Microsoft Developer: How to Build and Deploy Business Applications With Microsoft 365

Microsoft Developer: How to Build and Deploy Business Applications With Microsoft 365

October 26, 2022

Microsoft 365 is an end-to-end productivity solution for enterprise organizations of all types. But did you know that it’s also a highly versatile development platform that you can use to build a variety of apps and integrations for your organization?

Whether you’re looking to code your application from scratch or use building blocks to create no-code and low-code applications, Microsoft 365 has all the tools needed to enable you on your development journey. From add-ons and integrations for Microsoft services, to custom web and mobile applications — you can build anything you need to empower your business!

With more than 250 million users taking advantage of the platform in 2022, Microsoft 365 is the perfect solution for building and deploying business applications at scale. Microsoft collects and stores vast amounts of data on each and every user on its platform — all of which is available for you to interact with via your applications.

But how exactly do you go about building apps on Microsoft 365? This article will provide an overview of the tools and platforms available for development teams and give you all the information you need to start developing your own apps.

Graph API: An Introduction to App Development in Microsoft 365

Simply put, Microsoft Graph is the API for Microsoft 365. It enables you to securely connect to your personal and organizational data in Microsoft, letting you build applications that leverage said data to build powerful experiences.

Now let’s take a look at the long version. Do you dream of a world where you could switch seamlessly between devices — from your Windows desktop to your iPad to your smartphone running Android — without having to miss a beat? Microsoft Graph is a single endpoint that provides access to all your Microsoft 365 data, making such experiences possible at work.

If you’re building apps with Microsoft as your development platform, you want your applications to be able to access the data you have stored in Microsoft 365. Graph API is the technology that makes it happen. To that end, here’s a list of services that you can connect to using Graph API:

  • Office 365 Applications
  • Windows 10
  • Enterprise Mobility and Security
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central

To start using Microsoft Graph, all you have to do is register your app and get the appropriate authentication tokens for a user or service. Then, you can start making data requests to Microsoft straight from your application.

As you may have guessed, Graph API is the basis of all app development in Microsoft 365. There are different types of applications you can build with Microsoft, from service integrations to standalone applications. You can also leverage a variety of different Microsoft services to build those applications. But they all have their roots in Microsoft Graph.

What Kind of Apps Can You Build With Microsoft?

You’re familiar with the core concept of app development in Microsoft 365. But what kind of apps can you actually build with Microsoft? M365 allows you to build a host of different applications using Graph API, from standalone apps like bots and websites to integrations that work with existing services.

  • Custom Apps: There are a number of standalone application types that you can build with Microsoft 365. These include web apps, desktop apps, device-native apps, automated workflows, and scheduled processes. You can run these applications on any device or platform you want, be it Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android.

    Your standalone app remains connected to the Microsoft ecosystem, allowing you to pull user data from there and integrate it seamlessly with your application. This works by letting your users sign in to your app using their Microsoft account.
  • Microsoft Extensions: Extensions are addons or integrations that allow Microsoft applications to do more than they were originally meant to. A great example of this would be an addon for Microsoft Teams that allows healthcare professionals to have Health Team Huddles. Huddles enable healthcare professionals to collaborate on patient care online with improved data security.

Options for App Development in Microsoft 365

There are multiple developmental tools available in Microsoft 365 for building apps at various experience levels. These range from packaged applications that you can pick off AppSource to no-code and low-code workflows with PowerApps and Flow all the way to programming from scratch with Microsoft Graph. 

  • Packaged Applications: Microsoft AppSource is a vast marketplace of third-party addons and integrations for Microsoft services available for industry-specific and business-focused use cases. It’s the de-facto app store for businesses running on Microsoft 365, where they can pick and choose from a collection of services and integrations that they want to enable within their business ecosystem.

    You might be thinking that procuring addons from an app store isn’t app development. However, the collection of industry-specific tools available on this platform is so diverse, you may be able to achieve the functionality you’re looking for without having to develop custom apps at all. From calendar bots to ecommerce solutions, there’s something for everyone in Microsoft AppSource.
  • Microsoft PowerApps: For developers interested in building no-code and low-code applications with Microsoft, there are two major platforms available.

    Microsoft PowerApps is a low-code/no-code development platform that lets you build and deploy mobile and web applications from within Microsoft 365. The drag-and-drop interface editor and pre-built app templates make it easy for non-developers to build complex applications with ease, but there’s plenty of extensibility here that even professional developers will love.

    According to Forrester Consulting, PowerApps reduces development costs across your organization by about 74%, offering an ROI of up to 188% in just 3 years. Combined with the rest of the Power Platform, it lets you build applications, automate workflows, and support your organization with sophisticated business intelligence all in one place.
  • Custom Development: Of course, there will always be some advanced use cases that cannot be satisfied through AppSource or PowerApps. If you’re a professional developer working on a very complex application, you can always resort to custom development with Microsoft Graph.

    At its core, Microsoft Graph enables developers to securely connect to Microsoft 365 services and data, in order to deliver them through custom applications. It provides rich context, deep insight, and real-time updates that you can call and utilize through your own applications.

    This data can range from something as simple as telling if someone’s out of the office to real-time updates that notify a file owner whenever it’s modified. With Graph, you can seamlessly integrate all this data within your own applications and utilize them however you want.

Microsoft 365 Developer Program: Creating Sandbox Environments for App Development

When you’re constantly building and deploying applications for enterprise use, you need a proper system in place to ensure that your developmental testing doesn’t interfere with the live experience of your organization on Microsoft 365. The last thing you want is to have your development process disrupting the user experience, causing downtime, or introducing new vulnerabilities in the system.

Microsoft 365 Developer Program is a sandbox environment that allows you to set up separate tenants within Microsoft 365 specifically for the purpose of developmental testing. Signing up for the Developer Program gives you access to 5 Microsoft E5 licenses that you can use to set up test tenants. This helps you ensure that any new applications you’re developing don’t interface with the delicate balance of your live ecosystem in Microsoft 365.

However, there’s a catch. Microsoft makes it very easy to set up isolated sandboxes for developmental testing, but it does not offer the necessary tools to ensure proper consistency between testing and production environments. That means your test tenants are often functionally different from your production tenants due to differences in configuration, leading to all sorts of confusion and complications in the testing process.

Creating A Consistent Development Sandbox for App Testing With Simeon

Simeon Cloud is an end-to-end configuration management solution for Microsoft 365. It provides everything you need to set up and maintain multiple tenants across your organization, be it for testing or production purposes. 

One of the key features offered by Simeon is called tenant cloning. It enables administrators to copy your configuration settings from one tenant to another to ensure consistency throughout your organization’s ecosystem. Simeon also allows administrators to promote changes between tenants with advanced review and approval workflows.

When used in combination with the Microsoft 365 Developer Program, Simeon enables developers to compare and align non-production environments with production to ensure proper consistency throughout the development cycle. 

But that’s not everything. Simeon Cloud comes with a host of management solutions to help you improve your organization's security and compliance status while managing multiple tenants within your organization. You can even back up your tenant configurations and restore them with a single click in the event of downtime within your cloud ecosystem.

Want to find out more about how Simeon can empower you as a developer or administrator in Microsoft 365? Why not sign up for a free demo?