Forms Development in Microsoft 365: Tools Comparison

Forms Development in Microsoft 365: Tools Comparison

It is very common to implement workflows in Microsoft 365 to manage and automate business processes.

An almost infinite variety of solutions can be developed in the Microsoft cloud to manage, for example, new employee registrations, customer claims, invoice and expense note approvals, purchase requests, IT incidents, vacation requests, etc.

Simplified BPM Architecture: Form + Flow

At a technical level, a BPM (Business Process Management) usually consistsof a form where data is collected and a flow that executes several actions in background, such as sending emails, assigning tasks and changing status.

In Microsoft 365, Flows in Power Automate are used to develop the workflow logic. Those flows are quite easy to develop and the tool has a very simple interface.

To develop the form there are several different tools, each with its advantages and disadvantages: Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Forms, Power Apps and SPFx.

This article is intended to help you choose the right technology for form development. Knowing that once the form has been developed you cannot change easily to another technology, the choice of the right tool is fundamental.

Summarizing, we could classify the existing options in Microsoft from the simplest to the most complex, from the most basic to the most complete:
Tools to build Forms in Microsoft 365

Microsoft Lists

The Microsoft Lists, available in Teams and SharePoint, are very easy to manage. With only a couple of clicks you can create a new list, define a set of fields to obtain a simple form that allows you to collect data.

The drawback of Microsoft Lists is that the forms are not customizable. To add rules to these forms Microsoft recommends the use of Power Apps, which we will discuss later.

Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms are very easy to develop, they also offer a very visual and simple user experience and allow the creation of basic rules, for example, to display a field based on another value already entered.

The biggest drawback of Forms is that there is no central repository of forms, so you can not easily control the Forms that exist in your Microsoft 365 platform.

In addition, each Form is directly related to the user who creates it or the group where it was created. If a user is deleted, after 30 days all the Forms (s)he has created will also be deleted, along with the associated data.

For these reasons at IXIT we do not recommend its use to manage important information.

However, the use of Microsoft Forms can be interesting for surveys whose answers are not critical.

Power Apps

Power Apps allow you to customize Microsoft 365 list forms, defining complex rules that could not be implemented with Microsoft Forms.

It is a Low-Code solution, so it is assumed that a person who does not have programming knowledge can build forms with Power Apps.

But it has 2 major drawbacks:

First, today it is a platform that has several limitations. It is true that Microsoft is continuously improving it but it still misses important features, for example, it does not allow working with large volumes of data. Also the user experience and performance can be improved.

Second, if the form is complex, its development and maintenance becomes very complicated. It often happens that rules are added to a Power Apps form without taking into account the rest of the form, until one day we end up with a form that has so many rules that it is very hard to make any modification.

This problem has always existed with Low-Code tools (InfoPath had the same problem). In general, tools that claim to be Low-Code should only be used for simple applications.

SharePoint Framework (SPFx)

SharePoint Framework is the tool that allows the highest level of customization of forms. With SPFx we can obtain very good results both visually and functionally. These forms can be opened within SharePoint or Microsoft Teams.

The main problem of SharePoint Framework is that we are talking about a development platform that requires some programming knowledge, which makes its maintenance much heavier than any of the other applications described above.

Even if it is to develop a very simple form, any SPFx solution requires several days for its implementation: development, testing and deployment.

Conclusion

  1. We recommend not to use Microsoft Forms because of it lacks a centralized control panel and the governance problems that implies.
  2. If the form is very simple, you can get a decent result by creating a basic Microsoft 365 lists.
  3. Power Apps is a good alternative if the rules to be implemented are not very complex.
  4. For complex forms, we recommend developing them from scratch with SharePoint Framework.

 

Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to develop forms (and flows) and do not know where to start.

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