In our last episode, the CIO, Rupert, questioned whether Sally understood the Spreadsheet she was trying to replace with an app. It seems there were some formulas in the spreadsheet that Sally conceded she did not understand. Rupert had agreed that Art from IT should work together with Sally in creating the new app. Two days after the meeting, Sally calls Art:
“You know I have been using Excel for years”, said Sally, “I don’t need help, but Rupert made a good point. I will investigate those formulas on my own, and if I need you, I’ll reach out.”
“Sounds good to me”, said Art, “I don’t know why Rupert assumes that I am an Excel expert just because I am in IT… I’m not. I’m happy to help if I can, but I doubt that I can add anything to what you already know.”
Sally hung up the phone and opened the spreadsheet. She had inherited this process that had been in place for over a decade. When she joined Acme 3 years ago, right after Bob, the Excel Guru, had left, her predecessor explained how they used the spreadsheet. She had not questioned it; she just continued the process. She was aware of the tab with all of the formulas on it, and even though she was quite capable with Excel, she just never thought to dive into that tab. It worked, and there were more pressing things. But Rupert was right, and now she felt a little embarrassed that she had not done the homework.
Looking at the formulas now, while not a “Guru”, she was able to determine that they were mostly validation things. Confirming proper formatting for things like email addresses and phone numbers. Dammit! She had not accounted for that in her app. She noticed that there was also an external link to a mailing address validation database. Yup, missed that too. Then, she noticed an alert next to the address formula that the external database link was broken. She wondered how long it had been broken and if it could be related to the high number of non-deliverable Heath Plan Options Forms they mailed to new recruits. She thought about whether adding these items to her Canvas app would be Super Simple and hoped so.
Sally opened her canvas app on her second monitor. It was super simple to create the page and add the fields to it. She had even changed the color scheme and added their logo to it. However, it was not obvious to her how to add the validation and external database to it. Again, she opened her browser’s search tool and typed “Power Apps Column Validation“… “About 14,300,000 results (0.25 seconds)”. Thankfully, near the top was a Microsoft Learn article explaining how to do this with something called Power FX, whatever that is. In the article, they referred to a “data source”. She wondered if that was the same data source that was disconnected in her spreadsheet.
She spent another hour clicking through related links and started to fear that this may not be as super simple as she thought. She decided that she must have missed some things when she scribbled her notes at the App in a Day event. Back to search: “How to build a Power App“… “About 1,950,000,000 results (0.42 seconds)”. Clearly, with almost 2 billion results, she was not the only one searching this question. She narrowed her search to Microsoft; they would certainly have concise answers. “How to build a Power App site:microsoft.com“…About 3,060,000 results (0.33 seconds). “This is getting nowhere” she thought. Then she remembered the MVP Video she used to begin with. That Gal seemed to know her stuff.
Back on YouTube, she found the video in her history and clicked on the Author’s video link. Wow, there is a bunch here also, but it seems like a good place to explore. And there it is: How to Build a Power App. It turned out to be the one she had already watched, but she watched it again anyway. Nothing new; she had followed the steps exactly, and her app looked just like the MVP’s. Hmm, scrolling, scrolling… wait: Advanced Power App Building, this looks promising. She launched the video, and the MVP opened with her usual “This is Super Simple” intro. The MVP started by showing the final app she was going to build. Wait, this does not look like my app, Sally thought. She rechecked the video title, and it did indeed say “Power App”, but this was nothing like hers.
Maybe that’s what “advanced” meant. She continued watching as the MVP navigated to a place she was familiar with, the “Maker” portal. But then the MVP switched tabs to another place she had not seen, “Power Platform Admin Center“. Sally felt entirely lost as the MVP went through the steps of “Creating an Environment”, not recalling any of this from the App in a Day event she had attended. Finally, the MVP returned to the Maker portal, and Sally felt a little relieved. Still, instead of clicking on the big “Create an App” button, she was moving around to places she had never seen, Solutions, Tables, Relationships, Controls… what the hell is all of this?
She lost focus on the video as she thought, and was snapped back to attention when the MVP said, “Well, that’s it, we just built a model-driven app, and it was super simple, right? Please like and subscribe to my channel! Hit the bell, and click my buy me a coffee link! Also, follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Mastadon, and please click the link in the show notes and fill out my survey. And remember, always mark my forum answers as correct!”
Sally calls Art, “I may need your help after all,” says Sally, “I know the process, and I understand what those formulas are doing now, but I’m lost on the app side of things now.”
Art replies, “What do you mean lost? You already built an app!”
“I think I built the beginnings of an app,” said Sally, “But now the water is getting deeper, faster. But I can cover the Excel side, so don’t worry about that; I need your help on the app side.”
“So you assume since I am in IT, I know how to build apps?” said Art, “Nobody around here seems to understand what I do.”
“Well, you’re ‘Techy,’ and this is ‘Tech'”, Sally joked.
“There is a lot of different ‘Tech'” said Art, “Maybe we should just farm it out to our partner? It would probably be faster.”
“I’m torn”, said Sally, “on the one hand, I would love to solve it myself, but I fear I may have stumbled on some issues with the spreadsheet that have created some urgency. Maybe we should explore handing this over to our partner, and I’ll build the next one. I can learn better by watching them anyway.”
“I’ll ping Rupert,” said Art, “and see if I can get budget approval. Any idea what this might cost?”
“Not a clue”, said Sally.