We are in awe of our team as they have reached another impressive milestone in support of our nation’s mission to modernize their IT footprint. Within the last week, AIS was able to successfully establish the first Microsoft Azure Impact Level 6 (IL6) instances and achieve a conditional Authority to Operate (ATO) at IL6. 

At the end of 2018, AIS was the first to establish a cloud connection at Impact Level 5, meaning our customers could connect and store any unclassified data on their Azure subscription.

By achieving an ATO for Microsoft Azure at IL(6), AIS has enabled classified missions to use the best which Azure’s public cloud has to offer – unparalleled connectivity, high availability, and resiliency. This new capability will bring commercial innovations, which meet the security and integrity requirements of classified workloads, to DoD’s secured networks. IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS Azure services (ex. artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), identity, analytics, security, and high-performance computing) will now be available for many more DoD systems and applications.

Dedicated to Enabling a More Secure Cloud for Government

Microsoft’s dedication to the public sector has been reflected in the continued investments made in Azure Government to enable the full spectrum of State, Local, and Federal agencies as well as all Military branches.

In addition to the recently achieved Provisional Authorization (PA) at the Department of Defense (DoD) IL6, Microsoft announced a third region to enable even higher availability for national security missions, released hundreds of new features and launched over 40 new services.

We Stand Alongside You to Back Your Mission

AIS is a proud Microsoft partner and stands alongside the products, technology investments, and values of the organization. We are honored to help pave the way for our government to increase performance and connectivity, reduce costs, realize actionable data insights, and enable faster mission innovations on the first cloud natively connected to classified networks – Azure Government.

STRUGGLING WITH ATO? READY TO MIGRATE?
Work with cloud consultants, engineers, and security experts to build cloud and data solutions that deliver real mission impact.

Microsoft Partner of the Year 2020

Applied Information Sciences (AIS) has been recognized as the Microsoft Partner of the Year (2020) for Power Apps and Power Automate! This is an exciting award for our company and one which we are honored to receive. AIS has a long history helping customers in large, global, and often regulated industries work through their cloud transformation. We know that this success is due in large part to the Power Platform community and the hard work of our business applications leaders like our Director of Cloud Applications Strategy Andrew Welch, and our Power Platform Solution Architects like Emily Cartner, Jeff Myers, Patrick O’Gorman, and Kevin Dowker as well as the countless other business applications specialists and leaders at AIS (including Yash Agarwal, Ritika AgarwalNick Gill, Andrea Pinillos, and Jamie Willis-Rose to name a few).

At AIS, we believe in investing in our people. We send our business applications experts to industry events and support their participation in community-driven efforts. From winning global hackathons to providing Power Apps training courses to the growing community, our team lives out the AIS values of Continued Learning, Sharing, & Technical Excellence and Citizenship & Community every day through their dedication and contributions.

Early in 2019, AIS invested heavily in publishing and sharing the first edition Power Platform Adoption Framework. Since its initial publication, the framework has been globally accepted and vastly improved upon through ownership by the Power Platform community via GitHub at www.PowerPlatform.af. Today, AIS’ business applications specialists work alongside experts from Microsoft, business applications MVPs, and other Microsoft partners around the globe contributing to the ever-evolving set of best practices in the Power Platform Adoption Framework. We are incredibly proud to support the members of the Power Platform Community worldwide and thank them for their continued collaboration in expanding the framework and its capabilities.

One of the most important tenets of the Power Platform Adoption Framework, and consequently AIS’ implementation strategies for Power Platform, is the notion of “platform-focus”. The real value of the Power Platform is realized when business users are able to bring the “whiteboard to life” on their own, without large IT investments. The benefits of citizen development are immense, but they can introduce risks if not managed appropriately. This is one of the first concerns our IT owners typically come to us with. As a result, we place early emphasis on governance and focus on good platform stewardship.

AIS has many offerings to help organizations quickly adopt Power Platform. Our Power Platform Center of Excellence (CoE) is a turnkey offering that complements our customer’s in-house IT staff. It combines our expertise and our lessons learned with deployable tooling, patterns, and models for rapidly building solutions. We used this model first with Azure, then with Modern Workplace, and now with Power Platform for each of the verticals and customers we serve.

Recently, AIS launched our industry-focused Power Platform offerings for Financial Services.  The Financial Services Power Platform offerings support initial adoption and governance as well as best practices associated with scaling and development. These offerings aren’t just ideas, they represent ‘real-world’ lessons learned that we have taken from implementations for the world’s leading finance and insurance companies.

In addition to the private sector, AIS has succeeded in bringing Power Platform to the government and global humanitarian organizations.  In response to the COVID-19 crisis, AIS built a Power Platform-based digital clearinghouse designed to streamline the procurement of medical supplies (ex. Personal Protective Equipment, digital medical devices).  The digital clearinghouse allows medical equipment manufacturers to offer medical supplies for nations across the globe to quickly procure.  Whether in India, Europe, or the United States, our AIS business applications group is the finest in the world and we will continue our investment in the technology and our people.

AIS is a proud Microsoft partner and stands alongside the products, technology investments, and values of the organization. The team is humbled by another successful year of working together and excited for the many prosperous years ahead. We thank Microsoft for this honor.

Finding the perfect “fit” when it comes to a career choice can often feel like finding a needle in a haystack. An employer who values the experience of their employees, encourages the growth of individuals alongside the enterprise, and provides access to mentors and resources to advance your career is what you’ll find at AIS.

We are proud to have a quickly growing team with many employee tenures in the decades, some upwards of 35 years! That’s a long time for the tech industry, and we feel that speaks to the transformation of our employees over the many years that they are with us. Our people change along with the evolution of the technology we support, as the AIS culture attracts individuals who are committed to personal growth and make contributions for the collective benefit of the company, our clients, and the employee.

Our people are the heart and soul of AIS and make us who we are today – a thriving group of consultants, doers, and SMEs that work together to drive forward the mission of our clients. We hire individuals that have an eagerness to learn and grow within an ever-evolving industry.

“There’s a reason I’ve been here for half of my 14-year career”
Every project, even every sprint, I’ve learned something new. There are so many brilliant people to work with that it’s nearly impossible to not be able to get help with an issue. There is no internal competition among the staff. We all help each other for the benefit of our clients.

Impact Beyond Individual Contribution

Your career at AIS is about entrepreneurship, enthusiasm, motivation, thoughtfulness, and perseverance. As an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) company, everyone has a stake in the success of AIS. We understand that together, everyone achieves more (TEAM). And we invest in our people through benefits, reimbursement programs, and training opportunities to reward our employees for their efforts that make an impact beyond individual contribution.

“Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be!”
Working with talented, knowledgeable, passionate, and dedicated people. Everyone is willing to share their experience and expertise with you to help you grow and better understand the many facets of what we do. We’re growing at such as fast pace and everyone is working to do their part to ensure our success as an employee-owned company. It’s a very exciting thing to be a part of. I love going to work and am proud of what I do every day when I come home. What more could you want? Oh, there’s also great pay, benefits, and many locations to work from (including remote).

Thrive with Self-Directed Learning & Resources

We constantly encourage our team to participate in training to help advance their skills and continue to learn in an industry that demands we adapt to the rapidly changing technology landscape. By encouraging a highly flexible environment that is performance and results-oriented, our employees have greater ownership of their work. Our appreciation for our talented team is constant.

“Great Place to Work with Emphasis on Individual Development”
This place of jam-packed of talented and knowledgeable professionals, excited about what they do and willing to share their expertise. The culture is wrapped around developing not just as it pertains to the work, but also as an individual. AIS takes great pride in aiding and encouraging their team to grow and learn new skills, as well as hone and expand existing expertise.

Come Grow with Us!

If you have a go-getter attitude and are looking for an opportunity to take your career to the next level, AIS is the place for you. Our culture wouldn’t be where it is without our team – and we look forward to welcoming you!

WORK WITH THE BRIGHTEST LEADERS IN THE CLOUD
Check out our career openings and apply for a position at AIS today!

Congratulations to the AIS USA and India teams who represented AIS this past weekend in the global Hack4Good Hackathon and took home first and second place! The two teams of AIS employees went up against some of the best in the world – 390 participants across 40 global teams – and we are very humbled to be able to share their success. Not only did they place globally, but each group took home first place in their regions. Check out the details of their solutions below.

Team BTD: Winner of India Region and Global Winner

The hackathon was focused on building solutions based on one’s location. As there are lockdowns and strict quarantining happening in India, we came up with a solution to centralize donations from people. State and Central Governments have been sanctioning rations and funds, but they are not entirely reaching those actually in need. Common people who have the capacity want to donate some rations and generic use material but are unable to due to the lockdown. And then there are NGO’s and organizations that have the appropriate Personal Protect Equipment for their staff who can pick up items from the donors and deliver those to the needful but they do not have enough material to distribute.

The solution is comprised of 4 parts:

  1. Front for Donors to add their donations: We created three mediums for people to list the items that they want to donate. These forms collect information from the user such as Items, Items best before date, Preferred date and time slot for the pickup and their address. Donors can use a Power Apps Portal App and register to add multiple donations (maybe helping their neighbors who are not so tech-enabled) or use an MS Forms form that can be filled from a Phone or through a Power Virtual Agent bot. The information is all stored on the CDS. Using the chatbot the donors can track or cancel their donation requests as well (one of the innovative parts of the solutions is generating an OTP code for the user to authenticate in the chatbot).
  2. For the Pick-Up personnel: These folks are on the ground enabled with PPE’s and permissions from the local authorities and can pick up items from the donors. We created a canvas app that the Pick-Up executives can use. Once the app is loaded on the mobile phone, the current location of the Pick-Up executive is used to calculate Donor addresses within a 5km radius (donor location is calculated from their address and the Bing Maps API). Once the user can see the donor requests they can select one and that renders a Bing map with a route to guide the pickup executive from their current location to the donor address. The pickup executive can then select “Going for pickup” that notifies the donor of the Pickup executive’s information. Once the pickup executive is within 100 meters of the donor’s address, they can mark the items as picked up on the app and click a picture to be sent to the backend.
  3. Power BI reports: These reports are visible to the NGO team and the main component is a map that displays the location points of the donor addresses and based on that, the team can focus more and get active in areas where most donations are coming from. The reports also show the number of items that will be perishing in the next 7 days so that they can be immediately distributed.
  4. Model-Driven App: Once the items are picked up and the picture is sent, the team on the backend marks the donation as validated and creates inventory that can further be used for distribution management.

We came up with this idea and chose to work on it such that it does not die after the pandemic situation ends and has longevity as donations can be made anytime and NGO’s, organizations can better track those with the above solution (after some more tweaks and completion).

Check out the first place winner, TeamBTD’s full solution demo: https://youtu.be/FjOgiUudGLw

Team BTD:

Yash Agarwal – Microsoft Business Apps MVP, Software Developer (@yashagarwal1651)
Ritika Agarwal – Cloud Specialist (@agarwal_ritika)
Shivi Agarwal – studying Computer Sciences
Vansh Agarwal – studying Business Administration for Big data and Analytics

Team Fighting Faucis: Winner of Americas Region and Global Runner Up

Unlike past hackathons, this global Hack4Good didn’t provide teams with problems to solve. Instead, they encouraged us to think of COVID-19 related problems that we’ve witnessed or experience firsthand and try to solve them with the Power Platform – in 24 hours.  As a team, we discussed many of the ways COVID-19 has affected us directly or indirectly, but one image resonated with us the most: the image of a truck dumping potatoes in a Walmart parking lot because the farmer couldn’t sell them to restaurants.   We also, like so many, had seen stories of people needing help from local food banks due to sudden unemployment and closure of schools that often provided free meals to low-income families. We decided to create Farm to Spoon – a solution to connect that farmer with local food banks to get his excess inventory to the people who need it before it is wasted.

The solution has 5 parts:

  1. Farmer’s Administration App: We used CDS to create store the farmer’s data about what types of produce he grows, how much is available for donation, and when it expires.  This data is visible in a Model-Driven App that also allows him to look at all reservations for food made by local foodbanks
  2. Farm to Spoon Website: We used Power Apps Portals to create a website for local foodbanks to check what food the farmer has available and make reservations to pick up the food.
  3. Notifications and Reminders: We used Power Automate to confirm the food bank’s reservation, to let the farmer know when a new reservation has been made and to send out reminder notifications to the food bank to pick up their food before the expiration date
  4. Reservation Checker App: Finally, we created a Power Apps canvas app designed for the farmer’s phone.  The farmer asks the person picking up the food for their phone number, then it looks up all reservations associate with that app and provides a signature field for them to sign for the pick-up, and then the app updates CDS so the farmer has a record of all transactions.
  5. Farmer’s Metrics Report: We used Power BI to give the farmer insight into the supply and demand for his food.  What food is currently available for donation and what food has been reserved (and by whom).

Check out the solution demo for Fighting Faucis here: https://youtu.be/hkFC_mN0ADE

Team Fighting Faucis:
Maxwell Bloch – Senior Software Engineer
Jonathan Eckman – Solutions Architect
Benyamin Famili – Solutions Specialist (OCTO)
Nick Gill  – Power Platform Developer
Andrea Pinillos – Solutions Specialist
Uday Virk – Software Engineer
Jamie Willis-Rose  – Power Platform Developer

Overnight the world’s workforce has moved into the home office. As a result, online meetings are now the only way we meet. For many organizations, this sudden change has dramatically impacted how their business operates. Staff members were accustomed to collaborating in person. Now they feel disconnected.  Sales people who relied on face-to-face interaction to close the deal are suddenly isolated.  Visual cues, facial expressions and the non-verbal communication we took for granted is gone. Right now, across the globe, millions of professionals are facing these new communication anxieties.

Microsoft Teams has many features that will help overcome these challenges.  Team chats, channels and document collaboration can empower your online meetings.  These ten tips will help you ensure that all participants are comfortable with the technology so they can focus on the important part of the meeting – the people and content.

#1 – Set Expectations in the Meeting Invite

The meeting invite is a great opportunity to let people know what to expect by stating the purpose and agenda items. This will make the meeting meaningful and keep everyone on track. Will documents or other visuals be shared? Does your organization endorse the use of web cameras? Will notes or a recording be available for people to refer to after the meeting? Keep the message short but if there is anything you need to point out to ensure people can participate fully, the invite is a good opportunity to do that.

If you’re expecting newcomers, you might include a little extra guidance about accessing the meeting or where questions can be addressed. Although most people will not need this, including it sets a welcoming tone. For example:

New to using Microsoft Teams?

For the best experience:

  1. Click Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
  2. You may be prompted to choose how you want to connect – browser or desktop app
  3. Select audio option – computer or phone

If you need to join with only audio, you can use the phone number provided, or select another number through Local numbers.

If you’re dialing in, you can press *1 during the meeting to hear menu options.

If you need any help, click on Learn more about Teams or contact me at first.last@email.com

#2 – Review Meeting Controls with Newcomers

If you plan to have people join who are completely new to Teams, take a minute or two to review the meeting controls so people can participate comfortably. If you’re going to invite people to turn on their webcams, this is a great opportunity to illustrate the Start with a Blurred background option (see Tip #5).

Microsoft Teams App Bar Explained

  1. Meeting duration
  2. Webcam on or off
  3. Mute or unmute yourself
  4. Screen sharing
  5. More options
  6. Conversations
  7. Participant list
  8. Leave meeting

#3 – Mute is Everyone’s Friend

In meetings with more than 5 people, anyone who joins after the meeting has started will join as muted to reduce noise. If you notice disruptive noise from others, you can mute that person or mute all, easily from the participant list.

Mute People in Microsoft Teams or Mute All

If someone has been muted, they’ll get a notification letting them know. They can unmute themselves using their meeting controls when they need to speak. For those joining by calling in, *6 mute/unmutes.

#4 –Joining from Multiple Devices? Avoid Echoing.

Sometimes, people will join the meeting with their computer and then dial into the meeting with their phone for audio. To avoid an echo, just make sure your computer speaker is muted. There is an option to do this on the join screen prior to entering the meeting. If you forget, just turn off your computer sound. 

Mute or Blur Your Background in Microsoft Teams App

#5 – “Mute” Any Distracting Backgrounds

If you need to share your webcam but the background could be distracting, you can take advantage of the select Start video with blur in More Options. This blurs the background behind the person for the duration of the camera share.

#6 – Pick What to Share

Don’t want everyone to read your email when you share your desktop? You have multiple choices to share:

  • Your entire desktop or screen
  • A window or application
  • PowerPoint
  • Whiteboard

With application sharing, participants will only see the application or window that you choose to share. They will not see any other application or notifications you might receive.

#7 – Let a Coworker Control Your Screen

A coworker can request control when you are sharing your desktop so that he or she can control the screen and cursor. If you choose to share an application, like PowerPoint, rather than your desktop, control would be limited to the shared application. For security reasons, external participants cannot request control when you are sharing your desktop.

#8 – Take Notes in the Meeting

With Microsoft Teams, taking and sharing meetings notes is easy. Notes can be accessed from More Options and are available before, during, and after the meeting.

Taking Notes in a Microsoft Teams Meeting

#9 – Two ways to collaborate on documents

You can work on files together through a screen share, where one person types and the others talk. Or, you can upload the document to the meeting chat and allow multiple people to work on the document in real-time.

#10 – Take Advantage of the Resources Available

Here are some good articles from the Microsoft Blog on Remote Work and Teams Meetings:

Thanks to authors Tacy Holliday, Chris Miller, and Guy Schmidt for their contributions to this blog.

While checking out one of the automated messengers a coworker created, we had an idea. Why not use Azure to help with daily tasks or streamline routine daily tasks? The logic apps listed here take about 15-20 minutes at most to create and go from easiest to hardest to setup. Listed below is what you will need for the app before listing the steps. Keep in mind that while Logic Apps are available on Azure Gov, you might need to talk with a supervisor before implementing these there.

Completely new to Logic Apps? Click here to create your first one!

SharePoint Item Tracker

What you’ll need:

  • Office 365 account, with Teams, enabled.
  • SharePoint access to the desired list
  • The Completed App looks like:

Completed App

Steps:

  1. Start with a blank Logic App.
  2. Select the SharePoint Trigger “When an item is created”. This will require you to sign in with your Office 365 credentials.
  3. You’ll see a box like this. Rename the title by clicking the three dots in the top right corner.
    When An Item is Created
  4. Select the Site Address of the SharePoint site with the desired list. The dropdown will be populated with all the available sites on the SharePoint domain. Select the List Name from the dropdown of SharePoint lists. If the list you’re looking for isn’t there, it might be hiding on a different site. Set the Interval and Frequency to “1” and “Day”, respectively.
  5. Add a new action to the Logic App and find the action “Post your own adaptive card as the Flow bot to a channel” (As of this writing, this action is still in preview). After signing in again to your Office 365 account, you’ll see this box. (Again, the dots in the top right corner will allow you to change the name)
    Notify the Channel
  6. Add the Team ID and Channel ID. These should correspond with where you want to send the notification to.
  7. In the Message Field, you can add the message to send to the channel. You also have the option of adding Dynamic Content, which can add the Name of the item, a link to the Item, or other various properties.
  8. Hit Save in the top left to save the Logic App.

Twitter Tracker

What you’ll need:

  • Office 365 account
  • Twitter Account
  • The Completed App looks like:

Twitter Tracker

Steps:

  1. From the empty Logic App, scroll down to find the “Email yourself about new Tweets about a specific keyword via Office365”
  2. Click “Use this template”
  3. You’ll be asked to connect to the following: Twitter, Office 365 Users, and Office 365 Outlook.
  4. Click continue and include the desired keyword.
  5. Save the logic app by clicking the Save button in the upper right corner.

Event Time-boxer

This is a useful logic app to keep two different calendars updated with each other.
What you’ll need: 

  • Office 365 account
  • The email address to forward events to

The Completed App looks like:

Event Time-Boxer

Steps:

  1. From the templates page, select “Empty Logic App”
  2. In the search box type “event is created”, and scroll down to select the one from Outlook.com
  3. You’ll be prompted to connect an Outlook account to the Logic App.
  4. Select the preferred calendar to check for events and set the Interval to 1 dayWhen a New Event is Created
  5. Add a new step, and in the search box, type “Condition”, and scroll down to Control “Condition”Check if Event is New
  6. Under the condition, choose the Subject from the dynamic options. For the condition dropdown, select Contains, and in the right text field, type in “Timebox”Timebox
  7. Under the “false” condition, add a new step. Look for the “Create Event” action from Outlook.com. You might be told to authenticate again.
  8. Select a Calendar for the event and make the End time and Start time the same from the trigger event. The subject should be “Timebox:” followed by the subject. This way, we won’t be triggering the event again, because of our previous condition.
  9. Add the required attendee’s field and include the email address you want to forward events to.Create Event V2
  10. Save the logic app.

Honorable Mention: Traffic Sensor

So, there is one more use for Logic Apps that we didn’t cover. Microsoft has a cool tutorial for creating a Traffic Checker, which checks the traffic in the morning and sends an email based on the result. You can find it here.

There are a ton of different connectors for Logic Apps and, so there are more ideas out there than the ones listed.

It’s been a transformational year at AIS. We worked on some incredible projects with great clients, partners, and co-workers. We learned a lot! And we enjoyed telling you all about it here on the AIS Blog.

As we close out the year, here are the top 10 most read and shared posts of 2019*:

  1. Federated Authentication with a SAML Identity Provider, by Selvi Kalaiselvi
  2. Newly Released JSON Function for Power Apps, by Yash Agarwal
  3. So, You Want to Rehost On-Premises Applications in the Cloud? Here’s How., by Nasir Mirza
  4. Highly-Available Oracle DB on Azure IaaS, by Ben Brouse
  5. The New Windows Terminal – Install, Interact, and Customize, by Clint Richardson
  6. Cloud Transformation Can Wait… Get Me to the Cloud Now!, by Vishwas Lele
  7. HOW TO: Create an Exact Age Field in Microsoft PowerApps and Dynamics, by Chris Hettinger
  8. SharePoint Framework (SPFx) Innovation Project Part I, by Nisha Patel, Elaine Krause, and Selvi Kalaiselvi
  9. Azure Sentinel: A Tip of the Microsoft Security Iceberg, by Benyamin Famili
  10. What Is API Management?, by Udaiveer Virk

Happy New Year to all our readers and bloggers! Be sure to follow AIS on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn so you’ll never miss an insight. Perhaps you’ll even consider joining our team in 2020?

*We feature each of our bloggers once on the top 10 list, but we had a few top posts we would be remiss not to mention, including another blog from Yash Agarwal on How To Use Galleries in Power Apps and two more posts from Vishwas Lele, Oracle Database as a Service on Azure (Almost!) and Traffic Routing in Kubernetes via Istio and Envoy Proxy. Enjoy!

K.C. Jones-Evans, a User Experience Developer, Josh Lathery, a Full Stack Developer, and Sara Darrah, a User Experience Specialist, sat down recently to talk through our design and project development planning process that we implemented for part of a project. This exercise was to help improve our overall project development planning and create best practices moving forward. We coined the term the “Design Huddle” to describe the process of taking the feature from a high level (often one sentence request from our customer) to a working product in our software, improving project planning for software development.

We started the design huddle because the contract we were working on already had a software process that did not include User Experience (UX). We knew we needed to include UX, but weren’t sure how it would work given the fast paced (2-week sprint cycles) software process we were contractually obligated to follow. We needed to come up with a software design planning solution that allowed us to work efficiently and cohesively. The Design Huddle allowed us to do just that.

What does the design huddle mean to you?

Josh: Previously the technical lead would have all the design processes worked out prior to being assigned a ticket for development. The huddle meant that I had more ownership in the feature upfront. It was nice to understand via the design process what the product would be used for and why.

K.C.: The huddle was an opportunity to get our thoughts together on the full product before diving into development right away. In the past, we have developed too quickly and discovered major issues. Development early equated to too much ownership in the code, so changes were painful when something needed to be corrected.

Sara: The huddle for me meant the opportunity to meet with the developers early to get on the same page prior to development. That way when we had the final product, we could discuss details and make changes, but we were coming from the same starting point. I have been on other projects where I’m not brought in until after the development is finished- which

immediately strains the relationship between UX and Development due to big changes needed to finished code.

What does the design huddle look like?

  • The Team: UX Designer, at least one front-end or UX developer, a full-stack developer, the software tester, a graphic designer (as needed), and a Subject Matter Experts (as needed)
  • The Meeting: This took time to work out. As with any group, sometimes there were louder or more passionate individuals that seemed to overshadow the rest. At the end of the day the group worked better with order and consensus:
    • Agendas were key: The UX lead created the agendas for our meetings. Without an agenda it was too easy to go down a rabbit hole of code details. This also helped folks who were spread across multiple projects focus on the task at hand faster. We included time to report on action items, old business/review of any design items and set the stage of what you hope to cover as new design work.
    • Action Items: Create and assign actions to maintain in the task management system (JIRA). This was a good translation for developers and helped everyone understand their responsibility leaving the room. These also really helped with sprint planning and the ability to scope tasking.
    • The facilitator had to be assertive: Yes, we are all professionals and in the ideal world we could “King Arthur Round Table” these huddles. But the few times we tried this meeting were quickly off-track and down a rabbit hole. Many teammates would leave frustrated and feeling like we hadn’t made any progress. The facilitator was the UX specialist for our meetings, but we think the owner of the feature should facilitate. The facilitator needs to be willing to assert themselves during conversations, keep the meeting on track and force topics to be tabled for another time when needed.
    • Include everyone and know the crowd: The facilitator needs to quickly understand the team they are working with to figure out how to include everyone. One way we ensured this happen was to do an around the room at the end of each meeting.
    • Visual Aid that the whole team can see during the meeting: Choose the tool that works best for the topic at hand- a dry erase board, a wireframe, JIRA tickets, or a mock-up can help people stay on track and ensure common understanding.
    • Table tough items and know when to end the meeting: sometimes in the larger meetings we needed to call it quits on a debate to give more time for thinking, research, and discussions. Any member of the team could ask for something to be tabled. A tabled item was given a smaller group of individuals to work through the details in between the regular design huddle sessions.
    • Choose the team participants wisely: The first few meetings most likely will involve the entire team, but smaller huddles (team of 2 or 3) can often work through details of tabled items more efficiently.

What is the benefit?

  • Everyone felt ownership in the product by the end of the design. Sara’s favorite thing about this learning experience was when one of the developers I hadn’t worked with before said he loved the process. He had the opportunity to provide input early and often, and then by the time development started there weren’t really any questions left on how to implement. Josh- the process helped me feel like an engineer and not just a code monkey. K.C.-: In other projects, we have been handed mock-ups without context. This process helped the “gray area” be taken away.
  • Developers were able to tame the ideals of the UX designer by understanding the system, not just the User Interface. Developers could assist UX by asking questions, helping understand the existing system limitations, and raising concerns that the design solution was too complicated given the time we had.
  • The software tester was able to understand the flow of the new designs, ask questions and assist in writing acceptance criteria that was specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and testable (SMART).
  • She provided guidance when we needed to go from concept to reality and ensured we understood the design requirements.
  • It was critical to designing 1-2 sprints in front of expected development as part of Agile software development. It allowed for the best design to be used rather than forcing ourselves into something that could be completed in two weeks. Together we would know what our end goal was, then break down the concept into tiers. Each tier would have a viable product that was one sprint long, and always kept the end product design in mind.

The Design Huddle is a way for teams to collaborate early on a new feature or application. We feel it is a great way to work User Experience into the Agile software process and simplify project development planning. We have taken our lessons learned and applied to a new project the three of us are getting to tackle together and expanded the concept of the huddle to different members on the team. If you are struggling to incorporate proper design or feel frustration from teammates on an application task, this may be the software design planning solution for you!

Microsoft HQ in RemondAfter much anticipation, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract for cloud computing services to Microsoft over Amazon. This effort is crucial to the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize core technology and improve networking capabilities, and the decision on which cloud provider was the best fit was not something taken lightly.

Current military operations run on software systems and hardware from the 80s and 90s, and the DoD has been dedicated to moving forward with connecting systems, streamlining operations, and enabling emerging technologies through cloud adoption.

Microsoft has always been heavy to invest back into their products, the leading reason we went all-in on our partnership, strengthening our capabilities and participating in numerous Microsoft programs since the inception of the partner program in 1994.

In our experience, one of the many differentiators for Microsoft Azure is its global networking capabilities. Azure’s global footprint is so vast that it includes 100K+ miles of fiber and subsea cables, and 130 edge locations connecting over 50 regions worldwide. That’s more regions across the world than AWS and Google combined. As networking is a vital capability for the DoD, they’re investing heavily in connecting their bases and improving networking speeds, data sharing, and operational efficiencies, all without sparing security and compliance.

Pioneering Cloud Adoption in the DoD

We are fortunate enough to have been on the front lines of Azure from the very beginning. AIS has been working with Azure since it was started in pre-release under the code name Red Dog in 2008. We have been a leading partner in helping organizations adopt Azure since it officially came to market in 2010, with the privilege of experience in numerous large, complex projects across highly-regulated commercial and federal enterprises ever since.

When Azure Government came along for pre-release in the summer of 2014, AIS was among the few partners invited to participate and led all partners with the most client consumption. As the first partner to successfully support Azure Gov IL5 DISA Cloud Access Point (CAP) Connectivity and ATO for the DoD, we’ve taken our experience and developed a reliable framework to help federal clients connect to the DISA CAP and expedite the Authority to Operate (ATO) process.

We have led important early adoption projects to show the path forward with Azure Government in DoD, including the US Air Force, US Army EITaaS, Army Futures Command, and Office Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Our experiences have allowed us to show proven success moving DoD customers IMPACT Level 2, 4, 5, and (soon) 6 workloads to the cloud quickly and thoroughly with AIS’ DoD Cloud Adoption Framework.

To enable faster cloud adoption and native cloud development, AIS pioneered DevSecOps and built Azure Blueprints to help automate achieving federal regulation compliance and ATO. We were also the first to achieve the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) and DoD Cyber Security Service Provider (CSSP), among others.

AIS continues to spearhead the development of processes, best practices, and standards across cloud adoption, modernization, and data & AI. It’s an exceptionally exciting time to be a Microsoft partner, and we are fortunate enough to be at the tip of the spear alongside the Microsoft product teams and enterprises leading the charge in cloud transformation.

Join Our Growing Team

We will continue to train, mentor, and support passionate cloud-hungry developers and engineers to help us face this massive opportunity and further the mission of the DoD.

WORK WITH THE BRIGHTEST LEADERS IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

Rehosting Considerations

What is Rehosting?

Rehosting is an approach to migrating business applications hosted on-premises in data center environments to the cloud by moving the application “as-is,” with little to no changes to the functionality. A common rehosting scenario is the migration of applications that were initially developed for an on-premises environment to take advantage of cloud computing benefits. These benefits may include increased availability, faster networking speeds, reduced technical debt, and a pay-per-use cost structure.

In our experience, rehosting is well suited for organizations under time-sensitive data center evacuation mandates, facing pressure from leadership to migrate, running COTS software that doesn’t support modernization, or those with business-critical applications on end-of-support technologies. These organizations often opt for a rehost then transform strategy, as reviewed in the following blog, Cloud Transformation Can Wait… Get Me to the Cloud Now!

Below we outline important considerations, benefits, and challenges associated with a rehost strategy, based on our real-world experiences moving both custom and packaged commercial on-premises applications to the cloud. We’ll also discuss steps to take when your migration initiative goes beyond rehosting, requiring the assessment of alternative migration approaches, such as re-platforming and refactoring.

Critical Considerations

When moving on-premises business-critical applications to the cloud, there are critical considerations that span technical, operational, and business domains. Below are three key components not to be overlooked when defining your cloud migration strategy:

  • Establishing a shared vision: Ensuring you have set goals and an executive sponsor.
  • Understanding your why: Why are you migrating to the cloud in the first place?
  • Defined business impact: What impact do you expect from your migration efforts and are your goals realistic based on the chosen approach?

Establishing a Shared Vision

Establish a Shared Vision with Stakeholders

The landscape of on-premises systems is often governed by many stakeholders, both business and IT, with competing goals, risk profiles, and expected outcomes from a migration effort. Having a clear vision for your rehost initiative with key roles and responsibilities defined is critical to the timeliness, investment, and overall success of your project. Finding an executive sponsor to unite the various groups, make decisions, and define the business goals and expected outcomes is vital in risk management.

As part of creating this shared vision, the executive sponsor needs to ensure:

  • Goal Alignment: Having a shared vision among various business and IT stakeholders set direction and expectations for the project. A shared vision allows all parties, including vendors and internal resources, to understand the goal(s) and the role they’ll play for the project.
  • Sufficient Budgeting and Resource Allocation: Appropriate budget and resources must be allocated for executing tasks related to this partnership, before the start of the migration effort to ensure timely project completion.
  • Proper Documentation of Existing Systems: Critical information about on-premises systems and operations is often either insufficient or missing entirely. System documentation is mandatory to migrate systems and uphold their intended purpose.
  • Product Ownership: On-premises business application suites are often acquired or internally developed. Original vendors may be out of business, so products are no longer viable. Conversely, the custom product may no longer be supported or understood due to missing source code. An owner needs to be designated to determine the future of the product.
  • Organizational Change Management: Without user adoption, your cloud migration will fail. Change management efforts enable cloud technology adoption and require proper planning and execution from the start.

The considerations outlined above should be discussed up front, and partnerships among stakeholder groups must be established to accomplish the intended goal(s) of migration under executive sponsor leadership.

Understand Your Why

Understand Why You're Moving

You’ve heard the stories about failed cloud migrations. Those stories often start with misaligned expectations and a rushed execution, which are among the top reasons cloud migrations result in a backslide to on-premises environments. Migrating to the cloud isn’t a silver bullet – not every organization will experience cost savings or even immediate functionality improvements from a rehosting project but there are many opportunities for cost avoidance and optimization of spend.

As an IT director or manager, it’s critical to ensure executive-level sponsors understand how different migration approaches align to anticipated outcomes. There’s often pressure from leadership to migrate to the cloud, and understandably with countless cloud benefits and the many challenges associated with aging on-premises solutions. However, understanding and communicating what’s realistic for your organization and how different approaches will address various business goals is crucial.

Data Center Evacuations & Unsupported Technology

Organizations migrating based on a mandated data center evacuation or the security and compliance risks associated with unsupported or end-of-support technology often look to a rehost strategy as a first step. This helps accomplish the business goal of reducing technical debt or remediating compliance concerns quickly.

Reaping the Benefits of Cloud-Native Solutions

There are many other reasons organizations look to the cloud, such as staying competitive, increasing time to value, or the ability to innovate. To fully realize the cloud outcomes that motivate these decisions – including greater flexibility, scalability, data security, built-in disaster recovery options, and improved collaboration – additional planning and refactoring of on-premises applications are often required. In these cases, sometimes we see a rehost as the first stage (as leadership wants to see quick results or has made a public commitment to migrate to the cloud), followed by more advanced modernization efforts.

To get to the root of goals and expectations, consider the following questions as you build your roadmap:

  1. What are your business objectives for cloud adoption, and how will they help further the company vision?
  2. Is there a set timeline to complete the cloud migration effort?
  3. What internal and external resources are available to support a cloud migration?
  4. How many applications are in your portfolio, and do you plan to migrate everything, or are you considering a hybrid model approach?
  5. What are the technical requirements and interdependencies of your applications? How will you assess cloud readiness?
  6. What are the necessary governance, security, and compliance considerations?
  7. Who will be responsible for moving workloads to the new cloud platform? Who will perform the migration, and manage the workloads? Will you be doing it by yourself, or will it be a shared initiative?
  8. How do you intend to use automation to reduce manual efforts and streamline provisioning and governance?

As you answer the questions above, you may find that a rehost effort is sufficient. Likewise, you may choose to explore a lead horse application approach as part of your migration strategy to better understand the value derived from various modernization tactics.

Uncovered Benefits of the Cloud

Uncover Additional Cloud Benefits

If your organization is interested in exploring cloud benefits that go beyond what a rehost effort can provide, migration options that are more involved than rehosting may be worth your consideration. Organizations looking to modernize through re-platforming or refactoring may be motivated by cloud benefits such as:

  • Faster time to market, product release cycles, and/or pace of innovation
  • Enriched customer and end-user experiences
  • Improved employee technology, collaboration, and processes
  • Better reliability and networking speeds
  • Reduced cost of labor and/or maintenance
  • Ability to leverage emerging technology
  • Built-in disaster recovery options
  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Data security
  • Cost allocation for budgeting and showback/chargeback
  • Move from Capex to Opex (or realize Capex by buying resource commitments)

If you are facing tight timelines to migrate, a rehost effort can get you one step closer to realizing the above benefits. Through an initial migration, you can look to a proof of concept to gain a further understanding of the business impact various approaches have to offer while incrementally progressing cloud transformation.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO MIGRATION AND MODERNIZATION, DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WHITEPAPER.

Challenges

While rehosting is a faster, less resource-intensive migration approach and a great first step into the cloud, it comes with challenges and limitations.

The primary limitation of migrating certain on-premises applications to the cloud is the application’s inherent cloud compatibility. Specific applications have internal and external dependencies which limit their ability to take advantage of more advanced cloud benefits once rehosted.

While rehosting allows you to modernize the application environment, resulting in outcomes such as reduced Data Center costs, other cloud benefits aren’t fully realized. Outcomes such as elasticity and the ability to take advantage of cloud-native features are not available with a strictly rehost strategy.

While more cost-effective than on-premises hosting, sometimes it can be more costly to run applications in the cloud when rehosting, versus re-platforming or refactoring without a FinOps strategy to master the unit economics of cloud for competitive advantage. To show fast progress, rehosting is often a great transitional stage for working towards a cost-effective cloud solution, especially for organizations on a tight timeline. During this stage, managing cloud costs and realizing cloud value with a FinOps practice is key.

Feeling Stuck?

Not Sure Where to Start?

If you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, work with a consultant that’s been through various migration projects, from start to finish, and understands the common challenges and complexities of different approaches.

Whether you’re considering Azure, Office 365, Power Platform, or another cloud platform, AIS has a range of Adoption Frameworks and Assessments that can help you understand your options. With our help, create a shared vision, and align business goals to the appropriate migration approaches.

GET YOUR ORGANIZATION ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO CLOUD MIGRATION. CONTACT AIS TODAY TO DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS.