Formerly an add-on to Dynamics 365 model-driven apps, the Power Apps portal has recently been released as a standalone Power App. Since then, there have been rapid releases of new features and functionality available for configuration, cutting down on custom development and time to deploy. With the increased accessibility for organizations due to licensing changes, there has been renewed interest in ramping up in this area of the Power Platform. Lately I've been receiving many questions around where to even get started in ramping up and how to go about starting a proof of concept. I'll address both points in this multi-part blog series.

What is Power Apps portal?

Model-driven and canvas Power Apps allow citizen developers to quickly build and share low-code apps, delivering business functionality to users. Common Data Service (CDS) allows organizations to store and manage this data via entities.

Power Apps portal extends CDS by putting an external wrapper around your organization's data. It allows internal and external audiences to interact with data from CDS, the same source wherein your Dynamics 365 data resides. With this technology, data residing in CDS can be shown via configurable lists and forms and users can interact anonymously or login using multiple identities.

Why would I use Power Apps portal?

Digital transformation challenges us to reimagine all areas of business in order to change how we operate and deliver value to customers. In 2020 specifically, it has become apparent that having a digital platform strategy is more critical now than ever before. Having an external web presence gives organizations a way to receive direct input and interaction from customers and partners in real-time and from any device.

Consider using a portal when your audience must

  • Create data in CDS such as opening a support case
  • Update their personal or contact information in CDS
  • View CDS data such as a Knowledge Base

That said, advantages to using the Power Apps portal over developing a completely custom portal include:

  • If you are already using Dynamics 365, your data is going to be all in one place. If customers create a support case from the portal, the case will be available within Dynamics 365 in real-time.
  • You can take full advantage of the full Power Platform out of the box: trigger a Power Automate flow, embed a Power BI dashboard or a canvas Power App, and upload attachments to Azure blob storage without any custom development.
  • The Power Apps portals Studio has streamlined configuration by decreasing the need to access the Portals Management model-driven app.
  • A built-in security model: Secure access to your data with web roles, entity permissions, and web page access control rules.
  • Options to configure local or external authentication without custom development, using providers such as Azure AD, Azure B2C, LinkedIn, Microsoft, etc.

I'm convinced. What do I need to consider?

Perhaps at this point you're now considering building one. Excellent! Here are some points to take into account prior to starting:

What skills do I need?

To leverage out-of-the-box functionality:

  • A familiarity with the Power Platform.
  • Power Apps portal uses forms and views that have already been built in your model-driven app / Dynamics 365. As such, knowing how to configure a model-driven app / Dynamics 365 is recommended. If you need to ramp on configuring a model-driven app, check out Introduction to configuration in Dynamics 365 model-driven apps.

Notice that "web developer" was absent from the above bullet points :)

If you have identified a number of "gaps" in your fit gap analysis, you may need to address these using more advanced techniques in the portal. To extend Power Apps portal to address these gaps, you may need to explore:

  • JavaScript: Power Apps portal does not support client-side business Rules or JavaScript stored on model-driven forms. To get this functionality in the portal, you may need to add JavaScript directly to a portal page or template.
  • CSS statements can be applied directly to a page to change the style of portal pages.
  • Power Apps portal uses Bootstrap 3.3 to control the design and layout of the website. A custom Bootstrap theme can be added to change the look and feel.
  • Liquid can be used to add dynamic content to pages, such as charts from Dynamics 365.

How do I ramp on Power Apps portal?

Learning any new technology can seem like a daunting task. Here are some tips:

  1. Microsoft Learn: Our Microsoft docs site is pretty great, but Microsoft Learn takes this to another level with our self-guided learning paths. For portals, start with the Get started with Power Apps portals learning path.
  2. Just build! You can theorize and whiteboard, read all of the documentation on our site and take all of the portals learning paths, but hands on experience is key. Gather some mock requirements, come up with use cases, and spin up a starter portal. Build and, more importantly, break things and then fix them. Start building with the Power Apps Community Plan as a start and follow these steps to create a trial portal.
  3. If you are interested in taking our Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement: Portals 1 Day Workshop, contact your Customer Success Account Manager or Microsoft representative for details.

Next steps

Skylar Shonblom