Crawl, walk, run. Modernization is a journey

I’d like to share a quick Q&A with Julia White that I spotted on Linkedin talking about the current landscape as it relates to how Microsoft technology can help. For me, COVID has forced businesses to move faster and without as much planning as we would have seen in the past which has pro’s and cons’, in this post I am going to share how I have been thinking about and acting in the current climate.

I feel to take advantage of the current climate we need the “power of now” and by that, I mean we need to make decisions faster balanced with our confidence level. This for many folk is a hard thing to do (including myself), I feel the past has a big impact on this.  If past decisions did not play out well the decision scar tissue that builds up can have a huge impact on making future decisions and this can lead to being overly conservative. In fact, sometimes decisions are not made and or they are made too late based on the time taken to over think it.

For me I try to factor in the following concepts to help me with decision making

  • Be collaborative, drive empowerment and have effective delegation
  • Be data-driven
  • Understand the risks and manage to them
  • Break it up and deliver quickly, if possible, perform tasks in parallel rather than sequentially
  • Measure twice cut once
  • Leverage the tools you have (technology, people and partners)

What tools are we using at Provoke to make faster decisions and to deliver? Microsoft Teams is the go-to tool to allow us to collaborate and brainstorm and to record the discussions and actions which allow us to loop back formally and informatively. We leverage channels and tabs in teams to discuss and surface the required information needed to make and assess our decision making.

To help with making faster decisions we are leveraging more and more data and allowing folk to self-serve a lot more. We were pulling a lot of data into excel but we ended up with version issues, concerns about security, the possibility that folk could be getting access to sensitive data and limited visibility into usage information.  As a result we been moving a lot of our reporting to PowerBi. One issue we have run into is that PowerBi is not delivering the real-time data refresh we need for one or two specific reports.  We knew this limitation going in but felt we could deal with it, the reality is we can’t and needed to look at other options.

We continue to look at Power Bi premium but at this stage monthly running costs are a blocker, we are currently also digging into direct query for PowerBi, but one of the back end sources may not be well suited to this approach.  Our current quick fix is to leverage power apps to build a real-time data request app. This app is leveraging data sitting in a couple of places. Most of the data is stored in a product we use to manage our business called ProjectWorks, they have a great API which allows us to pull data for our custom report needs but we also want to blend it with some additional data which we will store in the common data services (we are going to build a power app to manage data in CDS ). Part of the reason to use the Power Apps approach is we can leverage a broader range of folk, due to ease of building the apps, also we can surface the experience on desktop and mobile simply and quickly.

To allow a broader range of folk to be successful in building out power app solutions we have encapsulated complex or commonly used data requests into azure functions (build once use many times!) to reduce errors and to allow for centralized control of complex logic where a mistake could result in a poor decision due to incorrect data.

In summary I feel core to what we are doing is that we are breaking bigger decisions into smaller blocks and making decisions faster, we are leveraging tools to support what we are doing if we don’t have the right tool we are trying to quickly address that issue. Once we have made a decision, we quickly move onto getting things done!  We are executing the decision in parallel so multiple problems are getting solved at once.  This has been working well as we have been flighting folk in an out of small projects, this has not always been productive but to manage workstreams we have focused on leveraging the tools that people use every day. For example, for a productivity worker, they live in MS Teams, for an engineer they live in Azure Devops .  As a lot of our people are still working remotely and face to face discussions are not as easy as they used to be people are doubling down on leveraging Teams and Develops this is allowing us to reduce the amount of hand over between folk as the project background and knowledge is getting documented every day.  To close out, the world is different, work is different, but the world goes on, work continues, and decision must be made!