Tag Archives: PowerApps

Improving Communication Across a Multi Academy Trust with Microsoft 365 at PolyMAT

In this podcast episode on Microsoft 365 user adoption, we speak with Mark Guest, Director of Innovation at PolyMAT, a multi academy trust in Thamesmead and the surrounding areas.

Mark discusses how the trust uses SharePoint to improve communication across the schools and created dashboards with Microsoft Power Apps to save teacher time.

PolyMAT is a UK-based MAT made up of Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys, one of the country’s largest boys’ secondary schools and its sister school Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls.

Watch the full podcast episode here:



“My job as Director of Innovation has so many facets to it. I focus on how we can make the most of data, systems and technology in our schools to become more efficient and ensure we’re getting value for money,” Mark tells us.

PolyMAT has been working with Cloud Design Box since 2020, and they have created staff collaboration sites in SharePoint for each of the schools, plus the main one for the trust as a whole.

“Each page follows a consistent layout and includes relevant news, a calendar, announcements, Quick Links to things like policies, a class cover manager and information about room changes that are all pulled from SIMS,” Mark explains.

“We’ve also got an area where staff can ask questions and share feedback directly to the trust leadership team.”

The three calendars – one for the boys’ school, the girls’ school and trust are synced using Power Automate so that they always contain the correct, up-to-date information.

Staff can easily send out a quick announcement by filling out a form and selecting a target audience – this allows them to publish the information onto SharePoint and have the option to send an email to the right people.

“We’ve created a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) app that teachers can download to their phones. They’ll receive push notifications if a student is removed from a lesson or SLT is required.”

PolyMAT is also taking advantage of the endless possibilities of Power BI dashboards.

“Our various dashboards can be embedded into SharePoint and save teachers loads of time when they need to access information about their students quickly,” he shows us.

“An example is our Tutor Reports – they show things like attendance and punctuality, as well as the number of students who are off due to self-isolation and therefore need work to be provided while they’re learning from home.”

A specific example of the technology reducing admin time for teachers is gathering information about a particular student:

“A Head of Year may need to know who teachers an individual student. This job would typically take around 10-15 minutes to complete. Now, they simply bring up a student profile and can get the information in a couple of minutes.”

PolyMAT is committed to training and continuous development, always seeking feedback and helping teachers use the tools to save time and get back to teaching.

“Regular training is available, and we’ve got a long term plan to increase efficiency even further. For example, bring all our Power Apps into one place and relocating our resources in centralised document libraries that will get shared across the schools and trust,” he adds.

“As the trust grows and more schools join, we need to make sure that they have the same setup. During the pandemic, we’ve had a massive increase in using Teams and Microsoft 365, but if we don’t have structures in place and a long-term strategy, we won’t be able to sustain that level of usage. So we’re working with Cloud Design Box on a five-year plan to make sure we make the most out of this technology.”

If you would like to learn more about how we can help your school or trust, please contact a member of our team today.

How to create a custom theme in PowerApps (workaround)

PowerApps is a great tool at building complex business applications using logic and no code. Microsoft provide several themes out-of-the-box to give your app a consistent look and feel. There is no option to create a custom theme (please release this functionality Microsoft)!

PowerApps Themes

As a workaround, we can use some logic to have a single place to update the colours, fonts, etc. However, please note that there are some steps to set this up and its time consuming but once you have done this, it’s much easier to play around with the theme rather than editing every element individually.

To make our theme easy to update, we are going to create a new screen which will be used for defining our design. Create a new screen called “Theme”.

PowerApps Themes

PowerApps Themes

On this new screen, we are going to add the elements that we want to style. We only need one instance of font-size, primary colour and secondary colour.

To start with, I’m going to add a button on the theme screen. I’m going to give the button my own custom colour as a background colour.

PowerApps Themes

In my theme, I’m going to rename my button to “ThemedButton” to make it easier to reference.

PowerApps Themes

In every other screen in our app (and every new screen we make), we are going to set the properties of the objects to reference our theme screen element colours, sizes, etc.

In my Edit Screen, I’m going to select the “RectQuickActionBar” and select the “Fill” option. Rather than add a colour here in the formula bar, I’m going to reference our primary colour (used in the button on the theme screen). To do this, we enter:

Fill=ThemedButton.Fill

PowerApps Themes

You can use this method to reference font size (ThemedButton.Size), font colour (ThemedButton.Color), etc.

Once you have setup all the properties, you can now change your styles in a single place by editing your theme screen.

It’s a very long-winded way to create a custom theme but might save you a lot of time changing colours when your manager asks for a different shade of blue across the whole app! I’m pretty sure custom themes will be on the Microsoft PowerApps roadmap soon, so you won’t have this problem!

If you need help with PowerApps, SharePoint or anything else Office 365 related, you can contact us at Cloud Design Box.

SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017

The 2017 SharePoint virtual summit took place last week. The previous year had seen a brave new bold redesign of SharePoint into a modern experience. This year we had exciting new announcements building on last year’s vision.

New OneDrive and SharePoint Sync Client

The new version of OneDrive sync client will map out the entire contents of SharePoint and OneDrive libraries without syncing them across. Documents will only be synced when requested on-demand or when a document is opened and edited.

OneDrive Files On Demand

This is great news and solves two problems faced by OneDrive users:

  • Large OneDrive/SharePoint libraries consumed large amounts of local storage syncing across
  • Possibility of errors when large numbers of files synced at once

A new unified sharing interface will be rolled out across OneDrive and SharePoint for a simpler experience. This feature will also be available in windows explorer.

SharePoint Virtual Summit

Communication portals

SharePoint released a new experience team site last year. It has now matured with developers creating third party web parts using the SharePoint Framework. Microsoft have now released a new type of site called a communication portal. This site replaces the older publishing sites used for company intranets. Although the new site is responsive out-of-the-box, we can now apply custom branding and functionality extending this into a true intranet experience.

SharePoint Communication Portal

Integration with Flow and PowerApps

These two new Office 365 apps are gaining momentum as modern replacements for SharePoint Designer Workflows and InfoPath Forms Designer.

Microsoft Flow creates workflows that can integrate with almost any product including Google Calendar, Twitter, Slack and a whole host of other services. Flow will have tighter integration with SharePoint and Flows can be created directly from list views.

PowerApps empowers users to create useful mobile friendly apps with no code for SharePoint and OneDrive. This has now been extended to integrate directly into a SharePoint page. PowerApps can now act as the custom form for SharePoint list data. This was a task previously done using InfoPath Designer or custom code.

SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

There was also news of a more powerful personalised search and much more. You can read the Microsoft review from Jeff Teper here.

So, it’s another exciting year ahead for the SharePoint and Office community!