Microsoft Power Platform: Building a Retail Database; The Future of Low-Code

Clift, Tyler, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

A global off-price retailer with over 4500 stores worldwide found its store information database was inconsistent, convoluted, and inefficient. They tasked a team of interns with building a solution that would be more efficient, less susceptible to errors, and easy for non-technical users to maintain. The team utilized the low-code Microsoft Power Platform to build an intuitive database system in which the more technical components were abstracted. The system allowed users to edit data in several familiar ways, including through the use of Microsoft Forms and Excel spreadsheets. The solution was presented to its potential users, who found it both easy to use and significantly less time-consuming than the system they had been using. The database structure could be extended to include product inventory to provide more value to the company. The next phase of the project would be to develop an automation to create input-validated forms for external vendors to fill out as they make changes that need to be updated in the database.

Many low-code platforms like Power Platform have been on the rise in recent years. These platforms empower people with little coding knowledge to build software solutions. However, low-code can put skilled coders in a tricky spot because much of the value that they bring to the company can also be accomplished by citizen developers using low-code platforms. This brings into question whether companies will continue to hire software engineers for their unique skillset, or if they would just use low-code internally to make solutions at a lower cost. I intend to look at prior literature in the form of quantitative data, interviews with executives, and low-code case studies to investigate the impact of low-code on future labor markets. I will analyze this literature through the framework of anticipation. I will explore and anticipate several possibilities for a low-code future, each of which is motivated by prior literature. Another useful framework is that of Techno-Politics as proposed by Langdon Winner. I will determine the politics associated with low-code and whether its implementation will have unintended implications on the labor markets. I expect to find that low-code has the potential to fundamentally change the role of software engineers in most companies. However, I do not think there will be a significant decrease in demand for software engineers. When considered in concert, I expect that Power Platform will continue to grow and low-code as a whole will begin to change the role of software engineers in future labor markets.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
low-code, anticipation, techno-politics

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Rider Foley

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