When you’re building Power Apps within a Microsoft Teams based Dataverse environment, the most common target group of app users is obviously people who belong to that team. This is very logical when the purpose of the app is to collaborate as a team on something that might have otherwise been an Excel sheet shared with all team members.
The simplified table security model of Dataverse for Teams with Owner/Member/Guest (“OMG”) levels instead of custom security roles makes things easy to manage when everyone is equal. But what about when you’d need to have more granularity on who gets to do what? What if in addition to the owners (app admins) and members (managers) you also need a level further down this hierarchy: the “normal” users?
Colleagues with access
This is where the concept of a “broad distribution app” comes in handy. It allows you to grant access to the app for users who are not part of the team that’s hosting the Dataverse for Teams environment. Here’s how the Docs on Dataverse for Teams table permissions describe this:
“With Power Apps for Teams, you can share an app with Azure AD security group whose members need not be part of the Teams team where the app was built. This enables you to add users to the application without having to add them to the specific team, and opens up “Broad Distribution” scenarios. For example, you may want to build an app that is enabled for every accountant in the organization, or even every employee in that organization.”
The ability to share an app with one Azure AD security group makes Dataverse for Teams quite an attractive platform for low-code apps that have a high number of potential users. Not many organizations have yet committed to covering all their employees with a Power Apps Per User license that unlocks premium features like Dataverse. Since every user who’s licensed for Teams via Office 365 / Microsoft 365 is allowed to use apps running on Dataverse for Teams, this option significantly lowers the barrier to start building apps on top of a true relational database designed for business applications – as opposed to running your complex processes on top of several SharePoint / Microsoft Lists.
Sharing with colleagues in practice
Let’s say you’ve built an app within a Dataverse for Teams environment and are ready to publish it to the whole organization. In this demo scenario we are using the Bulletins sample app for Teams. We’ve created an Azure AD security group called “Access All Apps”. The first thing we need to do is go an add the necessary access rights to each table used by the app. For example, when it comes to the Bulletin table, users should be able to read all records but not create/modify/delete them, so we grant the “Reference” level to this group:
You’ll need to do a lot of clicking for an app like Bulletins that has 11 tables, so be sure you’re selecting the “colleagues with access” section before assigning the permission level on each page.
Next, let’s share the Power Apps canvas app itself with this group. Again, you’ll need to be careful with where to click in the navigation maze that is the Power Apps for Teams app. Go to the Apps list of the Dataverse for Teams environment but don’t select the app. Otherwise you won’t see the “share with colleagues” toolbar button.
In the modal dialog window, choose which apps from this Dataverse for Teams environment you wish to make accessible with the chosen security group. This is where you’ll notice that while you could have tens of different apps within on environment, there’s no ability to choose which Azure AD security group gets to see which apps – since there can only be one.
Adding apps to Teams channels
If we were to now go to our target team and add a new Power Apps tab to the channel, we would not find our Bulletins app there. Nope, not even under that “sample apps” filter, since that actually shows a list of Power Apps sample apps like Asset Checkout that are part of all Power Apps environments. Dataverse for Teams sample apps like Bulletins are a completely separate thing, of course.
The logic is different when it comes to Power Apps that have been built within Dataverse for Teams. You need to go back to the Power Apps for Teams app, i.e. the Maker experience. Click on the Build tab, choose your environment, find your app, select it for real this time, then choose “Add to Teams”.
You don’t get to choose a team or a channel, though. That’s because this process actually publishes your app into the Teams app store. It will become available under the “Built with Power Platform” section:
OK, fair enough. It’s an app built within Teams, so it makes sense to use the same distribution mechanism as apps developed with custom code. The other Power Apps in your tenant are “external content” that you can freely pin to channel tabs. Dataverse for Teams apps are same but different.
Blocked by Teams permissions
This is actually the reason why I started writing this blog post in the first place. Ever since the broad distribution apps were announced in January 2021, adding them to a team from the app store worked without any additional hoops to jump through. Recently that has changed in a way that is not yet reflected in any MS documentation.
In a new tenant with the default settings for Microsoft Teams, you may be blocked from installing the Dataverse for Teams based apps after doing the “Add to Teams” dance. Instead the app store may present you with the following error message:
Permissions needed. Ask your IT admin to add [app name] to this team/chat/meeting.
You will get this message even if you are the Global Administrator of the tenant, so it’s not about the user permissions. It is rather the Teams policies that are blocking the deployment of Power Apps created within Teams.
To solve this issue, you’ll need to contact the Teams administrator of your tenant and ask them to verify that the following setting is turned on:
Teams apps – Setup policies – Global (Org-wide default) – Upload custom apps – On
After this change, you’ll be able to open the Bulletins app in the Teams app store, select “add to team” and create a channel tab in any team that you are a member of.
I can tell for a fact that the requirement for the “upload custom apps” policy didn’t always used to be required (or it was enabled by default). In one of our demo tenants I had previously used the “share with colleagues” feature to add Dataverse for Teams apps outside the hosting team. The existing tabs worked just fine, but adding new apps became blocked until the apps policy in the Microsoft Teams Admin Center was modified.
It’s a bit unfortunate if this will indeed become a permanent requirement for IT admins to grant the permission for “upload custom apps”, just to share the Dataverse for Teams app into a different team. Compared to normal Power Apps, there are a number of quirks like this that the app makers need to be aware of. Be sure to also check out my earlier blog post where I explore what it’s like to work with solutions in Dataverse for Teams.
Update 2022-06-17: In case you’re wondering how the general approval process would actually work for Teams store apps where the approval request prompt is shown, check out this great blog post from Tony Redmond: “Users Can Request Access to Teams Store Apps”.