Microsoft introduced Power Apps a while ago. These can be considered a very small version of Dynamics 365. These apps can be developed quickly using almost the same methods that we use for Dynamics 365. In fact, as we all know, the apps available out of the box in Dynamics 365 are actually model driven Power Apps. Microsoft’s main target audience was the micro enterprise sector.
What is micro enterprise? Legal definitions would differ between countries. Most would define it based on investments. So, an enterprise whose investment is below a certain threshold would be considered a micro enterprise. In case of India, that threshold is a little over 34 thousand USD as of this writing. These enterprises would want to automate and digitize their business but have to continue with their not-very-efficient manual approach because of cost constrains.
So why am I discussing this? It is the cost of Dynamics 365. The cheapest version costs 65 USD per user per month as of this writing. While this is not costly, it is certainly not cheap either. Some time ago, we realised a few of our clients which were micro enterprise in developing countries could not afford this price tag. Especially when the Dynamics 365 was overkill for their requirements. That was when we started looking hard at the Power Apps.
At just 10 USD per user per month for two apps this is very cheap. Since, these come with very basic tables, there is no question of bloat that would otherwise come with Dynamics 365 for their requirements. Anything else can be developed on top of the existing tables and it will still be cheaper than the cheapest Dynamics 365 license. Power Apps basic license is available with almost all Office or Microsoft E level licenses so in many cases, the client does not have to buy any additional licenses.
So now the question is which app to select. Model driven? Canvas? I personally looked at it through the developer perspective and I admit I was a bit biased towards model driven apps because of my experience with Dynamics 365. To some extent I was not wrong. Model driven apps would have been good for a couple of the clients but, there was one simple problem. And, that was the cost. A model driven app requires a production environment. A production environment requires at least 1 GB of database space and this space is not available through the usual Office or Microsoft E level licenses. And a mere 1 GB costs 40 USD per month as of this writing. This might be cheaper than Dynamics 365 but still not cheap enough for micro enterprises.
Another question is usually in requirements. The client would want to store data in Excel simply because they have license already. Or they would want to store data in SharePoint because they are already using it for other purpose or they would want to store data in OneDrive which is I admit, very rare. Model driven apps don’t fit in these cases. They store data in Dataverse and it would be difficult to keep the data between Dataverse and client’s favoured location in sync if we were to go with model drive apps.
This is where canvas apps come in. Apart from looking good and being easier to operate(relatively), canvas apps support a number of options to serve as data source. The best thing here is they don’t need another license on top of what the client already has, provided the client has the aforementioned Office or Microsoft license. This brings the life cycle cost of canvas apps down drastically. The client only has to pay the initial development cost and has no other reoccurring cost to worry about.
As I said previously, I am biased towards model driven apps. So, while it certainly saddens me slightly that my favourite, go-to solution for everything is no longer the go-to solution that I considered it was, I just simply cannot stress how much recommendable canvas apps are, especially to micro enterprises.
So, now when I see any new enquiry with requirements, the first thing I do is see if canvas app is a good fit. The next solution is model driven app and if the client is planning to add some more things in the future, I would suggest Dynamics 365.
These are just my findings and opinion. Check out these links for a different perspective. What do you think?
Put your thoughts in the comments below and I hope this helps!
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