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Governance and compliance in the cloud – a mutual capability

Governance and compliance in the cloud – a mutual capability

Steve Mccormick

Steve Mccormick

Chief Architect
ARQ Group

Governance and compliance in the cloud – a mutual capability

In this blog we’ll explain the evolution of public cloud and why governance and compliance are crucial to your organisation’s cloud system.

The promise of public cloud was resilience, agility and business transformation – a tempting trinity. Everyone tried a little, often quietly and in isolation. Then there was a sudden explosion of public cloud use commercially as it was quick, easy and required no commitments. However, this led to many unexpected challenges when organisations established their public cloud environment.

Who would have thought that in less than 10 years that tempting promise had created a new type of technology debt…

The lack of education and awareness on public cloud left many organisations at the time with cloud sprawl, due to the absence of governance and strategy. In addition, the agility and democratisation of technology consumption led to weakened security postures, duplication of capability and the spawning of multiple points of truth as anyone could spin up a capability. Business transformation at its worst became a constant stream of directional changes and failures – fast or otherwise fail.

None of these challenges are industry, organisational size, or organisational model specific. They apply to cloud native businesses, just as they do 100-year-old traditional global service industries. Regardless of where a business came from or how it got to the cloud, the adoption of cloud governance and compliance is a mutual capability that must be sustainable.

But what is cloud governance and compliance?

Cloud governance is a set of rules and polices which guide how end users make use of cloud services. These policies enhance data security, minimize security risks, control costs and enable the smooth operation of cloud systems. Cloud governance is essential for all organizations with cloud systems, as it provides the scaffolding and frameworks to enable scale and derive ongoing success. Cloud governance also encompasses the activities of continuously monitoring and auditing the rules, policies and processes that control a business consumption of cloud resources. Governance should be part of the way you do cloud, not inspected into cloud.

So, what is cloud compliance if monitoring and auditing is already covered? Cloud compliance is ensuring that operation and use of data and applications in the cloud are guided by applicable laws, industry standards and regulations. Before organizations move data and applications into the cloud, they should consider what standards, laws and regulations need to be complied with. Cloud compliance can look very different in each industry, so we recommend all organizations allow sufficient time when setting up their cloud system to avoid costly mistakes for non-compliance.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to cloud governance and compliance:

  1. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the regulations that apply to your data.
  2. Put together a governance plan that outlines how you will ensure compliance with these regulations, as you build, not as an afterthought.
  3. Automate the governance of your cloud environment regularly to ensure that it remains compliant.
  4. Have a process in place for responding to any compliance issues that may arise and you have tested those processes.

By following these tips, you can make sure that your transition to the cloud is a smooth and compliant one.

In this blog, we will talk to four areas we feel are critical to the sustainable capability of cloud governance and compliance:

Financial Operations (FinOps):

FinOps is an evolving cloud financial management discipline. At its core is a cultural practice that spans cross functional teams in engineering, finance, product development and the business. It is a way for everyone to get maximum business value through team collaboration, ownership for spend in a predicable controlled manner.

Predictability is a key element of a successful cloud environment which involves more than reporting on spend or allocating costs. FinOps has a heavy focus on continual improvement, accurate forecasting and empowering teams to make the right investment decisions. Sometimes that decision is to reduce spend, other times its to increase investment but in both cases FinOps allows for a data driven decision.

Through focusing on FinOps when establishing your cloud environment, you can ensure your organization is spending each dollar in the most effective manner and avoid cloud sprawl and associated sticker shock. The approach should be iterative, starting small and growing in scale and scope as the complexity of cloud adoption warrants a more mature capability.

FinOps is a supporting capability within the framework of cloud governance and compliance ideally a centralised capability its key role in governance and compliance is the timely and accurate provision of data points for the organisation.

Security Operations (SecOps):

Another important aspect of cloud compliance is SecOps. SecOps involves the planning, implementation, and monitoring of security measures to protect data and systems. This drives the focus on reducing the time attackers have access to resources by detecting, responding to, and helping to recover from active attacks. This ability to rapidly respond and recover can reduce the ROI for attackers and hence the risk of attack as each time they are detected and evicted the cost to attack goes up. SecOps is most effective when organisation accept that it is a “when” not “if” world that we all operate in.

A common misconception is that security operations is management of technical platforms. SecOps is highly technical, but crucially it’s a discipline that needs to be instilled in people. Commodity attacks are generally fully automated, in the main can be addressed by tooling and are often there to disguise the actions of the live human attack operators. This is where a focus on empowerment of all people in your teams, using tooling to simplify their days and allow their skill, insight and resourcefulness to get ahead of the human attackers.

To bring this into the context of governance and compliance, SecOps with its ever-changing external challenges is a key driver for the iteration of policies, standards, controls and ways of work that help evolve cloud environment use. Whilst more active in the front line of operations SecOps is also a key provider of data points to the wider teams. Collaboration across teams is the only way to maintain a high security posture – the “lone wolf” security approach does not work.  

DevOps:

DevOps means different things to different people and organisations. A major cloud providers definition is “the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes.”

Speed is not the only advantage of adoption of DevOps. In the context of governance and compliance the real benefit, if implemented well, is the increased rigour and quality that results from the adoption of these practices. Infrastructure as code, CI/CD and automated testing are just three of the guardrails that a DevOps culture uses to support embedded governance and compliance.

This is where the sustainability of cloud governance and compliance really hits the road. If the policies and standards can only be enforced and monitored manually then the cloud paradigm of agility and dynamism is lost. Try this over multiple public clouds and the problem will grow exponentially and become a blocker.

Dealing with this challenge means adopting DevOps holistically in a structured programmatic manner with comprehensive monitoring, testing, feedback mechanisms and programmatic remediation. This is not the place for a handful of scripts built by the latest developer, this is where a cohesive integrated tooling capability leads to success.

Evergreening:

One of the key approaches used by the major cloud vendors is to iterate the development of their service offers in line with demands and requests of the customer base. By regularly updating and enhancing their offerings, or by providing new features that keep users coming back, cloud providers can keep their customers happy and prolong the life of their products or services.

This can create a challenge for businesses consuming cloud services. The pace of innovation and service evolution from cloud vendors is hard to keep up with. This is especially true when organisation have taken their first steps of cloud adoption and are used to a slower pace of change measured more in years than in weeks.

You could choose to ignore the innovation but this comes at a cost – often missing out on operational improvements, feature and function enhancements and significant cost savings. AWS has 8 different types of S3 storage that have evolved from the original standard S3 first released. Selecting and moving to the right tier can shift the price point from $0.023 per GB to $0.00099 per GB. Operation of NAT capability became simpler with the introduction of managed NAT services, just as the introduction of Amazon EKS removed the complexity of management of Kubernetes clusters.

Evergreening your cloud environment and keeping pace with the innovation is a smart strategy for businesses that want to get the most out of their investment in the cloud.

In this short post we’ve highlighted that the agility and flexibility of cloud creates its strength and its challenges. All cloud environments have a shared responsibility model, and in all cases governance and compliance sit with the consumer. Cloud governance and cloud compliance are critical aspects of the transition to the cloud, its ongoing adoption and value.  By putting in place a cloud governance framework and compliance program, you can ensure that your organisations cloud system is safe, secure, and compliant.

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How automating pricing with MS PowerApps saved a major telco client time and money

How automating pricing with MS PowerApps saved a major telco client time and money

Steve Avery

Steve Avery

Director
ARQ Group

Matthew Conquest

Matthew Conquest

Principal Consultant
ARQ Group

Swetha Veeranna

Swetha Veeranna

Senior Consultant
ARQ Group

Swati Kute

Swati Kute

Associate Consultant
ARQ Group

Evelyn Mieu

Evelyn Mieu

Associate Consultant
ARQ Group

How automating pricing with MS PowerApps saved a major telco client time and money

Project Background

In the telecommunication industry, price plays an important role in the consumer purchasing decision process. Therefore, it’s essential that telecommunication providers have access to efficient financial modelling tools to be able to swiftly price products and react to competitor pricing changes.

ARQ Group worked with a major telecommunication provider to solve the challenges they had been facing with automating their product pricing process for mobility solution sales through a custom Microsoft PowerApps solution.

The Challenge

ARQ worked with the major telecommunication provider to understand the key challenges they were facing with automating their product pricing process for mobility solution sales.

Summary of the key challenges:

Multiple manual data processes

The organisation was using a spreadsheet-based tool for financial modelling which required numerous manual platforms and spreadsheets to assess the commercial impacts of pricing changes and deals. Subsequently, this resulted in lack of visibility on the status of pricing changes and made it more difficult for employees to quickly price products.

Pricing automation

ARQ understood the clients need to automate the pricing process for mobility solution sales with a custom pricing application, reducing time, costs, and the possibility of errors. The automation was particularly important to the client as they had attempted this twice before with no success.

Solution

ARQ successfully delivered a custom pricing application for our client in only six months using Microsoft PowerApps, which enabled the telecommunication provider to complete all pricing changes and assessments for mobility solution sales in one platform.

This solution was delivered in two phases:

Phase 1 – Proof of concept

During this phase we collaboratively worked with the telecommunication provider to streamline their data processes and deliver a proof of concept for one of their four product portfolios using Microsoft PowerApps. The proof of concept was a great way to showcase the capabilities of Microsoft PowerApps and demonstrate how it could meet the pricing requirements of the telecommunication provider.

Phase 2- Delivery

The success of the proof of concept enabled us to proceed with the full delivery scope for the other products. The delivery plan was executed in fortnightly sprints to optimise efficiency and enable key stakeholder feedback. ARQ was able to successfully deliver the custom pricing application for all four-product portfolios in six months using Microsoft PowerApps.

Results

Through the partnership with ARQ Group, the major telecommunication provider has been able to automate their pricing process and improve the speed and efficiency to which they can make pricing changes for mobility solution sales. Additionally, they can now easily generate reports to swiftly identify the impacts of pricing changes.
 
Operationally this has enabled the organisation to increase their speed to market with pricing changes for mobility solution sales, save costs and maximise resource efficiency.

Team

  • Steve Avery (Director)
  • Matthew Conquest (Principal Consultant)
  • Swetha Veeranna (Senior Consultant)
  • Swati Kute (Associate Consultant)
  • Evelyn Mieu (Associate Consultant)
If you’d like to learn more about how ARQ can solve your business challenges with custom Microsoft PowerApps solutions, contact us today at sales@arq.group
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How we gave back 2 days of work per week to our administration officer with MS Power Automate

How we gave back 2 days of work per week to our administration officer with MS Power Automate

Valerie Sandford

Valerie Sandford

Project Manager
ARQ Group

How we gave back 2 days of work per week to our administration officer with MS Power Automate

At ARQ, we are aware of the negative impact that repetitive tasks can have on our employees. It affects their motivation and mental wellbeing. That’s why we strive to reduce repetitive manual processes wherever possible. 

 

We decided to experiment with Microsoft Power Automate to improve our internal processes, and timesheet reminders appeared to be a perfect use case for us. In this post we will explain how we automated our timesheet reminders with Microsoft Power Automate.  

 

As in many companies, employees must submit their timesheets at the end of each week. For us, a timesheet records the number of hours worked on each project, client, and any leave taken. But a number of us forget to submit our timesheets, and our administration officer sends hundreds of Slack, Microsoft Teams, and emails messages each week to employees and their managers to remind them to submit their timesheets. Our objective was to automate these reminders with Microsoft Power Automate and save valuable time for our administration officer and employees.  

 

The first step was to read a Salesforce report that lists all missing timesheets. It appears that it was easier to read data from Sharepoint than directly from Salesforce, so we automatically exported the report into Sharepoint instead. 

 

To do this, we subscribed to this report twice a week from Salesforce. This allowed us to receive an email containing CSV data regularly during the week. Microsoft Power Automate’s integration with Outlook allowed us to read these emails and copy any attachments into Sharepoint. We could then access any Sharepoint file using the site address and file path: 

The next step was to read each line of the CSV report. The reason we chose to export the report into CSV instead of Excel, was that Power Automate requires the Excel file to have data organized into Tables. We tried to create some tables via Power Automate but we faced other issues (the file got blocked or we couldn’t retrieve the last updated data). However, reading a  CSV file required writing a small amount of code. This step could be daunting for users who are non-developers, which Power Automate clearly targets. Better support for this use-case in the future would help keep Power Automate apps as low-code as possible. 

The third step was to send missing timesheet reminders to the employee. For each missing timecard we were able to send email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams reminders. In order to send Slack messages, we needed to ensure that a slack username format (`firstname.lastname`) was consistently applied across the company. 

The last and final step was to send reminders to an employee’s manager. If your Office365 employee profiles are up to date, Power Automate allows you to retrieve the user profile which includes details of their manager.

Although, we faced a few challenges along the way, this experiment with Microsoft Power Automate successfully allowed us to automate timesheet reminders across the company. Each week more than 200 emails, Slack and Microsoft Teams reminders are sent automatically to employees and managers. It gave back 2 days of works per week to our administration officer who can now focus on what really brings value to the company.

We enjoyed Power Automate’s tight integration with Office365 user profiles, Outlook, Sharepoint, and Microsoft Teams. It also helped highlight areas across the company where we needed to ensure our data was up to date. 

 

If you wish to know more about how we automated this process using Microsoft Power Automate, feel free to contact us at emerging.technologies@arq.group

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Digital Twins are here, we’ll tell you what they are!

Digital Twins are here, we’ll tell you what they are!

Jaysen McGuiness

Jaysen McGuiness

Platform Engineer at ARQ Group

Digital Twins are here, we’ll tell you what they are!

The pace of change and accelerated arrival of Industry 4.0 has forced many areas of business and society in general to forcibly (and quickly) adjust to this new digital way of working. COVID takes some responsibility, but the movement was already underway.

‘Digital Twins’ as a buzz-word is being used across all industries, so this brief introduction to how we see it being used now and into the future will help explain what it really means, and how it can add tangible business value to you.

Digital Twins as a term was most notably used by NASA in the early 2000’s as “a virtual representation in virtual space of a physical structure in real space and the information flow between the two that keeps the former synchronized with the latter” when designing future rockets, before so much as a screwdriver was picked up to design and model how various systems would best work with each other.  

The most simplistic explanation for a Digital Twin is that it can allow you to have a dashboard-level view of your plant, process or operation wherever you are, as a digital overlay of those components. More than just remote camera or sensor monitoring, a Digital Twin becomes an engaged agent, following rules you set to look out for issues even before they happen, to continually learn from and advise on your whole connected ecosystem, and (potentially) actively intervene to avoid dangerous and/or costly issues from occurring.  Further, that intelligence can be used to model ‘what-if’ scenarios to help build better, more economically viable, safer and environmentally cleaner processes.

While still evolving, in more recent implementations it is being used at very small scale levels of cellular analysis by biochemists right through to city and country-wide scales where everything from water and power utilities are using man-made structures and naturally occurring features are being modelled and tracked with IoT sensors, along with what is becoming the most typical type of implementation in manufacturing process monitoring or facilities management.  This type of ‘smart’ integration was the first step into developing a Digital Twin, and when combined with the often significant amount of historical and streamed data that has become so prevalent in our modern world, Digital Twins is the collection and aggregation point to begin to make sense of that ocean of data and real-world telemetry that is now at our disposal, and begin to make it work for us. 

Data on its own is, however, ultimately useless if it is not used, and the art of knowing what is relevant is where the true value of Digital Twins lies. It is more than just having the set of every sensor out there, it’s knowing which ones are providing that useful insights or giving you that critical early warning.  

 

 

The anatomy of a Digital Twin requires consideration of the following points:

  • Understand the business questions/values that are being answered
  • Determine what existing sensors/data is in place, and identify any more that may be required
  • Examine all levels of the business to understand methods of engagement
  • Scope definition to be kept small for first-time implementation
  • Work to deliver tangible business value as early as possible once implemented

There is a catch: attempting to build a large number of complex processes and capture points can take a very long time. While keeping that end-state in mind, the first approach should be to build a thin sliver that has a discrete, demonstrable positive impact and show value, and integrated into existing work practices and environments without significant disruption. This limiting is what will help provide the relevant template for your business or industry and help move the Digital Twin concept from being one that is heavily bespoke and specific to its implementation, to become a question of patterns that can be re-used, the more examples are realised. This will have the effect of commoditising the approach, making it more common while democratising the intelligence and deep knowledge that continues to evolve as your business does.

For most cases, this initial implementation is a 3-6 month window where an outcome can be proven, at a cost around $50k. Once this value is clear, the options and possibilities for further enhancement and prioritising them as relevant becomes clearer, and allows for taking advantage of any new advancements in what is a highly dynamic and changeable digital space.

James Litjens is the Director of Emerging Technologies at ARQ Group. When James isn't leveraging tech for clients or delving into what's hot, he's building his own mobile apps, competing in triathlons and playing the drums in his apartment (at 1 am). Ever-so-considerate, James wears headphones when playing his electric drums. James' real drum kit is stored in a secret location with no neighbours. You can reach James at: james.litjens@arq.group

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Persistence and enthusiasm will get you far: Sam Cheney talks about his career trajectory

Persistence and enthusiasm will get you far: Sam Cheney talks about his career trajectory

Sam Cheney joined ARQ as an Associate Consultant in September 2021. He’s passionate about mentorship and the combination of soft skills with technical skills to help people coming into the technology industry. We caught up with Sam (online of course) to learn more about his backstory. 

Sam Cheney is engaging and personable, and it was these skills which eventually transitioned him out of work in environmental engineering and into the tech world of ARQ Group. 

Sam says he really enjoyed his previous role but was “always working on tech projects in the background.” When handling complex data sets relevant to windfarm projects, it became clear to Sam that he wanted to understand technology from beginning to end. 

Sam credits his prior career to developing his skills in multi-disciplinary projects. Environmental engineering involved plenty of trial and error which allowed Sam to build resilience and clarify his next career step. 

Seeking greater mentorship, Sam was introduced to the ARQ bootcamp through his professional network. The program encourages participants to think about making an impact, not just a living. The two-week camp was “fascinating and intense”, leading teams to rapidly ideate a project over a five-day period. Sam said teams learned to “butt heads in productive ways” and resolve conflicts rapidly to achieve tangible results. 

The outcome of Sam’s time at the ARQ bootcamp has become a passion project which the business is supporting. Sam is developing an internal mentorship tool to connect ARQ employees with structured support and career advice. Sam continues his work on the new product – ARQ Connect – dedicating a portion of each day to its design. The concept creates a common block to facilitate mentees setting up the illusive initial meeting with potential ARQ mentors.  ARQ’s commitment to professional development was something Sam is actively seeking in his new role. 

On reflection, Sam is grateful that ARQ has taken this idea seriously, considering that it was created by a group of associates. He’s motivated by the opportunity to work on ARQ Connect which aligns with his personal values. 

“I find a lot of value in teaching and inclusivity, I want to give back to the people coming up through the job search experience. I had a tough experience that lasted too long, I would love to help others make the transition as smoothly as possible. I love the technical aspect of my work but the human aspect is my higher-level desire.” 

Knowing the challenge of landing a new role, Sam is committed to helping people just like him make career moves into the technology space. Contact Sam via LinkedIn  and find out more about ARQ bootcamps for Associate Consultants here.

 
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Georgia Swanson, ARQ’s Director of Customer and Marketing, leads with a customer centric approach and aims to inspire the next generation of techies

Georgia Swanson, ARQ’s Director of Customer and Marketing, leads with a customer centric approach and aims to inspire the next generation of techies

Georgia joined ARQ Group earlier in 2021 in the newly created role of Director of Customer and Marketing. We sat down to learn what led her to ARQ, what she hopes to achieve in this role, and what inspires her.

What’s been your experience prior to joining ARQ?

Prior to ARQ Group, I was at Optus for six years in a range of capacities, most recently leading the Product Execution team, a new stream within the business.

My experience is broad and spans across marketing, sales, go-to-market, product management and strategy/execution. My diverse and all-round skillset enabled the development of an inherent understanding of the impacts of my decisions and the ability of devising out of the box solutions to complex challenges.

How did your past work experience set you up for your role of Customer Director at ARQ?

My success in previous roles was always linked to a level of customer focus and prioritisation. The understanding of their needs to determine the right solution and analysing behavioural trends to inform the business strategy.

ARQ’s customers are at the centre of everything we do, so this ethos aligns perfectly with my own approach.  

What do you hope to achieve in this role?

Beyond my customer-facing work, I’m passionate about seeing increased female representation in the tech industry, particularly in leadership. Today in Australia, women only fill 28% of tech jobs – and whilst we’re seeing promising changes to these numbers – I see it as my responsibility to be an influential role model for other women and to encourage the next generation of leaders. My key focus over the next 6 months is to deliver a dedicated mentorship and advice program.

It’s important to me to be involved in leading positive change. I’ve personally had poor experiences in my past, and I’m passionate about ensuring those same experiences aren’t had by others. I’m proud to work for a company that prioritises the focus on our people.

What does ARQ’s value pillar of ‘innovation’ mean to you?

The way I see it, innovation at ARQ is two-fold. For our customers, it’s about leveraging new technologies to gain competitive differentiation, plus enabling opportunities and driving positive customer experiences.

For our teams, innovation is part of our DNA. We have an entire team at ARQ dedicated to this space. Yet we don’t innovate for the sake of it. It boils down to having a strong, insatiable sense of curiosity, encouraging diverse thinking within our teams, and ultimately having the courage to try new ideas and solutions others haven’t before.

What are the top trends you anticipate we’ll be seeing in the tech industry in the next 10 years?

Beyond the ongoing digital uptake and transformation we’ve seen recently, largely because of COVID and the digital blind spots it exposed for many companies; I think we’ll see a stronger focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Adoption of these technologies will be gradual, however we’ve already witnessed an upwards trajectory in the last year as organisations look to digitise processes to improve efficiency amongst other benefits.

ARQ Group has recently launched a document digitiser built on Amazon Web Services which uses Amazon Textract. It’s a machine learning service that automatically extracts text, handwriting and data from scanned documents to provide highly accurate, digitised copies that require no manual review. The Document Digitiser is just the beginning of the use of machine learning across multiple industries on the journey to digital transformation, and I’m really excited to be a part of a company leading the charge in this space.

Finally, what would be your advice to the next generation of leaders?

Be authentic, be vulnerable and lead with empathy.

I’ve had great leaders and I’ve had not-so-great leaders, and it showed me how important it is to lead by example. The experience has helped shape the leader I am today.

Build a network of people who inspire you. It doesn’t have to be someone more senior, leadership is evident at all levels and anyone can be a leader. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, whether it be as simple as owning a mistake, or voicing your opinion. You don’t need to have all the answers, all the time, no one does. Your attitude and the strength of your relationships will set you apart.

If Georgia’s career trajectory has inspired you to start a career journey in technology, visit www.arq.group/job-search/ to find out more!

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ARQ Collabs with Queensland Youth Orchestra and Active Eight

ARQ Collabs with Queensland Youth Orchestra and Active Eight

Values with volume create sound.

Amplify that sound with collaboration, and you have an ensemble of meaningful impact.

An impact where creativity meets inclusivity.

And that’s exactly what ARQ’s Producers Tim Kuusik and Hannah Pearce did for the Queensland Youth Orchestra (QYO).

Combining the artistic excellence of Queensland Youth Orchestra with the dance talent of Active Eight and the digital expertise of ARQ Group in a collaboration of The Swan by Saint Saens.

An opportunity for giving back to the local community by supporting the magical performance of the Active Eight performance troupe, showcasing the diverse talents of the children dancing to the Queensland Youth Orchestra’s rendition of The Swan.

SMARTER TOGETHER

ARQ provided storyboarding, videography support, content logistics and productions in collaboration with the Queensland Youth Orchestra and the Active Eight performance troupe.

“Traditionally our digital and design experience is seen in government and enterprise solutions, so this was a welcomed opportunity to make meaningful impact to a community cause we love.”
– Tim Kuusik, Producer, ARQ Group.

YOUTH SUPPORTING THE YOUNG

Queensland Youth Orchestra nurtures and inspires a diverse community of talented young musicians from 7 to 25 years of age.

“Young musicians in the desire for perfection – practicing hours a day – are sometimes unaware of the extraordinary impact their musical talents have upon on others. I’m hoping this collaboration helps them discover what a difference their musical ability makes.”

– Simon Hewett, Director of Music for the Queensland Youth Orchestra.

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Luke Melonas couldn’t be more excited about helping digitally transform his clients

Luke Melonas couldn’t be more excited about helping digitally transform his clients

Luke Melonas joined Arq two months ago as a Business Development Manager, bringing with him over 15 years of industry experience developing growth strategies, managing customer relationships and helping his customers solve their biggest problems with the use of technology.

In this interview Luke tells us why he chose Arq, discusses exciting projects he’s currently working on and what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

What appealed to you most about Arq when you were looking for a change in your career?

I feel like everyone says this, but for me it really was all about the organisation’s culture and everything being human centric. I was excited what this meant – not only personally for me and the teams I work with – but also how the internal culture would translate to a positive customer experience.

No matter your role in Arq, or who you deal with as a customer of ours, you’ll always interact with people who are passionate. We avoid buzz words and industry jargon when we can help it – and instead – focus on building trusted relationships with clients by focusing on the business problem that matters most and solutions that make a difference in people’s lives.

For my role specifically, I was confident Arq would provide opportunities to play a crucial role in business transformation projects, which is an area that really interests me. Throughout my career I’ve seen many talk about “digital transformation”, however when it comes down to it, the true focus is on traditional ICT. 

For Arq, it’s all about aligning to our customers’ business objectives, making positive change and applying the cutting edge advancements available in digital, data analytics and cloud. Most importantly having an organisation behind you that can deliver on the transformational projects.

What do you hope to achieve as Business Development Manager?

I’m based on Queensland, so naturally my focus is on our customers and offerings in the Sunshine State!

My short-term focus is all about re-educating our long-running customers (along with my personal network) on who Arq is, and what we can do for them. 

In just a few years Arq has gone through some exciting and significant changes that will positively impact our customers. I want to ensure everyone knows who Arq is, deeply understands what we do, where we’re going as an organisation and what that means for how we can service our customers. 

I thoroughly believe my name is my brand. I want the people I work with knowing I have their best interest at heart.

Longer term, I hope to emulate the long-term partnerships I see with Arq and their largest and most well-known clients with my own clients and professional contacts that may not (yet) be a customer of Arq’s today. 

To me one of the indicators that I’ve made the right call in moving to Arq Group is the many examples of client partnerships spanning longer than 10 years. 

During these years the partnerships have evolved and Arq has continued to solve some of their toughest business challenges. I’ve always operated with a longer-term mindset underpinned by the value I personally bring to the relationship to deliver the best of the organisation I work for.

What’s an interesting project you’ve worked on since starting at Arq?

We’re working with a customer currently to develop a mobile experience where today only an online portal for their large member base exists. The brief was to create an engaging mobile experience for a cohort that has traditionally only accessed or engaged with the existing desktop tech, once or twice a year. Quite a significant and exciting challenge!

Our vision was to create an engaging and intuitive mobile experience that encourages members to interact with this new technology daily, as they would their banking apps for example. By introducing features like chat bots, automation, and self-service options, will give the user a sense of empowerment and ownership over their member profile, when in the past they felt completely disengaged and disinterested. We focussed on avoiding what we call “blockers” or unnecessary gadgets and widgets that ultimately interfere with experience and functionality of these kinds of apps.

This project is a great example of Arq’s point of difference in the market, deliver value and benefits to customers, versus only delivering on what an organisation thinks is needed. In this process it’s crucial to understand historic and organisational data to provide meaningful solutions and pre-empt user needs and we’ve done just that in this case.

Working with customers like this, as a strong and unified team always reminds me what an amazing and exciting time it is to work in tech, where everyone can be a player.

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Shriman Kalyan on the Value of ARQ’s Design-Led Thinking

Shriman Kalyan on the Value of ARQ’s Design-Led Thinking

Shriman Kalyan is Director, Digital Experience at ARQ. In this role he has been championing a strong customer-centric approach which has delivered outstanding results for clients.

In this interview he talks about the importance of a design-led approach, some of the use cases and changes that he expects to see in the near future.

Can you tell us what the primary focus of your role is?

I provide design advisory for clients and build and maintain relationships with them throughout projects. I work closely with our design team to make sure it is enabled and empowered to deliver the best results.

At ARQ we are constantly building up our internal capability to ensure what we are offering is cutting edge in the market.

Can you tell us about your experience prior to ARQ?

I worked at different global consulting firms prior to joining Outware, from where I then moved to ARQ. Through these jobs I was able to really hone my skills and understand the direction I wanted to take my career.

I worked as an analyst for a European telecom major and that’s what first gave me an eye for a customer’s point of view. This then developed into an interest in the UX stream which I pursued after completing my MBA.

At Outware I led the UX definition for a multitude of projects across mobile applications such as wearables, phones and tablets. This was at a time when a number of major brands were entering this space and we were able to support them in doing so.

How important is design in ARQ’s digital offering?

It’s incredibly important. At ARQ we prioritise design-led thinking. We’re not just looking at the engineering solution, but rather what’s the holistic product solution from an experience point of view as well.

It’s good to see that our clients are increasingly seeing the need for a more design-led approach to transformation and this is actually something being demanded by users as they come to understand what technology is capable of offering.

While design has traditionally been seen as a sub-component of applications, we have successfully moved towards design-led thinking in everything we do.

 

Can you provide some examples?

We developed an app for a superannuation fund and took an entirely member-centric approach when we did so. Through the app we were able to double active engagement compared to the existing website. Superannuation usually has low engagement because it’s not something people usually think about. But the work we did just went to show that when you put the effort into understanding what users want we are able to offer a much stronger product.

We talked to members as part of our research in designing the app and we took a life-stage approach and identified the key pieces of information they would need at different stages and ensure they were easily accessible through the app. The other approach we took was what we called smart nudges. This was more the behavioural aspect with the underlying factor being financial wellbeing. This was about giving the member hints or suggestions based on what they need and we were able to represent this more visually on the landing page.

Another example was an app developed for the online delivery workforce of a large retailer. The app was not mandated for drivers and they could have used their previous systems which were still in place.

However, we were delighted to see that there was almost a 100% adoption rate nationally. We had actual drivers and supervisors sitting in our workshops when we developed the app. That’s what we mean by human-centricity or user-centricity. It’s not just about conducting workshops and taking out one insight from it. But rather it’s about co-designing the product with the end user.

The introduction of the app led to a time reduction of upwards of 40% for the drivers. You can easily extrapolate the amount of savings it brought to the business. And it was a really positive influence on the users who recognised that we were designing for them and not just the business.

As designers we are the bridge between the business and the user.

What do you anticipate being some of the changes we are likely to see in the UX space over the next five years?

As a design community we have become really good at creating seamless, intuitive experiences that are repeatable. I think what lies ahead is an effort at really pushing the limits to offer really smart and intelligent experiences for users.

I think that there needs to be a good degree of synchronisation between what designers can imagine vs what the technology can actually deliver. Given the recent maturity in AI, I think it’s just a matter of investment in the right direction.

The question we need to ask is how are we able to provide multiple moments of joy across digital touch points? To do this we need to deliver both intelligent and imaginative experiences.

This is nothing less than what the user deserves.

Design & digital leader with extensive global experience in designing consumer and enterprise products impacting millions of users. Shipped seamless and disruptive experiences for brands such as ANZ, ASDA, Best Buy, Cabfare, Citi, Coles, Cricket Australia, CSIRO, Department of Home Affairs, First State Super, Google, McGraw, Starwood, Transport for NSW, SITA, Smartgroup and Woolworths.

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People & Purpose

Meet Sandy Thondilege: Senior Delivery Lead

Meet Sandy Thondilege: Senior Delivery Lead

Sandy Thondilege is one of the newest members of the ARQ team, having joined as a Senior Delivery Lead in May.

We sat down with Sandy to learn more about her experience in the sector, what most appealed to her about ARQ, and where she thinks the industry is heading. 

What’s your experience prior to ARQ? 

I’ve been passionate about tech from the get-go. From my experience in coding and mobile app development, I’ve always loved problem solving and I think the tech industry perfectly complements and encourages my curiosity and desire to find the answers.

I spent 10 years as a project manager across a number of different domains. This was mainly in consultancy firms focusing on digital solutions. 

I previously worked at Outware (now part of ARQ Group) in a role where I harnessed my skills in a scaled agile set up. I worked on impactful projects and I’m really looking forward to taking this to the next level now that I have returned to ARQ.

What do you hope to achieve in this role? 

I’m excited to be part of such an innovative and creative team, and I know I’m going to learn so much from them and their different insights, perspectives and experiences. 

The culture at ARQ and the overall energy of the place is great, and I’m passionate about contributing to this and growing it even further.

Digital delivery has always been a real passion of mine and I’m looking forward to getting back into it and applying my project management skills to ensure both my team and our customers get the best experience possible, as we work through some of the complex large-scale projects that are coming in.

Can you tell us about one of the first projects that you have been working on?

A project for the Red Cross which is a redevelopment of their blood donation website. It’s an exciting piece because it’s an impactful project to be involved in, and we can make a difference by improving the end user experience.

ARQ’s mission is to make a positive impact. What does impact mean to you? 

For me, it’s really simple: it’s all about having empathy and a genuine understanding of the user we’re building for and the problems they’re asking us to help solve. 

Creating a bespoke framework for our customers, one that means the team can hear first-hand feedback and insights is crucial, and it also helps embed the customer into the team rather than feeling separate from it. 

There’s little point in coming up with an awesome and highly innovative solution or idea if – in reality – our customer can’t implement or maintain it. Having a cohesive and high-functioning team is key to delivering this and that’s why I enjoy working in such set ups.

If you looked into a crystal ball, what does the industry look like and what advances do you anticipate have been made? 

I think how we apply technology to better understand and mitigate societal problems and crises will be a focus in coming years. 

The pandemic proved how important technology’s role in the face of crisis. 

I am excited about the learnings we take from this and how we apply those in the future.

 

When Sandy’s not managing projects, she turns to baking to destress, and escape rooms to elevate her heart rate.

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