales @ $95+/user, you could spend the same amount customizing on the Power Platform and end up with the same thing at a fraction of the cost… well, that would not be good for those who sell the $95+ apps.

Prove It!

Ok, here are some examples of some of our clients.

  • An NFT company that sold $90 million worth of NFT tokens on its first day manages the entire process on the Power Platform with integration directly to the blockchain.
  • A Solar contractor runs their entire end-to-end business, from web prospects to permitting to construction and long-term maintenance agreements on the Power Platform.
  • An Insurance Brokerage generates and tracks thousands of quotes daily on the Power Platform.
  • A Mega-Church manages hundreds of monthly events, including event creation, promotion, and kiosk-based check-in for thousands of constituents on the Power Platform.
  • An Opportunistic Investment firm created an in-house deep financial research solution on the Power Platform.
  • A Petroleum Distributor and Convenience store operator with thousands of locations runs their organization on the Power Platform.

Still think the Power Platform is about shitty little apps built by Joe NoNothing?

Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂

3 Comments

  1. Andres Biarge

    Cannot agree more! I’ve got experience in Global IT at an international industrial company and even though the seeded licenses were disabled, people managed to create their “shitty apps” -which then expected we maintained- using the trial versions.
    I cannot understand how cheap most people are that they don’t see the value of Dataverse. I don’t build on top of SharePoint anymore.

    … but if we do some reflection, we also have some to blame. We need to communicate more about the value of the Power Platform. I won’t get tired of repeating that Microsoft’s ecosystem, although not being perfect, is the best value by a huge DIFFERENCE in the market.

    Reply
  2. Donald Fager

    Wow, Steve, your blog post “A Mountain of Shitty Little Apps” certainly caught my attention! While I can understand your frustrations with the proliferation of what you’ve aptly termed ‘shitty little apps’, I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective on the matter.

    Reply
  3. Bill Suycott

    I felt like this was something I had written as I read the article. You have perfectly summed up the massive flaws Microsoft made in trying to advance the Power Platform with non IT professionals. The challenge now is putting the genies back into the bottles and enterprise class companies have a huge mountain (of shite) to climb to try and bring into control the wasted time and costs. IT will need a fleet of honey wagons to clean up this mess.

    Reply

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