A Guide To Power Platform Solutions

Jon Manderville
February 18, 2024

As a team leader, overseeing the creative work of Power Platform development within your team, it can often feel like trying to herd cats. Power Apps and Power Automate flows are being crafted left and right, with little to no oversight, leading to what we call 'Power Platform chaos'. 

Freedom to develop Apps and Flows, while fostering innovation, can result in duplication of efforts, inconsistent practices, and a tangled web of dependencies that can be a nightmare to unravel. In this post, I want to share how adopting "Solutions" in the Power Platform has part of a game changing shift towards a controlled and streamlined Application Lifecycle for us and one that sets the foundation for all that you need to create fully fledged ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) in the Power Platform. 

Why Is a Standalone App or Flow a Problem?

The first step in your journey towards good ALM in the Power Platform is to acknowledge the chaos. It's where most of us begin if we are honest. Released into a low or no code heaven with the power to create great productivity apps. 

But with Power Apps and flows sprouting up in all corners of your tenant, you soon lose the ability to know which connections you are using for example, review the data being shared, identify the flows using premium licences or even know which apps are meant as experiments and which are to be handled with care as they perform important tasks.

While an enthusiasm for automation and app development is commendable, it is also unsustainable for a team larger than a single person. Maintaining oversight, ensuring security compliance, and managing lifecycle processes, data movement and spend are all really important aspects that go alongside the act of creating Applications. The need for a structured approach soon becomes glaringly obvious. Thankfully, Microsoft recently offered us a new part of the answer. 

Power Platform Solutions

Introducing Order with Solutions

Solutions in Power Platform provided a structured way to manage our Power Apps, flows, and other components together as one package. Simply put, you add your apps and flows to solutions. You give Solutions a name and a version number. You can then easily move solutions to new Environments and even make them 'Managed' meaning they are meant not to be changed when moved. These steps together begin your first steps into having an ALM in your organisation for the Power Platform.

Solutions don't just contain Apps and Flows. You can also bundle together the connections being used in the apps (ideally in the form of Connection References - which we will provide a guide on very soon), perhaps the table structures needed for your solution to work and more.

Add Components To Solutions

Very soon, by starting to use Solutions as a 'container', all that you need for a business application is contained in one place. This instantly makes the process of governing where important applications reside, how they are updated and who can make changes a whole lot easier. 

We wont go into detail about how to use the key features of solutions but lets take a tour to see which aspects may work in favour of your own ALM.  

Streamlining Development and Deployment

One of the immediate benefits you notice from Solutions is the streamlining of development and deployment processes. Solutions allow you to move applications and automations from development to testing and production environments with ease using what are called Pipelines. This not only reduces deployment times but also minimizes manual errors that plagued us when moving components manually between environments before (like choosing the wrong version or moving to the correct environment).


Fostering Collaboration While Maintaining Control

Adopting Solutions doesn't mean stifling innovation or creativity within the team. On the contrary, it can foster a more collaborative environment. Team members can work on different parts of a solution simultaneously, without stepping on each other's toes. When the Solution is updated, it's whole is ready to be moved to a new environment as one. Rather than individual  parts being worked on and perhaps conflicting when not aligned. This collaborative approach also means that best practices and quality checks can be more consistently applied, raising the overall quality of your projects.

Empowering the Team with Governance

One of the key responsibilities as a team leader is to ensure that work adheres to governance, compliance standards and licencing benchmarks that have been set out. Solutions make this significantly easier. By having a clearer overview of all the components in play, it is much easier to effectively enforce policies and ensure compliance. An example might be how easy it is (when connection references are used) to only allow certain Connectors to be used. This immediately stops the team building flows and apps that may use unforeseen Premium connectors or maybe using a connector to send data from a location that has not been approved. 

Connection References

It is worth waying that Solutions alone do not implement full control for you but they are an essential building block to create ALM.  

Navigating the Learning Curve

There is a learning curve with solutions. On their own, they are not the full answer but as noted a few times, they are a foundational element in building an overall ALM that works. The other elements you will need are:

You can read more about each of these in the linked posts.

Final Thoughts

To fellow team leaders navigating the dynamic yet daunting terrain of Power Platform development: consider Solutions a new ally if you haven't already explored.

In our journey, they have helped transform chaos into clarity, fostered a culture of collaboration, innovation, and governance. The path to mastering Power Platform is not one with a single step and is definitely one I see as full of ongoing learning, but with Solutions early in your roadmap, you are equipped to begin to tackle the challenges head-on.