Posted in Office 365, Solution Development

The Chaos of Citizen Developers

Microsoft has been pressing the concept of Citizen Developers over the past few years; power users with the ability to build low-code or no-code solutions using their Power Platform in Office 365. While I’ve always been an advocate of spreading knowledge and skills to a broader audience especially within the business, the power of the Power Platform does raise concerns and considerations that must be addressed to avoid a chaos scenario of solutions.

Best Practices

The term is loaded but the phrase “best practices” can make a huge difference when it comes to creating long term supportable solutions vs. short term throwaway solutions. There are a number of professionals out there (Laura Rogers, Shane Young, and others) who can easily educate you on how to build Power Platform based solutions but are you educating within your organization and developing internal best practices to follow?

Documentation

Documenting the construction of Power Platform based applications is not the easiest task because of how the applications themselves are configured and built. For a Citizen Developer to build a long term solution they need to be cognizant of the fact they may not be the developer who supports their application a year from now. Even more common, if they’re a skilled citizen developer, they may be called to task to support someone else’s application. Dedicating time and process to proper documentation can make the difference between spending an hour troubleshooting a problem and spending a day.

Standards

By it’s very nature, the Power Platform pushes a developer into certain design standards to allow for scalable and responsive design. Organizationally, coordinating your citizen developers around design standards for solution types, business branding, and usability helps mitigate the chaos and encourages a shorter learning curve when users are working with solutions built by different developers.

Nothing new under the sun

These are not new concepts; they have been around the developer community from the beginning days of computing. Where this is new is that non-developers have to learn the value of this effort and adopt it as part of their everyday methodology. It is in this that seasoned developers can be advocates of good development habits and procedures as citizen developers become more mainstream.

Posted in Office 365, OneNote

Sections, Section Groups, and Notebooks in OneNote

There’s a lot of interest around when is it right to use a section, section group, or notebook in OneNote to organize your information. I’ll admit it can be very confusing so here’s some rules of thumb I follow when managing my own.

Notebooks

  • Use when you’re likely to need to share content.
  • Allows you to isolate materials around large topic areas (work vs. home, large projects, etc.)
  • Good for materials you may not need to access all the time (open the notebook when you need it, close it when you don’t)

Sections

  • Useful for breaking down notebooks into logical groupings (work – meetings, notes, plans, schedules, etc.)
  • Can be secured by password for better protection
  • Can be color coded for easy reference Section Groups
  • When you need larger subdivisions in a notebook (Work – Projects (Section Group) – Project A (Section))
  • Helpful when archiving content into a master notebook

If you’re organizing your personal content, don’t worry about getting it right the first time. If you’re organizing collaborative content, adding a page showing the organizational structure can be a boon to anyone using your notebook.