Did you know that Project Oakdale is the temporary name for what was until a week or so ago Dataflex for Teams? This is the one where we get a Database plus Power Apps rolled into our Teams licensing. It’s going to be BIG.
It feels like when Prince started calling himself a symbol and so everybody else started saying “The Artist formerly known as Prince”.
Clearly, it’s not ideal, but we will be getting a new name before too long, so watch this space.
In the meantime, please refer yourself to this post here to remind yourself of all the goodness that we are expecting using the product in the future. Every time you read Dataflex, you’ll need to think Oakdale, and in the not too distant future something completely different 🙂
Other than that, sit back and watch the fireworks start!
In order to have full control of the environment you’ll need to be an environment admin. Personally, I would recommend anyone serious about the power platform to get their own tenant. Microsoft don’t ask me to say this, it’s just that I did it a few years ago and it changed my life.
To get your own tenant you can follow through the following video on PowerApps4Kids. This means that you’re a global admin (super user) and you won’t be restricted in any way.
If this isn’t to your liking you can get a Power Apps community plan, which ironically means you are the only person that can ever use the plan – it’s a personal enviroment. To do that all you need to do is click the button below.
If and Switch are two closely related formulas. As they are fundamental to creating conditional behaviour, they are also fundamental to being successful with Power Apps. Basically, you need to learn them!
Roughly speaking you’ll use if in the following circumstances:-
There are 2 outcomes
The if condition is based on a number of factors such as if(ThisItem.Title = “Hello” && ThisItem.Value>10,Red,Blue)
Switch is helpful if you are just looking at 1 field but would like to do different things based on the value in the field.
In the example if the formula was placed on a button inside a gallery we could use the button to navigate to different screens. “Hello” takes us to the Hello Screen, and “World” navigates us to the World screen
Today, to coincide Microsoft Inspire 2020 a fundamental development of the “Common Data Service” was announced. Firstly the Common Data Service is being renamed as Dataflex Pro, and and a NEW product has been created called Dataflex.
So what is Dataflex?
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is just a ploy to address some of the confusion that has surrounded the original naming of the Common Data Service, but in this case there is quite a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Firstly, the Common Data Service is coming to Teams. Under the hood this means each Team has the right to 1 Dataflex Environment. An environment is essentially a container for both Data, Data Model, Apps and Power Automate Flows.
The integration within Teams is fundamental as you can author your apps within Teams, and deploy them directly to your team without leaving the teams experience. On one level this might seem trivial, however it does create a very streamlined process for creating productivity tools.
Why is this important?
Because up until now the only “free” data source for Teams members has been Sharepoint, which for all that it has been successful, is based on some quite old technology, born on-premise nearly 20 years ago.
When building apps we feel sharepoint pain in the following ways:-
Our ability to filter large datasets is limited
Sharepoint is not a relational database, which can be problematic when linked to the above
There are only a limited number of field types available to us
The security model can be cumbersome, and frankly unable to provide the necessary permissions
Sharepoint does not include simple Development, Test and Production scenarios.
The “grow up” story to move an application from Sharepoint onto other data platforms is problematic
Sharepoint does not contain the same trigger types for Power Automate as does Dataflex
How do I create an App?
Well – whilst Dataflex is in private preview the best I can offer at this stage is a look at the Dataflex Pro experience (I’ll be calling it the Common Data Service). Dataflex is a much more sanitised and cleaner version of what I’m demonstrating below.
For a much more trivial app, you can take a look here – in this app we don’t use any data at all.
Do I get anything else?
Actually yes. Surprisingly you have access to Bots, essentially virtual agents that you program in a low-code way that enable people IN YOUR TEAM ONLY (in this case) to get answers to the questions that they have.
We are also expecting to get Power BI integration in due course.
Is there a catch?
I’m afraid so, you’re limited to 1m rows of data and 2 GB of storage.
To get this into perspective, the entire works of Shakespeare fit onto an app that weighs only 10mb, the size of a medium to large photo. So for many teams they will never feel any ill effects from these limitations.
Additionally, the teams environment is limited to Teams members. By all accounts guest access does exist, but we need to learn more about this.
You get 1 environment per team, so no scope for Dev, Test and Prod.
You may not get ALL data types, but this remains to be seen.
Why bother upgrading to Dataflex Pro
The easiest way of explaining this is that Dataflex pro is just a renamed version of the Common Data Service, which is in turn Dynamics Customer Engagement, which has been around for many years and is used by organisation such as Coca Cola. What this means is you get a tried and tested ENTERPRISE GRADE platform with all the complex security measures, multiple clients, full Application Management Lifecycle, all data types, virtual entities, business rules and business logic and full integration with the Azure stack.
You should also bear in mind that you can upgrade directly from Dataflex to Dataflex pro.
In many respects the aim of the product is to enable the data platforms available to Teams grow up significantly. Sharepoint lists have been for many years data repositories for organisations, in spite of all their limitations, however Sharepoint was never made to have been extended to the extent that has been the case.
It’s worth noting that there are some instances where DataFlex pro licensing is seeded to users by virtue of some arrangements such as Dynamics 365, so this feature is worth bearing in mind.
So how does old Common Data Service fit into all of this?
The Common Data Service lives on, and is subject to a name change and the licensing has not been altered, so keep doing what you are doing in that space.
I’ve heard about Microsoft Lists – what’s all that about?
Essentially Microsoft Lists are Sharepoint Lists repackaged with quite a nice front end with Microsoft App on Mobile and tablet that sits in alongside Excel and friends. Ultimately, they will always be Sharepoint lists for good or ill, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be effective with them. You can find out more below:-
Where can I find out more?
Sign up for the blog here – I’ll be keeping on top of this.
Also – go and check out the Power Apps Blog post here.
Microsoft have recently started badging PowerApps plus Power BI plus Power Automate as the Power Platform. As an ex-accountant turned Power Platform developer I have started to consider the skills that my accounting life has given me, how they apply to the accounting profession generally and also the areas accountants might actually find difficult when it comes to solution development. A word of warning – I probably won’t go into the Lion taming bit very much in this article. I’m sure that there’s a self help group out there for you…
Let’s face it – it’s not always easy to see why our apps, and in this case canvas apps may not be performing well.
There are however a number of options available to us to enable use to monitor what the app is doing.
Firstly, as a developer we can turn on monitoring whilst editing the app as shown below.
Once the monitor is on, it will start listening to what’s going on, however you’ll need to go into play mode on your app to see what’s happening.
What makes the experience special is that if you have issues, particularly if there is a long string of code any warnings or errors are highlighted directly.
Additionally, you can add in your own code that will get picked up by the monitor. Below is an example of how to do this.
This deals with the developer side, but what if you have a user that can’t work with the app.
In this case they need to go to make.powerapps.com and then click on monitor.
You get a very similar experience, however the app must have been published since about Jun 2020 onwards, otherwise it doesn’t work.
The monitor screen opens and then you simply head to the screen below and select “play published app”.
Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive post, it should point you in the right direction for starting to debug you apps.
You can additionally share a link to the session using the invite option and when the user goes to https://make.preview.powerapps.com they can run the debug process on their screen and both users get to see the debug information on their screens. This is particularly effective if you want to see what it is really like for the user.
For this to take effect you must turn on the setting in the image below
Github is a recognised platform, owned by Microsoft for holding onto content that can be shared with others. It is geared towards developing software and I am going to hold new apps to be shared with others here.