Microsoft has launched a new service called PowerApps, an Office-style tool aimed at making it easy for employees at large companies to build basic mobile and web-based apps for business use, and enabling IT departments to maintain and control them.
The service hopes to cater to increasingly mobile companies that are finding much of their work is still bound to desktop computers, forcing employees to hold off instant reporting in the field, or limiting work that can be done while on the move.
"While companies are increasingly turning to SaaS solutions for specific scenarios like CRM, travel and HR, using services like Microsoft Dynamics, Concur or Workday, most business app scenarios still remain locked on premises, dependent on corporate connected PCs," said Bill Stapes, corporate vice president for app platform and Microsoft Azure.
With data typically distributed across multiple systems that aren't connected, and IT departments usually unable to write business apps for every scenario, businesses can struggle to go mobile without working with third-party consultants, often at high prices, and with limited support in the future.
IT departments will be able to introduce PowerApps simply into their systems, then users can pull data from both cloud-based and on-premise data sources to integrate into their apps, connecting with services like Office 365, Dropbox, OneDrive, Salesforce and even on-premise database systems like Oracle, SAP and others.
PowerApps offers a clean graphical interface and set of templates that enable users to build apps in just a few clicks, which are then available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, as well as the web. IT remains in control and can manage data access, but employees are free to innovate and create new solutions to enterprise mobility issues.
"As businesses strive to keep up with the pace of change, they are looking to technology to drive digital transformation," said Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer at Microsoft. "Microsoft can help businesses achieve their transformations by empowering individuals and organisations with innovation solutions that unleash the productivity and potential of their workforce, spur entirely new ways of collaborating, and infuse intelligence into their systems and processes."