DevOps, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Microsoft, Microsoft Azure

Microsoft LEAP: Design with Best Practices

All good things come to an end and LEAP is no exception. It was a great week full of interesting and enlightening sessions. Day 5 was a fitting end to the week with its focus on Design with best practices.

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Let’s get to the sessions; the day began with a keynote by Derek Martin on the topic Design for failure. Derek is a Principal Program Manager and spoke about what not to do when designing a product. He spoke about building Azure and how the lessons learned can be used to understand and anticipate challenges.

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The focus was given to managing unexpected incidents not only in the application environment but also in the cloud as a whole.

Brian Moore took over with his keynote on Design for Idempotency – DevOps and the Ultimate ARM Template. He is a Principal Program Manager for Azure. The focus of the session was on creating reusable Azure Resource Manager Templates and language techniques to optimize deployments on Azure. The intention of these reusable templates is to introduce a “Config as code” approach to DevOps.

He took his time to explain “the Ultimate ARM Template” and other key points about the template. Brian Moore explained that the Ultimate ARM Template utilized utilised any language constructs to increase the impact of minimal code. The template simply looks to simplify all of your work. It also offers a variety of benefits for all of its users to enjoy. To guarantee the efficiency of ARM, he explained the practice to avoid. It’s a template which provides you with the best options for the most effective results and lack nothing essential.

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Alexander Frankel, Joseph Chan, and Liz Kim conducted their join keynote on Architecting well-governed environment using Azure Policy and Governance after the morning coffee break.

They illustrated real-life examples of how large enterprises scale their Azure applications with Azure Governance services like Azure Policy, Blueprints, Management Groups, Resource Graph and Change History.

The next session was on Monitor & Optimize your cloud spend with Azure Cost Management and was conducted by Raphael Chacko. Raphael is a Principal Program Manager at Azure Cost Management.

The keynote’s main focus was optimizing expenditure on Azure and AWS through cost analysis, budgeting, cost allocation, optimization, and purchase recommendations. The main features of Azure Cost management were highlighted.

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It was right back to business after a quick lunch break. Stephen Cohen took over with his session on Decomposing your most complex architecture problems.

Most of the session was spent on analyzing and coming up with answers to complex architecture-related problems raised by participants. It was a very practical session and addressed many commonly faced issues.

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The next session was conducted by Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Microsoft Azure.

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Day 5 had a shorter agenda and was concluded with Derek Martin returning for another keynote on Networking Fundamentals. Derek spoke about Azure Networking Primitives and how it can be used to leverage the networking security of any type of organization using Azure environments. Azure Networking Primitives can be used in a flexible manner so that newer modern approaches to governance and security protocols can be adopted easily.

And that was it. The completion of a great week of LEAP. I hope all of you enjoyed this series of articles and that they gave you some level of understanding about the innovations being done in the Azure ecosystem.

DevOps, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Microsoft, Microsoft Azure

Microsoft LEAP: Design for Efficiency, Operations and DevOps

I just left Microsoft Headquarters after another interesting day at LEAP. Today’s topics were quite interesting, especially DevOps, because of all the innovations that are being made. I’m actually a little emotional that there’s just one more day remaining.

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Jason Warner began the day’s session with his keynote on From Impossible to Possible: Modern Software Development Workflows. As the CTO of Github, Jason shared much of his experience regarding the topic.

The underlying theme of the keynote was on creating an optimal workflow that leads to the success of both the development process as well as the team. He pointed out the inevitable nature of modernization and said its important that the company does not become a mediocre or get worse.

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Before he went on to the topic of the day, Jason spoke about himself. He also didn’t hesitate to share some valuable history and information about his life. Jason Warner introduced the audience to some brief insight into the capabilities of GitHub and the success they have managed to achieve so far.

According to Jason, to ensure proper modernisation must have a workflow that consists the following; automation, intelligence and open source. Next, he identified GitHub’s ability to produce the best workflows to improve company efficiency. It didn’t end there as he continued by talking about the benefits of workflow inflation

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Abel Wang continued with the next session and his keynote was on Real World DevOps. Abel is a Principal Cloud Advocate for Azure.
This session was truly valuable as it covered the full process of a production SDLC and many other important areas such as infrastructure, DNS, web front ends, mobile apps, and Kubernetes API’s.

At the start of his presentation, Abel Wang introduced us to his team and gave a run down on some vital information about DevOps. Why do you need DevOps? Well, they are solution providers, support any language and boast a three-stage conversation process for results.

After a much-needed coffee break, we embarked on the next session on Visual Studio and Azure, the peanut butter and jelly of cloud app devs. The speaker, Christos Matskas is a Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft.

The session focused on explaining how well Azure and Visual Studio support development, live debugging, and zero downtime deployments. Christos also spoke about leveraging integrated Azure tools to modernize .Net applications.

The goal of those at Visual Studio are committed to providing developers with the best tools available. It supports all types of developers and redefines their coding experience. The great thing about Visual Studio is that they don’t rest on their laurels and are constantly in search of innovation. It even comes with a Visual Studio Live feature that allows developers share content with each other in real-time.

Evgeny Ternovsky, Shiva Sivakumar jointly conducted the next session on Full stack monitoring across your applications, services, and infrastructure with Azure Monitor. Many demonstrations were performed to overview the capabilities of Azure monitor.
The demos included monitoring VMs, Containers, other Azure services, and applications. In addition, setting up predictive monitoring for detecting anomalies and forecasting was also discussed.

Azure has a full set of services which it uses to oversee all your security and management needs. They have all the tools you need and are built into the platform to reduce any 3rd party integration. As if not enough, Azure managed to develop a set of newer features; partner integration, monitor containers everywhere, new pricing option, trouble shoot network issues later.

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Subsequent to lunch, I joined the alternative session, which was on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The session was on the use of Azure Cognitive Services and using it with optimized scaling in order to optimize the customer care services provided organizations such as telecoms and telemarketers.
Then we were back at another joint session by Satya Srinivas Gogula and Vivek Garudi and the keynote was on the topic Secure DevOps for Apps and Infrastructure @ Microsoft Services.

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The speaker spoke about the wide adoption of DevOps practices and Open Source Software (OSS) and the vulnerabilities they introduce. The latter part of the session focused on best practices for secure DevOps with Azure.

The next keynote was on Transforming IT and Business operations with real-time analytics: From Cloud to the intelligent edge. It was jointly delivered by Jean-Sébastien Brunner and Krishna Mamidipaka and focussed on the challenges faced by IT and Business teams trying to understand the behavior of applications.
The speakers explained the benefits of Azure Stream Analytics to ingest, process, and analyze streaming data in order to enable better analytics.

A good example of when Azure is at its best is that it can be used for earthquake and storm predictions.

Taylor Rockey concluded the day with his keynote on MLOps: Taking machine learning from experimentation to production. MLOps is an integration between machine language and DevOps. MLOps has proven to have numerous benefits including; scalability, monitoring, repeatability, accountability, traceability and so on. This platform had impressive features that make it a first-choice for many developers.
The problems that many organizations face is the lack of proper understanding and tooling to use Machine Learning for production applications. The session focussed on the use of Machine Learning for production applications with the use of Azure Machine Learning and Azure DevOps.

And that’s a wrap. Don’t forget to tune into tomorrow’s article.

DevOps, Gunnebo Business Solutions

Microsoft LEAP: Design for Availability and Recoverability

Day 3 of Microsoft LEAP was just completed. It was a day packed with many interesting keynotes regarding improving the availability and recoverability of Azure applications. By now, you know the drill, check out my notes on Day 2 here.

Mark Fussell and Sudhanva Huruli co-hosted the opening keynote on the topic Open Application Model (OAM) and Distributed Application Runtime (Dapr). Mark has been with Microsoft for nearly 2 decades and is now a Principal PM Lead. Sudhanva is a Program Manager. Both of them work on the Azure Service Fabric platform.
The open application model was discussed in detail and the focus was on separating operational needs from development concerns.

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Mark Fussell started by describing the topology of applications which many users utilised. He also stated that developers write each application to interact with different services. Then, Mark spoke about the reason behind the creation of Dapr. It was a designed as a solution to tackle the problems of microservice development. Dapr would allow the building of apps using any language on any framework. Microsoft is already onboard to tap into benefits which it offers. It offers the benefits of enjoying stateful microservice in any language.

Sudhanva Huruli’s speech on OAM was intriguing and revealing. According to him, the OAM was a platform agnostic specification to help define cloud native applications. Users can trust it’s quality because it was built by the largest teams at Microsoft and Ali Baba. It can be applied in a number of ways. It’s benefits include encapsulating application code, offering discretionary runtime overlays, discretionary application boundaries and defines application instances.

The program is fully managed by Azure, so that you can focus on applications.

The opening session was followed by another join session by Muzzammil Imam and Craig Wilhite who hold the positions of Senior PM and PM respectively.
This keynote was on the topic of Windows Containers on AKS and it detailed the process of converting a legacy application into a cloud application and hosting it on a Windows container on an Azure Kubernetes service.

Their presentation showed that a lot of on-premise workload is done on windows; about 72%. There seems to to be a light at the end of the tunnel as there have been numerous good reviews about the Windows Container. It’s adoption is even growing steadily and there is room for more improvement. Microsoft containers will keep getting better with continuous innovation.

Kubernetes is a great option in Azure. It’s a vanguard in the future of app development and management and it can help you ship faster, operate easily and scale confidently. Azure Kebernetes Services will help you handle all the hard parts and give room a better future.

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After the coffee break, we were back for the next session conducted by Brendan Burns on Securing software from end-to-end using Kubernetes and Azure. Brendan is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft. This session focussed on continuous delivery with Kubernetes. Some of the sub-themes were continuous integration with GitHub Actions, Access Control in Kubernetes, and Gatekeeper for Kubernetes.

The last session before lunch was conducted by Jeff Hollan, a Principal PM Manager for Microsoft Azure Functions. The keynote was on Serverless and Event-Driven functions for Kubernetes and beyond. To put it simply, they seem just like the features of Kubernetes.

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The focus was on stateless event-driven serverless computing which is enabled by Azure functions. Many new hosting and programming models that enable new event-driven scenarios were discussed.

When used with severless, it allows developers focus on what really matters; their code. There are a variety of applications which it can be used as. Kubernetes also does well when dealing with event-driven applications

Next to speak was Kirpa Singh. He was a manager at Microservices and Performance Tuning. During his session, he spoke on what makes microservices a better option. He went on by speaking about the benefits of microservice architecture for projects. It was designed for large applications that require a high release velocity, complex applications that need to be highly scalable a, applications with rich domains or subdomains and so on. It offers users agility, focus, technology and isolation.

After lunch, we saw more of the Microsoft campus. Then it was back to the next session.
The session after the lunch break was the OSS Architecture Workshop conducted by Jeff Dailey, Patrick Flynn, and Terry Cook. One of the core themes of the workshop was Open Source stacks. They spoke about building Hybrid resilient data pipelines and infrastructure using open source. This was done through a breakout session at which the attendees were separated into groups and drafted architectures that supported both on-premise and cloud deployments.

During this session, they discussed about Open Source. But why open source? It allows easier migration, deliver poly cloud options via APIs, drives Azure consumption and so on.

Mark Brown conducted the next session on Building high-performance distributed applications using Azure Cosmos DB. He is a Principal PM in the Azure Cosmos DB Team.
The session’s key theme was building globally distributed cloud applications with high availability while ensuring extreme low latency. Many real-world demos were explored during the session and these will help us, developers, to tackle these issues in our own projects.

Hans Olav Norheim, a Principal Software Engineer, concluded the sessions for the day with a keynote on Designing for 99.999% – Lessons and stories from inside Azure SQL DB.
The session focussed on building applications with almost 100% uptime while covering design choices, principles, and lessons learned that can be used in our own projects to overcome uptime issues.

Thus were the proceedings of Day 3. I conclude my note while looking forward to the next set of sessions with the theme Design for efficiency & Operations & DevOps.
I’ll be publishing another article tomorrow.

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Microservices, Microsoft, Microsoft Azure, Technical

Microsoft LEAP: Design for Performance and Scalability

I’m at Microsoft for LEAP and we just wrapped up another day of interesting discussions. If you missed my update regarding day 1, make sure to have a look at it here.

Today’s theme was Design for Performance and Scalability. Many legacy applications are being replaced because they are not performance-oriented and scalable at their core. This is something that has to be introduced right from the design stage. Today’s speakers covered many of the core areas which need to be optimized to enable both performance and scalability.

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Vamshidhar Kommineni took us right from breakfast to using Azure storage for the data storage needs of Azure applications and how it can be used to enhance performance. Vamshidhar spoke about the innovations in the storage services layer made in the year 2019. He also shared briefly that plans for 2020. 

Corey Newton-Smith was next and focused on IoT applications. Corry has been with Microsoft since 2003 and currently functions as the Principal Group PM for IoT Central. She shared the current state of IoT and Microsoft’s plans for the near future highlighting their vision.

Corey explains that Azure IoT represented a new era of digitization amongst industries. It was an innovation that allowed brands the ability to do so much more. The objective behind the production of this platform is enabling a digital feedback loop. She discussed that Microsoft had done so much to make the IoT better. Now, it was capable of bidirectional communication, can be scaled to suit enterprise of any size and provides end-to-end security. Microsoft was planning an improvement that would allow it to support scenarios that are not currently cloud feasible. What’s more? Everything can be tailored specifically to the exact solutions that you need.

The next session began after some light mingling during the coffee break. It was back to business with Jose Contreras and his keynote on decomposing Monoliths into Microservices.

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Enterprise applications have made a gradual transition from being monolithic to being Microservice based. Jose explained strategies that can help with this process focussing on Memory, Computing, and Schema. He then discussed migrating existing monolith applications into Microservices without affecting ongoing operations. He focussed on the design, execution, and DevOps aspects.

Jose spoke on a number of factors to really prove the usefulness of transforming monolith to microservices. As part of his talk, he highlighted the factors to consider in making use of this service, differences between private and shared cache and considerations for using cache.

Interestingly, he moved on and started talking about Azure Compute. He listed all of their available services and gave detailed information on its hosting models, DevOps Criteria, Scalability criteria, and other criteria.

Clemens Vasters’s keynote focussed on how messaging is shaping enterprise applications. Importantly, he spoke on how Microsoft Azure could make all of it better.
He is a Product Architect at Microsoft and highlighted how open standards and messaging can be used to move applications to the cloud. Some of the areas he touched on were Event Hubs, Service Bus, Event Grid, and CNCF Cloud Events, and Relay with web sockets.

According to him, users can use a series of options to connect a range of devices. Ease of connectivity is guaranteed by the use of intelligent edge or intelligent cloud. Basically, it can be applied to varying scales and still work well with Telco 4G/5G. Despite all of this, cloud services can be applied to create automotive and smart cities, support industrial automation and speed up processes.

Clemens continued by clearing the air on the standards which the cloud service operated on. Everything is built according to standards and designed to be secure. Such was the level of quality in display.

After a quick lunch break, an alternative session was conducted for those who were already familiar with the campus. This session on Messaging Guidance was conducted by Francis Cheung and was related to session 4. However, Francis focused more on how we could assess if some of those tools were a good fit for our projects. He also touched on managing and versioning message schemas.

Next was David Barkol’s session focusing on Designing an Event-driven Architecture on Azure through a workshop approach. He challenged attendees to solve problems related to messaging in a group setting. As a Principal Technical Specialist for Azure, David used his vast experience to reinforce the existing knowledge of attendees about Azure messaging services. He really had a lot of interesting things to say.

Using a few simple statements, he was able to highlight the problems of the customer, identify their needs and how to solve them with the use of event-driven architecture. As a platform, the event-driven architecture will eliminate any bottlenecks and allow for easier transmission of information. Azure messaging services will solve all of the demands identified by the consumer. He also mentioned that Event Hubs GeoDR will also provide a backup or secondary region.

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Derek Li conducted his keynote next. He focussed on Serverless platforms based on Azure Functions and Logic Apps. Derek is a Senior Program Manager. His keynote focused on how serverless technologies have impacted how applications are built. He also spoke on how Azure Functions and Logic Apps can be used to speed up delivery.

The last session was after a very welcome Cola Zero break. It refreshed us for Rahul Kalaya’s keynote on deriving insights from IoT Data with Azure Time Series Insights.
Rahul spoke about design choices, principles and lessons learned with regards to maintaining the highest possible uptime of cloud databases and servers. Many stories from his experiences with Azure SQL made the keynote even more interesting.
And that was it. The completion of a day of meaningful sessions.

I look forward to sharing my next article on Day 3: Designing for Availability and Recoverability.

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Internet of Things (IoT), Microsoft, Microsoft Azure, OpenID Connect, Security, TLS/SSL

Microsoft LEAP: Design for Security

This year is already off to a fantastic start! I am so excited to be here at the LEAP conference at the Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond Seattle. LEAP is a perfect way for me to keep up to date with new technology and how to apply it here at Gunnebo.

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The focus of the day was to Design for Security. The threat of cyber attacks and hackers is still as pressing as ever, so the need for cloud security is crucial. Although technological advancement has triggered an evolution in cloud security over the years, keeping the right level of visibility and control over their applications is still a challenge to many organizations. This means that finding a balance between cloud security and ease of use is a hard nut to crack. Today’s program discusses how Azure can cope up with this issue. Also, speakers are expected to introduce new and updated features Azure brought recently to improve the security of cloud applications.

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The highlight of today’s program consists of five great keynotes. The first on the list was Scott Guthrie, the executive vice president for Microsoft’s Cloud. He is an incredible orator and kept the audience thrilled with his in-depth explanations on how Azure helps organizations to deliver product innovation and better customer experience securely. It was frankly impossible to have been there without taking away more than a few vital points and a better understanding of Azure.

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Then Stuart Kwan, who is a principal program manager at Microsoft, was the next in line. He backed up Scott Guthrie with a great keynote on how authentication works on today’s applications. Stuart has a wealth of experience under his belt, and he has worked on identity and security-related technologies since joining Microsoft in 1996. Few people have more experience in that field. He is the guy to listen to on topics like Active Directory Federation Services and Windows Identity Foundation. The main focus was on OAuth, Open ID Connect, and SAML. OpenID Connect is a simple identity layer built on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol. OAuth 2.0 defines mechanisms to obtain and use access tokens to access protected resources, but they do not define standard methods to provide identity information. OpenID Connect implements authentication as an extension to the OAuth 2.0 authorization process. It includes information about the end-user in the form of an id_token that verifies the identity of the user and provides necessary profile information about the user.

When Yuri Diogenes took control of the stage, everyone knew that his talk would be primarily based on how cloud security is evolving and becoming more mature. Yuri is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft for Cloud and AI Security.

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Before Yuri moved on to talk about Azure security, he provided some insights into the problematic scenarios that many companies find themselves. According to him, security hygiene has to be taken seriously or any cloud-based infrastructure would suffer. Basically, organizations have to protect themselves against modern-day threats. He carefully explained that Azure Security Center is a unified infrastructure security management system that strengthens the security posture of your data centers, and provides advanced threat protection across your hybrid workloads in the cloud – whether they’re in Azure or not – as well as on-premises. In simple terms, Azure security is the new security hygiene which you need.

Yuri went further to explain the benefits of Azure security center and Azure Sentinel. It provides all-round security and also affords a degree of customizability. According to him, Azure is capable of protecting Linux and Windows VMs from threats, protecting cloud-native workloads from threats, detecting file-less attacks, cloud workload protection for containers and so on.

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The next person on stage was Nicholas DiCola who was a Security Jedi at Microsoft. He thrilled the audience with his discussions on the Azure Sentinel. He explained to everyone how the Sentinel functions as a cloud-native SIEM for intelligent security analytics for an entire organization. It offers limitless cloud speed and could be used at any scale. It also provides its users with faster threat protection and will easily integrate will all existing tools.

According to him, the Azure Sentinel was designed to collect visibility, helps in detecting analytics and hunting, investigates any incidents and respond automatically to them. Azure Sentinel gets data to function from numerous sources such as Linux Agent, Windows Agent, cloud services, custom app, appliances, azure services and so on. After collating all necessary data, it’s analytics scan for any possible threats. Then, you will now be able to monitor your data and activity.

Last but not least we had a session with Sumedh Barde and Narayan Annamalai. They opened a fascinating discussion on how to secure certificates, connection strings, or encryption keys and new networking capabilities of Azure. Sumedh Barde is Program Manager on the Azure Security team, and Narayan is the leader of the SDN product management group in Microsoft Azure that focuses on virtual networks, load balancing, and network security.

These two gave us great insight into the Azure Key Vault. They explained to us how it functions as a tool for securely storing and accessing secrets. From what I learned from the conference, the secret to tightly controlling and securing access on things API keys, passwords, or certificates is to use a vault. A vault is your very own logical group of secrets.

It was a great day here in Redmond and an excellent opportunity to brush up my knowledge of cloud security. I’m actively looking forward to tomorrow.

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution, Reflections, Retail, Sustainability

NRF: Sustainable retail, a vital next step

I came to New York in a jacket I bought second hand for EUR 25 in my hometown Ålesund. It is nice, warm and comfortable – and this is what is important to me. If 60-70% of your closet is not used, why not sell it so someone else can benefit from it?

It is a constant source of pleasure to me as I discover that some of my ideals are being put forth as visionary in the retail industry, which I am passionate about. In this year’s NRF, sustainability is one of the key points being discussed and an aspect of it is promoting of re-sale/second hand goods. It’s quite exciting to be a part of this and I will be sharing it all with you.

Young woman is browsing a rail of clothes at mall store

 

Visionary Voices of Ambition, Purpose and Inclusion

The keynote that caught my attention was with four strong female top managers, Mercedes Abramo from Cartier, Shannon Schuyler from PwC, Shawn Outler from Macy’s and Tammy Sheffer from Rent the Runway.

Revolutionizing businesses (ranging from retail to other industries) requires more than just motivational talk, calculable action is needed to unlock potentials and push the edges of possibility. And when it comes to leading the way, some of the biggest moves are coming from female executives. Progressive voices from the biggest names in retail teamed up with CEO Action leaders to share time-honed tactics and winning strategies that are practical.

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There has always been a disparity in the treatment of female employees when compared to their male counterparts. Although informal moments are important, it isn’t quite sad that top female managers are treated different than their male opponents. This isn’t obviously not an issue common only in the retail industry, it’s a humanity issue.

What makes this difference in treatment more worrisome is that females even seem to thrive more in the retail industry since it is flexible work. Retail requires a lot of contact with clients and other entities (suppliers, producers, etc), females on average excel in such roles

Issues like this constitute some of the reasons why top management and CEOs are taking political stands more than ever. CEOs are realizing how powerful their voices are and the influence it yields. Progressive views are embraced by many top executives and they can greatly influence employees.

Retail 2020: The dawn of sustainability

The role of technology in retail has started to change the entire market landscape. It’s easy to imagine the stores of the future with magic mirrors or robotic sales assistants. Yes, there have truly been advancements in the technology used in the retail industry and the dawn of 2020 seems like the time for sustainability. Is sustainability growing to the point that it becomes crucial to your transformation journey? How will brands look to adopt technology and sustainability into their operations? If you are constantly plagued by these questions, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Retail and Consumer Goods, Shelley Bransten’s talk on sustainability and impact of technology on the industry will answer all your questions.  Together with Shelley will be Arti Zeighami, Head of AI & Sustainability for H&M, he will share H&M’s sustainability journey and how Microsoft technology equipped them to achieve their sustainability goals. It was good to see Arti again, it was truly an inspiration as always.

Arti noted that retailers are often faced with the question of quantification of product requirement, optimizing supply chain, how much to produce. He also explained that AI in H&M helps perform these computations with fantastic results. He went further to speak on some key tools employed in H&M.

Value chain analysis is a strategy tool used to monitor the internal activities of of a business, retailers in this case. Its primary function is to identify the most valuable activities and those that can be modified to enhance competitive advantage. Simply put, looking into internal activities through the analysis shows the areas where a retailer’s competitive advantages or disadvantages lie. This analysis can shed light on if a firm needs to improve its activities or reduce the operational costs of such activities.

Sometimes having the right products in the right place at the right time is what makes all the difference. Proper strategies and planning of logistic chain a can greatly improve convenience and and lead to higher ROI. Customers are likely to make purchases when products are close to them. Taking data from multiple systems will offer you totally new insights while employing various data mining techniques and technologies diversified your approach and gives you a broader perspective.

The road to sustainability is bound to have a few bumps; so, Test, fail, learn, pivot – then repeat. Making mistakes are inevitable in retail, turning these mistakes into learning experiences will greatly influence your growth rate. Taking on experiments boldly (within reason) and trying out new technology is highly encouraged.

RE-purpose revolution: Upcycling retail’s future

Sustainability has become a top trend. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be labeled as the savage who’s ruining the earth. One of the impacts of environmentalists is that they have successfully managed to make people feel that being environmentally conscious is the new cool. A similar scenario is is playing out in the cosmetics industry, there has been a big influx towards natural products. Tech and industrial giants have obviously noticed this change and adapted to make themselves to being more environment friendly. It’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that retail is shifting towards sustainability.

A lot of retail leaders are doing their best to ensure that they remain relevant and continue to offer their customers sustainable solution. Customers now base their purchase decision on the values of the brand; personal, social and environmental values. It is now clear that to get the best results, then brands have to make purpose-driven decisions that will easily transform the world into a better place. Brands can’t just go around doing what they like. They have to continuously keep the demands of the customer at the back of their mind. It’s only through this re-purpose revolution that the company can reach its peak and keep all of their customers happy. It may seem like a relatively new concept but adopting it is a great choice. So, how do you apply this to your own retail business? The best way to do this would be to learn from the best.

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Hear from some of the most innovative leaders from nimble retailers and break-through digital-first brands who are meeting consumer needs and disrupting the industry.

A fact to always have handy is that consumers are becoming more progressive and conscious; they want to buy second hand, but also need to see something fresh. Customers will willingly buy second hand if it looks appealing enough and satisfies their needs, it’s only a matter  of time before retail leaders set the trend. The growing consumer awareness on sustainability and environmental consciousness are perfect conditions for retailers to slowly introduce the concept of resale. Although a good percentage of this “awareness” in consumers  stems from the urge to look cool and follow trends, it’s  still solid enough for retailers to leverage on.

At some point,  retailers should understand that re-sale does not de-valuate the brand. Among the elite, minimalism and other such ideologies being adopted. These ideologies embraced by high-end customers make them more susceptible to brands that re-sale.

Celebrities sell or give away stuff from their closet that is not used, this on its own should be enough to shed more positive light or re-sale among retailers and customers, shouldn’t it? Resale does not discriminate, the world is ready for second hand sale and those is message that should be preached. The narrative that second hand goods are for the less privileged should be discarded, there’s simply isn’t any logic to it. On the other hand, a wide acceptance of second hand sale will boost the effectiveness and logistics  industries associated with retail.

Another similar idea to re-sale are clothing rental services for luxury items. Brands like Rent The Runway Unlimited, Gwynnie Bee  and New York And Company Closet are already creating significant traction in that field. They work by offering members monthly subscriptions and allowing them  rent 4-6 items at a time, brilliant isn’t it?

Similarly, ReBag is an online store that offers second hand luxury goods. Considering that 92% of luxury item should are bought offline, ReBag switches from online to omnichannel approach to sales. It will be quite interesting to observe the positive effects re-sale will have on brands.

Curious. Distinctive. Uncompromising. Conversations with Recode

Kara Swisher entered the stage with the confidence only she can radiate. New this year, NRF has partnered with Recode to introduce its straight to the point editorial interview style to NRF 2020 Vision’s arena. In this live interview, Recode co-founder and editor-at-large Kara Swisher will leverage her background in tech, media, and commerce to investigate some of the industry’s most pressing challenges, eliciting thought-provoking insights from her soon-to-be-announced interview subject. Swisher has led insightful conversations with likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Katrina Lake, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Jack Dorsey, and many other leading players impacting a broad swath of industries, including retail.

Nothing like a panel of four men talking about women’s clothing

Her “victim for the day” is Ben Silbermann who is an American billionaire Internet entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, a visual discovery engine, which lets users organize images, links, recipes and other things.

Ben gave the audience insight in how Pinterest is created for Inspiration in how to dress, decorate and behave. However Kara pointed out the problems with internet platforms, as they easily become playground for fraud and illegal activities like child pornography. Ben insisted that Pinterest has always had a clear etiquette on contents and are continuously working on enforcing this.

Not wanting to talk too much about the future, Ben could reveal that personalization, and that the consumer should see what they want to see will be important. Also ensuring the confidence of the merchants connected to the platform is important.

Closing KeyNote Goop Lab

The Goop Lab is an upcoming American documentary series about the lifestyle and wellness company, Goop, founded by American actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The series will be premiered on Netflix on January 24, 2020.

Goop started as a newsletter from Gwyneth at a point in her life where she wanted to move from acting into another business. Trying to fill the “whitespace” in her life, she started looking into what she calls Contextual Commerce, a concept where you talk, manufacture and sell what you like and what gives you pleasure.

Gwyneth has been a hot topic the last few weeks with her “Smells Like my Vagina” candle, a topic that amused the american audience here at NRF as well as the customers, as the candle was sold out the first day.

The partnership with Netflix generated criticism of the streaming giant for letting Gwyneth Paltrow use their platform to promote her company which has been under fire for making health claims with no backup evidence. Several critics termed the affair a “win for pseudoscience”. When the first trailer was released, the show received even more notable criticism from the scientific community and evidence-based critics. Gwyneth feels that she is often treated unfairly, but it is not like she wants to take her critics to court, all PR is as you know good PR.

This concludes by visit to NRF, but I will visit EuroShop soon, and look forward to keeping you up to date on what goes on in the world of consumer retail!

 

Commercial, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution, Innovation, Internet of Things (IoT), Reflections

NRF: Technology keeps retailers two steps ahead

Socioeconomics or social economics is a branch of social science that tries to understand the effect of social structures and processses  on economic activity. At its basic, it studies the relationship between societies progress and local economy, or the global economy. 

Efficient social structures inadvertently lead to a stronger economy. Retail is a critical structure in any society, apart from its obvious importance in economic revenue, it is also a huge platform for human interactions at all levels. Embedding technology deeply into retail to the point that it reaches brick and mortar stores and small businesses will make a more efficient retail industry, and hence, economy.

During my second day at NRF, I wanted to focus on technology and how technology empower brick and mortart stores to keep relevant in 2020.

Female Executives are Leading the Way

Specific and measurable action is required for any scalable transformation in business, retail and other industries. Talk and plans alone cannot push and motivate performance and possibilities.  And when it comes to leading the way, some of the biggest moves are coming from female executives. Progressive voices from the biggest names in retail  and CEO Action leaders share fresh winning strategies, successful tactics, and takeaways that are both valuable and practical.

Horizontal photo african female boss talking at corporate meeting

There has always been a disparity in the treatment of female employees when compared to their male counterparts. Although informal moments are important, it isn’t quite sad that top female managers are treated different than their male opponents. This isn’t obviously not an issue common only in the retail industry, it’s a humanity issue.

What makes this difference in treatment more worrisome is that females even seem to thrive more in the retail industry since it is flexible work. Retail requires a lot of contact with clients and other entities (suppliers, producers, etc), females on average excel in such roles

Issues like this constitute some of the reasons why top management and CEOs are taking political stands more than ever. CEOs are realizing how powerful their voices are and the influence it yields. Progressive views are embraced by many top executives and they can greatly influence employees.

Visiting the Gunnebo Stand

Being a security and technology company, Gunnebo was of course present at NRF showing our cash management devices for retail. From cash management to loss prevention, there are several areas where Gunnebo Cash Management Solutions can help improve retail processes and security procedures to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance the customer experience.

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It was also good to meet ut with collegues I do not see that often, from Sweden, Holland, USA and Denmark amongst other.

Retail and the global social economics scene: The 2020 Vision

The business environment has effectively created space for retailers. But because of the nature of the market, new strategies are important to ensure that retailers can get the best and gain the required advantage. It is assumed that all retailers usually look to establish a fair amount of advantage. This usually ensures that the concept of globalisation is discussed in relation to the retail sector.

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So, how do factors such as government policies, such as tax reform, reciprocal trade agreements and monetary regulation, persist as key instruments in managing global economic health? Former US senator and Speaker of the US House of representatives, Paul Ryan joins NRF 2020 with Recode co-founder and editor-at-large Kara Swisher as expert panelists providing insights on the business impacts of recent political and policy decisions in Washington. Whether it’s tariffs, international trade agreements, tax reforms or impending Big Tech regulations, the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Ryan, and tech and innovation authority, Swisher will explore and anticipate what lies ahead for consumers and the retail industry on the global stage.

It is in the interest of every retailer to embrace retail technology. All aspects of retail have some sort of software or technology that aids its smooth running. Customer tracking software can greatly improve customer experience and garner loyalty to your brand. Technology makes for a swift and clutter free way to analyze data, monitor sales and keep inventory.

POS (Point of sale), Executive Information Systems and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) are some ways technology can help in sales, warehousing and analysis.

Technology also has tremendous applications on the executive level. With data mining and planning software, executives can delegate most of their work and focus on strategic tests, hence increasing productivity.

Technology in retail is more important now than ever. It is so crucial that NRF has transformed from a retail show to a full blown tech show for one simple reason: most of the advancements in retail are directly as a result of tech advancements.

China Innovation Concept

China is the new innovator, the Chinese government is making huge investments in cooperation with private companies into AI, robotics etc. Domestic tech giants receive huge support from their government and this has yielded positive results in China’s retail sector. The almost sudden rise of Alibaba and other Chinese brands is testament to this fact. Innovation does not work in the same way in democratic countries as autocracies like China, and countries like USA can not outspend China in innovation simply because it does not enjoy the liberties of Chinese autocracy.

Another stepping stone in the path of USA retail technology is that the US does not have any laws to regulate new technology. EU has GDPR and heavy privacy legislation, but US is lagging behind. Unfortunatley the education is also lagging behind, and both modern US and EU must find ways to educate students for working with AI, not doing the same work as AI. This sort of education does not have to be costly and does not have to involve any complex learning, it should be simply focused on teaching people to make the best use of AI and expose them to how AI can increase productivity.

All in all a fresh discussion and enlightening discussion between Paul Ryan and Kara Swisher.

Cloud Computing: Paving the way for the future of retail

The retail industry is on the cusp of great change with customer expectations evolving and impacting all areas of the retail value chain. The most forward-thinking businesses recognize that they must embark on a digital transformation strategy to stay competitive and deliver innovation. And this involves the adoption of cloud computing. The investment brands in cloud computing has risen from about $4 billion in 2011 to a whopping sum of $15 billion in 2016. Retailers are looking to adopt cloud computing just like in the banking and manufacturing industries. There are numerous benefits that can accrue from the adoption of cloud computing.

Google Cloud Platform on a phone screen in a pocket

Winners are retailers that transforms the fastest. The most successful retail brands are those that pursue advancement and embed new systems into their business models. Cloud computing appears to be the next major milestone in retail technology and embracing it now is the way to stay competitive.

Personalization has always been key to brand identity, preserving the identity of your brand in this age of cloud based computing should be a priority. Technology should be utilized to to help retailers optimize the efficiency of business and not totally replace identity.

Digital advisors are automated investment platforms that process the construction and upkeep of an investment portfolio for retsilers. All it takes is opening an investment account, answering some questions about goals and risk tolerance, and the platform makes the best decisions based on answers given. In addition to ease of use and efficiency, digital advisors are also tax effective.

Google works with retailers to solve pain points and shape a future vision that focuses on a set of businesses that brings to bear the very best of Google. Using cloud technologies such as application development, data management, advanced analytics, and AI/ML capabilities, Google is helping retailers unlock impending opportunities. Join Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian and Kohl’s CTO, Paul Gaffney as they discuss how Kohls is infusing their business with intelligence and cloud capabilities to better serve employees and customers.

Global retail mindset: Bold moves from leaders looking to fuel future growth

Retail businesses have extended into every corner of the world. Every business leader is always concerned about the growth of his or her business but sometimes, it can be harder to achieve. This is due to the fact that many retail business owners lack the technical know-how to ensure the sustained growth of the business. A retail business will usually reach a peak after which it may seem like a herculean task to inspire any more growth. How possible is it to get the much-desired growth? Apparently, you have to learn from the techniques used by many industry experts. The insight could be the fuel that you need.

In consecutive interviews, hear from retail and brand executives with penchants for evolution who are tackling new growth challenges, reimaging core customer strategies, and living up to their “change agent” personas? Featuring leaders with bold ideas for leading enterprise transformation, each interview will examine the company’s current landscape, ideas to solve or proactively disrupt industry challenges, and each executive’s vision for future profitable growth.

Commercial, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution

NRF: It’s all about the experience in retail

Chris Baldwin, Chairman, President and CEO of NRF kicked off this year’s event with his insights and forecasts for Retail in 2020. Unfortunately, I missed his session due to a malfunction in the NRF ticketing system. Rest assured, I will update this article as soon as I can get my hands on a video from the session.

Opening keynote with Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered a charismatic opening keynote. I have had the opportunity to see him live once before in Stockholm, and again here at NRF. He shared his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology will help the industry transform. Microsoft works closely with retailers all over the world to help them deliver on the promise of intelligent retail.

Next retail innovations will not come from tech, but from you as you build your own capability

The global retail sector is such a pivotal part of world economy that it accounts for 31% of the world’s GDP. Apart from the fact that it creates employment for billions of people, in 2015 retail turned in a whopping $22.6 trillion which rose to $28 trillion in 2019. Retail has displayed a steady grown steadily with an annual growth rate of about 3.8% since 2008. Supermarkets still remain largest provider of retail services (35%).

Omnichannel is expected to surpass supermarkets, it already represents about 23% of retail sales with plenty of room for further growth it is inevitable that at some point in the near future retailers will expect multiple touchpoints for their retail journey.

Satya Nadella is of the opinion that digitalization is already soaked into the economy, pointing out that 92 of the top 100 retailers use Microsoft Azure. Retailers need to abandon conventional means and increase the intensity of technology, this always leads to improved capability and reach. Since 75% of shopping begins online, he advices retailers to capitalize on consumer data to create effective digital marketing campaigns. With Azure retailers does not need to reinvent the wheel, but can use off the shelf solutions and focus on their core offerings – to build their own digital capability so to speak.

Learn all the time, keep your strategies up to date. The retail world is fast paced and strategies are always evolving. Staying current gives your customers the confidence to be associated with your brand. Researching new market trends and strategies must be a vital part of every retailer’s process. All data from all systems should be utilized for personalization, and market data should be processed to meet the brands goals and identity, this sets retailers apart from others.

Customer expectations are constantly increasing, terms like “two days shipping” are now common. Partnering with suppliers can significantly shorten supply routes and spread retailers reach. The result is swift and monitored shipping. Offer customers quality service, swift shipping, personal connection and going the extra mile for their satisfaction. This makes customers expect the best and associate your brand with premium service.

Prioritizing customer satisfaction is the best way to create a loyal customer base. A recommendation from a satisfied customer is one of the strongest forms of marketing, all employees must be constantly aware of this. Satya wants to break down silos and empower employees with the right tools and the capability to communicate across departments.

A new era of transformation at Sam’s Club

Committed to fast-paced modernization efforts, Sam’s Club has gone big on digital and empowered a rising generation of tech-savvy associates who are helping the business grow. Apparently, the Sam Club is now looking to revolutionise the future of retail service. How much have they been able to achieve? Are the changes extensive to the whole world? Also, how would these changes effect the retail giants, small retailers and all of their consumers? Hear noted author and MIT professor Zeynep Ton and Sam’s Club CEO John Furner explore the current retail landscape when it comes to work and employee opportunity. Zeynep and John will discuss how work is changing and what retailers like Sam’s Club are doing to be great employers.

The impact retail has on employment can not be overemphasized, apart from creating over a billion jobs it also provides favourable work conditions and a diversity in roles. Two key features of employment in the retail industry are fair wages and stability.

Experienced and capable employees are crucial elements in the success of any retail service, having specialist employees for predefined roles (e.g sales, customer service, etc) instead of generalists produces better results.

Having a team that shares the brand’s vision is essential. This gives e-commerce brands a sense of identity and purpose which portrays them as a single working unit. Empowering employees to put the customers first can lead to a 15% increase in conversion rates and a 10% increase in customer satisfaction.

Winning the experience economy: How to raise the bar in a world of raised expectations

With consumers expecting increasingly seamless shopping experiences, who is meeting consumers where they are, instore, online or in-home? How does all of the data collected from consumers explain their experience? It’s important to note that we now live in an experience economy where the consumer’s experience is vital to brands around the world. A lot of data is gotten from human living and interaction; reaching about 2.5 billion gigabytes every day. So, how can all of the raw data be used to improve consumer experience? The experience economy isn’t a new concept and the big brands around the world make use of it to satisfy the ever-increasing demand of their consumers. Let’s learn from the top experts. In consecutive interviews, hear from three CEOs who are setting the vision and raising the bar by meeting “me-commerce” demands in a world of always on-demand.

Neela Montgomery believes Social Media is the new capital of advertising for obvious reasons – people spend more time on it than on TV or print. 51% of sales online, although sales still need to go frictionless across channels.

Targeting with products that matters to the customer. Use market data to specifically target customers who have shown an interest in certain products. Sometimes customers do not actually know what they seek, exciting product combinations are an interesting way to inspire sales. She also believes Brokering symbiotic partnerships with other brands leads to more success than unhealthy competition and rivalry.

Neela also maintains that stores are invaluable as physical connection points with the custome and having a solid brand DNA and staying true to it is vital.

Jennifer Hyman, CEO Rest the Runway spoke on ownership replaced by access, faster fashion, customer insight from the beginning and short feedback loop.

Ron Johnson, Enjoy Inc. focuses on having an eye for future trends and being open to change keeps your brand relevant, you should be a decade ahead in innovations. He also maintains that having a dedicated customer service team to provide rapid feedback leads to customer satisfaction. 50% of all visits to his company generated additional sales.

All in all a very fruitful first day of NRF and I look forward to two more days of exciting insights.

Agile, Customer Journey, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Innovation, Methodology, Reflections, User Experience (UX)

Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping

After working in Sweden for 5-6 years I took the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm for the first time to attend a workshop on Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping. Since commuting across the country was a new experience for me, I chose to be 30min early for the train only to find the doors of the coach locked. Standing outside freezing, I took the time to find my ticket. I had received an SMS with my details a few days earlier, but to my surprise it said: “This is not your ticket”. So my customer experience with SJ prior to arriving at the Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping workshop wasn’t really a superb one.

Railway tracks and trains in Stockholm, Sweden.

While puffing and rumbling through the Swedish countryside, I had some time to prepare for the days to come. As a Product Owner it is of course imperative for me to understand everything about our product to deliver impeccable features and functionality to our customer.  However in a complex market the complete customer journey has become more important the recent years and my expectations for the next two days was to gain insights of processes and tools on how to improve my work on Customer Experience and the full Customer Journey when purchasing our services.

The workshop kicked off with an introduction of the participants and their roles, following a thorough explanation of what Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping is. The workshop was divided into six parts, all aiming to make content customers and employees: Strategy, Insights, Design, Measurement, Management and Culture.

The way to interact with customers and the focus on customer experience has significantly changed during the last 100 years. Back in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was president, and USA went through the Progressive Era the focus was mostly on the product itself. However in the 1950’s the focus moved more towards the american dream and a very strong brand focus and transitioning into stronger customer relations through the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Pin up girl drinking cola in hip cafe

The focus on Customer Experience as we know is today started for real around the millennium, where new technology became available to both understand and interact with the customer. Also the consumers matured and expected more than just a product, introducing terminology like retailtainment and entertainmerce.

At its core, Customer Journey Mapping is a methodology that enable insight and understanding of customer’s with the aim of developing products or services that support innovation and business development through earning the satisfaction and loyalty of your customers. In a nutshell, I would call it a form of result oriented customer service.

The workshop was tailored to serve a wide range of people, specifically people responsible for customer experience, others were business managers, business developers, support and customer service managers, marketing managers and marketers, strategists, and product owners. Learning about Customer Experience together availed is the opportunity to create connections and offer each other insights relating to our various fields.

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Customer Experience Management is a strategy, methodology and process to manage a customers exposure, interaction and transaction with a corporation, a product/service and a brand. The discipline that is about developing service and business models that prioritize the customer in all of the company’s business processes, thus creating favorable conditions for growth. One of the fundamental aspects of CX is taking time to understanding the customer’s experience and contact points with your company. It involves careful documentation and recording of all forms of contact between a customer and the company to the extent that at a glance the customer’s journey can be visualized and understood easily; A Customer Journey Map if you will, which is a documentation/mapping of all the customer’s contacts with you as a company.

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During the course of the two-day workshop on learning about Customer Experience, we created a Customer Journey Map for a fictitious company and integrated the results into our respective businesses. We started off by understanding Customer Experience as a business discipline and it’s concepts, what makes up a customer experience and how to understand it. We then proceeded to Customer Journey Mapping, creates models with the aid of working methods, practical steps and guidance. A large part of the workshop was focused on “learning by doing”.

We moved onto Persona and Empathy mapping, gathering customer insights, customer needs and behavior, contact points and channels. This part was more about how to appropriately gauge a customer’s response and feelings when they make contact with our business. We were also taught how to effectively record these to facilitate these to facilitate business growth modeling. Happy customer = better business!

Our knowledge on the workshop was then put to the test by presenting us with practical exercises on creating Customer Journey Map and how to measure the progress of our services linked to Customer Journey Mapping.

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The final part of the learning curve was the most delicate: Business development and business management with CX and how you can introduce change to our business specifically. We were made to understand that without actual measurable growth, the aim of the workshop would not be met. So in essence, all CX and Customer Journey Mapping should lead to measurable growth.

Attending the two day workshop armed me with a lot of new skills in dealing with customers and I learnt basic understanding of Customers and experience as a business discipline. What I consider to be the most vital lesson learnt is understanding how an empathetic approach to customers can create an atmosphere that encourages sustainability and profitability in business for your company.

With all these exciting business models, I’m quite ready and anticipate implementing Customer Experience work plan!

Thank you to Camilla Lif and Johan Sjöström for a great workshop. If you enjoyed reading about the Customer Journey or have any questions or great ideas, feel free to reach out at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Microsoft, PowerBI, Technical

Microsoft Power BI: Dashboard in a Day

What better way to start the week than crunching and visualizing data. I joined the Dashboard in a Day workshop by Microsoft and Random Forest, a one day hands-on workshop designed for business analysts.

Transition effect in bar chart statistics and bright windows

I have to say that I really enjoy digging into new tools and learning about new technology. Even if I am probably not going to be working directly with PowerBI, it makes my job easier by understanding what is possible and the boundaries of the tool.

Kicking off with a short introduction (and the mandatory Microsoft advertisements), we dove straight into the PowerBI Desktop application itself, learning how to connect to, import and transform data from various sources. After preparing the data, reformatting and splitting fields, we moved on to exploring data with powerful visualization tools.

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The exercises were quite comprehensive, and at some point I went rough and chose to implement some of my own visualizations instead.

The event was well organized and planned, the assets were categorized in a way that made it easier to identify the specific assets that suited our needs. The attendee content consisted of Lab Manuals and Datasets that were available for download on MPN without requirement for an MPN ID.

Towards the end of the day the guys from Random Forest ensured that we had a good working knowledge and familiarity with Power BI and possessed the ability to answer questions concerning the workshop or Power BI in general. It was a tremendous learning experience and I couldn’t wait to try out those awesome new technologies! They even spent the last couple of hours of the day to support and guide us through our own datasets. I brought some statistics from one of our Business Units, and it was quite impressive how I could visualize and interactively navigate through the data.

All in all an exciting workshop, and I look forward to playing more with PowerBI in the future. If you have any questions or great ideas, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂