What is PowerApps?
Here at Infinity Group, we are spending plenty of time playing with PowerApps and trying out all of the new toys and controls available to solve real world problems for your organisation.
PowerApps is a code-less development tool which allows users to create useful apps to solve real world problems in minutes. This, combined with Microsoft Flow, Microsoft’s code-less automation and integration platform, opens up a world of possibilities.
PowerApps contains a suit of controls we can use to build the app, from simplistic controls such as labels and text boxes, through to barcode scanners and picture, video and audio capture.
Capturing business expenses with Microsoft PowerApps
The scenario we are covering in our blog today is capturing expenses. We use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA) to manage our projects and it includes the ability to capture expenses, which then go through an approval process, before being charged on to the customer (if applicable) and then paid to the Consultant.
Our existing process effectively involved doing this twice, once in PSA to capture the expenses so they can be charged on to the customer and recorded as costs against the project. The second version was a paper form which was approved and submitted to accounts so that the expenses could be entered into our finance system and then paid to staff.
Enter PowerApps! We have created a new PowerApp which allows users to capture expenses on a single form, entering the following information:
- Expense Type (Category)
- Related Project
- Photo of Receipt
The designer is simple and intuitive, with a formula bar similar to Microsoft Excel for adding logic to the app, which is checked for you as you go:
And the results are rendered as an app which looks like the image below. You can then use this app in a browser or on a mobile device or tablet.
How do I submit expense claims in PowerApps?
Once submitted on the form, PowerApps and Microsoft Flow do the hard work, which a user previously had to do manually:
- Create an Expense record
- Create an associated Expense Receipt Record
- Create an associated Note record
- Attach the photo of the receipt to the Note record
- Mark the Expense record as Submitted
Once approved, we are then using Microsoft Flow to export the expense transactions to our finance package automatically, removing the need for paper forms and manual entry.
Using configuration within the PowerApp we were also able to add some intelligence, for example only displaying projects that the current user is working on at the given time.
What is the AI builder in PowerApps?
Another component of the Power Platform (Microsoft’s collective term for this set of tools), is the AI Builder. Using this, we can create a ‘Form Processor’ to read receipts for us and capture the details. Once the model is created, we then train it to make it more accurate and can then use the output to suggest expense entries based on the receipt, meaning all the user would need to do was pick the project. Designing the model looks similar to this:
You can train models to predict events, process forms, detect objects and determine what they are and classify text, all with an easy to use user interface and no code!
And then once we’ve trained it, we end up with some stats as to how well it will work:
What’s next for the Microsoft PowerApps expense form?
We’re busy delivering great solutions to our customers on the Power Platform so this part of the project will need to wait a while, but we’re excited to see it in action. The next phase will be to include maps within the app to help users automatically work out mileage expenses, capturing their start and end location and doing the rest for them. We can even use their location to work out which project they are working on and fill this bit in for them too!
Seeing PowerApps solve real world problems, reduce the use of paper and make businesses more efficient is what realty gets us excited about them! Our next project will be replacing our overtime form submission process. Also, we’ve already built a PowerApp which, combined with Flow, checks Companies House when creating a new Lead in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, ensuring we have the correct company details.
Infinity Group are Microsoft Dynamics 365 Consultants. If you would like to use the Expense app, or if you have any other PowerApp requirements, please get in touch.