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How we created our immersive metaverse experience

How we created our immersive metaverse experience

Sowmiya Selvakumaraswamy
Sowmiya Selvakumaraswamy

Associate Consultant, Emerging Technologies

How we created our immersive metaverse experience

How do you bring together a geographically distributed workforce across the world for a major corporate event?

Metaverse – the latest buzzword proved to be a perfect solution to solve our problem.

On the 30th of August, we launched NCS NEXT, a global powerhouse of digital capabilities and innovation. To celebrate this milestone, we hosted an immersive launch in three locations – The Lume in Melbourne, Marquee in Singapore and the Metaverse. The Metaverse launch was beyond any of our expectations with more than 100 people attending the virtual event.

This blog post explains how our team of experts created the Metaverse:

1. Creating the metaverse world

Our Emerging Tech team of experts was tasked with creating a metaverse world for employees and clients to virtually experience the launch of NCS NEXT and interact with each other.

With only a few weeks to prepare the metaverse world we got to work quickly on the design and user-experience.

Whilst, there is an option to create a custom world from scratch in Unity we decided to choose a predefined template provided by Altspace, which was more suitable for the event. We personalised the virtual world by changing the sky to align with the theme of the event happening in real life.

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Our virtual world designed in Unity had three spaces: the first being the main stage where the real event was being streamed. We also designed two different rooms, with each room showcasing a specific domain area and related demonstration and information videos.

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2. Let’s play!

In the main space, we created a gaming area. It included a basketball court, interactive games like dark games, and a quiz.

These kinds of fun activities are especially important in a virtual world as it encourages people to socialise, talk to each other, and promote networking.

Metaverse gaming area

3. Create pre-event hype

Our goal with the metaverse world was to ensure that employees were aware of the metaverse events and create anticipation, so employees were get excited about what’s coming up. As Metaverse is also a new concept, these pre-event activities were a fun way to familiarise guests with this new technology.

Here are a few examples of the activities we utilisedsome pre-event activities to create excitement and anticipation around our metaverse world: 

  • Metaverse meetup:Let’s organise a large metaverse meetup with gaming and music!
  • Metaverse Townhall meeting: Why not host our company townhall meeting in the metaverse?
  • Carrot finding – treasure hunt: Let’s find the carrot hiding in the metaverse!
  • Competition to take the best selfie: Who will take the best Selfie?
4. Don’t forget to host it
 
Like any real event, we needed to have some dedicated hosts in the Metaverse.  
 
Our hosts, role was to welcome the guests, encourage communication and solve technical issues. The hosts did a wonderful job at managing the Metaverse world during the launch and ensuring it’s success. 
 
What do people have to say about this? 
 
Here are some of our employees’ feedback: 
  •  “Was a cool concept to try out. Overall, a fun new experience.” 
  • “I felt like I am actually attending this event face to face” 
  • “Nice carrot trick on getting everyone to set up AltSpace. Loved it!”

Overall the Metaverse world was very successful and a great opportunity to showcase our experts exceptional talent. 

We would like to thank Joshua Henderson, Naureen Mukri, Valerie Sandford, Brent Brentan and Audrey Patricia for their contributions to this event. 

If you wish to know more about how your organisation can benefit from Metaverse solutions, feel free to contact us at emerging.technologies@arq.group

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Digital Twin accelerator, powering industry 4.0

Digital Twin accelerator, powering industry 4.0

John Milligan

John Milligan

Associate Consultant, Emerging Technologies

Digital Twin accelerator, powering industry 4.0

Digital Twin systems enables organisations across multiple industries to extend asset life, manage systems and improve efficiency. ARQ have been working closely with the water utility industry to develop and deploy a Digital Twin system.

In this post we’ll explain why these emerging technologies are so exciting, and beneficial to so many organisations.

Digital Twins: Bridging the Digital & Physical Worlds

A digital twin is in essence a digital replica of a system, including its physical elements. It is to IoT (Internet of Things) what Excel Charts was to raw table data. A human centered, easy to understand representation that helps to rapidly drive decisions. An example many are likely familiar with is Google Maps or Uber, which report to the user where on the road their transportation is.

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These digital representations of real-world systems can be anything from a small smart home setup, a large factory production line or even making a city’s infrastructure ‘smart’. In a smart home, Digital Twins can reduce energy bills, ensure the house is kept in comfortable temperature conditions and more around the clock, all without human interaction. In an industry setting, Digital Twins can significantly reduce operational costs. Fundamentally driven by sensors in an interconnected system, a digital twin has the potential to increase productivity, efficiency, automation and more. Just as powerfully, the substantial growth in data provided by these sensors that was previously unavailable provides enormous opportunity to generate new insights and drive further innovation, backed up by hard data.

ARQ is helping businesses grow through Digital Twins

Digital Twins have the potential to greatly improve both the day to day and long-term operations and the experiences a service, business, or product can achieve. However, there’s a perception that they are complex long-term engagements that require multi-year, multi-million-dollar investments to achieve a return on investment. The perception may be accurate if attempting to develop an all-encompassing digital twin system, so it isn’t surprising some businesses may be hesitant to invest in this area, even with such fantastic potential. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. ARQ provides an accelerated digital twin solution, what we call a ‘Twin In A Box’. By keeping a narrow focus for the digital twin, it is far easier and cost effective to develop, deploy and begin gaining a return on the investment. Both large and even the smallest of organisations can use Digital Twins to gain a competitive advantage and make a big impact – when effective and targeted choices are made.

North East Water engaged ARQ to improve the efficiency of their operations. Rather than attempting to transform their entire network, together we researched which area to initially target to bring them the most value. For North East Water’s network, it was their sewer pumps. Their standard operations were nearly entirely reactive; they would only be aware of an issue with their pumps after they had occurred. Instead of requiring a call out to an engineer at 2 am on a Saturday to resolve a problem, with ARQ’s partnership North East Water could foresee, plan and fix the issue at 2 pm on a Friday. Likewise, without any real time information on their pump’s conditions, maintenance would simply be scheduled on regular intervals, not necessarily when or if it was needed.

With ARQ’s accelerated digital twin, North East Water effectively have a set ‘eyes’ on the ground. This real time data enables the North East Water to determine in advance where and when maintenance of individual pumps is actually required. These are only two examples of the many advantages a single implementation our accelerated digital twin solution can provide. With our ‘Twin In A Box’ solution, we are confident many businesses can achieve a return on investment in as little as six months.

ARQ Loves Innovation

The Emerging Technology team loves the adoption of this technology so much, that they are even using it at home. An ARQ team member has a fully connected smart house that they developed. While fantastic, achieving such a comprehensive, interconnected and bespoke system was not an easy task.

Smart House

The smart house system provides many benefits including cost and energy savings from intelligent and automated air conditioning and climate systems which have saved them upwards of 30% on their energy bills.

A digital twin with a focused capability not only accelerates gaining benefits but can also serve as a foundation for future capabilities. Both our ARQ team member and North East Water are able to build on top of their existing system, and when deploying future capabilities onto a system that is already providing value, the cost in time, resources and complexity are all effectively lowered.

The Nuts & Bolts of Digital Twin Technologies

At ARQ, we implement digital twins using a hybrid design system, from edge to cloud. Operating with cloud and local servers and computation (edge) allows for rapid responses, even when internet connections are interrupted and/or if required for critical areas, such as emergency or safety applications.

Artificial Intelligence integration helps a improve efficiency, which is already providing enormous value in the previously mentioned engagement with North East Water. Through ARQ’s ‘Twin In A Box’ solution, North East Water have achieved an 80% accuracy for advanced warnings. Driven by these accurate predictions, North East Water is more efficient and better able to plan operators shifts.

We also approach data with easy-to-understand simple 3D visualisations, providing a far more intuitive experience compared to SCADA systems. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) is a category of software applications for controlling industrial processes. However, even with more specialist knowledge these are often not the most user-friendly systems.

SCADA Systems

Below is an example of a SCADA Alarm alert, versus that of a Digital Twin incident. As you can see even in this simple example how limited the information is, and more importantly, it doesn’t provide the user any real insights. The digital twin is the inverse, more actual data that is also armed with potential insights about said data.

SCADA Alarm

Data on its own is ultimately useless, these more intuitive systems open the data and the insights it brings to everyone. Designing with greater usability in mind ultimately benefits everyone, including specialists.

Digital Twin

With that said, we can build these upon an existing SCADA system if a business already has one in operation, along with their existing sensors or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and have this work within security boundaries. (Programmable Logic Controllers are the hardware that picks up the information from the real world, in use within multiple industries for decades).

Accessible and Reliable

ARQ and our ‘Twin In A Box’ solution also works closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud platform, providing greater portability and accessibility by providing users to access our accelerated Digital Twin systems anywhere, and on any device. 

At ARQ we explore, develop, and deploy these cutting-edge technologies in our own offices. The ARQ Officetwin allows us to put into practice the benefits of a digital twin, and acting as a test bed for continuous discovery work in real world conditions.

ARQ’s Digital Twin Vision

Our aim is to make these technologies more accessible to Australian organisations based on the learnings we’ve seen in the North American and European markets. The core of our approach in achieving this quite simple, namely by keeping a narrow focus a digital twin is far easier and more cost effective to develop, deploy and begin gaining a return on the investment. ARQ is shifting this landscape in Australia from playing in innovation, to solving real world problems, through new applications of existing and emerging technologies.

This doesn’t just benefit individual projects but enables our fundamental methodology to be far more easily transferable and repeatable across different engagements. This efficient and cost-effective approach benefits both ARQ and our client partners, enables rapid development, providing far more immediate value, reducing the cost, and streamlines the deployment of any future capabilities.

ARQ’s ‘Digital Twin In A Box’, provides an end to end implementation for one use case on a scalable platform, to rapidly achieve a return on investment, and build a business case for further strategic adoption. It is difficult to state just how much opportunity there is across numerous industries and applications to bridge the physical and digital worlds. ARQ is delivering this opportunity better, faster and more efficiently, and we want to help more companies, organisations and people, join us in this exciting and evolving landscape.

We would like to thank Yuchong Li, James Litjens and the rest of the Digital Twin team for their amazing contribution to this project.

If you wish to know more about how your organisation can benefit from Digital Twins, feel free to contact us at emerging.technologies@arq.group

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5 essential tips to create an Augmented Reality Experience that even your grandpa would love!

5 essential tips to create an Augmented Reality Experience that even your grandpa would love!

Sowmiya Selvakumaras

Sowmiya Selvakumaras

Associate Consultant, Emerging Technologies

Valerie Sandford

Valerie Sandford

Project Manager
ARQ Group

5 essential tips to create an Augmented Reality Experience that even your grandpa would love!

A successful Augmented Reality (AR) experience integrates the digital world and physical world seamlessly and any interaction should feel like you are interacting within a real-world environment. This makes the concept of traditional navigation design patterns redundant and leads us to develop a system that blends the digital and real world.

As per recent data, by 2024 there will be an estimated 1.7 billion mobile augmented reality (AR) users worldwide, a rise of 1.5 billion from the 200 million seen in 2015. In 2022, there will be an estimated 1.1 billion mobile AR users worldwide.

In this blog, ARQ’s Emerging Technologies experts will share five essential tips to creating a successful AR user experience.

1. Bridge the gap between real and virtual

For a seamless AR user experience, the transition between the real and virtual world must be smooth. The more virtual components simulate real-life objects, the better the end user experience.

We recommend considering how an object’s appearance changes as you get closer and re-evaluating if you need to make it sharper and clearer. Especially when the object is tethered to a real-world object like in a tracker based AR scene or a plane tracking AR scene.

There are certain features like casting shadows, simulating real world physics like gravity, acceleration of an object, adding right lighting, and reflection which have a significant impact on AR scenes.

Furthermore, you need to determine whether the user will be attempting to use the AR app from an indoor or outdoor environment. As, this will impact how you set up the environment texture and lighting. For reference this image shows how lighting and textures can have a significant impact on these two 3D models with the same polygon count.

Object Texture

2. Add 3D objects and animations to the experience

With recent technical advancements, incorporating 3D models into your AR experience has never been easier. 3D elements add a sense of depth and realism to the scene. The challenge is keeping it to an optimal size while also making it look realistic. One way to get around this is reducing the number of polygons and focusing on the textures and materials. Many 3D modeling softwares like Blender have plug-ins to perform this at a click of a button.

We also recommend you avoid including too many 3D elements as it can overwhelm the user and clutter up the screen space (real and virtual).

Polygon Reduction Effect
Polygon Reduction Effect
3. Choose the right digital and physical spaces
 
As augmented reality experiences are spatial and always interconnected with the real world, the environment plays a key role in the design process. The environment can be broken down into four zones, based on the distance from the user.
Users Level of Space
Most AR experiences incorporate intimate and personal space like face filters for example. While Pokémon Go is an example of AR experience used in social and public space. Thus assess the zones in which the AR experience will be used when curating it.
 
Your mobile phone acts as a portal to the AR world. The UI of the mobile phone needs to be such that it guides the user. The most prominent region of the mobile screen is the center. It is easy to overlook areas near the camera icon and corners.
 
The green zone in the figure below displays the best location for your virtual element. Hover over the image to find more details.
4. Guide the user through the experience 
 
Since many users are still new to augmented reality, it is essential that simple and clear instructions are provided to assist them through the experience.
 
Animated micro instructions and visual instructions should guide the user through the following steps to successfully launch and run an AR experience.
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It is important to note that the instruction should not overshadow the experience and should be as subtle as possible
 
When it comes to target tracking, adding visual cues of the target image will help guide the user through the experience.
Click and drag the hand to find the target
5. Keep the user engaged
 
To make it more engaging, get the user to be a part of the experience by including their input.
 
Make sure not to overload them with too many inputs. Simple gestures like screen tap, object tap, facial expression changes are ideal to be included. The image below shows the most actionable areas on the mobile screen, which are easily accessible with a swift movement of the finger. 

Through following these five tips you can ensure that your Augmented Reality experience is a success.

If you wish to know more about Augemented Reality Experiences, feel free to contact us at emerging.technologies@arq.group

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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  Enterprise.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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