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Is PowerApps robust enough/meant for building a workflow app?

I'm relatively new to PowerApps and my company has tasked me with creating a workflow app for an in-house design process. So far going through tutorials and building out my concept has been pretty good, but I'm starting to feel like PowerApps is really great for smaller and shallower purposes than what I'm after, but lacks the ability to act as anything too much more.



The part that has me stuck is building out the edit form for a project - the data is all housed in SQL Server and broken out into various tables, connected to the main Project table via foreign keys. I want to build a form to edit a project, but have the fields in the form that are foreign keys (ClientID, AssigneeID, ResourceID) actually show the value from another table (so instead of showing ClientID:1 it would show Client:John). It also needs to be a dropdown, so the user can select a different existing client from the Client table, and the Project table will get updated with the proper ID.


Is this possible in PowerApps, or am I stretching it past its limits?


Accepted Solutions
Community Champion
Community Champion

You can do this.

In the form, change the items property of the dropdowns to point to your tables, you can then display the name and store the ID - this may help you get started:

PowerApps: LookUps and Dropdowns with Normalized data and surrogate keys

Also consider using Views so you can perform your joins and get your data into a display format on the SQL Server and Patch to create/update records as this gives you a bit more control.


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Community Champion
Community Champion

You can do this.

In the form, change the items property of the dropdowns to point to your tables, you can then display the name and store the ID - this may help you get started:

PowerApps: LookUps and Dropdowns with Normalized data and surrogate keys

Also consider using Views so you can perform your joins and get your data into a display format on the SQL Server and Patch to create/update records as this gives you a bit more control.


Community Champion
Community Champion



It sounds like you are doing exactly what I have done over the last several months.  I have written a complete engineering change control process that also controls drawing releasing, change requests, change workflow, notifications, and various data views.  It includes signoffs from many levels as well.  My apps are compiling data between Solidworks PDM, sharepoint, Acctivate (a purchasing application), and a .net application.  Mostly through SQL tables like you mention.


Powerapps is certainly capable.  It is powerful, and a strange combination of simplistic, and cryptic.  You will find out more about that as you get into it deeper.


Robust is the more concerning part to me.  PA has given me the ability to do some very powerful and complex tasks.  My issue is that sometimes PA runtime is updated, things change, and sometimes you have to go back into your app to fix what broke.  Or, MS regional servers have some glitch that take your app out of service, or it is partially crippled which can affect your data not being completely updated as you might expect which may result in some time consuming manual repair of data.  Contengency planning is important if you plan to use this for any production work.  That is what caught me by surprise.


My advice?  Move forward slowly.  Validate what you have, then expand your app after you know its solid from a coding perspective.  


Good luck!

Resident Rockstar
Resident Rockstar



PowerApps can surely do what you want and working with SQL Server is very nice in my opinion. For your lookup tables, you can easily create views and pull those into PowerApps. 


As any solution and code language you will have to learn how it works and will have a learning curve to go through. But recently there came a lot of community member who created great video's and content to help you learn the basics and more. But to be honest, if you have a lot experience with C#, maybe WebApps are the way to go for you, but else PowerApps is a good solutions to transform your idea's to a solutions (and getting better by the week)  


I have build a lot of apps lately mostly on SQL Servers, but I basically don't ever connect PowerApps directly to my SQL server. I always use MS Flow (as interface) and SQL Stored Procedures to connect PowerApps. I find this working very fast and robust. I also made some video's on how to use this technic, because I encountered some issues in my learning curve, so If you like you can check them out here: MS PowerApps | SQL Server & Flow


Hope this helps,



I'm creating a very complex workflow app for a lawyer.  The process involves dozens of documents, approvals, execution, uploading etc.  I track progress on 200+ steps but in general a specific process involves 130-145 steps.  It involves 2-3 parties.  Different parties can author documents.  All tasks are assigned by email.  Party replies done when task is completed and next task(s) are assigned.  I have to comprehend business days and bank holidays. I have to track 16 dates  It needs to comprehend legal requirements.  There are usually about 15 concurrent processes running at a given time.  PowerApps along with Azure functions make it possible.  I can't say enough good things about Azure functions.  I'm using Azure SQL DB.


Do you have any insight on the performance differences between an Azure DB, and SQL on a local server, accessed via a On Prem gateway? 

Community Champion
Community Champion

Just to pick up on @martinav's point about robustness... This is definitely an issue. The platform is somewhat immature and there are plenty of bugs. Each release seems to fix slightly more bugs than it creates, but it can be a close run thing sometimes!

I've just had a client call because their App has started resetting a gallery selection as they navigate away from that screen (issue does not occur in Studio, only in the Player) which has resulted in incorrect data being stored (elsewhere in the App, the selected value in the gallery is saved to a record).

The fix (save the selected value to a variable before moving away from the screen and reference the variable rather than the gallery) is quick and easy, but in earlier testing it appeared to be fine and the issue has only come to light after some 'bad data' has got into the system.

You can do some incredible things with PowerApps, but I don't think it is stable enough yet to trust for critical systems.

Thank you Paul, this is exactly what I was looking for!


I really appreciate everyone's kind and thorough responses, you guys have been a massive help. I will definitely keep the stability and immaturity of the platform in mind, this is for a pretty small purpose at the moment but we haver big plans for it if things go well - hopefully PowerApps can scale up at the speed we do!

Impactful Individual
Impactful Individual

Performance is dictated by ping time.  For me the on-premise gateway slows things down.  I recommend using the gatway for initial development.  I find using the SQL Profiler very informative for discovering performance and other issues.

Helpful resources


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