How to maximize the value of DevOps during an economic downturn
“Get ready! A recession is coming! Shout it from the rooftops!” Yeah, we know. The writing has been on the wa...
At Predica, we like to keep improving ourselves. Constant personal development allows us also to move forward in our careers.
But to make this process effective we need some tools that will show us our progress and help us decide on what to do next. In this article, I will describe how my colleagues and I, working closely with our HR team, created a simple yet effective internal tool to measure our personal progress.
On the road to self-development
Monitoring your career progress is not an easy task and our HR team knows it best. We’ve been using Excel spreadsheets before – at first, they were easy to handle and change.
Spreadsheets included ‘health checks’ for each experience level, split into several categories like technical skills or soft skills. We would mark each and every one of these health checks with our information (e.g. if any training has begun) and leave comments about it that might be useful for our Team Leader or HR.
With this information, the process of giving a promotion or a raise becomes much clearer – all the reasons for or against it are clear to everyone.
In time, we started to change the content of these health checks to allow us to better measure our progress. We have also adjusted how we navigate through spreadsheets, fill them with our data, and read this information.
More and more details were being added all the time. Eventually, we ended up with something that had great content from our HR team but was difficult to manage, fill, and read.
It was a huge spreadsheet with tons of information. However, it was so complex to navigate that it wasn’t as helpful as it was meant to be.
This was a signal for us to change it – leave Excel and move to another platform.
We figured it might be a great opportunity to learn some new technology, so after quick research, we decided to go with Power Apps.
There were several reasons, which made the choice clear:
After a few meetings with Magda from our HR team, we agreed to use the current content of our progress-measuring Excel spreadsheets. We’ve also set our objectives – to make the new service simple to use, user-friendly, and allowing management by HR. In terms of the things like UI or technicalities, we were given free rein.
From zero to Power Apps hero
As a newly appointed solution architect, I decided to check what possibilities I have when it comes to Power Apps. We were at a good point – we knew what the application needed to include. However, there was still the matter of how it will look and work.
The first idea was simple – to use the Excel file as a data source for my Power Apps application, and present data from this file.
Once I started trying out the service, I was quite impressed with it. The drag-and-drop design is really straightforward to use and speeds up the process of creating new applications.
When it comes to defining the app behavior, it is simple. Power Apps comes with predefined methods in a similar way to Excel and its functionalities, and there is everything you need.
I have added a few screens and buttons and created simple navigation between screens enabled by an on-screen button. Then I added a gallery, which is the main way of displaying data from any source like an Excel file, a database, or a SharePoint list.
And that was it – I could present data in Power Apps!
I had an idea of how the app will work and what I wanted to use, but there were still issues to resolve:
And so it was back to the drawing board. We needed a new place to keep all the data we wanted to use: both progress indicators and user data.
After a few discussions with the team, we decided to go with Microsoft SharePoint. We already use it at Predica, plus it has a feature that helps us with all data we have, i.e. lists. Using SharePoint, we solved most of our problems:
With that in mind we are left with only two, but unfortunately quite hard, questions:
This is what we’ll go over now.
THE STRUCTURE OF OUR APPLICATION
Let’s start from the beginning – the welcome screen!
There are three roles available in the application:
So let’s see how the main part of the application works – it’s time for the process of measuring progress.
GALLERIES IN POWER APPS
Here we use multiple screens, or galleries, which are your best friend when it comes to presenting any data from external sources – in this case, SharePoint.
The buttons that you can see at the top of the screen are generated based on the information we have in SharePoint. After clicking any of them, the corresponding gallery is presented.
Each screen shows us a number of things:
Presenting tasks is simple, as Power Apps have multiple connectors to many external data sources like SharePoint, Excel, or database, meaning you can easily show data from them.
Each user can update their information, save it, and the data is transported to SharePoint.
“But how is it transported?” you might ask.
Great question! We can use a great addition to likely any Power Apps application, i.e. Power Automate.
Power Automate is a Microsoft solution that allows you to – you guessed it – automate some of your actions. In this specific scenario, we were looking for something that would help us with moving data from Power Apps to SharePoint. Power Automate does this perfectly.
As Power Apps is not designed to handle complex integrations with other solutions, we have set up a Power Automate flow – a series of actions running in sequence (if you’ve previously worked with Logic Apps, it will feel very familiar). Here we are processing data input, transforming it to a SharePoint record, and saving it there.
How do we use Power Apps for skills management?
Now we can easily manage our skills using a simple, practical application built with Microsoft Power Apps, using SharePoint for storage. It didn’t take too long to create, is intuitive for users, and gives us all the details we need clearly displayed in individual galleries.
Measuring our progress is much easier now, and we also save time, as we no longer have to look for information in a massive spreadsheet. Needless to say, we’re really happy with the result!
That’s it for this article, but does it mean that it’s the end of our application? Certainly not! We want to make it better by allowing users to see their previous answers, and later prepare it to be used by other teams at Predica.
As you can see, Power Apps is a simple solution for simple needs – and a great tool to use when you want to exchange your overloaded Excels with something that is way more appealing and user-friendly.
At this point, I would like to thank my awesome team that was working on this project – Daniel, Paweł, Maciek, and Kuba. Great work!
And if you’d like to know more about the app, just let me know!
Read similar articles