Model Driven Application Solution Details
I developed a custom application using Microsoft's Power Platform. The Power platform is a powerful, low-code, development environment that is feature-rich. I was able to quickly add all the functionality my customer needed.
This 30-year-old business rents high-performance copiers to legal teams working trials all over the country. They manage over 200 rentals a year all over the US. Over the years, tracking all the moving parts has proved challenging. Legal trials can last from weeks to months. The business is fast moving. New trials are added to the schedule weekly. They can be postponed or settled at a moment’s notice.
The company was using a combination or Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to track the rentals, inventory and scheduling details. When things got busy, it was a constant chore to update multiple documents and spreadsheets. In many cases, the same data was entered in multiple places.
The customer was already a Microsoft 365 customer. We were able to quickly purchase the licenses we needed to build a solution using Microsoft’s Power Platform.
During our initial meeting, we discussed the requirements of this business. They wanted an application to track the maintenance history for their rental fleet of over eighty copiers located in several warehouses across the country.
The first iteration of the application was developed in under 30 days and turned over to the customer. They were ecstatic. They could finally capture critical maintenance information to improve the reliability of the rental fleet. It was easy for a technician to review work performed previously.
Weeks turned into months. We began adding a new feature to the application every month for many months. We met every couple of weeks to discuss progress. During these the meetings the client would ask, “Can we do x, y, and z?” The flexibility and capabilities of Microsoft’s Power Platform made it easy to say “yes” to my customer.
The application solution was developed over a period of seven months. New features were requested monthly and delivered every few weeks. To build this solution for the customer, I leveraged the capabilities of Microsoft’s Power Platform. Power Platform is a collection of low-code tools that enable you to build useful applications quickly. I developed a model driven application with all data stored in the Microsoft Dataverse. The application is accessed via a web browser. The current version of the application has the following features:
- A Rental Dashboard to capture all rental details including staffing, location, customer, install/pickup dates, equipment etc. The data entered in the Rental Dashboard drives multiple Power BI reports.
- Equipment maintenance history including parts/supply usage.
- Parts & Supplies inventory tracking for multiple locations.
- Order tracking for parts & supplies.
- Company vehicle and vehicle maintenance tracking for all locations.
- Embedded links to customer’s SharePoint site and Teams application to provide access to technical information.
- Application data-security is managed with Role Based Access Control (RBAC).
In addition to the application, a dozen Power BI reports were created to provide real-time information on business activities. All Power BI reports are configured to directly query the data each time they are opened. Using direct query ensures any changes in the Rental Dashboard are reflected in the report being viewed. Power BI reports used by all staff are embedded in the model driven application for easy access. Management-only reports are contained in a web-based Power Application
Power BI Reports included:
- Rental Timeline – A Gannt Chart showing all upcoming rentals, status and staffing information.
- Rental Schedule – Detailed Rental information used for delivery trip tickets.
- Rental Map – A US map with all rental activity displayed and color coded (Active, Pending, Confirmed). The “bubble” size on the map corresponds to rental length.
- Equipment Status – Multiple reports that provide a visual indication of fleet status for rental.
- Employee Performance – A report to document the activity of each employee used for performance evaluations.
- Delivery/Pickup scheduling calendars.
- Parts & Supplies usage reports by month, year and individual pieces of equipment.
The application has made a huge difference in the way the customer manages their business. The most critical part of their business is tracking the information related to their equipment rentals. As mentioned previously, the litigation support business is very dynamic and changes quickly. It’s not uncommon for the dates on a rental to shift because of trial delays.
In the past, a monthly schedule of work would be created in a Word document and shared with the staff. Within a day or two, something would change, and a new schedule would have to be created and distributed. Now, employees can manage all day-to-day operations using a single web-based application. All rental information is entered once in the application. If something changes, the rental information is updated in the rental dashboard. The rental information is always up to date. The detailed rental data flows into a number of Power BI reports (see below) that provide a real-time view of upcoming work and commitments.
Are you still using spreadsheets and documents to manage your business? Do you have raw data you would like to turn into information by creating detailed reports and visuals? Have an idea for an application that would help your business be more productive? If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to one or more questions, let’s have that discussion.