October 29, 2021
Why the Power Platform?
By Brian Nielsen
One of the biggest problems in organizations is when a small project gets either dumped on someone’s lap or someone takes over a task. While they might have the best of intentions more than likely they are going to open their trust Excel and start creating a handful of entries to start tracking the status. Everything about it logical and it works great. Until there is a change.
Imagine working for a real estate company and you are tracking leads. You are listening in a meeting to an ongoing issue and afterwards take the initiative to start tracking leads in a spreadsheet. You create the following columns.
- First Name
- Last Name/Entity Name
- Mailing Address
- Mailing City
- Mailing Address
- Mailing Zip Code
- Vacant Property
Then you start typing the existing information you can find from different people in the office to end up with something like the following:
You are suddenly the hero of the office! You are finally tracking the information that no one was tracking before. Everyone is excited and all of the sudden someone outside of the core group wants it sent to them. You are now hitting the first issue with working in a spreadsheet.
One of the easiest ways to share an Excel spreadsheet is to attach it to an email. It is the tried and true method that organizations have relied on for many years. But sharing via email creates many problems. As soon as an email is sent with the spreadsheet it can be considered obsolete because you no longer have control over the accuracy of the data inside of it.
Another issue that occurs when you send a spreadsheet over email is there is no way to ensure people are using the latest version. This can include data and formatting. I have been in many situations where executives are in a meeting complaining about bad data only to find out they were looking at an older version of the spreadsheet after the meeting.
Consistency, Formatting & Spelling
Because most people allow data entry in spreadsheets to be free form this creates lots of issues for consistency, formatting & spelling. While it is possible to utilize lookups in Excel the vast majority of the time it is often left as free form to make it easier to copy & paste. This can create inconsistency for formatting of phone numbers, addresses, company names, etc. With Power Apps you can add field level validation to ensure consistency in formatting and utilize lookups to help eliminate spelling and formatting issues.
One of your considerations should be how the end user interacts with the data. While it is possible to create and edit a spreadsheet in a mobile device the usability is far from optimal. With Power Apps you can build a mobile version of the data to make the experience better for the user. ### Security & traceability
Another week spot with Excel spreadsheets is locking out certain users from making modifications. Additionally, once a chance is made it is difficult to figure who/when the change was actually made. But using a Power App to you can not only create roles for different levels of security you are provided full traceability to the data as it changes over time.
Scalability & single point of failure
One of the problems of being a hero is taking on too much work. This often happens with home grown grown solutions created in Excel. I started tracking some of the servers our group was responsible for at an extremely large company years ago. I had to manually generate reports from the data every morning. Turns out everyone really liked the reports and wanted more data to be reported on. Towards the end I was doing manual reports for the Y2K conversion of every server at FedEx. Needless to say I hit quite a few scalability issues. At the time there was no way to automate what I needed and I depended on to provide updates. While originally it was great all of the sudden I couldnt take a day off or vacation prior to the Y2k. So I suddenly became a single point of failure because every bit of the process had to be run by me.
By resolving these issues utilizing Power Apps the data will be much cleaner and allow for even better, more consistent reporting.