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6 ways you can benefit your business with Microsoft Azure

Cloud computing is a term used to, according to Microsoft, “describe a global network of servers”. The cloud then, is a virtual entity that allows communication between several remote servers throughout the world and whose objective is to function as a single ecosystem. The question that arises is: what do these servers, that are spread around the world, do, precisely?

These servers are responsible for storing and managing data, running applications or other types of services such as analytics, content delivery or even intelligence, so that information is quickly made available to those who need it. Instead of accessing services and files locally through their computer, employees can access everything online, where information is accessible anywhere via the Internet.

The cloud’s goal is to allow access to computing and storage capabilities to any company regardless of their size, as long as they have a business model that can support this approach. At present, there are several cloud providers: some examples include Amazon AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

The right cloud for your business and its benefits

It should be noted, however, that not all clouds are the same. In fact, each business is a business and each of them has individual needs. Thus, several types of clouds emerged to help each company choose the most adequate solution for their business. There are three types of clouds:

Public cloud: managed and operated by third-party providers, such as Microsoft Azure. In these instances, all resources are managed by the cloud provider;

Private cloud: computing resources are used exclusively by a single company. This cloud can be physically located at a datacentre or at the company’s offices;

Hybrid cloud: it is a mix between the public and the private cloud and where everything can be shared from one cloud to the other and vice versa.

Regardless of the type of cloud that best suits your business needs, it is undeniable that its adoption has a relevant impact in the way you run your business and also in the tangible benefits in the companies’ day-to-day operations.  Often, however, these benefits may not be clear or even noticeable to anyone who’s considering adopting cloud technology in their business. That’s why we made a list of 6 ways you can benefit your business by adopting a cloud technology such as Microsoft Azure:

1) Scalability

One of the biggest benefits that comes from adopting the cloud is scalability: with it, it becomes possible to increase or decrease resources and services you use, based on your needs or your workload. Better than that is being able to allocate or deallocate resources at any time, in a matter of minutes and wherever you are – something that was not possible in the daily lives of companies up until now. Additionally, you can choose to make this change manually or automatically, based on specific behaviours such as CPU usage, for example.

2) Flexibility

Unpredictability and rapid changes in context are, nowadays, an expected part of our existence that can have a serious negative impact for the companies if they are not prepared to respond to new circumstances in a timely manner. However, with cloud technology it becomes possible to adjust to the ever-changing reality, by adding or removing resources automatically. Imagine your website experiences an increase in traffic overnight: by taking advantage of the cloud’s elasticity, it can automatically allocate additional computing resources in order to cope with the traffic spike, automatically readjusting itself by removing the additional resources when the traffic normalises.

3) Security

When we talk about security, we don’t just think about physical security (physical access to the company’s offices or servers), but also about digital security (who can access your company’s systems and data). Cloud services providers have a wide range of policies, technologies, controls and technological skills that offer a better security, both physical and digital, than most companies would be able to achieve independently. All of these measures by cloud services providers result in enhanced security that helps ensure the protection of data, applications and infrastructure from potential threats.

4) Investment optimisation

When it comes to investment, cloud services have many benefits: not only are they based on consumption models, that is, the client only pays for the resources consumed, but they also do not have any initial costs (CapEx), there’s no need to buy or manage expensive infrastructure and, finally, you only pay for additional resources when you need them – when they are no longer need, they can be deleted. All these benefits translate into cost optimisation: in fact, Microsoft Azure displays the prices of individual resources and services so that companies can predict their investment for a given period of time based on their estimated usage.

5) Sustainability

Sustainability is on the global political and economic agenda and cloud technology adoption is a step towards a company’s full sustainability, as it is responsible for reducing the carbon footprint, it is eco-friendly and addresses all aspects of waste across the whole of the organisation. In reality, cloud services make a relevant contribution to companies’ sustainability: it encourages employees to use digital services rather than physical products. Additionally, with the cloud, resources can be allocated where they are most efficiently used. Essentially, cloud adoption helps to dematerialise our economy: thinking about companies’ sustainability means thinking about solutions that address waste in all its aspects and, adopting cloud technology allows us all to contribute to our planet’s health.

6) Competitiveness

All the benefits we listed above translate into a competitive advantage in the market your company operates in. Why? Because by adopting cloud technology, your company will be better prepared to deal with and manage workload increases more efficiently or even changes in the market context or economic conditions. Your company will be more flexible and more agile in its decision-making process and it will have better data in order to make informed decisions. Finally, by reducing costs and by better managing internal processes, your company will be able to dedicate more resources to adding value in other areas that will allow you to be ahead of your competitors.

Digital Xperience and Microsoft Azure

Xpand IT’s Digital Xperience business unit is focused, since its dawning, in developing solutions that take advantage of cloud technology and, in particular, of Microsoft Azure. From the first moment, the goal was to use platform services (PaaS – Platform as a Service) and not infrastructure services (IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service), due to all the potential that PaaS has, namely in the aspects mentioned above. In other words, practically all the solutions we develop take advantage of a combination of different components such as App Services, API Management, Cosmos DB, Cognitive Services, among others. In addition to initiatives of development native projects in the cloud, we often work alongside our customers to reengineer existent solutions, so that they can take advantage of all the benefits the cloud technology provides.

Find out how you can make the most of this technology in your specific context: get in touch with us here.

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Filipa Moreno6 ways you can benefit your business with Microsoft Azure
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Artificial intelligence: from buzzword to real-life application

Artificial intelligence is definitely here to stay. A technology that started out as a buzzword is now effectively in use in many different organisations and industries. Artificial intelligence shows tremendous potential not only to change the way in which organisations work, but also the way that we, users, interact with the most diverse digital solutions. The term Artificial intelligence is not exactly recent, but has, in recent years, witnessed unprecedented growth that highlights its credibility, as well as the value that organisations and individuals give to the technology with every passing year. Discover my vision about Artificial Intelligence: from buzzword to real-life application (and a great example!)

Artificial intelligence, in simple terms, consists of equipping machines and other devices with intelligence, an inherently human characteristic. The goal of this specific field of computer science is to develop devices that realistically simulate human reasoning. However, the technology doesn’t stop here. One of the great advantages this technology offers is the capacity to build models that develop and learn from the inputs they receive. It is this last feature that offers the automation potential for so many tasks already being operated by artificial intelligence systems, such as customer support services using chatbots.

AI Builder enters the scene

Presently, this technology is mainly used by technical people with the adequate knowledge for it, which in practice means that it is not accessible to everyone within an organisation It was precisely this gap that Microsoft intended to address when it launched AI Builder.

AI Builder is a Microsoft Power Platform (Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI) capability that offers business users – regardless of their experience or technical knowledge –  the ability to use artificial intelligence technology in their applications. Even if employees do not have any programming knowledge, they can create an artificial intelligence model in just a few clicks (the first step may be using one of the templates that Microsoft provides), give it data to work with, and finally, customising the models generated. In just a few minutes, we can train the model we created, giving the system the opportunity to develop itself and learn using the information we provided. Of course, the quality of the algorithm’s answer depends on its training, but ultimately, it’s incredibly easy to start taking advantage of the technology and understand how all the pieces fit together, without the need for advanced technical knowledge, either in programming languages or in mathematical algorithms.

Use case: Retail PowerApp

As we mentioned earlier, AI Builder’s differentiation factor is giving non-technical people the ability to explore a powerful technology capable of transforming their organisations’ day-to-day life. The potential of a tool such as AI Builder becomes clear when we take as an example a supermarket that, with its many dozens of shelves, has an incredible amount of stock to manage. The shelves of any supermarket are in constant motion: products are initially placed on the shelves and, as customers visit the store, the product quantities on the shelves start to decrease. Therefore, it is necessary to replace those products so that shelves are never empty. This process can typically be based on manual tasks and that’s why we decided to understand how we could automate the whole process using AI Builder. Taking our Retail PowerApp, which as the name implies is a mobile application that was developed using Microsoft Power Apps, we then incorporated an artificial intelligence model trained to recognise certain products. And so, an employee tasked with replenishing supermarket shelves only has to open the app and, having previously defined what they were supposed to find on a given shelf, take a photo of the products. In this way, the Artificial Intelligence model will not only be able to recognise the products, but also which of those (and in what quantities) need replacements.

But the process doesn’t need to end there: so that this employee’s experience is smoother and simpler, if they find products that need replacement, they can order them directly in the app. And in the case of stock management capabilities, they can also check the order history and the stock available at a given store. All these features together enable employees with increased productivity, better information and more agility across the entire stock management and product replacement process, through a single digital experience.

More than explaining how this application works, how about seeing it in action? Meet our Retail PowerApp below.

Filipa MorenoArtificial intelligence: from buzzword to real-life application
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Tableau & Salesforce integration: 5 benefits for companies

Nowadays, data is the foundation of business and nothing is complete without getting the best data you can, then turning this same data into insight using tools like Tableau. Tableau provides an intuitive analytics platform that empowers people of any skill level to work with data, and it’s widely known for helping companies model, explore and visualise their data.

Salesforce is a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform, amazingly customisable with tons of integration functionalities. With Salesforce, companies can manage important functions such as sales management, accounting planning, time management and team collaboration. It’s a leader in the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) sector and is implemented in thousands of companies around the world. It’s also a really useful software for managing sales data and it performs even better if you combine it with Tableau.

In this blog post, I’m going to give the 5 integration benefits for companies and why it brings more value than the two tools do separately. If you’re interested in finding out how to connect Tableau to Salesforce, here’s a how-to guide to do just that.

Looking at the long-term perspective:

Tableau Improvements

As part of Salesforce, Tableau will be positioned to scale and further its mission to help people see and understand data, delivering even more innovation to more people, faster than ever before. Tableau will have access to the Salesforce Customer base and more resources, which means we can expect a big push in terms of new features and functionality, bringing a distinct advantage over other competitors in the market. This will enhance the engagement of the Tableau community with Salesforce and possibly boost Salesforce’s market share.

Artificial Intelligence & Business Intelligence blend

Salesforce Einstein is the first comprehensive Artificial Intelligence (AI) for CRM. It’s an integrated set of AI technologies that makes Salesforce Customer 360 smarter and pioneer every way. With the 360-degree view of your company’s business, it’s possible to know which prospects to target, which territories to align, which cross-sell opportunities to pursue and which leads to prioritize.

Innovation on Salesforce Einstein will fuse with BI capabilities of Tableau, which will give rise to a best-in-class unbeatable platform capable of delivering the next level of customer success with advanced AI capabilities, making Salesforce the world’s smartest CRM. We are really interested in this one and have big hopes for this to work and improve this sector.

However, there are already immediate benefits:

Salesforce improvements

Salesforce will play an even greater role in driving digital transformation, enabling companies around the world to tap into data across the entire business and get deeper insights to make smarter decisions.

An easy fusion of Salesforce products (Sales, Marketing, Commerce, etc.) and complex customer data will deepen the system’s capability of understanding the data resulting in deeper insights into business opportunities, making existing CRM systems more intelligent than ever before. The combination will also let customers visualise data and share insights across various levels of the organisation. With Tableau, Salesforce will bring data to life with new and innovative dashboards and reports, getting all the information needed on the same page, saving time and making better analyses of the data.

Get analysis in minutes

Tableau’s Dashboard Starters allows Tableau Online customers to quickly visualise data. This feature provides pre-designed dashboards, built to help you hit the ground running with actionable data analysis in minutes.

Sales teams are given important metrics to track a world-class sales department: how far ahead of quota you are, the size of your pipeline, what’s going well and what could use some improvements. With Salesforce Starters, you can fine-tune the sales funnel and improve the power of sales data faster than ever before.

Self-reliant Salesforce for everyone

Tableau’s Salesforce Canvas Adapter embeds dashboards in Salesforce to help you put analytics where and when your team needs them, ending the fear of missing out on potential opportunities inside the system, due to a lack of necessary intelligence. One of the best ways to ensure your people have the data to make the best decisions is to put analytics right into the systems they use every day. Most salespeople live inside Salesforce, deciding who to call and planning account strategy.

 

In conclusion, Salesforce and Tableau will together revolutionise the perspective of how businesses understand their customers using data.

Marc Beniott, Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce, says: “We are bringing together the world’s #1 CRM with the #1 analytics platform. Tableau helps people see and understand data, and Salesforce helps people engage and understand customers. It’s truly the best of both worlds for our customers – bringing together two critical platforms that every customer needs to understand the world”.

Carina MartinsTableau & Salesforce integration: 5 benefits for companies
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Marketing and Sales: 4 reasons to bet on a unique vision between teams

When we look at a sales funnel, we usually worry about the number of opportunities that come at the end of the funnel – that is, that they actually materialise in a sale. However, the quantity and quality of the converted opportunities are directly related to their nutrition, as well as the new Leads (potential new customers).

By this I mean that in order to have good sales, the sales teams and the marketing teams must be in full harmony, they must bet on a unique vision between teams. And this should happen not only in planning and retrospective meetings, but also in constant communication and information sharing, since this alignment is a critical factor for success. It is in this continuity that platforms such as Salesforce (Customer Relationship Manager – CRM) become a fundamental support.

Here are 4 key points for the cohesion of information between commercial and marketing teams.

1. 360º view of the client

One of the central points of information for both teams is what is usually called the “360º Client View“.

The 360º view is not only the details of a customer file, but also the name, address or website. It is also the information about all the opportunities (remembering that an opportunity is a possible sale) and the information about how many of those opportunities actually materialized in sales, how many requests for support this customer has and, in the case of Business-to-Business (B2B) businesses, the contacts that are associated with this customer.

The marketing teams are usually the first to realize that some information is not according to what was planned. This is because there is a variation between the conversion rates of the campaigns when compared to those planned.

As far as the sales teams are concerned, they are in most cases responsible for introducing and updating most of the information that will be used by the marketing teams later on. More on this topic.

2. Campaigns

Speaking of information used by marketing teams, it is in marketing campaigns that information about customers has its most critical role.

Today, any action taken is focused on customers, not products. Campaigns are the entry point for various leads and opportunities. But I’ll speak better of quantity than quality. For the moment, let’s return to the fundamental point: how to make each communication unique for each client.

Before we customize the actions, it is necessary to segment the customers so that they can enter the right campaign. This is where marketers use customer data – which, as I said in the first point, it is essential that they are up-to-date – to target campaigns and, consequently, sales. Some common points of segmentation are: region, trend of products already purchased, degree of satisfaction, indicators from websites visited, etc.

After the segmentation is done, the marketing teams define a certain workflow to reach the sales target. In this process, we may have digital points and/or points of contact with sales teams (mostly in B2B). It is in this nutrition process that the 360º vision information is being updated.

3. Quantity Vs Quality

As I addressed in the previous point, we should focus our marketing and commercial actions on people and not on the products and/or services we provide.

Leads and poor quality opportunities are not only cold leads/opportunities, but also inappropriate leads/opportunities. And they are inappropriate because companies will waste time and resources trying to convert an opportunity that, in the beginning, they would no longer convert. And when do these inappropriate leads come out? When there is a lack of information or when the information is of poor quality.

Maintaining a strong and careful relationship with the client helps to maintain a good relationship with them. With more confidence, there is more and better information, brought by the sales teams, which in turn will feed the marketing actions. In other words, it is more important to nurture leads and increase their quality, than to bet on quantity – since what we will achieve are leads with no real interest in our company.

4. Retrospective

Finally, it is in the analytical component that both teams can draw conclusions. The marketing team usually looks for conversion rates, campaign ROI, publication views. The sales teams look for indicators such as sales volume by customers, quantities sold, top customers, etc.

Although both teams have their reports, the most important thing to analyse is the crossover of both sides. We remind you that the commercial pipeline begins with the discovery of opportunities, follows the nutrition path – usually used in marketing automation tools – but also supported by sales teams, teams that carefully monitor customers and feed CRM platforms, such as Salesforce, to feed back marketing initiatives.

In conclusion, the sales funnels must be worked by the marketing and sales teams together, and this is the only way to guarantee the quality of the leads, verify which are real opportunities, and improve the results of the marketing campaigns carried out. Only a single 360° view between the two teams guarantees the best results, and a tool such as Salesforce can in fact be an extremely facilitating element.

João GomesMarketing and Sales: 4 reasons to bet on a unique vision between teams
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Don’t ruin Jira – 3 mistakes you should avoid

Jira is a fantastic solution for managing projects, software development or just teamwork. Atlassian‘s mission is to “unlock the potential of any team” and to fulfil its mission offers extremely flexible solutions that can adapt to the needs of ALL teams. We know cases of organisations that use Jira in the most diverse contexts, from software development teams, product teams, financial departments, human resources and legal, among others.

Flexibility is a good thing, right? Yeah… but it also allows you to make a lot of mistakes.

If this is your first time running Jira or if you want to review what you’ve done, here are 3 mistakes you should avoid:

1. Using groups instead of roles

Avoid using groups and users in your permissions schemes. Use roles instead, which will allow you to empower your project admin to add or remove users. Do you really want to be constantly giving and removing access to projects?

2. Closed without resolution

States and resolutions are two different things. However, it makes no sense for an issue to be in the closed state without having defined a resolution (even if the resolution is – won’t fix). When creating a new workflow, make sure that at some point in the workflow you do define the resolution (or ask the user to define it).

3. Custom fields that are not reusable

All teams, projects or products may have specific needs that lead to a different issues classification. But are they so different that they justify not being able to reuse the custom fields created? If a team wants to create a Start Date is it so different from Begin Date that they have to create two custom fieldsTry to reuse the custom fields whenever possible in order to have as few as possible. Did you know that a custom field of type List can have variable options according to the project Jira?

Xpand IT can help you to find out what other mistakes you may have made in your implementation of Atlassian solutions. In just one week, you can learn about those mistakes and know how to solve them. Ask us how.

Sofia NetoDon’t ruin Jira – 3 mistakes you should avoid
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3 myths and 3 truths about Jira Software: is it just a tool for IT teams?

Jira Software is a management platform that allows teams to manage all stages of their work, assign tasks to different members and track and make reports. But what are the hidden truths we can reveal about this platform? Get to know 3 myths and 3 truths about Jira and see what you think about this planning software.

Myth 1: Jira is just for technical teams

Let’s get this myth out of the way directly: Jira Software was not designed just for technical teams! Even though its development originated through software development practices and the respective stages of the process, from testing to deploy, Jira Software can be adapted to any reality for any team. Evidence of this can be found in the implementation of Jira by Xpand IT in an individual institution for social solidarity, Associação Crescerbem, or even the adaptation of the software for our Marketing team, who were then able to start working using Scrum methodology.

In reality, the size of the team does not matter, nor the field or industry, because Jira Software could be just the solution to improve productivity and organisation you’ve been looking for. If you want to know more about this myth, watch the talk Agility for All by Sofia Neto Canário, our Collaboration & Dev Tools Manager. You will see we are right.

Myth 2: Implementing Jira Software makes your team automatically more agile

Even though Jira Software may be a tool meant for agile teams, and even though it can improve productivity and organisation, all the problems of your team will not disappear like magic as soon as you implement it. Implementing Jira Software is only a piece of the puzzle you are trying to put together. In order to make yours a truly agile team, you will also need to change your mindset and theirs.

Your leadership will not benefit from a planning and reporting tool if you are not available to follow the good practices of the Agile manifesto – some of which you can read here. This may seem like just another inspirational quote, but the truth is that “change starts with how you think”. Jira Software is the supplement that makes those thoughts real, more practical and more agile by implementing a collaborative mentality in your teams.

Myth 3: With Jira, you don’t need other communication tools

Jira is a tool that works at its best alongside other tools within the Atlassian ecosystem. So, you cannot expect that it will improve communication in your teams by itself – nor was it developed for that purpose.

Communication between team members, in person or remotely, is essential for keeping projects on track and resolving any obstacles that may arise. Furthermore, there are other options such as Jira Service Desk or Confluence that, alongside each other, enhance communication and promote, once again, collaboration not only between the members of the same team, but across the whole of your organisation.

Now that we have unravelled these 3 recurring myths about Jira Software, feel free to contact us if you need to implement Jira Software or any of other Atlassian tools.

Ana Lamelas3 myths and 3 truths about Jira Software: is it just a tool for IT teams?
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Microsoft PowerApps: how to transform ideas into business apps

We live in a world in which mobility is ubiquitous: there are, at this point in time, apps for whatever action we need to complete at any given moment of our lives. The majority of those apps are built with the consumer in mind and ideally, it is this end user that companies are thinking of when designing and building their digital solution. However, mobile applications are not only useful for the general public. Mobile apps, in a business context, can be critical to managing a company’s daily activities.

Business apps, as they are commonly called, are specifically designed to solve a problem within an organization. In that sense, these apps offer the possibility for companies to manage part of their business in a faster, more efficient and more productive way. However, not all business apps justify the time and investment that is required for a custom development tailored to the needs of each and every company. Since companies have to contend with budget constraints as well as time and human resources limitations, it might seem like a distant dream building an app that can suppress internal needs of efficiency and effectiveness for processes that have the potential to be automated.

Taking advantage of the entire Microsoft ecosystem, which is present in many organizations, it is possible to build an app with Microsoft PowerApps.  From an internal point of view, PowerApps have a considerable impact on business processes – they can be dematerialized and, consequently, it is possible to increase productivity and reduce inefficiencies.

On the other hand, with Microsoft PowerApps, you can enable everyone – even people with no programming or coding skills – within the organization to create and maintain the application.  Additionally, Microsoft Power Automate – a tool that complements Microsoft PowerApps – helps automate processes in different applications and services, whether it is requests’ approval, fulfilment of certain conditions (actions to be followed in case the answer is yes or no), automation of repetitive processes, etc.

In this way, these digital solutions will not depend exclusively on the IT Department and these power users, who already have the business knowledge – and guaranteeing that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge to use these tools – will be able to sustain an effective solution, based on Microsoft infrastructure, without the need of programming knowledge. Moreover, with Office 365, data circulates naturally, rather than generating silos of information which create entropies and inefficiencies. Therefore, your app is always kept up to date with real-time data.

Practical scenario: automating vacations approval

The vacations approval process is a great use case of these tools: you can automate the whole process where the first step is building a vacation request form that the employee submits for approval. Secondly, the manager receives a push notification on his mobile, in which he can immediately approve the request. The process is finished by sending an automatic email to the employee letting him know that his request has been approved. In just a few steps, we are able to automate the process that was previously dependent of the HR department.  With these tools available, we can quickly go from conceptualization to execution and in just a few minutes the employee can start planning his dream vacation instead of despairing while thinking that it will take several weeks for his request to be approved. Like this example, there are many other different use cases for Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Power Automate – these tools are a tailored solution, fully adaptable to the singular reality of your company.

Xpand IT experience with PowerApps

Xpand IT has been working with Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Power Automate since the first stages of these products’ development. As such, we recognized from the outset that these technologies could complement our own mobile development solutions, whether in cross-platform (Xamarin) or native development. In our point of view, in the context of business apps, PowerApps has an interesting value proposition not only because of the shorter time-to-market but also for allowing business users to materialize their vision in a useful tool – a tool that might justify, in the future, the development of new versions or the recourse to other technologies. For every problem there are many different solutions and we consider Microsoft PowerApps a very interesting tool to boost digital transformation in organizations.

Filipa MorenoMicrosoft PowerApps: how to transform ideas into business apps
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Experience Economy: 3 trends for 2020

The concept of ‘experience economy’ is not new, but clear recognition and awareness of it by businesses is now driven by the possibilities offered by the digital age and growing use of so-called edge devices (smartwatches, smart TVs, smart cars, home assistants… ).

Joseph Pine and James Gilmore theorised about us, as modern consumers, and woke us up to the reality that we seek something more from economic transactions; that a purchase is no longer just a simple exchange of money for a product or service. We are ever more demanding, and we increasingly seek memorable experiences. That’s why the authors argue that every sale to a customer should be treated as a standalone event.

But when does a service make the transition and can be considered an experience? When it is highly customised. As Joseph Pine said, “There’s an antidote to commoditisation; and it’s called customisation”. When we design an offer that is completely appropriate and perfectly customised for a particular customer, we move beyond service to a value-added experience – and, in fact, we are willing to pay a much higher price to enjoy this.

One of the typical examples of this ‘fourth dimension of economic supply’ is Starbucks. When we go to Starbucks, we don’t say we’re going to have a cup of coffee – because we’re not. What we really look forward to is the experience; the decor, the aroma, the barista coffee shop, the special Halloween or Christmas editions, meeting up with friends and because we’re always treated as a unique, special customer. We even get called by our name. At Starbucks, a simple commodity – coffee – becomes a true premium experience. And that’s the secret. Look at other similar examples such as Uber, Spotify or Airbnb.

Currently, the possibilities of offering differentiating experiences to consumers are endless, with all the technology that we have available and the amount of data that we can collect, and mobile applications will have to be a strong bet if companies want to really retain their customers. For example, what a consumer with small children wants is a notification that milk or nappies are on offer today, right as they walk through the doors of the supermarket, even if these items were not on their shopping list – experience!

3 trends for 2020

1. Operational data vs. experience data

“Data is the new oil”, right? Right. However, is the data collected today what a brand most needs to be able to give its customers the best experience?

In the experimental economy what really counts is emotion, feelings and values. And data collection is often focused on operational data without taking into account these more human aspects. Therefore, as mentioned in the talk Customer Directions: Five-Star Experience Economy, regarding the IDC Directions 2019, companies should focus on 5 fundamental principles:

  • Personalisation (get to know your customer and talk to them to in order to understand their lifestyle, consumption habits, etc.);
  • Trust (sending the message to customers that the brand will never fail them);
  • Empathy (respecting every customer and their emotions);
  • Delivery; and
  • Engagement (ability to relate to consumers).

With the customer at the heart of companies’ concerns and with systems prepared to gather this kind of insight – with powerful CMS, for example – it will become easier to use what they know about us to our advantage.

2. Personalisation, personalisation, personalisation

The personalisation of interactions must be assured throughout all communications. It is not enough for us to receive different emails from our friends, taking into account our consumption habits: we also want to receive customised newsletters, push notifications at the right time, messages containing personalised discounts… Basically, consumers want brands to anticipate their needs and be able to answer their questions as these needs unfold.

3. Distribution of the omni-channel experience

If I put a product in my basket on a website, I hope the same product will appear on my mobile application. The experience must be common to the various channels of a brand, and this omniscience begins on digital platforms and ends on the devices supporting our daily lives, which are now increasingly intelligent; watches, cars, televisions and even washing machines (75% of the data generated today already comes from edge devices).

Conclusion

We live in a fully digital age, and the way we perceive the world, how we relate, how we consume services or products has changed completely. Brands have to focus more and more on the experience they offer their consumers if they want to capture our attention in the increasingly competitive virtual universe.

Pine and Gilmore predicted that companies would have to focus their business on the experiences they offer their consumers, and that it’s that memory of these experiences that becomes their product – the companies/brands that have the ability to create and offer this angle find their competitive advantage in this model.

Ana LamelasExperience Economy: 3 trends for 2020
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Apple Pay in Portugal: What changes in our daily lives

It’s 7.20 AM of a weekday like so many others.

Can you imagine what it is like having to deal with the morning chaos of preparing and eating breakfast, showering, dressing, preparing the lunchbox while trying not to forget putting on socks or at least trying not to put on two different ones. Amidst the chaos, there’s always something you forget. A day like that has everything to go well, right? Wrong.

It is obvious that on such a day, while you’re looking for your card to pay for lunch, you realise that you left the wallet at home.

It only takes two seconds after that to grasp that you just lost your financial independence and you that will have to call a colleague in order to come and save you by paying for your lunch, rather than spending the whole afternoon making up to the restaurant for the meal you enjoyed without paying for it.

A few years ago, it would be plausible to come across such a situation. Nowadays, instead of making that embarrassing call to your colleague, you can just grab your phone and pay. It’s that simple. In less than a minute the payment is complete without any friction. How is it possible, you ask? Well, Apple Pay makes it possible. Thank you, gods of technology!

But what exactly is Apple Pay? What are the implications of this new service for consumers and what does the introduction of this service means for the financial industry?

Apple Pay relies on mature technology. The service was originally launched by Apple in October 2014 in its country of origin – the United States of America – and, throughout these 5 years, Apple has been expanding the service to many other countries. In fact, right now, more than 50 countries support Apple Pay and we can confidently say that Apple plans to continue the evangelization and implementation of this service in more countries.

From June 2019 onwards, Portugal became one of the countries to support Apple Pay. Crédito Agrícola, Revolut, N26, Monese and, more recently, Moey! were the first banks to offer this service in the country and we were one of the first companies to implement the technology.

Xpand IT was one of the partners that accompanied the implementation process of Apple Pay within the Crédito Agrícola mobile app from the outset and had to assure the creation of a simple and intuitive navigation flow, so that adding cards to Apple Wallet through the banking app would be fast, easy and frictionless. Together with Crédito Agrícola, Xpand IT has guaranteed that the implementation passed all security tests and all demanding Apple requisites. Not less important, Apple’s intervention in the implementation process highlighted the necessity of having a partner whose sole focus would be the user experience – to assure the experience was coherent and that it was capable of giving life to this new payment method.

How, then, does Apple Pay work? Getting back to the example above, after the initial setup in which the user is able to add cards in the Apple Wallet app, you can now use just your phone to make contactless payments. Payment terminals are still the same – in case they already accept contactless, the user needs only to open the Wallet app, use TouchID or FaceID for authentication, touch the phone to the POS and voilá, that’s it – transaction completed.

There’s no need for wallets or physical cards that only create obstacles to this process – a process that should be fast and painless. As an additional security measure, if the amount is higher than 20 euros (value determined in Portugal), the user will be asked to confirm the transaction through a PIN.

The truth is that this service is a game changer, as it offers complete convenience to the payment act – you pay for your shopping in any channel, be it online, physical or even in mobile apps by using the devices that are already part of your life (iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch), without any complications or waste of time. On the other side, this payment method offers more security: not only because your card data is safely stored through the virtual representation of the card (token) – this token can be deactivated or activated at any moment in the app and is independent of the physical cards – but also because in order for the user to authorise a transaction, a biometric authentication is required. This is one of the reasons why this service has been widely accepted in different economy sectors and also why it has been having such a considerable impact in the payment industry.

I know you must be thinking that not all is roses with this service and that might be true. There’s something none of us can escape – we still need to have battery on our phones in order to assure that our cards are accessible and that payments are just a touch away.

I can now leave my wallet at home without any concern. I just have to make sure that my phone doesn’t run out of battery. If that happens, there’s no technology that can save me.

Maybe in a few years’ time we will be able to make a payment just by authenticating our identity without the need of a phone. But that’s something for another blog post!

Filipa MorenoApple Pay in Portugal: What changes in our daily lives
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Power Platform World Tour: Our experience

In the last week of August, Xpand IT has travelled once again to London where on the 28th and the 29th took place the first European stop of the 2019 Power Platform World Tour. We departed Lisbon with some expectations we hoped would be fulfilled: we wanted to understand this platform even better – a platform which is experiencing an interesting growth – and also get a glimpse into its future.

For those unfamiliar with Power Platform, this is a platform that brings together 3 Microsoft products that together bring to life a platform that promises to streamline and promote the Digital Transformation of organizations. PowerApps, Flow and PowerBI are tools that enable the digitalization and automation of internal processes and have enormous potential to transform the way companies manage their processes and make their decisions. With these tools, companies will be able to make informed decisions with agility and with technology-based processes, therefore taking advantage of the benefits that come from it.

The Event

Getting back to London, though… the event offered us two full days of interesting content where it was possible to meet the growing and enthusiastic Power Platform community, to explore the challenges that different industries are tackling with PowerApps and, no less important, to get a dose of inspiration from the showcased solutions and how various companies are already taking advantage of these technologies. With The Shard as background, the event was a community get together and a genuine sharing of experiences…in fact, one of Microsoft’s most powerful messages is the Power Platform’s simplicity of use. When they say that everyone can build an app using PowerApps and Flow, it’s true. With these products, both developers and business users have the right tools and are empowered to get better business results by building apps. This is not a tool that can be used to solve every problem. However, it is undoubtedly possible to use these powerful technologies to address some of the challenges companies face nowadays.

One of the highlights of the event was being able to hear first-hand what Microsoft has to say about these products’ evolution and what the future holds, especially with regards to enhancements and new features that will be available to all users from October 1st onward. The AI Builder is an example of the new features we can count on: capabilities such as binary classification, object detection and form processing make it easier to include Microsoft’s cognitive services in enterprise applications and providing them with a layer of intelligence that up until now wasn’t within the reach of PowerApps applications. The platform includes a whole set of new features – more than 400 in the last 6 months according to Microsoft – that will allow more and more citizen developers to emerge.

Another of the highlights of the event was related to how these initiatives should be managed within the company in partnership with the IT department. Even though there’s a lot of advantages in putting the power of app creation in the hands of any user – in fact, these users are even now using Excel or Access to solve many problems – the company needs to guarantee that the theme of Enterprise Management is properly addressed. More importantly, we need to look at these initiatives in a more programmatic way: their adoption will have to be promoted continuously so that they aren’t regarded as one-shot projects only.

We also confirmed our suspicions related to the unprecedented growth of the platform: 700% growth in production apps and more than 2.5M of monthly active developers in the Power Platform. These are surprising numbers that show us that the low-code market is growing: Gartner and Forrester have named Microsoft PowerApps as market leaders. It’s safe to say that the future is looking bright for PowerApps and the rest of the Power Platform.

In Conclusion

In short, you can expect more news about PowerApps very soon. The event was an excellent opportunity to witness how companies are innovating internally and to learn from the many experiences of the community. We have returned to Lisbon with the certainty that the PowerApps value proposition for internal empowerment scenarios is very interesting and, in this sense, can complement our mobile development offer whether in cross-platform (Xamarin) or native development.

Strategically speaking, our vision for customer facing apps doesn’t include low-code tools. However, we see potential in low-code tools when we focus on internal and Employee Empowerment scenarios. More news coming soon!

Filipa MorenoPower Platform World Tour: Our experience
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