How Retailers Can Drive Productivity with Microsoft Power Platform

How Retailers Can Drive Productivity with Microsoft Power Platform

The modern retailer is challenged with sustaining business growth and accelerating new product innovation without losing one’s eye on the customer. Here are the challenges faced by retailers:

  • How to transform a potential customer into a loyal customer.
  • Move from disparate, siloed reporting to a single source of truth.
  • Create a foundation for advanced operational analytics.
  • Improve customer experience and innovate by leveraging data.

The risk of losing customers to competitors is a common fear of the retailer. It can only be overcome when retailers adapt a strategy that allows them to create a meaningful and useful experience for the customer. What is needed is an architecture that helps in identifying the customer’s changing tastes and how to make better decisions with changing behaviours. The way forward is in adopting flexible and adaptive systems. AI Builder, PowerApps portals, Power BI, Microsoft flow – helps to create automated workflows between your favourite apps and services to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more.

 

What are AI Builder and PowerApps and How They are Beneficial for Different Industries

In order to leverage AI and machine learning to make apps and automation more intelligent, AI builder provides solutions for app makers to solve everyday tasks like – forms processing, object detection, and text and binary classification.

Where PowerApps enable the employees to create apps for business, AI builder enables in adding AI capabilities to those apps. Banking, hospitality, manufacturing and many more industries are potential users for AI builders. In the retail industry, forms processing can be used for invoices or tax forms to extract information from these documents. Object detection – In the retail industry, it can be used to simplify inventory management, allowing retail leaders to focus on on-site customer relationship building. For instance, a retailer can improve customer service by using AI to analyze customer feedback responses, map them into categories, and generate an AI model to classify and respond to customer feedback as it is received.

The manufacturer, distributor, marketer of the full line of Pepsi-Cola products giant G&J Pepsi has more than 1600 employees. The G&J Pepsi IT team uses AI Builder and PowerApps to create the next generation of their Store Audit App, enabling better mobility and efficiency for field personnel whose job is to assess product needs on the shelves in stores.

“With AI Builder, we were able to easily build an AI model to help automatically identify and track our products using the object detection model. For our field worker, it’s now as simple as taking a photo and letting AI builder do the rest.” – Eric McKinney, Enterprise Business Systems Manager at G&J Pepsi.

AI Builder makes it easier for users and organizations to optimize processes and intelligence without having advanced knowledge of how AI works. The no-code AI builder capability is also coming to Microsoft Flow. Flow provides a visual experience for a range of users.

 

How Microsoft Flow Extracts Meaningful Data from Images and Text

Today, many processes involve paper forms such as a rental or job application. Historically, the first step in processing these forms would be to have someone look at the paper and manually type in each of the fields on their PC.

Now with AI Builder and Microsoft Flow, flows can automatically pick up scanned documents from an incoming email or a file server and recognize all the content. Based on the values in the form, different steps can run—from sending out simple notifications to performing a credit check.

For instance, the field teams at G&J Pepsi have always embraced technology on behalf of their customers. When the IT department was tasked with delivering more on-the-go services for the company, they embraced the opportunities and challenges. By using Microsoft PowerApps, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow, the seven-person team created custom applications to automate the company’s store audit and merchandising process. They were able to build, deploy, and manage this scalable end-to-end solution without previous app development experience.

Power BI dashboards visualize the data for quick overviews and deep dives into the numbers, and Microsoft Flow—another cloud-based service—triggers alerts to the relevant teams.

Microsoft Flow for Retail
Image source: Microsoft

Microsoft Flow enables users to automatically process and route analog forms. The retailer doesn’t have to remember everything. The AI builder learns and improves itself. For example, it can predict the risk of an application and, depending on how high that risk is, add additional approval actions to a business process. All of this is possible for Flow makers without having any expertise or experience with AI.

 

What is Blockchain and How it is Used in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

Blockchain can bring trust and transparency to business processes that span multiple business partners.

Applications built on blockchain using PowerApps and Microsoft?Flow?can easily create attestable workflows that bring together data from every point in the business process across the value chain. For mobile clients, PowerApps can effortlessly capture all of the information from the phone’s sensors (barcodes, photos, GPS coordinates, etc.) and send it to a smart contract on a blockchain.

Some industry examples that leverage the power of blockchain and the Power Platform include:

  • Multi-party supply chain: manage shrinkage risk between point-of-manufacturing and point-of-sales by building applications and workflows that provide irrefutable proof of delivery of shipments.
  • Food safety: retailers can get real-time insights when goods that can be impacted by temperature and humidity are in transit. Blockchain can provide real-time insight with trustworthy data that can help avoid costly public health issues, streamline return processes, and dispute resolution.
  • Attest genuine media: Build applications that can attest and/or validate that media is genuine with PowerApps and Flow.

What is Power BI and How it Helps Retailers

Power BI has been a pioneer in applying AI to business intelligence and making AI accessible to everyone. New AI capabilities enable retailers to detect objects in images, analyze free-form text, build new machine learning models, and automatically understand what drives outcomes, all with point-and-click simplicity.

Kinepolis is a cinema group operating 53 complexes throughout Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Poland, as well as 44 cinemas in Canada. The company uses Power BI AI capabilities to understand how they can improve their visitor experience by analyzing the sentiment of customer reviews and tweets.

“Kinepolis serves visitors in and from many countries, who vocalize their opinion through various channels. With text analytics in Power BI, we are able to structure and analyze all this feedback. It allows us to score the sentiment of our visitor reviews without investing in the data science behind it.” – Carlo Wambeke, technical lead BI at Kinepolis.

A retailer can make better and informed decisions, improve operations with Microsoft Flow – with built-in AI builder, PowerApps portals and Power BI – without having any expertise or experience with AI.


Sysfore, A Microsoft Cloud solution provider and a Gold Partner, uses a leading network, technology, and service expertise to deliver our service anytime, virtually anywhere, quickly and efficiently. We have helped over 80 small enterprises and 30 mid-sized enterprises across the globe for successful cloud migration in the past 8 years. Contact our experts today and we will help you find the perfect solution for your business. Write to us at info@sysfore.com or give us a call at +91 (80) 4110 5555


 

All You Need to Know Before Moving Applications to the Cloud

Organizations lift and shift their workloads on the cloud because it is cheaper and quicker than other migration techniques, but that doesn’t mean it is always the best fit.

IT teams often face budget issues and time constraints, so they believe they have very little choices. Additionally, they’ll feel hurried to get the applications up and running by cloud providers eager to bill these new workloads. But there are significant disadvantages to a lift and shift approach when compared to application refactoring, also known as rearchitecting.

It may be cheaper up front to simply rehost your application and its data as is on the public cloud, but this approach could ultimately cost more than it would run a cloud-native app instead. There may also be performance issues caused by changes in the software architecture, missed software bugs and an inability to properly utilize cloud vendors’ native services for monitoring, security, and governance.

It is always best to refactor the workload as part of the migration, because the lift and shift approach may not always deliver the results and tuning doesn’t solve the problem. A migrated application may also benefit from refactoring when bills are unexpectedly high due to application or database inefficiencies or when security vulnerabilities arise because the application can’t integrate with native security systems, such as identity and access management tools.  

 

What is app-refactoring

App refactoring is the restructuring of existing computer code to improve its performance, readability, portability or code adherence without changing the code’s intended functions.

Refactoring is done to extend the apps’ usability and life cycle, improve support for multiple mobile platforms and extend their market reach through multiple app stores.

 

When and how do you refactor apps?

Organizations must consider several factors before they decide to refactor their apps — the most important of which is cost. If you can’t make your money back from refactoring applications, then it should not be attempted. There’s also a great variety of refactoring tools to choose from, and an application’s needs will vary depending on what programming languages and databases that app relies on. Generally speaking, however, the categories of tools include anything that assists in designing and developing microservices that utilize cloud-native APIs. Moreover, container development and Kubernetes deployment and operations are also a common way to refactor.

 

Organizations also have several ways to refactor their applications for the cloud.

A complete refactor is when more than 50% of the code is changed and the database is updated to utilize as many cloud-native features as required by the application. This strategy can improve performance, operations costs and IT teams’ ability to meet the needs of the business. However, the process could be too costly or complex, and it can introduce bugs.

Minimum viable refactoring prioritizes speed and efficiency, as it requires only slight changes to the application. Users who take this approach often incorporate cloud-native security, management and perhaps a public cloud database into their migrated workload.

Containerization refactoring is done when applications are moved into containers with minimal modifications. The applications exist within the container, which enables users to incorporate cloud-native features and improve portability. Costs and refactoring times continue to go down due to the popularity of containers and their growing ecosystems.

Read More about Dockers and Containers

Serverless computing is a cloud computing execution model in which the cloud provider dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. Serverless computing is steered by the reaction to triggers and events happening in near-real-time–in the cloud. The code written by a developer is executed and only the precise amount of computing resources are taken to complete the task, no more, no less.

Read More about Serverless computing

Enterprises should bear in mind that most applications and data sets that can move to a public cloud require at least some refactoring and users should at least do minimum viable refactoring for most of the cloud-hosted application.  

 

Get in touch with us to find out what refactoring method works the best for your workload.

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Sysfore is a Gold Microsoft Azure and AWS partner with 8+ years of cloud consulting and managed service expertise. We have the privilege of executing the largest data center migration projects in India and have engaged with over 100+ customers on their cloud journey.

Microsoft Inspire: Daily Rundown

Microsoft Inspire 2018, formerly called Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), continues in Las Vegas. Check this ongoing blog for live Azure Cloud and Dynamics 365 partner news updates, and perspectives throughout the day.

19/07/2018: Day 3: After a full three days of action, Microsoft’s annual partner-focused Inspire conference is finally set to wrap up tomorrow. We’ve seen tons of Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Cloud news throughout the week

Yesterday Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the center stage at Inspire 2018 with an extended round of standing ovation, before he’d even said a word. In case if you  missed the keynote, you can always watch it here.

microsoft inspire 2018- Satya Nadella keynote

Here are few of the updates from Day 3

  • Microsoft Teams Monitoring: GSX solutions has come up with Microsoft teams monitoring and performance reporting capabilities
  • Automation capabilities on Microsoft Azure Managed service
  • Azure Cloud Security: Customers can now gain modern vulnerability management, analytics-driven incident detection for hybrid environments, and simplified agent deployment within the Azure infrastructure
  • Azure reserved instances will available across all Azure workloads
  • Azure information protection – unification of data loss prevention in the ‘search and compliance center’ labels and AIP

“Day 3 – Keynote”

 

18/07/2018: Day 2: Watch the Day 2 Keynote here 

Day 2 of Microsoft’s biggest event for Partners, Microsoft Inspire 2018,  featured Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner; Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure Team in the Cloud and AI group; Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365; Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Business Applications and Global Industry; and Anand Eswaran, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Digital, Services, and Success

“Day 2 – Highlights”

 

Here are few of the updates from Day 2

  • Walmart-Microsoft Azure Partnership 
  • Azure for MSPs: Cloud distributor Pax8 unveiled a Wingman Professional Services Program. The offering allows MSPs to leverage customized IaaS solutions built by Pax8 cloud architects and engineers
  • ClearDATA has launched “healthcare compliant” cloud services for Microsoft Azure.
  • Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack announced that the on-premises extension to Microsoft’s public cloud supports a variety of file formats now
  • Workspace as a Service: CloudJumper has unveiled Cloud Workspace for Azure

 

17/07/2018: Day 1Watch the Day 1 keynote here

“Day 1 – Highlights”

 

Here are few of the updates from Day 1:

  • Office 365 Accelerator: Office 365 accelerator reduces latency, packet loss and network congestion experienced by branch office and mobile users when accessing Office 365 cloud applications via the public Internet
  • GE and Microsoft: Expanded partnership will help industrial companies capture greater intelligence from IoT and asset data, boosts GE innovation across its business

 

microsoft Inspire

 

Got news to share from the conference? Email me the details (evelyn.dennis@sysfore.com).