Ensuring employees can share ideas for business improvements is an essential part of successful organizational innovation. Setting up a basic framework for managing business challenges, and a process for how suggested ideas can be discovered and developed, can be complex. This is why many companies invest in dedicated software for idea and innovation management. But there is a new sheriff in town… and its called “PowerApps”.
This blog post will explain how you can leverage the recently released Microsoft solution “Innovation Challenge”, which is a model driven PowerApp – the technology that will take a lead position in the future of Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management.
The “Innovation Challenge” solution takes care of the following key activities:
- Setting up and managing business challenges
- Submitting new ideas
- Developing ideas
- Managing ideas and challenges through predefined business processes
- “Idea to Innovation Business Process”
- “Challenge Management Process”
- Rating and scoring ideas
- Converting ideas to team projects
- Can be connected to Project Online via Flow for improved project management experience
- Team collaboration and logging
- Reporting across ideas, ratings and their alignment with business challenges
Here is a brief intro to the PowerApp and what it does out of the box. Remember that the strength of using PowerApps is the ability to edit and configure them without core developer skills. Its not as easy as 1,2,3 but watching a few YoutTube video tutorials will get you are really long way.
Innovation Challenge Dashboard
This is the “Innovation Challenge” PowerApp landing page. From here you get a quick overview on active challenges and the ideas that are submitted. It also gives you an overview on top ideas based on user ratings. You can easily customize the page or create new dashboards in just a few minutes. If needed, data can also be accessed through Power BI by connected to the “Common Data Service” as the source.
This is where you get the overview of all challenges created. You use these to create and structure how future ideas should be captured and which business pains they are meant to solve.
Each new challenge comes with a set of predefined required custom fields. Notice that you can control for how long new ideas are accepted as a way to also show to the world, when you are expecting to analyze, review and selected ideas for further development. All of these fields and processes are of course editable through PowerApps Studio.
Here you quickly the full list of active ideas and how they are scored and linked to strategy (business challenges).
When creating or updating ideas users will work with a predefined set of custom fields and a business process with gate reviews to ensure you are ready for the next stage. Notice below that we haven’t completed the proposal but that we are still ready to submit to the “Score” stage. Following stages are locked as these are directly link to the actual execution of the project. This is where you can use Microsoft Flow to ensure the project is managed and updated automatically in Microsoft Project Online.
Team Projects overview
If not connecting the “Innovation Challenge” solution to another Project Portfolio tool like Microsoft Project Online, then you do have the ability to do basic project management directly from within the PowerApp itself.
The out of the box project management is very simple and does not focus on the management of tasks, resources, milestones and many other PPM areas as one would expect using Microsoft Project Online or Dynamics Project Service. Again, you could easily set up a connecting to these systems by using Flow.
Once the app has been published it is of course available on any mobile device. The below example is from my Iphone X. Notice that to get access to the model driven PowerApps, you should simply add the URL e.g. in Safari, which can be stored as a shortcut on your phones desktop.
Editing the PowerApp
If needed you can quickly redesign the PowerApp without being a developer. From the PowerApps Studio you can open the app, create new fields, views, forms, charts and so one.
Managing the Business Process
Each business process can be edited and tailored specifically for your organization. This is also done from within PowerApps Studio.
So now you have seen a quick review of model driven PowerApp sample called “Innovation Challenge”. I am sure that this could serve as a great step towards better management of your innovation processes.
So how do you actually get your hands on this solution?
Step 1: Navigate to the PowerApps administration area (admin.powerapps.com/) and create a new environment. Select the type “trial” as this automatically comes with the Microsoft sample apps.
Step 2: Create a “CDS” database (just follow the guide) and decide on the default currency and language. Remember to include the sample apps and data!
Step 3: Wait for the new environment to appear and the list and then select it.
Step 4: From within the environment you can check the status of the database provisioning. This can take up to 15 minutes to complete so don’t stress if nothing is happening for a while!
Step 5: When the database has been created you should be able to find the “Innovation Challenge” app in the Apps section of your newly created PowerApps environment. Clicking on it simply launches the app which contains sample data out of the box.
You have now seen the basics of using and deploying the Microsoft developed solution for innovation management. Remember this solution is build using a model driven PowerApp, which means it comes with a “Common Service Database” and is fully aligned with the architecture behind the next generation of Microsoft Project and Dynamics Project Service.