Sérgio Viana

samv

Partner and DX & UX Lead - Xpand IT

Simplify your business processes: Dataverse integration with Power Apps

5 SECONDS SUMMARY:
  • Power Apps modules and the Dataverse are two tools that stand out for allowing the creation of customised solutions and managing business data in one place;
  • These tools improve the efficiency and productivity of companies; discover how to benefit from the Dataverse integration with Power Apps.

With the exponential growth of data, companies are increasingly focused on finding solutions capable of transforming and managing them in order to extract valuable insights. According to IDC, by 2025, the volume of data will reach 175 zettabytes. Forbes predicts that 150 billion gigabytes of real-time data will require analysis by 2025.

It is undeniable that data collection and analysis are fundamental parts of businesses and companies. Through this analysis, organisations can identify growth opportunities, detect problems and failures in internal processes, improve operational efficiency, and reduce costs. In this context, Microsoft’s Power Platform has emerged as a tool capable of creating custom solutions and workflows easily and quickly.

Within Power Platform, Power Apps and Dataverse modules are two tools that allow customised solutions to be created and business data to be managed in a single place, facilitating, for example, process automation, collaboration among team members, and access to insights and different real-time analyses. These tools can also be integrated with other Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365, to create comprehensive solutions that meet each organisation’s specific needs.

Dataverse integration with Power Apps

As previously discussed in other articles, Power Apps is a low-code solution that allows businesses to create personalised, agile, and intuitive applications, whose benefits are enhanced when integrated with connectors such as SharePoint, Power BI, Office 365 Outlook, and of course, Dataverse.

Dataverse, on the other hand, offers us the possibility of securely storing data in tables, is highly scalable, and can support large volumes of data and users simultaneously. In addition, these data can be used by all Microsoft Power Platform products, something that allows companies to improve collaboration and efficiency in their daily operations.

With Dataverse, we can quickly and easily create a data model. It allows us to work with relational, non-relational, image, file, or data lake data types. The storage type is optimised for the initially chosen data type. Thus, Dataverse can be easily moldable as requirements change.

Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, and Dynamics 365 Talent applications can also be powered by Dataverse. Thereby, it is possible to create applications using Power Apps for integrations with business data already used in Dynamics 365. Through Dataverse, it is also possible to manage forms and charts that can be reflected in both Dynamics and Power Apps applications.

Power Apps integration with Dataverse can help organisations create custom applications that aim to manage and share data in real time. Efficiency, productivity, and collaboration will undoubtedly be optimised.

For example, in an onboarding process, it is necessary to give internal visibility to all the tasks needed when someone is about to arrive or is a newcomer to an organisation. Through Power Apps, a custom application that lists all these tasks can be created, allowing the involved employees to mark them as in progress or completed as they are performed, giving everyone visibility into the process status. If necessary, various information viewing profiles can be created, depending on the new employee’s manager and/or department. How can this process be accelerated with Dataverse? Dataverse is the connector that allows storing and centralising all the information, such as the tasks that need to be performed, their completion status, and the information of the new employee.

When implementing an onboarding process using Power Apps and Dataverse, we have the opportunity to improve various elements, such as:

  • Providing internal visibility on the onboarding process for new employees;
  • Accessing centralised information, making it easier to access and update;
  • Ensuring that no tasks are forgotten and that all are completed;
  • Personalising the application to the reality of each organisation;
  • Accessing information in real-time;
  • Using the information stored in Dataverse to continuously improve the onboarding process by identifying areas that require greater attention.

Build customised and efficient solutions

Dataverse integration with Power Apps can be the ideal solution for companies that want to improve their efficiency and productivity. By integrating Dataverse, which offers a robust data storage and management platform, with Power Apps, which allows fully customised applications creation, companies can acquire integrated solutions that enable process automation, error reduction, and improved collaboration between teams. In addition, this integration also allows the creation of customised reports and dashboards, offering a more complete and real-time view of company data. These and other advantages can significantly contribute to increasing a company’s effectiveness and competitiveness.

With the help of an experienced partner like Xpand IT, companies can make the most of Microsoft technologies to drive growth and innovation. In 2022, we received the Microsoft Partner of the Year Award for the second consecutive year, following our recognition as Power Apps & Data Analytics Partner of the Year in 2020.

Contact us to schedule a conversation and outline an efficiency plan for your company.

Sérgio VianaSimplify your business processes: Dataverse integration with Power Apps
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Power Platform integration with GPT: is it possible?

5 SECONDS SUMMARY:
  • OpenAI developed ChatGPT, which is a language model capable of generating written responses and conversations quite similar to humans.
  • Its potential is limitless and can now be integrated with several Microsoft products. Discover how to be successful in a Power Platform integration with GPT.

Occasionally new technologies appear that amaze the world with the level of innovation they represent, and recently we have all been surprised by ChatGPT and everything it has proven to be able to do. ChatGPT was developed by OpenAI and is a language model capable of generating written responses and conversations very like those of humans. You’ve probably tested this chatbot or at least know someone who has already done so. According to SimilarWeb, ChatGPT has become the fastest-growing app in the world, with a record 100 million registered users in just two months since its launch – and a new version with even more capabilities was recently released.

ChatGPT has already established itself as a beneficial tool for modernising businesses. Its functionality can be enhanced by integrating it with a variety of applications and platforms, such as other chatbots, customer support platforms, and content creation tools, and it can also be integrated with Microsoft’s Power Platform.

Microsoft offers a variety of products and services that can be integrated with OpenAI, including Power Virtual Agents, Power Apps, Power BI and Power Automate, to improve the user experience and potentially have a business impact. These integrations allow the creation of smarter chatbots (capable of answering complex questions), the automation of repetitive tasks and a constant acceleration of business productivity. In this article, we will focus on how to succeed in a Power Platform integration with GPT -3 and GPT-35-turbo3 models. Learn more about the use cases in Power Apps, Power Virtual Agents and Power Automate and their main business benefits.

ChatGPT integrated with Power Apps

Power Apps is a low-code platform that allows companies to create customised business applications. When integrated with the GPT-3 model, it results in even more agile, fast, and intuitive development. How? For example, by integrating GPT-3 with Microsoft Power Fx, you can create applications using natural language without the need to write code. Thus, a developer or even a citizen-developer can describe the tasks or requirements of an application and use those descriptions to create formulas in Power Fx. This results in an increase in the productivity of work teams and an acceleration of development.

ChatGPT integrated with Power Automate

Power Automate is a platform that automates workflows, enabling their customisation and connection with different applications and services. The integration of Power Automate with GPT-3 automates repetitive tasks, freeing up your employees for higher-value tasks. For example, a company that sells products online might use GPT-3 to create product descriptions and connect GPT-3 APIs to automate this process. The brand can connect Power Automate to a Social Media sentiment analysis platform or even make a direct integration with a social network, such as LinkedIn and use the words most used by your audience as reference keywords in building descriptions for the product. This workflow can run automatically whenever a new product is added to the company catalogue, saving time and reducing the manual labour required to create product descriptions. In addition, GPT-3 integration can ensure that product descriptions are created consistently and accurately, improving the quality of your catalogue content.

ChatGPT integrated with Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents is a low-code platform for creating chatbots. Its integration with GPT-35-turbo3 can help businesses build smarter chatbots to respond to complex user requests. These types of integrations are an asset for different industries, such as insurance or banking. In Portugal, for example, the Ministry of Justice introduced the GPT-35-turbo3 to facilitate access to information by citizens. GPJ – Practical Guide to Justice, is a chatbot that currently answers questions about marriage and divorce, which will be extended to other areas identified as better researched in Justice, as in the example of nationality issues.

In each of these use cases, GPT models are used to enhance the capabilities of Power Platform products, providing smarter and more engaging user experiences for customers while increasing efficiency and reducing workloads for businesses. By leveraging the unique capabilities of GPT models, companies can create powerful, effective applications and workflows that will potentially allow them to save time and money.

Can these integrations help your business?

Azure, Microsoft’s cloud, is the trusted infrastructure that gives OpenAI the resources it needs for its success. Implementing projects that take advantage of Azure services is one of the specialities of Xpand IT, which has been named Microsoft Partner of the Year for the second consecutive year. We help our clients understand how they can apply different technologies to address their business challenges – and GPT models, as well as other AI technologies, are no exception. Contact us to schedule a conversation or, alternatively, fill in the Power Platform Assessment, which we have prepared for you.

Sérgio VianaPower Platform integration with GPT: is it possible?
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App modernisation with Azure: the journey to the cloud

5 SECOND SUMMARY:
  • An application factory model allows Cloud migration to be made in a structured way and brings enormous advantages;
  • In the financial sector, the architecture migration to Microsoft Azure can be done in four phases: Assessment; Planning and Preparation; Test phase;  Migration.

We live in a digital age where the Cloud is a constant presence, and the need for application modernisation is no longer a novelty. With technology constantly evolving and the growing need to ensure robustness, flexibility and security, among other concerns, business architecture should be composed of scalable solutions, customised and adapted to specific challenges. Therefore, it is essential that companies modernise their infrastructure and architecture so that they can continue to innovate the features they provide to their customers. In previous articles, we have already mentioned that the Cloud migration process does not need to be something complex – it is enough to be developed according to a concrete action strategy – and in this article, we give exactly that example.

The application factory model

An application factory model allows Cloud migration to be accomplished in a structured way, starting with defining an approach to what the basis of work will be and then defining the next steps for the migration of different applications – ensuring the right processes and the involvement of suitable teams while enhancing the autonomy of the team focused on application modernisation. It is an approach that allows, after an initial phase, acceleration of the migration of the various applications to the Cloud, thus contributing to the modernisation of the customer infrastructure and, consequently, increasing their capacity to respond to business challenges; for which technology can be a fundamental tool.

App modernisation in the Financial Services Industry

Over the last few years, Xpand IT has been working with companies in the financial sector, providing the modernisation of applications to support their businesses. These businesses were faced with a set of legacy applications hosted on private servers, which operated in a very outdated environment. Cloud migration was therefore required. Given the existing partnership with Microsoft, and as a result of total trust in Azure, our Cloud solutions are presented and run exclusively on this platform. Xpand IT offers concrete, actionable proposals for Azure migration based on a microservices application architecture style. Once the proposals have been accepted, the approach used to migrate Lusitania architecture to Azure is an application factory model divided into four phases:

1. Assessment – the study of the current infrastructure. This step is very important in defining the best Azure migration approach. Initially, an evaluation should be made of the architecture of the solutions, covering existing applications and deciding which applications should be prioritised.
2. Planning and preparation – Knowing your architecture and applications, it is time to define a roadmap and set up the framework for cloud migration. At this stage, alignment must be ensured between all teams. This period should only end when all stakeholders are fully aware of the role they will be playing during the migration process.
3. Test phase – Before starting an Azure migration, it is essential to perform tests to ensure the reliability of the approach and to cover any potential doubts brought up by some hypothetical scenarios. After aligning these different scenarios with the tested architecture, it is time to migrate applications.
4. Migration – Once the test phase has been completed and a concrete roadmap defined, the official migration process begins. At this stage, it is still likely you will identify some issues or necessary adjustments which should be considered. Once the migration has been completed, the architecture should be protected from external threats and performed properly. It should also have maintenance, backup and disaster recovery tasks implemented.

The cloud migration process is potentially a long project, depending on the set of applications to migrate, but operation using an application factory model becomes a customer asset. At this point, all stakeholders have a well-defined roadmap and all teams are aware of their responsibilities, mostly autonomous, which results in high productivity and speed for the customer. A migration application factory for Azure applies standards, which accelerate the work to be done and the final result. It has, in essence, teams, tools and processes that work together in unison to attain a single goal – to ensure that migration takes place in a simple, systematic, optimised way.

To ensure the success of an application factory assembly model, we have selected three key principles that should be considered when developing a modernisation strategy:

1. Ensure clear stages and a collaborative environment for the working teams.;
2. All phases shall be worked on with the purpose of transforming the company infrastructure into a scalable, secure, efficient architecture capable of providing rich, personalised experiences;
3. Finally, align the development process with practical business needs.

Does your business need to move towards the Cloud?

Each application modernisation journey for Microsoft Azure is unique, and while there are recommended strategies, it is essential that your business architecture is analysed by a partner company and expert in application modernisation with Azure. Xpand IT is, for the second consecutive year, the Microsoft ‘Partner of the Year Portugal‘. At Xpand IT, we help our customers grow and become competitive by leveraging the latest Microsoft Azure best practices and services.

Still got some questions?

We would love to hear from you. Fill out the form, and let us know how can we help.

Sérgio VianaApp modernisation with Azure: the journey to the cloud
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The user benefits of digital ecosystems in the financial sector

5 SECOND-SUMMARY:
  • Discover the importance of technology in the future of the financial industry;
  • See the case of Revolut as a pioneer in this area.

Digital ecosystems in the financial sector are created through partnerships that take advantage of technology to create new value propositions and innovative experiences for consumers. They are not a recent topic, but they are the present and future of the financial sector. There are several benefits for the user, but what challenges do digital ecosystems bring to the financial industry?

The importance of technology for digital ecosystems in the financial sector

Technology plays an increasingly strong role in many industries, and the financial sector is no exception. Digital ecosystems bring their own challenges, and this was one of the themes addressed during Building the Future, Portugal’s leading digital transformation event. The number of interbank systems has doubled in recent years after booming on the back of the emergence of the cloud and other new technologies in 2014. Nearly two hundred ecosystems are now in place. Initially, these ecosystems were singularly focused on payments and financial management, but nowadays, we can see many other domains being addressed, such as credit, compliance, open banking and identity management. We also note that in addition to collaborative ecosystems in the financial sector – banks and insurers – other stakeholder sectors are now emerging. From a perspective of exploring and adding value to the financial sector, there are several emerging functional and technological areas that will be key to creating a new wave of user experiences.

sergio viana building the future

Sérgio Viana, on the panel “Together To Go Further: Cooperation and Ecosystems”, talking about the challenges of the financial industry. (Building The Future 2023)

When Neobanks and Fintechs emerged, some believed that banks would cease to exist altogether. Although the role of banks has changed over recent years, the truth is that they have been, and continue to be, fundamental since their emergence in Roman times: they are the trusted custodians of our funds, recognised and certified for this purpose.

However, as new players enter the financial sector, the role of banks has started to contract in the light of new financial services offerings that add value in ways that traditional banks do not. Nevertheless, there has been some kickback from the financial sector. Increased competition has brought on the development of higher-end financial products and forced major financial institutions to develop better digital products and customer experiences, matched by lower fees.

New experiences, designed to suit the customer and create value, are what push the financial sector forward. But they often end up having somehow to be affected by specific legislation. A concrete example of this is the European PSD2 directive. While in countries such as the UK, US and France, where services such as Microsoft Money enabled users to manage their own finances since the 2000s, this was not the case in Europe. Portugal was no exception, and banks faced many difficulties in initiating a collaboration process. It was only with the emergence of PSD2 that a way was created in the market for banks to collaborate with each other, as well as with third parties, provided there was consent from customers. This vision created the basis for taking advantage of the information held by banks and integrating some financial operations in ways that customers value. There is, however, still much to be done and many opportunities to be explored – both within the financial sector and also in conjunction with other industries.

Revolut case

A good practical example is the case of Revolut, which has changed my relationship with money. From the moment I was able to use it, it was no longer necessary to withdraw foreign currency subject to high fees in the UK. It is now possible to stand in a payment queue and get my money in the currency I want within seconds. If we look harder at Revolut’s positioning, we can see an entire ecosystem working towards solving user problems. For example, when I travel to another country, Revolut not only knows this but allows me to create insurance for myself and my household from the app, which will be in force for the duration of the trip. Over time, the app has also grown to allow me to subscribe to insurance for electronic devices or even buy access to a Lounge on my next trip, not to mention the whole cryptocurrency component.

What makes the user experience valuable is, precisely, platforms that address user challenges and present solutions to problems and, from this viewpoint, there is still a lot that can be done, in Portugal as elsewhere. It would be nice for users to see more banks occupying spaces other than banking, where relevant. Travel insurance in a banking app, device insurance and even credits in retailer apps are just a few examples where banks can add value for each of us in different ways. From the financial sector perspective, by expanding ecosystems to other sectors, firms can create revenue streams, increase their relevance to their customers and take advantage of new technologies. this is how banks can assume a place of relevance in the daily lives of their users, whatever the context.

Sérgio VianaThe user benefits of digital ecosystems in the financial sector
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What is gamification and how it can help your business

5 SECOND SUMMARY:
  • Gamification involves the use of gaming techniques to increase participation, engage and/or generate loyalty of a person in a particular action;
  • In this article, you will find how gamification can be present in various business areas such as Fitness, Health, the Financial sector, Education, and even the corporate context.

What is gamification?

When we think about gamification, it is most likely that we have recovered, from the innermost recesses of our memory, images of McDonald’s Monopoly, or we remember in shock that we haven’t taken today’s Duolingo class. But when did the term gamification actually come into being? Well, the first official gamification definition, by Nick Pelling, which describes the process of using game concepts and interfaces applied to everyday contexts, dates back to 2012. As recently as 2014, Gartner released its first official definition of gamification – the “use of game mechanics and experience design to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals digitally”. However, Richard Bartle, writer and investigator, believes that the term was previously used by game designers.

Gamification is the use of gaming techniques to increase participation and engagement in and/or generate loyalty towards a particular action.

  • Challenges, achievements and missions. Probably, this is the most important element of gamification, and completing missions and winning challenges is what motivates players to participate voluntarily.
  • Rewards, progression and instant feedback. Badges and coins that can be exchanged for prizes or for experiences and the ability to compete with the best players are just a couple of examples of mechanics that should be adopted in gamification dynamics. It is crucial that the user receives instant feedback to stimulate engagement in the activity.
  • Gamification uses the natural human tendency to be competitive to achieve excellence in its performance. Neurophysiologically, gamification activates the production of hormones in the brain such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – responsible for happiness and pleasure – which, in turn, trigger a sense of achievement.

Gamification benefits in business

Gamification is now part of our daily lives, always in different contexts. Gartner reports that over 70% of the companies on the Global 2000 list of companies use it in their business. Why? Four obvious advantages can be applied to both your customers and your employees:

  • Generates loyalty. Gamification is an excellent way to create an engaging bond fuelled by continuous interactions between your business and your customers and employees. In 2010, McDonald’s increased sales by 5.6% in the USA, using Gamification concepts derived from the classic Monopoly game.
  • Offers a broader view. The lack of instant feedback is a problem that affects businesses, currently. Knowing gamification as a solution, Worten created the platform Worten Winners. It is a feedback and organisational recognition platform focused on customer satisfaction, which allows all its employees to see sales status, stores and sales personnel rankings. In addition to giving access to individual and team rankings, it also has gamification elements, such as badges for the best salesperson and information about missions to be completed. The result? In 42 pilot stores, 60% of employees said they felt more involved in their day-to-day work.
  • Allows a personalised experience. Starbucks is known for its engagement initiatives and loyalty programmes. Still, initiatives like cup personalisation and My Starbucks Rewards are examples that not just borrow from customer loyalty but also from personalised experiences. For example, drinks and foods that adapt to every user’s palate. With personalised offers and rewards for every purchase, the customer becomes engaged with the brand and feels motivated at every purchase. Starbucks attributes 40% of its total sales to My Starbucks Rewards, which had 16 million active members in March 2019.
  • Creates brand recognition. Every business aspires to be top of mind for its target, and gamification can be a great help in achieving this. M&M’s Eye-Spy Pretzel is a good case study of a simple digital marketing campaign with a powerful impact. While promoting their pretzel products, the brand published a Facebook post that encouraged users to find the pretzel hidden in an image full of M&M’s. This puzzle resulted in 25,000 new Facebook page likes, 10,000 comments and around 6,000 shares.

By contradicting stale and boring processes behind acquiring new customers and motivating employees, Gamification can be a breath of fresh air for your business needs. There are already several industries that have started their journey into gamification very successfully.

Gamification use cases

Gamification in a Fitness context

Gamifying fitness programmes make exercise more fun, especially if you’re part of a community and rely on leaderboards to instantly celebrate your progress. Fitness apps like Nike+ Run Club, My Fitness Pal or Zombies, Run! are recurring top searches on Google Play and the App Store.

Run Away GIF

Gamification in Health

Gamification in the health apps market is estimated to grow from $3,072.5M in 2019 to $35,982.7M in 2027, according to Statista.

Gamification opportunities in the healthcare app market are vast. We can find apps to help us manage diabetes, and our mental health or even solutions for intermittent fasting fans. mySugr, Happify and Fastic are some examples that spring to mind, apps focused on user personalisation, with activity logs, goals to achieve and tasks to complete. There are encouragements, challenges and leaderboards to help us stay focused.

Season 20 Health GIF By The Simpsons

Gamification in the Financial sector

You may remember the well-known SmartyPig, an online bank where we can add money to a created savings goal and see the target percentage increasing in real-time. SmartyPig also has gamification elements that aren’t as obvious, such as a mascot, which helps users to stay engaged with the bank.

Many successful cases are using gamification in the finance sector. According to Total Retail and Mordor Intelligence, Extraco bank had an interesting case of successful initiation into the gamification process. Through financial literacy classes, highlighting the offers that they had available, they increased their conversion rate from 2% to 14% and new customer acquisition by 700%.

Paying No Money GIF By Noam Sussman

Gamification in Education

According to Intuition, 67% of students report that gamified learning is more engaging than traditional courses. Tools such as Duolingo, Kahoot! and Minecraft have been a worldwide educational success thanks to their use of basic game elements such as badges, competition between teams, progress tracking and even goal setting.

Party Eurovision GIF By Duolingo

Gamification in a Corporate context

Suppose 67% of students claim to be more engaged with gamification than with traditional teaching methods. In that case, TalentLMS tells us that 83% of employees who undergo gamified training say they are more motivated in their day-to-day tasks. If engaging employees with your company is one of your goals, know that plenty of offerings are available. Apps like Todoist, which rewards users with karma points as they complete tasks, platforms such as Trailhead, which makes learning a lighter and more enjoyable process, or Microsoft Dynamics 365, which gives prizes and status as rewards, are some examples of gamification that have been incorporated into the daily lives of teams worldwide.

Would you like to incorporate Gamification in your company?

As we hopefully made clear, there are several approaches to take when adopting gamification – in both internal and external teams. From an internal point of view, motivating teams in a context where digital interactions are prioritised have certainly been one of the challenges for your business. Gamification is a powerful tool for sustaining agile, effective communication with your customers and employees. Implementing and designing engaging, user-focused experiences implies specific know-how and proficiency. From an external point of view, gamification is an extremely interesting tool for creating a closer and more loyal relationship with your customers, regardless of what sector you operate in. Whatever area your company is in, contact us. Our team of User Experience and Digital Xperience experts have the required expertise to help you understand how to gain real benefits from this trend, providing the experience you want your consumers to enjoy.

Sérgio VianaWhat is gamification and how it can help your business
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The 4 main benefits of Power Platform adoption for Janssen

ESTE ARTIGO EM 5 SEGUNDOS:
  • Low-code platforms empower everyone to go faster in a completely personalised way. The question then arises: how can they be applied to my business? Get to know Janssen’s example.

Last October 20th, we were at Microsoft talking about the benefits that Power Platform, in harmony with Dynamics 365, brings to your business. In the context of these technologies, we have maintained the focus on empowering users and elevating business through a new approach. Power Platform – Microsoft’s low-code platform – is currently the most complete on the market. Using Power Platform in alliance with Dynamics 365 makes it possible to build and implement 100% personalised digital solutions, which will naturally help companies make more informed and swifter decisions.

At this event, we approached the Business Applications ecosystem via three distinct tracks: Dynamics 365, Power BI and Power Platform.

• The Dynamics 365 track focuses on “the importance of turning customers into fans”, quoting keynote speaker Francisco Costa, Partner & Enterprise Solutions Lead at Xpand IT. We’ve introduced how Dynamics 365 brings value to the customer journey, giving each customer a personalised experience and the business a solid, unified vision of information, thus unlocking the value of the data. We were in conversation with Paula Braz, Head of Marketing at Xpand IT, who helped us realise the challenges presented by adopting Dynamics 365 in marketing and with João Pratas, Business Applications Technical Specialist at Microsoft, who helped us understand the features of Dynamics 365 marketing through a use case.

• On the Power BI track, we focused on the importance of adopting Analytics and Azure (the Microsoft Cloud platform) to give businesses a 360° view of the customer and, as a result, better decision-making tools. Ricardo Pires, Partner & Business Intelligence Lead at Xpand IT, interviewed Luís Chaby, Azure Enterprise Sales Manager at Microsoft, in order to reflect on how market behaviour has changed since the adoption of Power BI and Microsoft Azure. Also, Vanessa Gomes, Data Analytics Engineer at Xpand IT, gave us a demo on how Power BI can be linked to Dynamics 365, in a data analytics context.

• On the Power Platform track, we have analysed how Power Apps and Power Automate empower the user. Rodrigo Umbelino, Enterprise Sales Executive at Microsoft, enriched us with real examples of the use of solutions currently available in Power Platform. The talk between Sérgio Viana, Partner & DX UX Lead at Xpand IT, and Pedro Santos, Digital Health & Solutions Manager at Janssen, highlighted the importance of looking at business digital transformation as a journey, rather than a string of unique projects, in order to be successful.

Digital Transformation in Business

We are witnessing a need for growing digitalisation in the business scenario. According to Gartner, digital transformation is an organisational priority for 87% of senior executives. The ability to materialise digital transformation initiatives, however, is severely limited by the lack of a qualified workforce in the IT market. A potential solution? Citizen developers. According to Gartner’s definition, a citizen developer is “a person who creates application resources for their own or others’ consumption”. The motto “Turn everyone into a developer with no code” empowers anyone to make at least the first version of the code solution they need.

Low-code platforms empower everyone to go faster in a completely personalised way. The question then arises: how can they be applied to my business? What institutions can do with Power Platform depends on every business’s unique needs.

Janssen’s example

On the Power Platform track, we presented the case of Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson Group company and a world leader in research.
Janssen’s first contact with Xpand IT, at the beginning of the pandemic, was through an initiative called Power Engagement – essentially, it consisted of a hands-on session around the technologies followed by the identification of potential projects. In the first instance, the challenge goal was to design an application that would allow their employees to receive meals at home.

• App delivery

The challenge proposed to Xpand IT was very simple: a hassle-free application that would allow Janssen employees and their families, living in the Lisbon metropolitan area, to receive meals at home, using only their smartphones.

Through this app delivery, Janssen was able to keep its canteen activity at similar levels to how it was pre-pandemic. Its employees had the opportunity to choose meals according to the menus available for different days and different municipalities, in a fast, practical way.

• Simplify

According to Pedro Santos, Digital Health & Solutions Manager at Janssen, “Power Apps play a key role in providing an immediate response to issues raised by the company”. While Janssen’s digital transformation journey with Xpand IT began in response to internal processes, the partnership with Xpand IT was driven by an ongoing urge for innovation. As such, further processes that need improvement and can be optimised using Power Platform have been identified.

Still, in the pandemic context, and given the growing need for digitalisation, we developed the Simplify app. Using Power Apps with a simple connection to Adobe Sign, for example, Janssen eliminated collecting paper signatures from internal and external partners – a process that used to take about a month – making it virtually immediate. Given that Janssen partner payments used to be dependent on signature validation, and are now instantaneous, the average time to pay stakeholders has been reduced by around 22 days, allowing Janssen to gain substantial efficiency while simultaneously adding value to its business partners.

The 4 main benefits of Power Platform adoption for Janssen

Thanks to the Power Platform application, Janssen was not only able to improve internal processes, but also to improve the experience of its clients and partners. All of this has enabled:

1. Customer focus;
2. Efficiency, by digitalising and automating processes;
3. A more sustainable agenda;
4. Automated processes, releasing employees for higher-value tasks.

Depending on your business solutions needs, Power Platform results in other benefits such as adopting a data-driven culture, based on Microsoft Power BI, that will analyse and add value to your data and give your customers a personalised experience, with 24/7 customer service, using Power Virtual Agents and Artificial Intelligence-based chatbots, so your business has an efficient workforce that is always available.

Start your Digital Transformation journey with Xpand IT

Xpand IT received Microsoft’s Partner of the Year Award in 2022 for the second year running. This recognition follows the distinction of Microsoft’s 2020 Partner of the Year for Power Apps & Data Analytics. Above all, these awards prove our expertise in working with these technologies.

At Xpand IT, we believe that trust and collaboration underpin good relationships. As shown in the above example of one of our partnerships, we can work with you and your company to realise your digital transformation needs. If you have already explored the possibilities that Power Platform can bring to your business and even discovered practical cases for its use, we are fully available to support you in your next steps. Get in touch to schedule a one-to-one conversation. Or alternatively, fill in the Power Platform Assessment we have prepared for you. This will give you unparalleled access to personalised resources and guidance from Xperts to implement this technology.

Sérgio VianaThe 4 main benefits of Power Platform adoption for Janssen
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How to modernise your business with Azure

5-SECOND SUMMARY:
  • 4 benefits of application modernisation with Azure: Security and reliability; Scalability and flexibility; Efficiency; Innovative experiences at scale.
  • How to modernise your business through app modernisation using the following strategies: Lift-and-Shift; Refactor; Replatform; Rebuild; Replace.

Cloud benefits for your business are manifold and we’ve even delved into them in previous articles. As a company, Xpand IT has a strong partnership with Microsoft, and as such, our modernisation proposals powered by these technologies are based on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Regardless of the type of cloud that best suits your needs – public, private or hybrid – it is undeniable that its adoption has a relevant impact on your business and tangible benefits in your company’s day-to-day operations. According to IDC, companies that have begun the cloud migration journey are growing 19.6% faster than companies that have not yet done so. Alongside migration, modernisation is one of the most exciting approaches to cloud adoption, and in the context of cloud computing, modernising is the act of upgrading organisational processes, systems and tools to newer technologies. The goal is to capitalise on the investment in Azure, achieve a decrease in the Time to Market of some solutions and create new experiences, for customers and collaborators. With a cloud-first approach, your business will gain greater agility, will be properly scaled and stay in line with improved security practices.

Application modernisation is not a recent theme, and there are many companies that already take advantage of the cloud, but only from an infrastructure perspective. That is, they have migrated part of their applications to Azure – in an approach called lift and shift – however, they are not taking advantage of their full potential.

4 benefits of application modernisation with Azure

  1. Security and reliability: Your business can ensure application security and identify problems in just a few seconds. You can keep databases up to date and automate tasks that ensure high availability, disaster recovery, backups and maintenance during peak performance.
  2. Scalability and flexibility: Application modernisation allows you to take advantage of cloud benefits in terms of scale and elasticity. You can set up autoscaling so that applications continue to run regardless of sudden increases or decreases in market demands, taking advantage of a virtually unlimited infrastructure.
  3. Efficiency: With the correct adoption of Azure, your company will be the model of efficiency, ensuring the use of the right resources at the right time and according to need.
  4. Innovative experiences at scale: When your business goes into the modernisation process with Azure you will be able to create richer, more personalised experiences, faster and continuously – at scale, making it possible to serve thousands of users individually.

Application modernisation strategies

To use Azure’s full potential, you need an analysis of your company’s application park, identifying the different applications, technologies used and their impact on your business. This phase should be followed by a clear definition of how to migrate applications into the cloud, making the necessary changes so that you can take advantage of platform services and not just infrastructure, realising the potential that technology enables, and accelerating the time to the marketing of new offerings.

Once planning has been completed, that is, once the modernisation strategy has been completed, you will need to implement it. Consider those strategies that, for us, are the main Azure modernisation strategies, remembering that they are potentially specific to each application of a company.

  • Lift-and-shift: With no code changes required, companies move applications from their previous environment into the cloud, just as they are.
  • Refactor: Applications only need minimal code changes to get in and get the most out of the Azure environment.
  • Re-platform: Applications are moved into the cloud with minor code changes so that they can be used with Azure technologies.
  • Replace: Reform the application and replace it with a new, cloud-native application.

The example of Sonae Financial Services

Sonae FS needed to receive data from Mastercard Payment Transaction Services and integrate it with other entities to manage credit, all in real-time. Until then, mass data and error processing had been too time-consuming and affected productivity and agility.

To respond to this challenge, Xpand IT used Microsoft Azure and implemented a back office so that Sonae FS could verify KPIs and manage possible integration errors. With this back office, it would be possible to access different dashboards to allow visualising KPIs in real-time and notify teams of possible deviations.

By restructuring the architecture and including new operational dashboards and back offices, Sonae FS was able to get the best out of Azure and can now audit the entire process and have access to more detailed information. The adoption of the Replace modernisation strategy allowed Sonae FS to reshape its entire architecture to be cloud-native, giving the company the ability to respond to 4 x more requests compared to the initial phase of the project, considering all initiatives that Xpand IT is still developing.

Thanks to the cloud – the backbone of digital transformation – Sonae FS now benefits from a data-driven culture. They can use data to discover inefficient processes, identify alternatives and even automate those that are recurring and rule-based. In addition, rich data is integrated to manage processes and operations on a day-to-day basis, meaning that teams can make more assertive predictions and better decisions, with flexibility and agility.

Microsoft’s Partner of the Year Portugal

Each journey in application modernisation for Microsoft Azure is unique and while there are best practices, your business needs to adapt and evolve as needed.

In this sense, having a partner specialist in application modernisation with Azure is fundamental. Xpand IT is, for the second consecutive year, Microsoft’s ‘Partner of the Year Portugal’. At Xpand IT we help our clients grow and become competitive, leveraging best practices and the latest services from Microsoft Azure.

Sérgio VianaHow to modernise your business with Azure
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The future of Artificial intelligence: what to expect

5-SECOND SUMMARY:
  • Artificial Intelligence technologies are rising all over the world;
  • AI projects can impact areas such as Health; help in Climate Crises; Increase corporate productivity; Changing generations of consumer experiences, among others.

Artificial Intelligence is not a recent technology, although sometimes it seems like a technological trend that has emerged in recent years. The history of AI – a technology we recognise as disruptive at different levels – dates back to the 1950s, when the first developments were made. This technology has not always enjoyed the popularity that it enjoys nowadays. The truth is that there have been several up and downs in the history of artificial intelligence: we have witnessed cycles of hype and effusive enthusiasm followed by cycles – called AI winters – where there was a reduction in both interest and funding, only years later to witness a renewed scientific interest, typically boosted by technological advances.

Although this technology’s origin and evolution have not been linear, and it has not always been clear how essential it could become for different world economies, Artificial Intelligence has undeniable popularity nowadays. It seems a distant reality to mention the existence of an AI winter.

Source: ResearchGate

What AI can still offer

Since the last AI winter in 1988, many things have changed, and today artificial intelligence has assumed a leading role in the economy. Author and AI consultant Andrew Burgess, in his book The Executive Guide to Artificial Intelligence, discusses the four main drivers that help explain why AI has definitively made the leap from the laboratory to the real world:

1. Big Data: we currently have enormous data available. The amount of data we generate worldwide doubles every two years. According to Statista, the total amount of data created, processed and consumed predicted for 2020 was 64.6 zettabytes. This unprecedented availability of information is crucial, as AI feeds on data, which it uses to generate value.

2. Cheap Storage: all the data we generate needs to be stored, and this is a logistical issue we need to consider when working with large amounts of information. Storage costs are decreasing considerably, as well as the size of the machines that store that data, making it possible to buy more storage at a much lower price. Additionally, the speed at which data can be accessed via the cloud, for example, is increasing.

3. Faster Processing: in addition to storing the information we want to work with, we also need to process it. According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors on microchips would double every two years. However, David House later revised the formula to the one we commonly use today: chip performance doubles every 18 months. With faster processors supporting AI activity, we make it possible to solve more complex problems requiring more data.

4. Ubiquitous Connectivity: it has only been in the last few years that networks (broadband and 4G and, more recently, 5G) have become fast enough to allow significant amounts of data to be distributed between servers and different devices. As such, and because we are currently able to guarantee good connectivity, we can ensure that information is quickly available to be collected, processed and analysed.

Therefore, we can benefit from a set of conditions we previously had no way of guaranteeing. All are essential for artificial intelligence to succeed as a technology with true disruptive potential. Without cheap storage, we wouldn’t be able to invest in an AI project that needs considerable information. And without available information, it wouldn’t be possible to consider this technology to solve these problems since information is the engine that AI needs to be able to show its true power. Now that we have all the conditions we need to take advantage of the technology, it’s time to know more about the future of Artificial Intelligence and what we can expect from now on. 

The future of Artificial Intelligence: what to expect

It is always challenging to make predictions about what the future holds because the future is a great unknown. However, looking back at the road this technology has travelled over the last few decades, we see positive indicators for the future. Still, it’s important to note that when AI was expected to prove a highly relevant technology at the beginning of the pandemic, its performance fell far below expectations. As we entered the first lockdown, there were several attempts by different organisations to use AI to help with the rapid detection of the disease, either by diagnosing it or predicting various regional outbreaks. But not all attempts were successful, and in retrospect, we can now see where AI underperformed, leaving us with important lessons for improving the technology in the future.

We know, for instance, that it’s not enough to rely solely on the availability of technology or information. Still, it is necessary to consider factors such as the quality and availability of the data we’re using, the possibility of discrimination and bias in results, the existence of human error in data collection and even the fact that our global and sometimes local context, is highly complex. We can still do a lot to improve the results we get from AI initiatives. Like others before, this technology still needs to evolve and mature.

But in the future, ensuring that we overcome the operationalisation obstacles inherent to AI projects, the technology will have room to become an essential ally for humanity in different ways:

Revolutionising healthcare, diagnosing diseases at an early stage and even assisting in the treatment process, allowing us to offer fully personalised healthcare, customised to the needs of each patient;

• Becoming one of the crucial tools in the prevention of climate crises, helping us to foresee extreme phenomena and accordingly plan for them;

• Becoming the most significant digital contributor to human workers, taking care of tasks that can be automated and ultimately revolutionising the way we work;

• Revolutionising the next generation of digital and phygital experiences. We can already see how new technologies are changing the experience stage – whether phygital, physical or digital. Artificial intelligence will be crucial in shaping the next generation of consumer experiences.

Final Thoughts

We’re just now starting to explore this technology’s potential for revolutionising different businesses and industries. We’re focused on helping you use AI to unlock new growth opportunities.

Our AI Solutions Centre aims to support companies in this AI adoption journey, offering the ability to adopt this technology with the necessary guidance and taking the steps needed to integrate intelligence into organisational systems. Challenge us to help you on this journey.

Sérgio VianaThe future of Artificial intelligence: what to expect
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Phygital: fusing the physical and digital world

5-SECOND SUMMARY:
  • Phygital is a shared space between the physical and digital worlds and is a trend capable of impacting all sectors and industries;
  • There are various ways to approach Phygital in different sectors and with various purposes: Retail, Banking, Insurance and Tourism;

The boundaries between the physical and digital worlds have, over the years, blurred as a result of the technological developments at different levels – and the strategies defined by each company.  

This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic we’ve lived through for two years now. All digital initiatives have gained fundamental importance compared to other initiatives, often not by conscious choice or conscious decision but out of necessity. A shared space has been created between the physical and digital worlds, allowing us to take advantage of both in a hybrid way, and enabling us to fulfil our goals – whatever they may be. This is how we define Phygital, the mix of physical with digital that, as a trend, has the potential to impact all sectors and industries.

We can all recall concrete examples of Phygital in our daily lives, even before the pandemic. Examples include Augmented Reality applications such as IKEA’s (which allowed us to see how a specific piece of furniture would look in our living room by using our mobile phone) or even retailers such as Graham & Brown (that allow us to try out a new wallpaper, using our mobile phone to choose the area where we want to apply it, seeing on the mobile app how it would look, and even calculating the quantity of wallpaper a customer would need to apply it to their living room).

These applications used existing technologies to improve the user experience by merging the physical and the digital worlds. Even when these weren’t forms of interaction offered by brands, it was possible to see the trend happening: how many of us didn’t consult digital content while at a physical store browsing different articles, be it reviews from other people, informative videos about a specific product, etc.? All these examples clearly demonstrate that there’s a significant space to occupy with hybrid interactions and that brands that manage to do it better will undoubtedly be those that, in different aspects, will retain the attention of users and build loyalty based on a differentiating value proposition.

There are various ways to approach Phygital in different sectors and with various purposes. Here are a few to reflect about:

Retail

It’s perhaps the sector with most work done in this area, through concepts such as Magic Mirror (in which you can try on clothing items in a dressing room and check helpful information, complete the look with other items, etc.), or even examples of Augmented Reality such as those that I mentioned above. However, there are simple things that can keep the user in the context of the brand’s app, such as providing specific content related to the product they’re checking or more sensory experiences – such as witnessing a meal being cooked at a supermarket and, by scanning a QR code, all products are added to the shopping cart so that the customer can make the recipe.

Banking

This is a sector in which a more significant number of customers want to be served remotely, making it more important to offer them a relevant experience when they go to a branch. Fully digitalised account opening processes that combine technology with a more human component or even helpful information given to a user when they’re entering a branch are concrete examples of what can be done to make a difference.

Insurance

Simple initiatives, such as taking a picture of an expense and automatically recognising the data to be submitted for a claim or using insurance apps as practical support in the event of an accident that results in the need for physiotherapy are examples of what can be done with existing technology – and examples that contribute significantly to building the relevance of insurance companies in our daily lives, something so pressing for the industry.

Tourism

The possibility of using our devices when visiting a hotel, either to interact with the room, learn more about the surrounding areas or experiences that we can enjoy are examples of how we can use technology for the sake of experience.

Final Thoughts

There are several more examples that we can give and many more that would result from joint work and brainstorming sessions to look for a way to take advantage of the Phygital trend for the benefit of people. Of course, all these interactions will imply that Information Systems are prepared for this, which in some cases will be more straightforward than in others – and often, not because of technology, but because of each client’s digital maturity. However, it’s certainly something to bear in mind as we get ready to live in a more physical and humane world, but certainly (and permanently) a more digital one.

Sérgio VianaPhygital: fusing the physical and digital world
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How technology can help banks become sustainable

5-SECOND SUMMARY
  • 68% of consumers are interested in green financial products;
  • 63% of consumers want their bank to help them offset their carbon footprint;
  • Banks should continue to invest in their sustainability journey by offering green financial products to their clients;
  • The urge for sustainable banking: customers will reward banks that take leadership stances on climate issues.

We’re at a certain point in time where we can no longer ignore the stark reality of climate change or why we need to act now. According to the latest report from IPCC, “scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system”. The report states that temperatures are rising, and that’s because of the growing emissions of greenhouse gases that result from human activities. These activities, the report shows, “are responsible for approximately 1.1ºC of warming since 1850-1900” and that in the next 20 years, “global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5ºC of warming”. A rise of 1.5ºC in temperature might not seem like much, but it can be catastrophic for our planet and our natural resources, such as, for example, coral reefs which are responsible for maintaining the good health of our oceans and the many different species that call the oceans their homes.

Not all is bad news, though. It appears that climate change is finally becoming a priority for governments and businesses around the world, or at the very least, there’s been a growing pressure from society to address this issue. Some countries and organisations have already pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. This commitment sends a strong message to the rest of the world: there’s an urgency to act now. As Bill Gates affirms in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, we don’t yet have all the tools we need. Still, we already have some tools available that we can use to reduce emissions and start on the path to carbon neutrality. Technology is central to make banking more sustainable. All sectors, industries and, well, every citizen has a part to play. That also includes the banking industry and different financial institutions. So, how can technology help banks become sustainable?

Sustainable Banking: technology as a driver of change

Financial institutions are embedded in the lives of people all over the world. We all need them to survive in the modern economy, and banks are an essential part of the economic fabric of our societies. Banks have a direct impact on the lives of different communities. They have the responsibility to be a driving force for positive change in the regions they operate in. We’ve seen banks step up to this responsibility in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis with the mortgage relief and other resources, and, therefore, they should strive to be a force of change in the climate crisis we’re now facing. The pressure for banks to act is coming from many different stakeholders such as regulators, employees and even customers. As the general public becomes even more aware of the urgency to deal with the climate crisis, they feel empowered to change their behaviours and start expecting that same change from the different companies they do business with. Technology and digital tools can, in this sense, become real drivers of change in two ways: by helping organisations reduce their emissions and achieve carbon neutrality and by integrating digital tools for consumers to make an individual contribution for the same goal.

According to Meniga’s European Carbon Survey 2021, 68% of consumers are interested in green financial products, while 63% want their bank to help them offset their carbon footprint. Consumer demand for alternative services and products is increasing, and consumers are keen on being part of the change. Banks, then, are in a privileged position to offer consumers the tools they need to take part in the environmental challenges we now face. How? On the one hand, by helping consumers become aware of the impact their purchases have on the environment and, on the other, by giving them the necessary digital tools to reduce said impact. There are already several offerings in the market that let banks address the growing needs of consumers in this regard, both to increase awareness and help consumers take action. A carbon footprint calculator, for instance, helps consumers understand how their daily activities and different purchases impact the environment. The carbon footprint estimates the total emissions of greenhouse gases resultant of the products we purchase or the daily decisions we make (our transportation mode, the food we buy, the travels we do, etc.).

By integrating such a tool on their digital banking journeys, banks will not only be able to help consumers understand how much of an impact they have on the total number of emissions of greenhouse gases, but also offer them alternatives so they can reduce said impact and make the transition from being aware of the problem to becoming part of the solution. That can be achieved by offering green financial products (such as green car loans, green savings, paperless statements, etc.), setting up offsetting schemes or offer a clear incentive to drive behavioural change — banks such as Barclays and Swedbank already offering green loan options. Commerzbank launched a mountain forest project: they plant one square meter of forest in Germany for every switch to paperless statements. Nordea gives consumers the chance to track their CO2 impact with a carbon footprint calculator on their mobile app.

On the other hand, organisations also have a part to play: several major companies such as Microsoft, Coca- Cola, Unilever, Best Buy, Siemens, and numerous cloud providers, to give some examples, have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030- 2040. Technologies such as the cloud are instrumental for companies to go green. According to Accenture, migrating to the public cloud “can achieve significant carbon reduction in the form of a 5.9% decrease in total IT emissions”. There are already various tools that can help organisations understand and reduce their environmental impact, such as Microsoft’s Sustainability Calculator. With tools such as these, organisations can achieve climate-related goals, reduce carbon footprint, and increase emissions transparency.

There’s an increasing effort on the part of banks to seek sustainability and to include environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in their business decisions. Banks should continue to invest in their sustainability journey by defining clear and transparent strategies and seeking a competitive edge with innovative services and products that result in the widespread adoption of these alternatives across different customer segments and other industries. Banks should take a stand on the climate crisis and be ready to become leaders in driving this movement forward. Ultimately, customers will reward banks that take that leadership stance on climate issues.

Reach out to us and explore how you can use technology to unlock your carbon zero future and take the lead on becoming a sustainable bank.

Let’s build the future of sustainable banking together?

Sérgio VianaHow technology can help banks become sustainable
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