Many housing providers are grappling with the decision of whether to build their core processes using Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Power Apps. What’s the difference, and how could the decisions made now affect the organisation in the future? Let’s start by looking at the two contenders.
Power Apps are low-code apps that can be built by anyone to connect to various data sources and create custom solutions. They can be canvas, model-driven, or portal apps. Licences are (generally) cheaper and more flexible than Dynamics 365 but the apps themselves may need more maintenance and development.
Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based platform that combines CRM and ERP applications along with productivity and AI tools. It has a suite of apps that cover various business functions, such as sales, customer service and finance. It has more out-of-the-box functionality and updates than Power Apps but licencing costs often make it more expensive.
But did you know these contenders both sit within Microsoft’s low-code Power Platform? The platform comprises:
- Power BI for creating and sharing interactive data visualisations and reports;
- Power Pages for creating web pages and portals without coding;
- Power Automate for automating workflows and processes across applications;
- Power Virtual Agents for creating chatbots that can handle natural-language conversations.
Power Platform is more than the sum of its parts. It allows you to integrate the different components with each other, often pulling from one data source (although they can link to other sources), known as the Microsoft Dataverse.
The Dataverse is also part of the platform; think of it as one big pot of data that can be structured in a way that enables all the tools in Power Platform to sing from the same hymn sheet.
How does this help you choose between PowerApps and Dynamics 365? Well, with both Power Apps and Dynamics 365 able to push and pull information from the Dataverse, there is a third hybrid option.
Flex between both…
When working through a business case, housing providers often assume that they need to choose one or the other, leading to perfectly-justified questions about cost, timescales, maintenance and so on. But why not use both?
Let’s walk through a scenario. A housing officer completes an estate inspection using a Power App on their mobile device – they take photos and make notes within the app while on site, with follow-up problems logged and triggering tasks to an office-based team.
The office-based team use Dynamics to look at the number of inspections completed, any follow-up actions needed and their due dates. They have a dashboard that surfaces the data and a business process flow to walk them through the rest of the required actions. Because they’re using the ‘full fat’ Dynamics app, they’ll be able to access additional functionalities such as Microsoft Copilot.
In this scenario, the housing officer(s) would have the cheaper Power App licence and an app-specific to a mobile device. However, the office-based team may be better off using the (more expensive) Dynamics licence so they can navigate through the rest of the process and manage larger pieces of data such as the total number of estate inspections completed and the outstanding actions.
By understanding the processes you want to improve, the staff involved and their various touch points, you’ll be able to use the right tool for the job. To get you going, I suggest the following:
- Understand the strategy you’re trying to achieve/business need you’re trying to fulfil;
- Identify the processes that support the strategy;
- Sort out the data – it will sit in the Dataverse and be used with any part of the Power Platform you decide to run with;
- Plan the best solution to manage those processes, but be prepared to switch between Dynamics and Power Apps as you move from one process to the next.
Chris Roberts is a director at E&F Solutions.