The Power Platform business maker, AKA citizen developer, is an enthusiastic person who uses low-code technology to find new ways to solve problems, digitise and automate day to day tasks for themselves and colleagues.
But sometimes, management worries about what these makers are doing and what sort of technical debt is being created for the IT team to clean up later. IT does not want to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, so the conversation often turns to "How do we stop these people from creating technical debt? This leads to a path of restricting business makers and their ability to provide value to the organisation. Instead of creating a barrier at the top of the cliff, why don't we help business makers fly?
In this blog post, we'll explore a more positive approach. Instead of holding makers back, we'll talk about how to support them. By guiding them, we can unleash their full potential and help them create even more impactful solutions.
This post guides you through three simple ways to start supporting the makers in your organisation. By embracing their enthusiasm and providing the right tools, you can elevate their work and contribute to the success of your organisation.
Identify the Power Platform Makers
When I conduct a technical audit of an organisation's Power Platform, it is very common to find at least 2 or 3 people who have built a significant number of Power Apps and Power Automate flows, which IT management has no idea about. These people are usually doing great things, but they also pose a big risk as they are unaware of low-code app development best practices. If they leave the organisation, they often leave behind apps and flows that only they understand how they work, and this creates a major challenge for IT to maintain and support the apps.
How to find your makers
There are two reports that can help you identify who the top makers are:
Power Apps - Maker Activity report
Power Automate - Maker Activity report
What to do next?
Talk to them! Find out what they know (or don't know) and what they want to achieve. Don't judge or critique. Just listen. You might find some hidden talent in your organisation that can be harnessed to do great things.
Once you have a better understanding of their skills are and what they are trying to achieve, point them towards the next two resources in this article to help guide them towards best practices.
Provide Makers with design guidance
It's common for Power Platform makers to take Microsoft learn online courses, watch a few YouTube videos and just start making. These learning resources are great for getting started but they don't teach the best way to design an app so that it will be compliant with your organisation's standards and maintainable in the future by people other than themselves.
The Solution Canvas to guide design
One tool that I use to help educate and get makers thinking about best practices is the Solution Canvas. The Solution Canvas is 1-page checklist that teams work on collaboratively to understand and quickly validate that their solution is made up of the right components and is going to succeed. Makers can use it to assess their understanding of best practices.
How it works
Give the Solution Canvas to makers before they start building solutions with the Power Platform. If they can answer all of the questions in the canvas, then that's great, they can start building. If they can't, that is OK too, it is a sign that their design needs some more thought and that they should reach out for support and get further help.
You can read more about the Solution Canvas and download the template here.
Documentation to enable Power Platform maker support
To help other people support and maintain a solution once an app is built, get your makers to document their solution. This doesn't need to be an arduous task, just simply describe what they did, why they did it, and how it all works.
The As Built template for Power Platform
We have an easy guide to help with this. A simple "As Built" document template for business makers to quickly document the key elements of their app.
Download the As Built template for FREE here.
How to make documentation happen?
We all know that documentation is not a favoured task of many people. Encourage makers to document as they go. If you have the Power Platform CoE Starter Kit installed, then you can easily monitor when new apps are created and extend it to send automated messages to the maker with a link to the As Built template and other best practice resources.
Positive reinforcement works wonders. If you have a Power Platform community (maybe a channel in Teams), publicly praise makers who follow your organisations best practices.
Business makers are not just employees; they're your organisation's innovators. They're the ones willing to go that extra mile to create, innovate, and improve. By identifying them, offering guidance through the right design tools, and encouraging proper documentation, you're not holding them back - you're empowering them to move themselves and the organisation forward.
So next time you spot a maker in your organisation, don't think about stopping them. Think about how you can support them using the Power Platform maker support tips in this post. Elevate their skills and help them become even more successful. Remember, in their success lies the success of your entire organisation.