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    How to manage skills in Microsoft Power Apps?

    Skills matrix

    If you’re looking to learn more about Power Apps, you’re in the right place! Keep reading to learn how to create a simple yet very useful application using this service.

    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.

    Key points:

    1. How to monitor your career progress?
    2. What are the main benefits of Power Apps?
    3. What other tools are useful for setting up a progress-measuring solution?

    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.

    Progress-measuring in Excel spreadsheet

    Measuring progress in Excel spreadsheet – plenty of insights, but really hard to read!

    We figured it might be a great opportunity to learn some new technology, so after quick research, we decided to go with Power Apps.

    Why Power Apps?

    There were several reasons, which made the choice clear:

    • They are easy to learn
    • The service comes with a ready-made UI based on a drag-and-drop design
    • Many tools for integration with other Microsoft products are available
    • We can use multiple data sources
    • There’s a vast community and access to guides
    • And as mentioned above – we wanted to learn something new.

    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.

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    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!

    Setting up PowerApps

    Setting up Power Apps

    Refining the application

    I had an idea of how the app will work and what I wanted to use, but there were still issues to resolve:

    • Data storage – we need to keep the data that each user is providing when they are measuring their progress. Storing it in our beloved Excel file would be messy and hard to manage
    • Management – we want to allow our HR team to update the content of this application whenever they want without needing help. Again – Excel is not a good idea. Additionally, uploading files to Power Apps is quite complicated (not impossible but requires many hours of research)
    • Data volume – each assessment level features anywhere between 80 to 120 questions. Once we multiply it by the number of users (somewhere around 150), this gives us quite large volumes of data for the solution to handle.

    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:

    • We can keep all user data in one place, and then fetch it on request to present the exact data we want to present
    • If our HR team wants to do a progress health check, there’s no need to ask for assistance. Right now they can easily edit a specific SharePoint list and their changes will be immediately available in the application.

    With that in mind we are left with only two, but unfortunately quite hard, questions:

    • how do we want to present all this information to users, and
    • how to move user data from Power Apps to SharePoint?

    This is what we’ll go over now.

    THE STRUCTURE OF OUR APPLICATION

    Let’s start from the beginning – the welcome screen!

    PowerApps login screen

    Team Member menu view

    There are three roles available in the application:

    • Team Members – they can measure their progress, edit and save new information, or view the latest status
    • Team Leaders – they have the same functionalities for their own progress, but they can also check in on their Team Members
    • HR – they can check the progress of any user.

    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.

    Example of health check in PowerApps

    An example skills health check in Power Apps

    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:

    • the task we’re monitoring
    • the status of this task, which can be changed as needed
    • a textbox for additional comments.

    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.

    DATA TRANSFER

    “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!

    Key takeaways:

    1. Excel spreadsheets can be used for measuring progress, but over time, the database becomes too large to use easily.
    2. Power Apps allowed us to use multiple data sources, integrate with other Microsoft products, and add information faster, thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality.
    3. We integrated Power Apps with SharePoint to keep there all the data we want to use and fetch in on request. We also implemented Power Automate to easily and automatically transfer the data from Power Apps to SharePoint.

    Ready to learn more about us?