Once upon a time, businesses had no choice but to develop applications on their on-premise servers. They would have to set-up the hardware, put an operating system in place, procure all the necessary tools and software and then start the application development process. Today, cloud-based service providers such as Office 365 provide all of this to organizations through a subscription, allowing them to develop their applications and host it in the cloud. This sort of subscription also comes with access to their libraries, which contain a host of native tools that can be used to develop the applications. The benefits of this sort of an offering are obvious.
The biggest advantage of going with services such as Office 365 or Amazon Web Services is that the development cost comes down drastically. Smaller companies and start-ups can basically start developing applications from scratch without having to invest in costly infrastructure. From a business point of view this also improves the organization’s flexibility and its ability to respond to market changes, as it is not tied into an extensive legacy system.
Another big advantage is that the development cycle is shortened, thus leading to faster innovation and a reduced time-to-market. Such cloud models of development are also very scalable, enabling rapid upscaling and downscaling in response to market conditions. Finally, another big advantage is that applications built using such services are remarkably stable, as all the hardware, software and tools come from the same stable i.e. Microsoft. As opposed to this, applications built using many different third-party tools may suffer from problems arising from compatibility issues.
The factors listed above are the main advantages of developing applications using cloud-based service platforms. However, there are certain ways in which MS Office 365 in particular, is evolving, that is revolutionizing the ways in which applications can be developed. Let us take a look at three recent developments, all of which are fundamentally altering the existing paradigm:
- Microsoft Flow: It is a tool used to develop workflow aplications, which is readily available on MS Office 365. It basically does what sharepoint designer used to do earlier but has many more capabilities than Sharepoint designer. By alleviating the need to use other third-party tools, it also brings down project costs tremendously. One of its biggest advantages is that it integrates or works well with all the other Microsoft tools provided. It can also be used to develop Artificial Intelligence applications.
- Microsoft PowerApps: PowerApps is a tool for developing the User Interface or the front-end of applications. The biggest advantage of PowerApps is that this can be used for developing applications which are compatible with mobile devices as well. Both Microsoft Flow and PowerApps have been introduced just three months ago and both can be used to develop applications for content management on SharePoint.
- Microsoft Power BI: This is a data analysis tool which can be used to generate various reports, do data mining and drill down on certain aspects of all data captured. This tool replaces a host of third-party tools which were used for data analysis and business intelligence earlier.
Taken together, these three tools replace a number of third-party tools which had to be used earlier and all for a single subscription fee. This reduces the development cost as well as time, while providing many new features that were not available earlier. The biggest advantage, of course, is that all of them work really well together as they are all Microsoft products.
The three tools talked about above are formidable additions to Office 365’s arsenal of tools. With these tools we can clearly see the evolution of Office 365 and its movement towards becoming a one-stop shop for companies looking to develop applications. Given such a compelling value proposition, it makes sense to move application development to the cloud and we can expect this trend to only intensify in the future. The fact that these tools enable the development of Artificial Intelligence applications will add to this. It is clear that a majority of processes across businesses can move to the cloud and it is now upto CTOs and IT architects to weigh the benefits of such a move against the need to meet security, privacy or regulatory requirements for each process in their organization.