Identifying the business problem to solve (the use case)
The first step in using Microsoft Power Platform to solve a business problem is deciding what problem you want to tackle.
In IT terms, the business problem to solve is commonly referred to as the use case.
Ask yourself, "what's the business problem I'm trying to solve?" (Be concise when you name the problem; in many cases, it will become the name of the app that you build!) When you define the problem, break it down into a problem statement and the result that you'd like to achieve.
For the app that we'll use as an example in these articles, we came up with the following statement: "Expense reporting: Create a process that's efficient for employees and the accounting department, allows faster budget tracking, and reduces our exposure in audits."
If you already know exactly what problem you've set out to solve, you can skip to the section Considering the cost of solving the problem manually. If you need some ideas or want to practice on a smaller problem before you tackle your original inspiration, read on.
What can I do with Power Apps?
If you're making your first app with Power Apps, think about your business and the work that you and your team do day to day, and identify a business problem that you currently are using a manual process to solve.
Potential use cases for automation are gaps, complaints, or inefficiencies that exist in your current work environment. Processes that still require paper or email, and processes that require manually moving data from one place to another (from email to a database or from one spreadsheet to another), are likely candidates for solving with an app.
Don't pick a problem that's so large that you'll get stuck. However, even large processes can be automated in bite-sized portions as you break down the entire process into manageable elements.
For inspiration, check out these real-world stories from customers.
It's good to know how the app you have in mind might benefit your colleagues and your boss, especially when you need to ask for cooperation when making or using the apps. The list below shows the kinds of issues that can be solved by the platform:
Availability – Accessing apps at any time, anywhere
Mobility – Allowing people to work with an app while on the move
Consolidation – Gathering data in a more automated way to minimize manual consolidation
Training – Getting people up to speed and tracking their training results and certifications
Democratization – Enhancing the ability to self-solve problems within the department or section
Inclusion – Reducing friction for employees who have different work environments from other employees (such as remote workers or people with disabilities)
Efficiency – Reducing time required to get the desired outcome, reducing unnecessary steps
Productivity – Increasing the throughput of a process
Timeliness – Increasing the speed of end-to-end collaboration among different stakeholders
Scalability – Allowing more throughput
Analysis – Gathering required additional information, storing it in such a way that allows for easier analysis
Reporting – Enabling faster or more complete reporting to management
Security – Securely storing and working with data
Compliance – Solving issues around handling personal information, meeting legal or accounting requirements
Sustainability – Reducing waste (such as paper and electricity) and pollution
Considering the cost of solving the problem manually
Before you embark on the project, take another moment to reflect on whether the project is worthwhile.
It might be possible to "guesstimate" the high-level cost of solving the problem manually. This can be expressed in the time it takes to complete the process end-to-end, or—if you know a worker's "fully loaded" cost (salary or hourly rate, benefits, and so on)— you can multiply the time spent solving the problem by that rate to get to a cost each time the process is run. From there, if you know the number of times the process is run, you can calculate the annual cost.
Be aware that not all projects result in time or cost savings. Sometimes automating a process can provide cleaner or more timely data, or cost avoidance (for example, capturing data allows for an audit trail that could help avoid a fine if an audit occurred.)
This will be a "back of the napkin" estimate to ensure it's worth undertaking your app project. In another article, we'll go into detail about analyzing cost versus business value.
Assuming you've decided this project is worth pursuing, the next step is to fully understand the current process and look for optimizations you can make to it.
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