Finance: Developing Internal Management Apps with Microsoft Power Apps
1. Service Category
As the coronavirus pandemic receded in 2022, many companies began the process of reintegrating in-office work back into their business, with varying approaches. Our client chose to resume office work on a hybrid basis.
They wanted a solution that would meet employee needs while still adhering to internal office policies, and turned to SYSCOM GLOBAL SOLUTIONS and our decades of IT support, maintenance, and management experience to develop it.
The client had two high-priority requests for this project:
- The solution had to support a health questionnaire for each employee to take the day before they traveled into the office.
- The solution had to support a “hoteling” function that enabled employees to reserve meeting rooms and desks before coming into the office.
*Hoteling refers to a seat reservation approach to office seating. When companies move to a hybrid schedule for remote and in-office work, many implement a free-desking approach. No one has assigned seating, but greater flexibility is attained via seat reservations.
Were the hoteling application to be deployed without the health questionnaire included, office administrators would have to create a questionnaire in Excel, individually send it to each employee in advance of their office arrival, and manually manage the responses on a file server. By including the questionnaire in the hoteling application, employees would necessarily have to fill it out before they were able to secure their seat in the first place, saving untold working hours for office admins.
Implementing an application that was easily administered and easily used by employees was of utmost importance.
We’re entrusted SYSCOM GS with the maintenance and management of our own IT systems for over 20 years. We did our own research into an application to fit our needs, but compliance issues and concerns about using an outside system kept arising.
We also wanted to find a simple solution, but many applications in vogue during the pandemic were trying to do too much.
So, we decided to consult with SYSCOM GS
3. Implemented Solution
Since the client had already implemented Microsoft 365, we decided to propose Power Apps. Its compatibility with their current environment, in terms of implementation costs and post-implementation maintenance, set it above other third-party apps.
Additionally, with a fixed office opening date, we didn’t have the 3-4 months it usually takes to develop a custom application from scratch. We had 1-2 months to proceed from request to implementation.
SYSCOM GS, a Microsoft gold partner, already had many consultants and engineers on staff who were experts in the Microsoft Power Platform and familiar with the client’s IT environment. Using Microsoft Power Apps kept costs down and enabled rapid delivery and implementation thanks to its seamless integration, no code/low-code apps, and our knowledgeable staff.
▼ Learn more about Microsoft Power Platform here:
We were on an incredibly tight schedule, having already set an office opening date we were working back from, so we hired SYSCOM GS. They responded and got to work immediately, even bringing their engineers into the meeting.
We didn’t have time to check every single detail and setting within Microsoft Power Platform, but SYSCOM GS made it look and operate exactly as we intended. We met our office opening date without issue.
4. Known Issues
There were two known issues prior to the project:
- First, the client wanted to perform two tasks with the same application, rather than doing each separately. We had to combine the pre-arrival health survey (including storing the results on a Sharepoint site) and the desk hoteling function.
- Second, daylight saving time in the US creates a one-hour discrepancy between summer and winter, causing issues when employees made reservations.
5. Implementation Strategy
Knowing our timeline was short (1-2 months from request to delivery), we used an agile project management approach to begin work as quickly as possible. We were able to show the project to the client while it was still in development, allowing for immediate feedback and improvement. Through regular meetings with key stakeholders, we were able to respond and adapt to requests as they came in.
*Agile Project Management is a PM approach in which 70-80% of deliverables are created and presented to the client quickly. The client gives feedback, allowing the team to finish the project while simultaneously bringing existing work closer to the ideal state.
Microsoft Power Platform’s customization features are powerfully extensive, making the importance of setting clear goals from the start paramount. Our engineers participated in stakeholder meetings from an early state, stayed in constant contact throughout, and were able to respond to feedback quickly and effectively. The final product met and exceeded the client’s requirements.
In the course of our regular IT infrastructure work, we partner closely with the IT staff of the company. However, we prefer to go directly to the actual users when developing applications, and we did so here. Through interviews with end users, we were able to incorporate functions already available within the application to fulfill their needs, use seat drawings proposed by SYSCOM GS, and make the application much more user-friendly. Not only can it be accessed from a web browser, it’s also mobile-friendly on iOS and Android, allowing it to be used on the go.
App usage rate
Not only did the introduction of our health-profiling hoteling application eliminate all the working hours that would’ve been spent sending questionnaires, recording responses, and saving them on Sharepoint, utilization of the app has exceeded 90%.
In over a year since its introduction, there have only been 3 problems or inquiries and the application has operated without interruption.
QA testing is fundamental to any good IT project, but developer-side testing often misses the issues that arise from unexpected user behavior. To accommodate this and ensure we caught any potential bugs, we initiated a brief UAT period before rolling the project out entirely. During our UAT, we caught numerous issues we couldn’t have anticipated on our own. Thanks to this, and seamless integration with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem, we were able to limit our issues to 3 or less in the year since its introduction.
*”UAT Period” stands for User Acceptance Testing Period, a short period of 1-2 weeks when the client uses the application as the eventual user to find and resolve any remaining issues or bugs.
Over 90% of our employees are currently using the application. While we initially had a couple of glitches, they were resolved by contacting the help center immediately. Had we not developed the app, we’d still be filling out Excel sheets and submitting them to the office admin team, a time-consuming exercise for employees and admins alike. We’re saving time and avoiding human error.
An external tool for the hoteling system would’ve required time for evaluation and selection, compliance issues, and implementation—time we couldn’t afford to waste if we were going to be ready for our office opening. The new app has made management far more efficient.
SYSCOM GS is continuing to work with this client post-implementation, and has even begun work to make the application even more user-friendly.
7. Project Members
Engineer: Eugene Wilkinson
Business Application Development, Power Platform Technical Consultant
Eugene joined SYSCOM GS in 2020 after working for a software development company, where he was in charge of cloud solution proposals and operational support. Provides development/operational support for the digitization of analog operations using Microsoft 365, mainly for Japanese companies in the U.S.
Sales: Masamitsu Miyamoto
Senior Manager, SI Solution Division V2 (Financial and Retail)
Masamitsu has been with SYSCOM GS for 5 years. He has been providing IT solution proposals and support including security, IT infrastructure, and Biz Apps to over 100 Japanese companies in the U.S., mainly in the financial and insurance industries.
8. Reasons for choosing SYSCOM GS
In our 20 years of working with SYSCOM GS, we’ve always found them to be flexible, helpful, and supportive. This was our first time being involved on a project-by-project basis, and while the pandemic changed the environment dramatically, we’re glad we were able to work together to solve our problems and be a team.
Partnering with SYSCOM GS means you get more from our people. Engineers who know the systems like the backs of their hands are deeply involved in the project from the initial stage all the way to post-launch QA and beyond, providing solutions and fielding issues as they arise.
We strongly recommend the Microsoft Power Platform for any company considering application development. It’s fast, easy to build with, and its seamless ease of integration with the rest of the Microsoft environment makes it less prone to defects and errors.
SYSCOM GS has many engineers dedicated to supporting Microsoft Power Platform implementation, including Microsoft 365 and Power Platform implementation, data collection, analysis and forecasting, and building new applications. Please reach out for more information.
- August 31, 2021
- July 28, 2021