Inside Microsoft Dataverse for Teams: Microsoft’s Latest Low-Code Platform

On July 21, 2020, Microsoft unveiled Project Oakdale, a new low-code development platform for Microsoft Teams. Although users have been able to build Power Apps and embed them in Teams for a couple of years now, Project Oakdale — which is built on top of the Common Data Service, now known as Microsoft Dataverse — enables you to run a version of Power Apps directly within Teams. Microsoft Dataverse also provides relational data storage, rich data types, enterprise-grade governance, and one-click deployment.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at this exciting development and how it can enhance your Teams experience.

Microsoft Dataverse for Teams Makes Good on “No Cliffs”

One of the most appealing aspects of Microsoft Dataverse for Teams is that any time a user builds an app in Teams, it automatically creates a relational database that they can share with other members of their Team. This enables Power Apps makers currently building apps on SharePoint or Excel a more robust relational database that can be upgraded to full Common Data Service as their needs increase. Thanks to Dataverse for Teams, businesses can create enterprise-grade apps and scale them as needed, all within their existing licensing; this ties in nicely with Microsoft’s larger “no cliffs” messaging regarding the Power Platform. What this means, essentially, is that organizations now have an inexpensive option.

Consistency is Key

One frequent complaint about embedding Power Apps in Teams was that the apps often looked inconsistent and out of place with Teams’ design. Dataverse for Teams resolves this by enabling you to deploy apps inside of Teams using controls that are designed to look and feel like Teams.

As you can see in the image above, everything is consistent — font, sizing, and so on — down to the small details. For example, Teams uses sentence case for section headings; Microsoft Dataverse for Teams does the same. Also, any app created through Dataverse for Teams is tightly integrated with Teams — for example, if you have Teams set to dark mode, the app will reflect your Teams setting and also display in dark mode.

For yet another point of consistency, Dataverse for Teams also leverages the Teams security model. Within Teams, there are two user roles: owner and member, each with a different accompanying set of permissions. Anyone who sets up a Team is automatically considered a Team owner and has access to the highest level of permissions. Team members, on the other hand, have a more limited set of permissions; Team owners also have the ability to further restrict members’ permissions. If you use Dataverse to build an app inside of Teams, it will automatically reflect your Teams security settings and will limit functionality based on whether the user is a Team owner or a Team member.

A Full App-Building Experience

We’ve already mentioned that Microsoft Dataverse for Teams enables you to build Power Apps directly inside of Teams, but that’s not all — you can also build Power Automate Flows and Power Virtual Agents chat bots that work within Teams. Essentially, Dataverse for Teams provides a full app-building experience using a simplified version of the Power Apps maker experience. The only new thing that Dataverse adds to the maker experience is a set of controls that enable you to replicate the Teams design within new apps.

Since Dataverse for Teams uses containers, any apps you create in Teams are automatically responsive. Also, any time you go to set up a new app, Teams automatically populates a new template, similar to the one shown below.

If, for any reason, you need to upgrade your app from Dataverse for Teams to full Datavers, it’s easy to do so. Even if you already use full Power Apps, Microsoft Dataverse for Teams is still a great option for users in Teams because it’s more accessible, helps reduce app sprawl, is optimized for mobile, and enables you to use apps in the same context or work mode as Teams.

Microsoft Dataverse for Teams in Action

For an example of Dataverse for Teams in Action, look no further than Hitachi Solutions; we’re such firm believers in the power of this low-code development platform that we used it to build an app for our own team to use.

One of the core pillars of our company culture is to “do good.” That means that everyone, at all levels of business, is encouraged to dedicate some of their time to giving back to their community. Using Dataverse for Teams, we were able to develop a custom application that employees can use to track time spent volunteering and deploy it within a team. In doing so, we’re able to see which individuals and groups spend the most time volunteering.

A Quick Review

Before we go, let’s review. Microsoft Dataverse for Teams is an exciting development in the world of the Microsoft Power Platform because it …

  • Is an accessible and easy-to-use low-code development platform
  • Enables you to build Power Apps, Power Automate workflows, and Power Virtual Agents chatbots, all directly within Teams
  • Empowers you to rapidly respond to your organization’s changing needs with custom-built solutions
  • Makes it so that any apps you build are aesthetically consistent with Teams’ design
  • Leverages Teams’ existing security model
  • Enables you to strategically position apps where Team members will already be working
  • Reduces app sprawl by keeping everything in a single, consolidated space, so your employees don’t have to comb through hundreds of URLs to find the app they need
  • Is optimized for the mobile experience
  • Gives you the option to upgrade to the full Power Apps and Common Data Service environment, should you need to

Microsoft Dataverse & Hitachi Solutions

Hitachi Solutions uses Dataverse for Teams internally, which means we have firsthand experience and insight into what makes it so appealing — but that’s not all. When Microsoft wanted to develop and release a few apps to demonstrate the flexibility of the Dataverse platform, they turned to Hitachi Solutions for help.

Following Microsoft’s guidance, we built three showcase apps:

  • The Inspection app, which enables frontline workers to safely inspect assets and manage the quality of products and services;
  • The Issue Reporting app, which enables Team members to quickly report common issues related to quality and safety; and
  • The Employee Ideas app, which enables Team members to quickly generate and organize ideas by campaigns.

As you can see, we have a close relationship with Microsoft and deep experience with its entire software ecosystem, which makes us uniquely qualified to handle any Microsoft project. If you’re interested in trying out Dataverse for Teams for yourself but need help charting a path forward, let’s talk — Hitachi Solutions can review your manual processes, figure out whether you’d benefit from building apps in Teams, and help you get started.