4 Microapps used to Streamline Operations | Dreamfactory

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Image of an iPhone using microapps

Microapps are modular pieces of software that perform a specific action – as opposed to a larger monolithic application that incorporates many features. Although they run independently like any app or website, microapps are small, simple, autonomous, and they allow you to perform a single task without necessarily leaving the environment you’re currently using. Since they’re modular, connecting a microapp to an existing application is an easy way to extend and simplify its functionality. 

In this post, we'll cover:

As for microapp examples and how enterprises are using them to streamline their operations, we’ve detailed four examples below. But first, let’s review a more granular definition of this technology.

Defining Microapps

To give you the clearest definition of microapp technology, we’ll refer to Mitchell Ashley’s visionary definition of the concept in 2009: 

For some time I've believed in what I refer to as the "micro app" strategy for mobile platforms. ("Micro" as in small app, not micro as in micro computer.) I say micro app rather than mobile for a very good reason. It's not just about creating a mobile app that's a squashed down version of a larger PC app, website or online service. The Micro app concept is about two key principles: 1) narrow, targeted, get in and out, capabilities combined into a mobile app, and 2) performing tasks, whether personal or professional, at the very moment when you think of it or need to perform the task.

When Ashley described the “Dawn of the Micro App” in 2009, he hit the nail on the head. Eleven years later, most of us are using microapps throughout the day on mobile devices and the internet – and now, in 2020, enterprises are more eager than ever to streamline tasks by incorporating microapps into their operational infrastructures.

Here’s how Citrix describes the microapps:

Microapps are small, task-specific applications that deliver highly targeted functionality. These apps allow users to accomplish single-purpose activities in a simple and quick manner. Microapps deliver actionable forms and notifications. Microapps can write back to source systems.

Now let’s move on to some examples of how enterprises are using these tiny applications to streamline their operations.

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Microapps Example #1: Expense Approval Interactive Pop-Up 

Expense approvals are a well-known operational bottleneck. Employees may have to wait days, weeks, or more to get an important expense approved – just because a manager hasn’t had a chance to open an application, review the information, and submit a decision. It could be a simple matter that takes two minutes to review, but everyone is needlessly waiting because it’s such a hassle for the manager to log into the expense approval system.

Microapps solve this by pushing an interactive notification directly to the manager. The manager receives a pop-up on all devices. Then it’s a simple matter of quickly reviewing the details and approving/denying the request. All of this focused functionality happens within the interactive push notification itself.

An example of this functionality is SAP Concur. Concur is a mobile app tool that enterprise employees use to submit, and get manager approval of expense requests. The system uses interactive microapp notifications to streamline the entire expense approval process.

If expense approval delays are a problem, enterprises can conceivably program the microapp notification with a level of priority, so the manager must address the request immediately.

Incidentally, these “interactive push notifications” aren’t that different from what you get when you receive a text message on your phone. The notification displays a couple of options like “Mark as Read,” “Reply” – and it even a field to respond inline without needing to exit what you’re doing, and without needing to enter the messaging app itself. A lot of enterprise microapps are just as simple as that.

Here’s a screenshot of the Sap Concur app:

(Image Source)

Microapp Example #2: E-Learning Reminder Interactive Pop-Up (Hypothetical Example)

E-learning is essential to keeping enterprise team members on the same page with new developments.  Most organizations assign e-learning sessions to employees so they can learn about technology, legal standards, data security compliance, and more. 

The problem is, team members have to schedule a time in their busy schedules to complete the e-learning session. Unfortunately, this is an additional action that employees often forget – and then the e-learning window expires. Not only is this a waste of money, but it’s a wasted learning opportunity.

A simple microapp could solve this problem. Employees with expiring e-learning opportunities would receive an interactive microapp pop-up on their devices. The pop-up would say something like this:

“Your e-learning course is expiring. Would you like to schedule a time on your calendar for this?” 

Then it would provide three options:

  1. Automatically Schedule an Open Time on My Calendar.
  2. Let Me Choose a Time on My Calendar
  3. No. I don’t want to complete this e-learning course.

This microapp solution would give team members the chance to auto-schedule important e-learning sessions. Just like the expense approval microapp, managers could assign a priority level to the notification, make the e-learning session mandatory, and require action by the employee.

Microapp Example #3: Push-Button Check-In/Check-Out for High-Security Access Control

As archaic as this sounds, some enterprises still rely on Excel-based access control for facilities that require the highest levels of security. However, with a simple microapp solution, organizations can bypass Excel with a more secure, reliable, and convenient solution.

A global chemical manufacturer recently implemented DreamFactory’s microapp generation framework for this exact use case. The manufacturer was using an antiquated, Excel-based access control strategy to manage check-ins/check-outs for its Network Operations Centers (NOCs). Network engineers had to manually sign in and out of the NOC an Excel spreadsheet each time they entered and exited the supposedly high-security NOC facilities. The Excel file was maintained on a network drive. 

This access control strategy was problematic: 

  • Engineers had to physically open their computers and manually check-in and out every time they entered and left the facility. 
  • Personnel forgot to check-in and out of the spreadsheet, which not only created a security risk but also led to inaccurate information.
  • Reporting wasn’t straightforward because NOC managers didn’t always have the requisite Excel skills to pull reports from the spreadsheet.

DreamFactory’s microapp generation framework allowed the manufacturer to quickly migrate its NOC check-in/check-out process to a simple, smartphone-based microapp. The microapp authenticates and grants access to NOC personnel through Active Directory – signing them in and out of the NOC with a push of a button. Finally, a Microsoft SQL Server database maintains the check-in data, and managers can view reports on the latest data through an interactive dashboard tool. This microapp was so successful that the manufacturer is currently developing a suite of microapps for other areas of their business. 

Microapp Example #4: Displaying Database Data as an Interactive Web Table

Sharing exported database reports as Excel spreadsheets is tiresome and inefficient. Most enterprises need a solution to bypass Excel and give team members direct access to database data. However, querying, filtering, and searching a database requires SQL knowledge and other coding experience that most team members simply don’t have.

One way to solve this problem is to develop a microapp that makes the database data available on the web as an interactive “web table.” Building a web table like this is easy when you combine the DreamFactory iPaaS and software like Tabulator

Here’s a screenshot of a demo web table from DreamFactory that displays information from a database of employee information:

This simple microapp gives non-tech-savvy team members a clickable, no-code interface to safely query data and present it through a paginated, filterable, searchable, interactive web interface. Best of all, the DreamFactory team developed it fast, using fewer than 30 lines of code. 

Play with DreamFactory’s demo web table here. It’s fun! 

DreamFactory: Rapid, Cost-Effective Microapp Integration

These were just a few examples of how businesses are using microapps to transform user experiences and facilitate faster, more targeted app development. If you want to experience the benefits of microapp development for yourself – quickly and without massive development costs – the DreamFactory iPaaS can help you achieve rapid, cost-effective microapp integration and deployment. 

The secret to the DreamFactory’s speed lies in its automatic API generation tools. Dreamfactory transforms the job of API creation into a visual, point-and-click process that allows you to create and expose APIs for any platform – and connect microapps to any platform – in minutes.

Do you want to instantly integrate microapps for security, authentication, email, mobile, caching, file storage, IoT and more? Try DreamFactory. It’s Free!

Before making your own MicroApp with DreamFactory, read our things you need to know about microapps article.