back to article Microsoft finally spills the beans on everything you need to know about its low-code platform, Dataflex for Teams

Microsoft has shared more details about Dataflex, its low-code/no-code app platform that will be embedded into Teams - something it should have done much earlier to help demystify things. Dataflex was announced at Microsoft's partner conference, Inspire, earlier this month, but its initial introduction lacked any explanation …

  1. Deft

    Massively baffling

    I consider myself reasonably versed in this stuff, and I'm an approximation of a citizen developer. A scientist who is moderately dangerous with VBA and Python. For our corporate department of 100 people, I'm the unofficial go to person for Sharepoint Online, Teams, OneDrive, Power BI etc. I've even got a few things running in Power Apps and Power Automate. The constant sprawling mess of Microsoft stuff is bewildering, and although I do like the dream of it on paper, the reality is totally different. It sits unhappily in the middle. Not really easy enough for anyone I know to crack on with, and no major corporate in house support that I can see (a company of 40,000 people).

    Someone tell me this actually gets used to its potential somewhere?

    1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

      Re: Massively baffling

      I don't actually understand what problem this thing is trying to solve, except for $licensingrevenue < ∞

      1. Deft

        Re: Massively baffling

        I do have a bit of sympathy for the dream / sales pitch. As part of an organisation whose business is not software related, it is amazing the sort of repetitive jobs that are carried out in an inefficient way. We always wonder whether people working at Google/Microsoft put up with business processes and systems as rubbish as this. Manual processes held together with spreadsheets and Word documents. Some of it is self inflicted, but without specific headcount to help us with these run of the mill issues it never gets better. Not big or aggravating enough to get formal IT support. So let your staff build these non-critical efficiency gaining "apps". Except as described previously, it is too complex for your average person and too annoying for a typical developer. I've never done something quite as frustrating as building a custom SharePoint Online list form using PowerApps.

        1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

          Re: Massively baffling

          Yeah, I saw a glimpse of PowerApps at my last workplace (it wasn't heavily used; the guy that is decided I was gonna poach for the DBA team was trying it out it with no IT experience to actually do things, and that kind of attitude and his interest in how and why SQL worked was immediately a hundred times more valuable to me than any of the schlock I'd read on CVs).

          It struck me as a nice idea, but the trouble I've found with anything like that — PowerApps, PowerBI, SSIS, VBA even if Excel wasn't dangerous in its own right — is that for any given source there's a high likelihood that the data is shit. Duplicates, corruption, errors, munges, edge cases — most people have no appreciation for the fact that data needs studying and fixing in order to not provide an exponential cockup downstream. The tools make it very easy to create something dangerous, and often provide no facility to make something safe. A single data person and a single web dev could probably work full-time on all of the "non-critical" stuff in a business delivering what those users need, earmarking stuff for integration into wider processes where appropriate, and save a hell of a lot of money in the long run.

          I actually honestly thought that we'd be reaching the point where every young person would be competent enough to be writing decent code now as a result of it being part of their education, but I've seen no evidence of the fact.

          "Program without programming" stuff will never work: those people that are techies at heart will spot problems and start wanting to know what's happening one level down, and eventually abandon it in favour of something proper; those who aren't interested in any of that techy nonsense or data-integrity waffle will use it to quietly create mayhem…especially if they're a mangler who decides that their precious little "application" is untouchable.

          1. sentientplaice

            Re: Massively baffling

            It's the Microsoft Access / Lotus Notes problem all over again.

            Don't let people who shouldn't be designing tools, design tools. By all means involve them as internal clients or steakholders, but don't let them try and build the thing.

            1. Deft

              Re: Massively baffling

              I think that's it, there is something to be done in this area given the history of apparent need. My personal preference would be to have a couple of pragmatic software developers based in our department of 100, who would spend time watching the stupid things we get upto and having the autonomy to help us, free from some of the "global IT" politics. I imagine it's quite a weird job role, and we certainly wouldn't understand the type of developer we'd need to recruit. Scale this up to 40,000 people and you need 800 extra staff. OK that might be an over estimate but I think that's the scale of the problem we face.

              As a couple of my favourite examples of funny things we do.

              1) Print out and fill out a paper access request form. Scan in and email to random person in US to be added to access list for corporate IT system.

              2) I recently received an emailed Excel workbook attachment, along with about 900 other recipients. In this was a simple table of Names, Department, Geographic location. This was a listing of people who have access to a 3rd party product, for which we have a global unlimited seats license. Our collective instruction was to check our details in the workbook, add some new data in a new column, and then email the attachment back. I really hope that person wasn't going to collate 900 Excel workbooks but I suspect they were.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Massively baffling

      I know the feeling.

      It feels like an ecosystem without a cohesive overview.

      Teams would be great for PMO stuff, but of course you have to have a group, want to create a planner, well lets create a group. I mean planner would be fantastic if you could just create it without it causing email chaos.

      What do you recommend for tracking tasks? well lets see we have planner,to do, sharepoint lists, new microsoft lists, its all bit of a mess. Fuck it go back to excel.

      All yeah super cool, but I'd rather see some effort made into choosing a few and refining them to be absolute killer appications.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Low code"

    Ffs. Go away.

  4. jake Silver badge

    I knew everything I needed to know ...

    ... about Microsoft's abilities a couple decades ago.

    "No Code" covers it quite nicely, and it was ever so easy to implement.

  5. td

    I think the choice of names is interesting. I wonder if they've doen a deal with the people who wrote Dataflex back in the 80s? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DataFlex

    1. Eek

      Nope, MS are currently being sued for their use of the name.

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