Surely, there’s a better way?
There is a scene in a movie that I absolutely love. It is from the slapstick movie ‘Airplane’ – released in 1980. Basically, in the scene, Leslie Nielsen, responds to a comment from fellow actor Richard Hays, who says to him, “Surely, you can’t be serious?”. Nielsen’s response is, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley’. (Video below)
This silly comment has stuck with me since first watching this movie all those years ago and hence leads to my article title, “Surely, there’s a better way!”
I have been working in IT, but more specifically, the Software Industry, for over 20 years. My focus has always been on building solutions for customers. I was always the service provider and was always proposing solutions to meet business requirements. Initially, being a coder, it was easy (conceptually) to provide any solution required, even though the actual development became complex. But, with time, technologies were being released into the market that simplified application development. Products like SharePoint gave a tremendous foundation for building solutions without writing code.
But as the market moved strategically onto these new platforms, gaps were becoming evident in what one could achieve and not achieve without customisation. We resorted to an 80/20 rule where solutions could be achieved offering 80% of the requirement but absolutely no code required. This was an incredible offering that extended the required skills to build applications.
However, some clients still wanted more than 80% functionality in their solutions. The immediate answer was to write customised solutions. The well–written ones were great…until the platform required an upgrade. For those of us that went through this era of SharePoint upgrades, we know exactly what a nightmare this posed. As a result, several vendors started introducing third-party toolsets that could be used to build solutions but avoided the ever–stressful upgrade. Boom – I was onboard with that.
I moved my career at this stage to focus on these toolsets. Having experimented with a few options, I settled on one or two preferences. Personally, I loved having the ability to deliver solutions without having to write code anymore. But these solutions did introduce their own challenges and/or obstacles. For example, you now had a different set of parameters that determined what you could build, albeit slightly more accommodating than no toolsets at all. And not to mention additional licensing costs associated with the new technology.
Anyway, I still decided that I was fully on board with these toolsets. Until, after having spent time delivering more complex solutions, the frustration kicked in. These products were, in theory, reaching levels of maturity based on the number of years they had been in the market but to my despair, the limitations became more and more obvious, and simultaneously annoying.
I clearly remember working on an issue for a customer with one of my colleagues. As we figured out what the solution was, and tried to implement it (assuming it would be relatively easy), the dismay set in. “Surely” it was possible. Nope. The toolset could not cater for it. We Googled the challenge we were facing, read the vendor’s forums and blogs, and ultimately logged support calls. There was no solution. The workaround was one step away from stepping into a time machine and setting the dial to ’10 years ago’. The reality kicked in. We were stuck, and now fully dependent on another technology that was not going to do the job. Around the same time, the move to ‘the cloud…’ was becoming a more enticing solution. Our company bought into this ‘Cloud’ vision and we set sail, committing to this being our vision for all customers.
Now, fortunately, at this point we started investigating LogicApps. Our initial investigations were returning far more valuable results than we had expected. We continued this journey, which ultimately led to our move into Microsoft Flow (now Power Automate). We started building solutions for customers using Power Automate (nee Flow) immediately after its release into the market. The maturity of the product from Day 1 was eye-opening. And to top it all, it was included in your licensing, so no more third-party overhead. But even far more powerful was the ability to extend and configure solutions and provide more than 80% of the features…
There was now a way to connect multiple products with logical workflows that made sense to business practices. With Power Automate we were given the opportunity to see true WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) drag and drop functionality that made sense to anyone who chose to have a go. This is not to say developers were excluded, as Power Automate also has this incredible ability to connect to hundreds of external apps as well as custom-developed APIs. For me, this meant endless possibilities for customers but where is the end? It seems like the more you delve into it, the more capability you find!
Our company did just that, and we dived right in and we are not disappointed. We wanted the better way – for us and our customers – and we got it!
“Surely, there’s a better way!” – with Power Automate, I can finally answer my own statement after all of these years, in that “yes, there surely is”.