6 min read

Why staying connected is more important now, than ever.

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When I started building Redspire’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap last year, I had no idea that a global pandemic would soon be changing the world of work for us all. Nor did I realise that we’d have a brand new challenge to overcome, in making sure our teams are safe and well, mentally and physically, thanks to coronavirus.

Employee health and wellbeing is super important at Redspire and our partners at Microsoft. Straddling technology and Financial Services, we’ve always been mindful that our teams operate in high pressure environments on detail-orientated projects. Prior to Covid-19, many of our consultants were on the road with clients. Lots of us travelled to and from Glasgow, London and other financial hubs to collaborate on solution and software project design and ideation. It can be an intense process bringing these transformation projects to life. So mental health protection and peer support was, and still is, very important to us.

Staying connected during flexible working

As part of our commitment to our employees wellbeing, we tentatively launched new flexible Work from Home policies in 2019. I didn’t realize then, just how meaningful our overarching goal of ‘staying connected’ would be in 2020. Nor did I realise that as a business, we’d taken that leap to flexible working just at the right time to embed the kind of processes that would help us transition to a fully remote team. I’m incredibly glad we did.

Whilst we got slightly ahead of the curve however, it’s important to acknowledge just how challenging working from home has been for many people – not just in our business but across the globe. There’s huge benefits of course.  More family time, reduced commute and staying safe from the virus for example. However, maintaining mentally healthy habits whilst working from home feels like something we need to work hard at, daily. It’s all too easy to fall into habits that blur the lines of work and home. Answering emails over dinner, working alone, not taking breaks and just generally not switching off.

Achieving work life balance 

With that in mind, staying connected has become even more important to Redspire as a business. This takes many forms. Staying connected with each other during our working day. Making time for virtual coffee breaks and collaboration with team mates. Staying connected socially and checking in on each other too. We’ve introduced hobbies groups and a buddy / mentor system, as well as larger group hubs. Managers are embedding new ways to stay connected to direct reports and their teams each week, making sure positive working relationships can continue.

Just as importantly, we’re encouraging our teams to stay connected to their own thoughts and feelings, as well as ensuring they prioritise their downtime to stay connected to friends and family during these tough times. The former we’re helping with, in the shape of mindfulness in the workplace sessions, coupled with mental first aid training and peer accreditations too. We see this as a huge benefit to the individuals taking part but also to our team’s ability to look out for one another in the form of emotional check-ins, encouraging each other to take regular breaks and knowing how to prompt one-to-one conversations if they have concerns about each other.

A health and wellbeing toolkit

When it comes to health and wellbeing, we’re conscious that one size doesn’t fit all. So back in 2019 as I was designing our Health and Wellbeing roadmap, I wanted it to include a wide range of touchpoints for people. After all, we’re all on different journeys. The first step was surveying the teams to make sure everyone’s needs were met. The responses were as diverse as our people are. For example, some people enjoy direct line manager support, whereas some prefer to talk to HR or an external counsellor. Many prefer signposting to resources to self-manage matters.

Holistic Employee Assistance and Support

We’ve also launched a new support package that gives our teams a range of support, in the form of counselling, financial programmes, health and wellbeing, access to CBT and more for their friends and family. There programme is constantly updating with relevant health and wellness webinars, workshops and other resources on how to prioritise your day for example whilst working from home. We’re very keen not to replace a service with a system, however. So the package complements our on-going programmes that are constantly evolving.

Microsoft’s Insights to support

As we head into winter, Microsoft’s Wellbeing insights will help us all get through what’s likely to be a little tricky for us all. We must ensure we stay connected and look out for each other. Personal MyAnalytics – that only users see – will tell individuals if they’re spending too much time working, or not having any quiet, focus days and send them prompts to do so. We’ve already seen our teams take positive action on these prompts in recent months.

Just launched this month, individuals, managers, and leaders will also get insights and recommended actions to achieve a better day, a better week, and a better experience for themselves, their teams, and their organisations. Powered by Microsoft Graph and backed by trusted privacy safeguards, these capabilities put the opportunity for change into the hands of everyone in the organization.

Personally, I’m looking forward to using and learning about the productivity tools, as well options to bring in a level of normality like the virtual commute and tea breaks. I’m also very excited about the partnership with Headspace, making it available directly through Microsoft Teams.

Be kind to each other

Kindness, as I mentioned in my previous blog, is something I am passionate about. It can make the biggest difference to someone who might not be feeling their best. But it’s important to also be kind to yourself. Meditation and mindfulness with tools like Headspace allows people to take a breath and focus on the now.

In these unprecedented times, and given that our whole lives are now ‘at home’, we can feel like we need to be ‘always on.’

Ideally over the coming months, we can bring together our focus on wellbeing with Microsoft’s tools, to balance work and life a little better.

Staying positive in the months ahead

Over the next month, our executive team are looking at some interesting ways to bring our Christmas Party to life virtually. Look out for my next piece on our ideas on supporting teams over Christmas and new year and how we are boosting company morale.

Let’s look out for each other – and ourselves – in the months ahead and nurture positivity and staying connected wherever we can. It’s the only way through tough times.

Connect with Kristine as she shares more on Redspire’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap over the months ahead. Redspire are currently recruiting, visit the website or connect on LinkedIn to find out more.

3 min read

Tech sector signs of resilience as Scottish IT firm announces 18 new hires and 39% increase in turnover during ‘challenging’ times

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The hires meet planned growth targets for the year, despite COVID-19 interruptions and challenges to mid-year on-boarding.

Expanded teams will help meet increasing demand from new and existing Financial Services clients.

Redspire, a Microsoft Gold Partner announced 18 new hires today, to support continued growth within their Financial Services business units.

The Glasgow and London based firm, led by CEO and founder Billy Lyle has secured a number of significant new client wins in Banking, Insurance and Capital Markets groups this year.

Today’s announcement comes on the tail of their year-end results which highlight 39% turnover growth on previous year.

The firm commented that strategic, on-going transformation continues to be a prime focus for their FSI clients, despite the very real challenges faced by the sector due to coronavirus.

Since March, the firm have also led a number of tactical projects to support business continuity throughout the pandemic. These include a partnership with Beazley, the specialist Insurer, to help Brokers and Underwriters stay connected when lockdown closed the Lloyd’s of London trading floor.

CEO Billy Lyle said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for all businesses in the UK but our clients in Financial Services have shown real resilience. We’re very fortunate to be working through these challenges with them, making best use of the tech available and to be able to grow the team and offer employment opportunities during the pandemic, when many people are looking for work.”

He continues: “Right now, years worth of transformation is happening with every month that passes. The demand for strategic, continuous transformation is greater than ever, in addition to the at-pace projects that are helping the sector meet new and evolving challenges the pandemic poses. The Microsoft cloud and suite of business applications has risen to the challenge.”

“Now, that the market has adapted to new ways of working, we’ve turned our focus back to investing in talent in our technical, delivery and commercial teams. This ensures we have the capacity to meet the strategic requirements our clients’ like Virgin Money and Golden Charter have in 2021 and beyond.”

Services Director Steven Brown said: “Like many businesses, these past few months haven’t been without their difficulties. However, we’re working hard with our clients through times of uncertainty and shifting technology needs to support their people, customers and operations.

“Like many technology-first companies, we’re fortunate to have the infrastructure to be able to switch to remote working practically overnight and help our clients maintain service levels. Now, we can now focus our attention on growing our team and hitting the ground running with strategic projects as we head into 2021.”

Redspire is an IT Consultancy, specialising in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform technologies. As part of the Microsoft account managed teams, Redspire work collaboratively to drive future-proofing digital transformation, improve processes and help businesses understand and engage with teams, customers, clients and partners. With particularly strong capabilities in Financial Services, their client base includes the Money and Pensions Service, Beazley and Virgin Money.

5 min read

Customer Success Story: Martin Currie Investment Management

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The Challenge

As their legacy Dynamics system approached end of life/support, Martin Currie Investment Management Ltd required a new CRM system to support their global Sales, Marketing and Business Development front office, who operate in disparate time zones. The project was deployed in two phases.

  • Migrate and upgrade to dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement
  • Implement and integrate Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Stability, maximised efficiencies and a simple UX were key requirements, as well as the ability to augment existing systems and provide teams with a single customer view. The project sought to future proof digital infrastructure and processes and end reliance  on a single system, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in all time zones.

The Solution

Redspire’s approach was to rebuild Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement, hosted by Microsoft online. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing to provide an integrated digital marketing suite. Out the box functionality was maximised with customisations and configurations, rather than development, to remove any dependencies on specific partners going forward. Furthermore, this approach allowed Martin Currie to leverage existing Office 365 Licenses using the out the box integrations to Outlook, SharePoint and PowerBI.

Redspire’s approach was based upon sound, proven methodologies that ensured the new Dynamics 365 system and integrations were built precisely to the client’s needs. The project’s digital and data infrastructure not only achieved Martin Currie key outcomes, but provided the perfect foundation for the future continuous digital improvement that the business sought.

Business Outcome Highlights

  • System stability: The global sales teams can reply on a secure and stable cloud based system that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in all time zones.
  • Significant cost savings per annum: In just three months’ post Go-Live, Martin Currie Investment Management Ltd report significant annual savings attributed to support costs and zero system downtime.
  • Additional cost savings and productivity gains: A user-friendly, unified system with established and connected processes to help attract, acquire, on-board and manage customers and their interactions.
  • Resource efficiencies: No more manual updates.
  • Connected sales, marketing and BD teams: Data is more accessible and dashboards shareable on the core system and by email. Dashboards are easy to build with no manual reporting required.
  • Integrated email and CRM: Automations mean nothing is missed and improved succession planning.
  • Automated RFP request and tender process
  • Adoption and confidence: Improved team confidence in new, slick systems and processes
  • No manual updates required: Dynamics twice yearly wave releases provide access to the very latest features and capabilities without any manual oversight or updates.
  • Informed business decisions: Improved MI and capabilities for qualitative analysis have allowed business decisions to be made quicker.

Why Redspire?

“Our analysis and scoping led us to Dynamics 365. It offers more features available out the box, was customisable to current and future needs and suited our wider technology suite. Microsoft then recommended Redspire as a technology partner for implementation. Apart from understanding the scope of work, they were stand out partner in terms of approach and rapport. They didn’t try to oversee or overdevelop the project, they listened carefully and met our requirements.

Redspire’s approach and turnaround was efficient and effective. During implementation, updates and progress reporting were daily and structure. Communication was good and I was aware of progress at every stage. They’re a great client facing consultancy with strong people. The weekly project call and status report gave me really useful insight to share with the key stakeholders and financial teams too”

Hayley Keenan, Head of CRM, Data and Change

 

The Client

Martin Currie Investment Management Limited is a global organisation that offers asset management, equities, securities, investment strategies, financial planning and advisory services to customers worldwide. Operating since 1881 with £11.2bn Assets Under Management, the business has 110 employees operating across five global offices.

Their stock-focused approach is driven by in-depth fundamental research and skilled portfolio construction. Martin Currie’s key goals are to gain a holistic view of investment companies and an insight into their culture to build an understanding of material risks and opportunities develop conviction in ideas, and deliver differentiated client outcomes.

Martin Currie Investment Management Limited is a Specialist Investment Manager of Franklin Resources, Inc. which has Assets Under Management totalling US$1.4 trillion (as of 30th June 2020).

 

Client Feedback

“The project was delivered on time, it restored system dependability and increased confidence across our sales and commercial teams in multiple geographies. A key objective was removing reliance on a single system and partner. Dynamics has solved that for us.

The team now spend more time on qualitative data analysis and access data much easier, thanks to improved visual reporting and MI capabilities. We have such great visibility now on workflow and can manage resource effectively. We’re actively using every capability the solution offers, to the huge benefit of the business.”

In recent months. Financial Services organisations have seen a years’ worth of digital transformation for every month that’s passed (Satya Nadella). Redspire and Microsoft are working together to deliver transformation in the sector, from remote teamwork, connected operations and critical cloud infrastructure to sales, marketing and customer service.

The intelligent office is the future of Investment Management. Download our Sales Professional Guide to Dynamics 365 to find out how machine learning and AI can drive automations, or read more on the power platform.

Redspire is a Microsoft Gold Partner with strong capabilities in Financial Services. We’ve worked on the biggest operational challenges facing the industry today. From Business Banking improvements at VirginMoney and business automations at Beazley Insurance to client and stakeholder engagement at Money and Pensions Service. Our expertise in Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform helps our clients unify operations quickly, deliver transformative projects that solve business pain and future proof for all scenarios.

3 min read

2020 Wave 2 Release: What’s coming up? Recap

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When the developer team aren’t deep in Redspire client work, we’re usually found over at the Virtual Power Group (VPG) developing our technical skills and growing our network. The VPG is a Community Forum for Power Platform and Dynamics 365 users of all levels to come together to share knowledge and best practice.

This month, VPG was joined by Microsoft’s Lucy Bourne to cover the functionality and features of the Wave 2 release in the Microsoft Business Applications stack.

Staying on top of the ever changing platform and their twice yearly updates is a mammoth effort. Lucy’s session gave us a major leg up, with her run through of the features coming to the stack from October onwards.

There are two major releases of functionality to the Microsoft stack in a given year. One in April (Wave 1) and one in October (Wave 2). You can opt in to these features early, or preview in a trial instance. Though please note, once applied it cannot be removed so exercise caution. For existing implementations, it is advised to apply in a Sandbox environment and test that your solutions are not negatively affected by any conflict with new (or potentially retired) functionality. If you want support with this, reach out to a VPG Admin to discuss.

These major release waves do not launch all this new, cool shiny stuff immediately in to your environment – though there will be some. October 1st marks the beginning of the release wave and this functionality is launched – some elective – landing over the coming months up to the next release wave in the following April/October.

During her session, Lucy gave us a fantastic introduction to Power Apps for Teams and a rundown of the major highlights. Some of these were showcased in real-time alongside announcements at Ignite, adding a little extra excitement.

Here’s my highlights from across the main products:

Sales 

  • Mobile Experience Changes
  • Forecasting and Gamification
  • Usability enhancements
  • Sales Insights Updates

Marketing

  • Natural Language Segment Editor
  • Enhanced Customer Journey Canvas
  • Form Submission Enhancements
  • Improved Email Customization
  • and more…

Customer Service

  • Agent Productivity Dash (Multi Session Experience)
  • Omnichannel for Customer Service
  • Integrated Insights with Built In AI
  • Native Call Functionality in Omnichannel Framework

Field Service

  • Insights Dashboard
  • Customer Voice Survey Integration
  • Proactive Service Delivery
  • Scheduling experience improvements
  • Technician Success and mobile app enhancements

ERP/Commerce/Project Ops

  • CDS Integration improvements and various Cross App Capabilities
  • Document and Electronic reporting enhancements
  • Major updates to SCM
  • PayPal Integration for Commerce
  • And upgrade path plan for PSA to Proj Ops

Dynamics HR

  • AAD Integration enhanced
  • CDS Integration with Skills, Certificates, Performance and Benefits
  • Teams Self Service GA and further enhancements

Power Apps and Power Automate

  • Power Virtual Agents available within Power Apps Portals
  • PCF control support in Power Apps Portals
  • LOADS of RPA Capabilities in Power Automate (direct quote)
  • Power Automate Visual in Power BI

This is a session that I’ll not only watch again but be recommending to colleagues and clients to stay ahead of the tsunami of features scheduled to land this October. Watch the replay below.

As ever, I’m so excited to be working in this field where, as it was said on the call tonight, “change is the only constant”.

This article was first published on Viritual Power Group. For more information on forthcoming events, visit the website or connect with me on LinkedIn.

6 min read

Microsoft Power Platform for Insurance use case: booking app

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The insurance sector in the UK is built on rich traditions and face to face operations. Just a few months ago, 7000-plus industry specialists walked in and out of Lloyd’s of London market place each day to exchange risk propositions, discuss policies and close deals on the 300-year old trading floor.

The coronavirus lockdown closed the doors to the Lloyd’s underwriting floor and forced these deals into living rooms and home offices, driven by the latest cloud technology. For a sector notoriously resistant to replacing valuable in-person operations with digital processes, insurers pushed their own limits and embraced new ways to transact, meet and close deals. In fact, our clients across the Financial Services sphere responded to the crisis with real creativity and imagination to keep the cogs turning, with long-term positive impact on their businesses

One such example is how Microsoft’s Power Platform technology allowed Redspire client Beazley to work with us to being a solution – Beazley Booking – to market, in days and weeks instead of the months and years strategic projects can often take.

Let’s take a look at the Power Platform for insurance use case for the booking app.

Power Platform for Insurance booking app: solution overview

The solution is built on three key processes and scenarios:

  1. Power Apps for Underwriter Availability Management.

Underwriters assign their availability in the Power Apps Model Driven App which is then visible to the brokers to review.

  1. Broker Portal for Booking a Timeslot

Brokers log on as external users to the Broker Power Apps Portal, see which underwriters they want to meet, see time slots available and can create an agenda, attach documents like insurance slips and submit the booking.

  1. Power Apps for Booking MI

Underwriters and brokers time is automatically booked out in their Outlook diary for the meetings, which can be set up on Microsoft Teams and WebEx. Booking MI is available to view in the Power App.

Process 1: Power Apps for Underwriter Availability Management.

Built on a Power Apps model driven app for internal users, including Underwriters and Underwriting Assistants.

Contact Record with custom fields

  1. Created contact records for underwriters within the internal Model Driven App.
  2. Custom fields created to enable the booking process, including insurance type drop down, contact details, time zones, WebEx or Teams meeting ID
  3. On tab 2, Underwriters and Assistants can manage their time, and set timeslots, length of meeting and availability throughout the working week, and set exceptions for unavailability for things like other meeting types, personal appointments, focus time and annual leave.
  4. Power Automate takes all of this information and creates a range of timeslots for Brokers to view and choose, displaying date, time, length of appointment and time zone; important working across multiple geographies.
  5. Built on the Common Data Service, information and data is now available within the portal and available to Broker and other external users.

Underwriters can set their availability

Process 2: Broker Portal for Booking a Timeslot

Within the outward facing Broker Portal, built on a Canvas App, external users can view their forthcoming bookings with Underwriters, book new appointments and add documents to upcoming bookings.

External user portal view

When an external user logs into the Portal, they’re taken directly to a view of all of the bookings they currently have with their chosen underwriters at a glance.

  1. Key meeting information is displayed via Subject, time slot, booked by, underwriter, insurance type and link to video-conferencing fields.
  2. Each appointment is also sat in each user’s calendar, sent by Power Automate.
  3. Within this view, external users can also book a new timeslot via the book timeslot button in a simple three step process.
  4. Step 1 – select insurance type to filter available underwriters from that business area. Select underwriter from the drop down menu, before adding subject.
  5. Step 2 – the system surfaces the available time slots for the user to choose from. When a time slot is selected, users can add agendas and upload documents like insurance slips to allow the underwriter to gain context to the meeting and prepare accordingly
  6. Step 3 – here you can review all information submitted and make any amendments before submitting the booking request.
  7. Upon booking the timeslot, there are two actions that take place. The timeslot is created in the Underwriter’s Model Driven app and Power Automate will send a calendar invite to both parties with the high level information, videoconferencing link, agenda and any attachments.
  8. My time slot Portal front page will now show the new appointment in the view.
  9. Back in the Underwriter’s Model Driven app, the management information will show the new booking and the meeting sits in their Outlook calendar, with no need to respond to the sender.

Booking an Underwriter appointment

Process 3: Booking MI

Booking MI is the Underwriter’s go-to view to prepare for the week ahead and mange their workloads and opportunities.

  1. Go into management info tab within the Underwriter’s Model Driven App.
  2. Three charts to provide high level info to underwriter on their week ahead by broker, by attempted timeslot bookings and active timeslots, thus allowing them to plan for the week ahead.
  3. These insights allow Underwriters to understand which brokers are booking and how often, to gain visibility on the brokers attempting to book and to measure where their time is being spent for maximum efficiencies.
  4. MI is fully extensible to additional integrations to fit wider business needs or to evolve with future iterations or augmentations.

Management Information within the Model App

Power Platform: no limits extensibility

Beazley’s CTO Mark Moerdyk says: “Beazley Booking uses the Microsoft Power Platform to improve the quality of interactions with brokers and ensure that our underwriters have access to data that can help improve service in the future. This is not only a system that improves our service during this period of social distancing but also has the capability to provide long-term support as the market adapts to a more efficient and flexible model.”

Less code, more power: 86% of Fortune 500 companies use Power Apps

With 86% of Fortune 500 companies using Power Apps, there’s never been a better time to modernise your data and harness the power of the Power Platform and Microsoft Dynamics 365. No-code, low code capability is here now and can augment your legacy systems to fit the new normal in days and weeks. Want to hear more?

About Redspire and the Microsoft

Redspire are a CRM Consultancy and Microsoft Gold Partner, specialising in Dynamics 365 and The Power Platform. We partner with the UK’s leading Financial Services organisations to lead them through powerful digital transformation, improve operations and process automation with Microsoft’s suite of business applications. Interested in the awesome power of Power Platform? Find out more about Power Apps and Beazley booking on the Connecting Brokers and Underwriters webinar with Megan Meneely, Billy Lyle and Beazley’s Mark Moerdyk.

Want to talk all things Power Platform or Dynamics 365? Get in touch with us touch on 0845 226 8170 or email us at info@redspire.co.uk.

3 min read

What is Microsoft Power Apps?

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Power Apps is a high-productivity development platform for business apps, and has four major components:

  • Canvas apps
  • Model-driven apps
  • Portals
  • Common Data Service

Microsoft Power Apps is a suite of apps, services, connectors and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment to build custom apps for your business needs. Using Power Apps, you can quickly build custom business apps that connect to your business data stored either in the underlying data platform (Common Data Serviceor in various online and on-premises data sources (SharePoint, Excel, Office 365, Dynamics 365, SQL Server, and so on).

Apps built using Power Apps provide rich business logic and workflow capabilities to transform your manual business processes to digital, automated processes. Further, apps built using Power Apps have a responsive design, and can run seamlessly in browser or on mobile devices (phone or tablet). Power Apps democratizes the custom business app building experience by enabling users to build feature-rich, custom business apps without writing code.

What is a Model Driven App?

Model-driven app design is a component-focused approach to app development. Model-driven app design doesn’t require code and the apps you make can be simple or very complex. Unlike canvas app development where the designer has complete control over app layout, with model-driven apps much of the layout is determined for you and largely designated by the components you add to the app.

Model-driven app design provides the following benefits:

  • Rich component-focused no-code design environments
  • Create complex responsive apps with a similar UI across a variety of devices from desktop to mobile
  • Rich design capability
  • Your app can be distributed as a solution

What is a Canvas App?

Canvas apps start with your user experience, crafting a highly tailored interface with the power of a blank canvas and connecting it to your choice of more than 200 data sources. You can build canvas apps for web, mobile, and tablet applications.

Canvas apps give you the flexibility to arrange the user experience and interface the way you want it. Allow your creativity and business sense to guide how you want your apps to look and feel.

You can start to build your app from Microsoft tools where your data lives, such as:

Creating a canvas app is easy; with Power Apps, you can find or create your app in several ways:

What is Power Apps Portals?

 Portals help you create external-facing websites that allow users outside your organization to sign in with a wide variety of identities, create and view data in Common Data Service, or even browse content anonymously.

What is the Common Data Service

 The Common Data Service is the data platform that comes with Power Apps and allows you to store and model business data. It’s the platform on which Dynamics 365 apps (such as Dynamics 365 Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Marketing, and Project Service Automation) are built. If you’re a Dynamics 365 customer, your data is already in Common Data Service.

Common Data Service allows you to securely store and manage data within a set of standard and custom entities, and you can add fields to those entities when you need them.

Power Apps and Redspire

Interested in exploring new ways that processes can be engineered and how modern tools like Power Apps can be applied within your business? Get in touch today or watch the on demand Power Apps in Insurance webinar. Respire and Microsoft have partnered to provide a number of hands-on workshops to FSI organisations. For fresh ideas and access to some of the UK’s top solutions architects, get in touch with Redspire today on 0845 226 8170 or email us via info@redspire.co.uk.

6 min read

The enabled agent: eight features future-proofing customer engagement in Financial Services

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As the UK enters recession, with Covid-19 still at large and Brexit looming, UK Financial Services leaders take stock of the strategic digital priorities that best steer resilience in the months and years ahead.

The pandemic has accelerated digital change in all areas of the sector, with focus on rapid implementations that maintain business continuity and connect people and processes. A key area for immediate investment is agent enablement, made possible by Microsoft Dynamics and the Power Platform.

The enabled agent: driving customer engagement in Financial Services

Enabled agents aren’t an especially new strategy in Financial Services. Retail banks adopted first-stage iterations of omnichannel agent enablement early, as a strategic customer experience differentiator. With the concept proven and covid-19 driving at pace adoption, business banking, insurers and investment banks are fast realising the value of connected communications and unified data infrastructures.

Eight key features of enabled, connected agents in Financial Services

  1. The human touch: live agents

Previously the frontline of customer contact, live service agents remain a precious commodity in Financial Services. Growth in automation and unified data centres makes managing their routine daily tasks easier to complete, leaving these teams free to concentrate on higher value customer interactions. Whether resolving high touch queries or assisting through difficult decision making processes, live agents can transition prospects through a sale, connect customers to compliance automations, direct to Power Apps Portals to self-serve or offer digital document sign functionality.

This human touch where required builds trust and loyalty and delivers meaningful customer experiences. Recent Accenture research indicates that 71% of respondents’ value being able to raise a complaint to a human advisor. Nearly a third of those surveyed found specialist mortgage advice important. One fifth wanted access to other specialist advisors via videoconferencing.

Constantly evolving capabilities make all of this possible. For example, Microsoft Teams and the Power Platform can connect advisors and customers in digital meeting rooms, removing the need for bricks and mortar meeting space.

  1. Bot and AI supported journeys: virtual agents

Virtual Agents are the new frontline of customer service. Where live agents are customer advocates, provide emotionally intelligent services and build loyalty in Financial Services, Virtual Agents can provide a first point of contact for low touch customer queries and 24/7 self-service, reducing pressure on the contact centre. Connected to customer data, FAQs and knowledge bases, bots and Virtual Agents can provide accurate information, report on sentiment and leverage AI insights.

Blended emotional and artificial intelligence doesn’t just provide productivity gains and cost savings, it maximises resources. It ensures customers can access the services they need, at the right time, on the platform of their choice. With people and AI utilising the same data and knowledge sources, service levels and information shared remain consistent and correct at each touchpoint.

  1. Centralised knowledge bases: authoritative agents

Unified web content, helpdesks and knowledge centres are the beating heart of agent enablement. Leverage with AI insights, self-serve and process automations to deliver outstanding service. Instead of laborious and complex financial product and service training, focus agent training on the basics first and how to curate live and compliant source materials, product information and playbooks.

This knowledgebase content can be surfaced through one unified interface, produced and version controlled between the relevant product, marketing and risk teams. Customer queries can be resolved fast by enabled agents – live or virtual – and also accessed in self-service portals or online. Live agents and managers can be confident that they’re providing accurate information in every transaction. Customers benefit from consistent experiences and 24/7 access to accurate information across all channels.

  1. Educate and inform: empowered agents, empowering customers

Access to this wealth of financial product and service information integrated with AI insights, sentiment analysis and next best action guidance educates and informs customers. Enabled agents are empowered to provide the financial information customers need, when they need it on the appropriate channel. Financial literacy, inclusion and well-being are particularly nice side-benefits of increased access to such information. Customers are empowered by the ability to research or self-serve the content they require, 24/7 and make informed financial decisions. The business benefits from a rich sales pipeline, even before the customer has spoken to a seller.

  1. Single customer view: all seeing agents

Enabled agents help service customers and facilitate a people-centric organisation. Access to unified real time data unlocks valuable insights and powers hyper-personal customer experiences. Unify these rich insights across the full range of channels to get a live, 360-degree single customer view. Predict needs and behaviours based on historical transaction data, channel preferences, product enquiries and renewal dates to maximise customer lifetime value. Augment the system to meet your needs with Power Automate and get rich reports with Power BI.

  1. Meet customers where they are: social agents

Ever-growing numbers of Banks, FinTechs and Insurers offer in-app communications on private social channels like Messenger and Whatsapp, whilst public-facing social media is an extremely valuable service tool. Microsoft Cognitive Services enables agents to monitor sentiment towards financial products, service levels and brand and respond proactively where appropriate to manage customer satisfaction or resolve small fires before they reach crisis level.

  1. Income generation: sales agents

Enabled service agents can feed the sales pipeline by identifying opportunity and following machine learning and AI-driven next best actions to meet customer live needs. Cross-departmental single customer view and connectivity allows enabled agents to make smart recommendations, complete transactions or hand over to experienced sellers to pick up the lead.

  1. Have it your way: omnichannel agents

Cross-channel customer engagement isn’t a nice to have in Financial Services 2020, it’s minimum service level. Enabled Financial Service agents are set up to transact and interact with customers across voice, email, chat, bot, in-app, social, portal and other self-serve channels. Omnichannel for Customer Service supports an always-on customer experience, treating each customer journey as a single transaction made up of a series of multi-channel interactions in the full customer environment. See the tools in action in the video below.

About Redspire and the Microsoft partnership

Redspire are a CRM Consultancy and Microsoft Gold Partner, specialising in Dynamics 365 and The Power Platform. We partner with the UK’s leading Financial Services organisations to lead them through powerful digital transformation, improved operations and process automation with CRM and Microsoft’s suite of business applications. The Redspire team of solutions architects, consultants, developers and support professionals are all Microsoft accredited with specialist knowledge on the tools and solutions limitless capabilities. We’re driven creating impactful business outcomes for our clients, not just system and embedding the technology within your teams for enhanced user adoption. For more information on Agent Enablement, watch the on-demand Customer Service webinar with Iain Kennedy or get in touch with us on 0845 226 8170 or email us at info@redspire.co.uk.

3 min read

Redspire works with Beazley and Microsoft to create online booking system for Underwriters and Brokers

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Redspire has worked in collaboration with Microsoft and specialist insurance partner Beazley to create Beazley Booking, an online booking system to make it easier and quicker for brokers to arrange virtual appointments and share relevant documentation securely with underwriters.

Using Microsoft’s low code platform Power Platform, Beazley Booking makes it easier and quicker for brokers to arrange virtual appointments and share relevant documentation securely with underwriters. Connected to a simple web application, brokers can access the portal using a secure log-in provided by Beazley.

Connecting brokers and underwriters with the Power Platform 

Beazley Booking enables brokers to view underwriter availability, book a meeting time, upload an agenda and documents in advance and view all of their scheduled meetings with Beazley underwriters. It aims to ensure brokers retain consistent access to their underwriting contacts during social distancing and beyond as the insurance industry adopts more flexible working practices in the long term. It also provides underwriters with access to a detailed log of broker enquiries and appointments on a fully secure system.

From today, Beazley is rolling out the system to cyber & technology and property broking partners in the London market with new lines being added in the coming months.

Mark Moerdyk, Beazley’s chief technology officer, said: “Beazley Booking uses the Microsoft Power Platform to improve the quality of interactions with brokers and ensure that our underwriters have access to data that can help improve service in the future. This is not only a system that improves our service during this period of social distancing but also has the capability to provide long-term support as the market adapts to a more efficient and flexible model.”

Flexible working practices as the market adapts 

Paul Bantick, global head of cyber & tech, said: “We have been working very hard to ensure we retain the same standard of access and responsiveness for brokers while working remotely. In the London market particularly, the temporary closure of the Lloyd’s trading floor due to the pandemic has changed the dynamic of the market and accelerated the adoption of new ways of working. As we come out of lockdown we know that some of these more flexible working practices will ensue. This was an opportunity to invest in making our virtual interactions with brokers slicker and more efficient with expanded functionality and features.”

Beazley Booking empowers brokers and ensures frictionless trading 

Simon Jackson, head of open market property at Beazley, added: “Beazley Booking empowers brokers to arrange appointments with us using a user-friendly and intuitive application. It helps to ensure trading with us is as frictionless and straightforward as possible.”

Beazley plc (BEZ.L) is the parent company of specialist insurance businesses with operations in Europe, United States, Canada, Latin America and Asia. Beazley manages six Lloyd’s syndicates and, in 2019, underwrote gross premiums worldwide of $3,003.9m. All Lloyd’s syndicates are rated A by A.M. Best.

About Redspire 

Redspire is an IT Consultancy, specialising in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform technologies. As part of the Microsoft account managed teams, Redspire work collaboratively to drive future-proofing digital transformation, improve processes and help businesses understand and engage with teams, customers, clients and partners. With particularly strong capabilities in Financial Services, their client base includes the Money and Pensions Service, Beazley and Virgin Money.

Register for the webinar 

Beazley chief technology officer Mark Moerdyk and Billy Lyle, Redspire chief executive host an overview of the technology on 22nd July at 11am, showcasing how the Power Platform is building connections, driving adaptability, and helping insurers overcome challenges in a time of change. Reserve your place today

For more information, visit www.beazley.com

For information on Redspire or the Microsoft Power Platform site please visit https://redspire.co.uk/  and https://powerplatform.microsoft.com

3 min read

Acts of Kindness and the impact on Mental Health

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As part of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, we asked our Head of HR and Business Operations Kristine Steele to share the ways that Redspire is providing a mentally healthy workplace. She gives her thoughts below on why, especially now, #KindnessMatters. 

Before lockdown, my 2-year-old son was in nursery. When I collected him at the end of each day, his nursery teacher always gave me a rundown of his day. What he learned, what he ate etc and I would always ask the same question in return…” was he kind today?”

For me, kindness is such an important value, in both the workplace and our personal lives. The small ways in which we normally show kindness in the workplace for most of us have gone, for now. Making someone a cup of tea, a hello and a smile as you walk past in the corridor, asking how someone’s day has been, buying biscuits to share. Most of us do these things without thinking about them. We are naturally caring, social creatures. But for someone who isn’t having a great day, these small things can make a big difference.

So, it’s really important now, at a time when many people are feeling isolated and anxious that we reach out and take the time to make colleagues and loved ones feel better. A virtual hug, a thinking of you message, an offer of support and a chat; even to those you may not normally speak to, could really have a positive impact on someone’s mental wellbeing. By showing that you’re thinking of them and that you care.

I am really proud to be part of the Redspire team. Our Managers work hard to support and encourage their teams and we are continuously striving to make Redspire a great place to be. As part of our roadmap prior to lockdown, we had been reviewing the way we do business to ensure our everyday working culture is as mentally healthy as possible. We continue to do this by reviewing training and coaching options for our Managers to give them the tools they need to further support their teams, and we will be creating a hub of resources to encourage all employees to explore and share ways to manage stress, anxiety and mental health.

Our next step is to train a number of team members to become mental health ambassadors. We are currently running mindfulness sessions, introducing wellbeing action plans and continue to organise virtual social events, quizzes and celebrate birthdays and achievements. We’re keen that our teams input on what’s important to them too, so source suggestions of what matters to them. We’re keen that we continue to deliver a great service to our customers, but also make sure our employees have the balance between work and personal life. Especially, as for now, as both are so intertwined.

As well as hands-on team support, our anonymous wellbeing survey helps us measure how successful our initiatives are but also allows staff a voice to talk and allows us to listen. It supports the daily conversations between employees and managers and set benchmarks to measure and improve upon. It’s important as employers and Managers that we talk, listen and really care about supporting our teams. We strive to create a trusting and open environment where people won’t be judged, and we continue to encourage people to speak out and ask for help if they need it. These recent months have been tough on the global community. Everything has changed. That’s what makes it even more important now, to all work hard to get through the new challenges we face.

Be kind to each other, #KindnessMatters 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Connect with Kristine as she shares more on Redspire’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Roadmap over the months ahead.

For more information on mental health awareness week and where you can get further support visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

8 min read

20 Power Apps features and enhancements in April’s 2020 Wave 1 Update

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April has been a big month for Microsoft Dynamics and the Power Platform, with new apps and over 400 new features and enhancements released. Solutions Architect, Richard McAtamney shares his insights on the new capabilities.

As a Power Platform aficionado with nearly 17 years within the Financial Services sector, I’m really interested in the new Power Apps and Power Apps Portals capabilities.

Major announcements in the form of Mixed Reality in Power Apps, which tentatively present a number of new use cases and innovations in the bank branch network and the general availability of AI Builder have a huge positive impact on team productivity, improved user experiences and slickened customer journeys.

Additionally, Microsoft have worked hard to make improvements that:

  • make the build slicker for in-house and development teams
  • which integrate meaningfully with other technologies
  • translate to innovative customer experiences and improved operational workflows for in-house teams.

Here are updates and key features from the Power Apps and Power Apps Portals release:

  1. It’s now possible to create Apps directly from Microsoft Teams, using existing SharePoint Data.

This allows you to:

  • Drives deep integrations with productivity apps and advanced capabilities in azure
  • Makes it easy to create Apps in teams with existing business data
  • Create applications within your channels
  • Automatically generate first few screens from data already within the Teams SharePoint site.

With Teams now the virtual workplace of choice for over 75 million global users, teams of varying skill levels can now create applications that use the context of the space they’re embedded in, bring applications to Teams mobile and give users a context that enhances productivity.

  1. Additionally, later this month, personal Power Apps apps will be available on the Teams mobile client. This functionality allows users to:
  • Pin applications to the bottom their Teams navigation bar and open directly within the Teams setting.
  • Provide quick access to mobile apps.
  • Drive quick collaboration in crisis or rapid response situations, for example for frontline workers during the global health pandemic

This functionality can also have multiple uses within business and customer facing settings,

  1. Enhanced capabilities and experience in Model Driven Apps Offline mode

The need for enhanced offline functionality has never been more apparent than in the last few months. Systems have been overloaded with the business community shifting to remote working and frontline workers needing to communicate in the field or on the go.

Microsoft are continuously working on improving features in off-line mode. Enhancements to Model Driven Apps Offline include:

  • Model driven apps are faster & more reliable in offline mode
  • Entities such as currency will be available in offline mode
  • Better communication & more actionable error messages
  • Barcode Scanner control also now available in offline mode
  1. Power Apps mobile has all your apps on a single application

The preview of Power Apps mobile application allows user to launch canvas and model driven apps together from a single point, removing the user pain of two separate apps and creating a unified experience. Key highlights include:

  • Canvas and Model-driven apps now run on a single mobile application
  • All Model-Driven and Canvas Apps available in a single mobile App
  • Makers can deliver a targeted experience to users on a single application
  • Pixel perfect, task-based Canvas App or declarative metadata driven model-driven app.
  • Canvas & Model-driven apps will appear together in a single list of apps in the PowerApps Mobile App
  1. Canvas App Monitor Tool now generally available

This feature is now generally available, allowing users to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with applications quicker. Key highlights include the capability to:

  • Diagnose & troubleshoot applications quicker
  • Import and Export Log files
  • Share Diagnostic sessions, Inspect, Interpret and filter results
  • Visualise event timelines
  • Identify Problem areas and fix in App
  1. Modern Solution explorer gets a make over

For users who want to to spend less time searching and transitioning between designers and more time on making apps, this update will help create a more intuitive user journey. Key call outs are:

  • Secondary navigation added
  • Recent items 1 click away
  • Remember settings from previous session
  1. PowerApps Test Studio for Canvas Apps is now generally available

For users who have canvas apps within solutions or projects, how are they usually tested? Power Apps Test Studio for canvas apps builds on the preview release and is now generally available with support for all controls and integration into the build and release pipeline. The features:

  • Fully supports all Power Apps custom controls and components
  • Allow new capabilities to run tests automatically
  • Establish Quality Gates and efficient test automation

Some key improvements in Portals include:

  1. Web API’s for CRUD Operations on CDS entities
  • Adds Web API’s allowing users to create, read, update and delete operations across all CDS entities (Based on User & Community Feedback)
  1. Portal Checker enhancements (First added in Oct 18’ Wave)
  • Additional Scenarios added to help resolve common portal issues
  1. Power BI Embedded component in Portal Designer.
  • First party integration with PowerBI, using liquid tags
  • Simplify Integration
  • First class component in Portal designer experience, similar to forms and list
  • Remove complexity of liquid tags
  • Add PowerBI report or dashboard in Portal as a component using Portal designer property panel, without having to worry about liquid code.

Sophisticated Apps on a Unified Platform

  1. Build responsive, reflowing Canvas App pages

App developers and makers can now build pages that are carefully tailored to needs of end users and responsive on various screen sizes.

  • Build pages fully responsive to changes in screen size and orientation
  • Automatic re-flow as the available real estate on the screen changes.
  • Supports all existing canvas concepts and custom components
  • Can be built in Power Apps Studio or Power Apps Component framework
  • Build fully custom and responsive experiences into Apps

This functionality was requested by the PowerApps Community and is a huge step towards unifying App types

  1. Enabling Printable pages in Canvas Apps

A huge plus for field service type scenarios, this feature allows

  • makers to configure a printable page within the canvas app and create a PDF.
  • End users to print, email or file docs in a whole range of use cases, for example loss adjusters and claims inspectors in insurance.
  • Using existing concepts to create, capture and print a page.

This functionality was a top request by the PowerApps Community.

  1. Enable creating and editing data in forms displayed as modal dialogue without navigating away

Users no longer need to navigate away from a form to create or edit a related record.

  • Create or edit a related record within a form
  • Open a main form in a dialogue directly from another main form
  • Will also be available in the navigateTo Api
  • Can be used in the command bar, event or plug-in to open a main record in dialogue experience

This new functionality hugely increases productivity, reduces clicks and removes unnecessary navigation across forms.

  1. Improvements to model-driven apps

These improvements are designed to enable end user productivity and reduce time to get started on a session. Highlights include:

  • Remember last used app, reducing need to choose from an App list
  • Last App will be used if an App isn’t specified within a URL
  • Reduces click and increases productivity
  • Visuals for existing App message bar to align with Form message bar experience.
  • Model Driven Apps now have API’s to show App level messages, which remain visible while navigating
  • API allows for flexibility in message Type – Eg: User Dismissible or not dismissible for permanent messages
  • API support removing specific messages if they don’t apply
  1. Save is always visible in the command bar on edit forms
  • Save and Save and Close options in command bar are now visible when editing a record.
  • Previously both were hidden if autosave was on. Save was only visible in the footer
  1. View selector usability enhancements
  • Drop down is wider and longer
  • Personal views are separated from system views, shown higher on the list
  • Header and Label Highlighting styles applies
  • Pinning made easier and icon alignment
  1. Improved Data Source experience and Common Data Service view are generally available
  • Speed of access to Common Data Service now greater than 50%
  • The feature & speed now make this the preferred way of connecting to the CDS over the Dynamics 365 Integrator
  • New Data Sources pane
  • Entity View Selection
  • Change CDS Environment
  • Improved Data defaulting

Microsoft continue to focus investment and attention on the Common Data Service as a robust platform for apps of any scale.

  1. Auto generate web apps on top of your existing data
  • Makers can now create Canvas Apps in landscape rather than just phone layout
    • Easier to make Canva Apps for web and tablet Scenarios
    • Use existing SharePoint, Excel, SQL and CDS Data without having to build it from scratch.
  • App from Data Templates will now be responsive
    • Generate App Once for both Phone & Tablet
  1. Large File & Image Support in Model-Driven Apps
  • File & Image entity attribute can be added to any part of the form
  • Files can be uploaded up to 128Mb
  • Images can be uploaded up to 30Mb
  • Attachments in forms ssed to be limited to 5MB – Limiting ability to add large files eg: PDF, Images & Videos

Now users can easily work with large images and files from CDS in any Power App.

  1. Improved themes in Power Apps

Introducing improved themes for both canvas and model-driven apps that reflect modern Microsoft Fluent themes. Canvas apps also have new control sizing introduced to allow makers to build apps with controls sized for web-based and mobile scenarios.

New themes made available for model-driven app as a preview.

Our technical teams love talking all things Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’d like to discuss any element of the Wave 1 2020 enhancements in more detail, please get in touch on 0845 226 8170 or email us at info@redspire.co.uk.

Keep an eye on our blog and LinkedIn page for our follow up article on the Power Platform.