Power(Apps) for the Community. Fixed Asset Counting App

One thing that I like about Business Central is that it can be easily extended. And no, this time I am not talking about AL extensions, but “external” apps that can make the Business Central even better. We have multiple examples of using Power Automate but not so many of using PowerApps in the channel. This I wanted to change.

Why PowerApps at all?

Someone asked me why we even need PowerApps if we have a mobile client of Business Central. I agree in some cases mobile client is enough for the users and business process that should be covered – especially the tablet client (I always recommend it if that works for the customer).

However, when using the Business Central mobile client for the phone I see one (major) issue with it. It is not as user-friendly as I think it could be. That is not only my observation – I heard it many times from customers and partners in the last few years. Many times users need to do just one or two operations on a mobile device and want to be guided to not spend time in it.

Remember for them is just a tool. In other words, they are annoyed if need to click too many times to do something, the same as a developer who needs to do too many operations in VSCode to change something in AL.

There is also another thing and a big showstopper for mobile clients – the offline mode. This is something that BC does not have and many times this is what people need.

I would say those are two main reasons why PowerApps have the advantage: User Interface and Offline Mode (there was a 3rd one – barcode scanning but thanks to Microsoft this is now covered).

Fixed Asset Counting Power App

Some time ago I had an idea of creating a PowerApp that everybody can install and try out to see possibilities of PowerApps and Business Central. Without additional development in AL and free of charge. In Dynaway we decided to do it as a community project.

The app that you can find on AppSource allows users to confirm if Fixed Asset is still in the location or not. I know that almost every company needs to do such counting at least once per year.

There was just one small issue – I had no clue about making PowerApps. Ok, I can do one that looks like below. You could guess that no one would like to use it.

So what I did do? I asked a great team – Martina (responsible for User Interface and User Experience) and Bartosz (who developed the whole solution).

How the app looks now? Much better you can watch it in action below.

Making the App – the process

The whole process of course started from the idea and requirements for the first version. I gave them not so easy task after all. Except for business requirements, first of all, I wanted to have an app that can connect to many Business Central companies and second, I wanted to have an app that can be easily translated into different languages.

The next step was graphical design – Martina prepared the mockups using Figma. That is something that we do not exactly have in the Business Central process. However that was one of the most important steps – we already could discuss user flows and how the app would work and look. I must say this was one of the most important steps – which also changed my way of looking at the Business Central development process. So if you have time I would recommend you try out to do the mockups first with bigger functionality (even inside Business Central).

Later we started development (I mean Bartosz started and I was the one saying “Are we there yet?”). He brought Martina’s vision to life, and I must say I was surprised at how smooth the process was.

Of course, there were some challenges to finishing the project. First of all, as mentioned we wanted to do it without the need for AL development. So first step was to contribute to Business Central APIs since there were no APIs for Fixed Assets and Fixed Asset Locations. Thanks to that you can use the Virtual Tables extension to connect PowerApp and Business Central and no AL extension is needed to use the app.

The only thing we did not add in this release is offline mode – but I know Bartosz is working on it to present it on Days of Knowledge so stay tuned for a new update soon (we already have it in another app that we did).

The last step was to publish it on AppSource – and anyone saying that the publishing for Business Central is annoying you should try to publish PowerApp. This process is really slow and painful with still a lot of manual validation – and since we connect with Business Central we have to show the person from the validation team every time how the app works. If we publish Business Central in just a few hours – publishing for PowerApps takes a minimum of 3 days.

Making the App better

As I mentioned you can use it for free and it is a community project. I still have to figure out if we can give access to the source code for it (corporate rules) but if you would find any interesting additions to it or would like to help let us know. 

You already can contribute if you like. For example by adding new languages – this is what our friend from Czechia already did. If you want your language added just contact me by mail at kbialowas@bc4all.com and will send you the Excel file to translate with captions.

Special thanks

Typically I am not writing on my blog about Dynaway but as you can see today is not possible to not mention the great team. However, there is also one other person that I have to and would like to mention. Ulrich, who manages the whole company (and says yes to most of my crazy ideas).

Without him, this project would not kicked off. He has seen the opportunity for our team to learn during this project and also he agrees to make it a community project and show it during the conferences. And I must say we learned – from the beginning (it took us some time because of approving pull requests to Microsoft) that we have already made 4 PowerApps that we use for our main Business Central product. And we master the process. Now, from the idea of a new App to publication on AppSource, it takes less than a month.

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