Using Figma to design business apps with Andrew Ly

Using Figma to design business apps with Andrew Ly

132. Today’s guest is Andrew Ly, a Microsoft Business Applications Solutioning Lead at IBM Consulting in Australia.

Andrew shares his 22 years of experience in the Microsoft space, including the type of work he does and the clients he works with.

Andrew also gives his two cents on the low-code, no-code approach and talks about the demand of in a day trainings like App-in-a-Day sessions, Figma, and Power Platform applications.

Show Highlights

  • [02:48] Andrew’s background and what it’s like living and working in Australia
  • [05:13] What Andrew and Neil do to keep fit these days
  • [06:58] Andrew’s life at IBM, the type of work he does, and the clients he’s working with
  • [09:50] Maximizing the benefit of having sales systems, and building apps that work the way the individual does
  • [11:31] On helping clients scale up and scale out, and get out of challenging situations
  • [16:59] App in a Day sessions’ demand today
  • [19:05] Training programs that are centered around creating a sense of community internally
  • [24:30] On the acquisition of Figma and why it’s a great tool
  • [31:50] Technology overlapping with Biz Apps, including virtual reality
  • [39:09] Andrew’s suggestions on which areas to specialize in
  • [42:51] Andrew’s plans, including doing more coding and speaking sessions


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[00:00:00] Neil: Andrew, welcome to the Amazing Applications Podcast. It's great to have you on, mate. I can't believe this is your first time. What was I thinking? I should have had you on years ago. Where have you been all my life?

[00:00:08] Andrew: I don't know. You should have asked me a couple of years ago. There you go. 

[00:00:11] Neil: So Andrew, you're a Dynamics 365 Power Platform Architect, I guess, from South Australia. Here's something interesting I looked up the other day. I think right now it's about 10 to seven in the evening in Brisbane. Are you ahead of me in terms of time?

[00:00:26] Andrew: Yeah, we are actually, it's like 07:18 at the moment PM, Adelaide, 

[00:00:31] Neil: You're 30 minutes ahead, but Adelaide is west of Brisbane.

[00:00:35] Andrew: Wow. What do we got like four time zones in Australia?

[00:00:38] Neil: I think South Australia has got its own special thing going on. So you're normally half an hour behind Victoria and New South Wales

[00:00:47] Andrew: Correct. 

[00:00:47] Neil: But right now both of those states and South Australia are all observing daylight savings and we don't in Queensland. So you're half-hour ahead, but you’re west of us. That's really weird. Congratulations. 

[00:00:57] Andrew: I still don't understand why Queensland doesn't observe daylight saving. I thought you guys would be the most to benefit from daylight saving, given the beautiful beaches and that.

[00:01:08] Neil: Yeah. It's something to do with as you’re closer to the equator there’s less of an impact. But you know, something like cattle not being able to sleep properly at night or people's curtains fading. There's all sorts of excuses. 

[00:01:18] Andrew: Or mango's not growing right, yeah.

[00:01:20] Neil: That’s right. 

[00:01:21] Andrew: Fair enough.

[00:01:21] Neil: I moved here five or six years ago and I thought it was really strange that we didn't observe daylight savings, but now I got used to it. I love it. I love just having a constant calendar all year round. It makes life much easier, especially when I'm traveling, you know, across state. 

[00:01:34] Andrew: Certainly does.

[00:01:35] Neil: Why don't you just take a moment to introduce yourself to the audience. I butchered that one, but tell us lot about who you're and about the pleasures of living in South Australia.

[00:01:42] Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. So, Andrew Ly, I'm a Microsoft Solutions architect. I work for IBM, Microsoft MVP, FastTrack Recognized Solution Architect and Power Platform. So I've been in the Microsoft space for, Oh God, I'm gonna say 22 years now. Starting Windows NT going forward from there, then I went to Oracle for a little bit, just doing Oracle systems, Java systems and that, and came back to Microsoft.

[00:02:05] So, and it's been interesting. Like it's just been a really interesting sort of work from CRM work to basically anything, healthcare industry, defense, you name it. It's just taking me across a whole bunch of broad spectrums. And so my focus these days is more around building user experiences and getting sort of that user experience lens and less on the day-to-day coding side of things.

[00:02:29] But it’s the part that I sort of enjoy the most. And like you say, I'm based out in South Australia. I've been here all my life, born and raised South Australian and it's interesting, it's wine country for those who don't know. It's basically where most of our wine comes from so that works well for me. 

[00:02:45] Neil: Okay. Yeah. Had a nice glass of what was a bottle of semi sauvignon blanc from South Australia this weekend. Lovely stuff. 

[00:02:54] Andrew: Oh, lovely. Beautiful, beautiful. Have to do a wine tour together, mate. 

[00:02:59] Neil: Yeah. Oh, that'd be good. I'd love to get down to Adelaide and, yeah. So are you in the city center? Are you in the suburb somewhere? Are you out in the hills?

[00:03:04] Andrew: No, I'm in the suburbia. So, pretty close to the action without having to be right in the middle of it. I mean pretty much it's easier to get anywhere in Adelaide. Half an hour to the wine country, 15 minutes to the beach. So, yeah it’s nice. 

[00:03:18] Neil: There's a friend of mine goes down every year. There's, I think, I guess it's pretty international cycling competition. I think it's January—Tour Down Under, yeah. Oh, you're a cyclist? I don't know if you follow it.

[00:03:29] Andrew: No, no. But the Tour Down Under comes through my area where my suburb is. And they do a whole sort of, I dunno, I don't know much about the cycling world. I'm not gonna pretend I do. It's just interesting to see all folks come along for that so. 

[00:03:44] Neil: Yeah, I don't know much about it either, but I thought, well, you know, a boy's weekend in Adelaide. That sounds good. I might have to just read up on it a little bit so I don't embarrass myself, but—

[00:03:53] Andrew:  I don't know, man. I can picture yourself as, you know, in the lycra and doing the whole, get the whole kit and caboodle going on.

[00:03:59] Neil: Yeah, I need to lose a couple of K's first before I can fit into the lycra. So what do you do to keep fit these days?

[00:04:05] Andrew: Gym, really. I mean I've, sitting down on a computer, it’s done me no good over the years and sort of had to battle with sort of health issues, back issues, that sort of stuff resulting from that. So just a bit of cardio and going to the gym and going for walks and do what I can, you know, you've gotta do it these days. And just particularly with Covid now, I found that if I wasn't getting out outside and been working from home pretty much the last two or three years, just lack of vitamin D, you've gotta get out of there, you know? You've gotta get out of that space. Absorb some sunlight. Yeah. What about yourself? 

[00:04:40] Neil: I've had some pretty intensive chiropractic work over the last couple of years as well. Just from, yeah, bad posture. And last couple of weeks I've taken up F45. So it's a high-intensity interval training. Is that what it's called? 45 minutes. The first time I did it a few weeks ago, I came home and I wanted to throw up. I was, my legs were jelly. I don't know how I drove home. I was just sweating buckets. It was horrendous, but it's got a bit better. Although the last class I did, it was a lot of, what do they call it? Timer detention. So you had to do like lots of half squats and lunges and stuff and just a lot of glutes work and hamstrings and [...] a tight pair of legs the last couple of days, but it's getting better.

[00:05:19] Andrew: If you can keep that up, it's great for you. But I've heard so many people have just gone into it after being quite like out of action for quite some time and they really end up hurting themselves, like just, so yeah, you'd be knackered after the first day. I can imagine that. 

[00:05:35] Neil: Yeah, I talked to my chiro about it. He said, oh, the best thing for his business was CrossFit and F45

[00:05:40] Andrew: Right, right. Okay. 

[00:05:42] Neil: People are going too hard, too fast, too soon. 

[00:05:44] Andrew: Exactly, exactly. With anything, right? 

[00:05:48] Neil: Yeah. So tell us about life at IBM. You and I worked, both worked at KPMG Australia, but I don't think our paths crossed. I think you started slightly after I left and you've moved on now to IBM. Tell us more about your role there, the type of work you do and the team, and the kind of clients you're working with.

[00:06:03] Andrew: Yeah, so I'm a Solutioning Lead for Power Platform and Dynamics 365. Most of the clients that I deal with are just probably mid to large enterprise, really a few global firms out there, mining firms, banking, gov or your usual sort of clients that you'd imagine IBM would be servicing.

[00:06:21] So, it's quite surprising actually. When I got here, I wasn't sure how much of a Microsoft, you know, lens, that focus they had given that they acquired Red Hat and they've got a number of platforms like Watson which were competing platforms to a lot of the AI technology Microsoft build, but it was actually a really strong contingent of Microsoft practitioners. So I was quite impressed with some of the capabilities. So it was interesting just to hear some of the stories that my colleagues overseas, particularly in North America, were actually dealing with, found some of their use cases really, really interesting, especially in federal government. I can't say too much about it, but I was like, wow. It's actually quite an interesting use case in Power Platform and just the whole Microsoft things. Right now, I service particularly most of the large enterprise in Australia currently. I'm there in some sort of like a technical consultancy capacity, like quality assurance, those sorts of things, as well as advising clients on how to get off the ground and get the most out of the platform, almost like an evangelist role. A little bit more technical than that.

[00:07:26] Neil: So yeah, whenever you said a solutioning lead, I thought that sounds like a cushy, non-delivery, non-billable type of role. Awesome. 

[00:07:33] Andrew: Oh, I wish mate. I've still got utilization targets. 

[00:07:38] Neil: Oh okay. I got the impression that IBM is really quite strong here in Asia Pacific over the last couple of years. You know, there's quite a few of my friends and colleagues have joined there and you're building up a strong practice, but it's good to hear that it's a global practice as well. So good on you.

[00:07:53] Andrew: Yeah, definitely emerging. And I think in the past when you thought of IBM, you thought of mainframe servers. I think of legacy systems, credit card systems, that sort of stuff. But really they've sort of diversified quite a lot. They went into the sort of hybrid cloud where they support Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and of course Microsoft Cloud. And it really are focused on building some capability in that space. And that's where myself and a number of my colleagues, Shay Parsons, you would've known, heard about him.

[00:08:25] Darren Clarke, Jason Ferguson, these guys are pretty well-known in the industry. Mark Smith, obviously, another fellow MVP, really sort of pulled around and helped build that capability in APAC, particularly Australia and New Zealand. Also [...] other parts of Asia. 

[00:08:40] Neil: So I'd love to know more about the demand that you're seeing in the market. Is there still a strong demand for Dynamics 365 first-party apps like sales and customer service? Are you seeing it more in enterprises deploying and Power Platform and thinking about governance and scaling? Do we have topics close to the hearts of your customers?

[00:08:57] Andrew: Look, I think the demand is around Power Platform. You know, it's taken a while to get there. I think the organizations here in Australia who have sales systems have had them for quite a long time. Like they would've had Salesforce or they've had Dynamic 365 sales or service or customer service, build services, first-party apps that probably have them deployed already.

[00:09:19] So now, the conversations that I'm having is, well, how can you maximize the benefit of that? How could you extend that and reach other parts of our organization without necessarily going down the route of them buying a full tier license, like a full premium enterprise license for Dynamics when they have specific workloads that may not even fit

specifically with sales? If you're not gonna be using 80% of the functionality of it, well, why would you do that? Why would you have something a bit more targeted? And for me, I think that presents a new opportunity because now you could start to build apps that really work the way the individual does rather than have the individual work the way the app does, right?

[00:09:59] So it's a different paradigm shift. So these guys, a lot of these, my clients have started their journey often by themselves. They've probably dabbled in it. They've probably built several apps, and that's where they come and ask for a bit of assistance around how do we stop this from turning into the next version of access so, yeah.

[00:10:21] Neil: Do you find yourself having to dig clients out of challenging situations they've boxed themselves into? Or is it just a matter of, you know, helping them scale up and scale out when they've led a good foundation themselves?

[00:10:33] Andrew: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. And I think it's partially the way Microsoft have also marketed the Power Platform. It's a low-code app. You can pretty much give it a go. Build things in yourself, deploy a starter kit, do some governance. But then they quickly, when they're building at scale, and these guys are looking at building massive, massive deployments across their organizations, that's where the story can sometimes come a bit undone and it's really a cultural shift for them as well because now you're taking it out of the domain of their IT departments and you really are bringing together what our fusion teams, we've got the business users and the IT coming together and plus bend to support to be able to provide that sort of next level of support as well.

[00:11:22] And so it's a completely different paradigm shift for them. And that's why I think guys like us who have a lot of exposure, have a lot of experience in this space and come in there and provide a lot of guidance and best practices around that, but they may not necessarily be aware of it. 

[00:11:37] Neil: Yep. I'd a really interesting debate recently with one of my customers and this low code, no code mantras really got inside their head and they're wanting us to build a fairly complicated enterprise mission-critical solution mostly around customer service, but with lots of other parts added, extended, and they're hoping that they can maintain it themselves and look after and administer it themselves. When I ask them who's going to do that, you know, is it gonna be the customer service manager? Yeah, hopefully. Well, can we borrow that person and bring them into our project team?

[00:12:10] No. No, she's too busy. Well, later on, we're gonna give her this system that she's never had a hand in building and gonna maintain and extend, is she an expert in Azure Service Bus? ‘Cause that's what we're using to integrate with your back office system. I just wonder if the low code thing is—maybe it's appropriate for team productivity apps, but departmental apps, but for mission-critical, complex enterprise applications, I don't really see an ICT or IT departments abdicating their responsibility to look after these things and staff it with a professional development team. So it's some difficult conversations to be had out there.

[00:12:44] Andrew: Yeah, I think so. And you've got this whole aspect of data gov, you know, governance, security, just been in the news quite a lot recently in Australia as you know, right? So, no, I don't see them advocating their role in this. I think if anything, they have a stronger governance role to play in all of this stuff.

[00:13:04] Because, you know, shadow IT occurs irrespective of whether or not they enforce it. People are building their applications in Excel or Access or using macros in Outlook even. You can't really easily put a stop to that. So Power Platform gives them opportunity to have visibility of all that sort of shadow IT that's going on and enable them to do that while having that transparency. I see that as a win-win for IT. It’s absolutely, it's actually very critical for them just to scale out the way that they want it. 

[00:13:36] Neil: Yeah. So I love this idea of fusion teams. Now, I've been running agile teams for a long time and love bringing in existing developers in the IT department who may never have touched a Microsoft technology before, cross-training them.

[00:13:48] I wanna send some business subject matter experts coming in as well, providing requirements, validating our designs, verifying the features, and hopefully, they'll become super users and trainers and all sorts of things later. I love that. And Microsoft's put this fusion team label on it, which is great. Yeah. You have to be able to contribute the resources to that team. You can't just play at it and hopefully, later it's gonna be no code and some business user can support it because it's unrealistic to expect that to happen.

[00:14:15] Andrew: Yeah. Look, I think you almost need like a starter pack, not talking about the Center of Excellence starter kit, but I mean, do you really [...] starter pack. So you know, your first 40 hours in low code, what should you know? Should you use SharePoint or should you use Excel or should you—something like the Dataverse, you know, how big is your app? What are you gonna use for branding, guidelines, navigation, menu items, what are you gonna call these things?

[00:14:41] What are best practices around that? How do we reinforce our brand like our corporate image into everything that we build here? And we've got this consistency across our apps because you're gonna end up having, we don't have this starter kit, just kind of a hodgepodge of apps that no way are reflective of each other.

[00:14:58] There’s no way tie into each other. And you know, it's really hard, particularly if you're trying to build a catalog of apps within your enterprise and you're trying to pick and choose and go, oh God, that doesn't look right or whatever. You just want some consistency around that. So I just wish that, you know, very easy steps that they should undertake before they even go down the path of actually putting in a low-code platform for real.

[00:15:21] Yeah, and I think that's a message that I would like sort of Microsoft to be pushing a lot, lot more. But obviously, there is also that we encourage people to try it before they actually buy that sort of thing, but I feel that there's this intermediary step before you actually go to that next level, right?

[00:15:36] Neil: IBM's doing quite a lot of—let me get this right, App in a Day kinda sessions for the, I guess for its customers really to come along and get that first taste experience. What's the demand? That program, that style of learning's been available now for a couple of years? Is the demand still there for those App in a Day sessions?

[00:15:53] Andrew: Yeah, a hundred percent. We've got our associates who are running those App in a Day sessions, Dashboard in a Day, RPA in a Day. And they're doing a great job in actually doing that, but it's also internally training our capability as well because we have new trainers come through. People are also new to the platform, wanna get familiar with it. Being able to deliver those App in a Say sessions’ really helpful. But obviously, we'll get a lot of inquiries that come off the back of that so I don't really see any let-up. If anything, I think it's probably stronger this year than it has been in previous years ‘cause I remember having to run these events in KPMG, would probably run three or four of them. Probably not as much as other partners around the place. So yeah, absolutely. You're still getting probably a full session by 30, 40 odd people going to these things. 

[00:16:43] Neil: I heard a great quote today is, “When you're trying to learn something, try to learn it as if you have to teach it.” And that's obviously what your associates are doing when they're learning these apps for the first time is you're tapping them on the shoulders and saying, once you've learned this stuff, you know you're gonna be turning around and leading an App in the Day course or, you know, Dashboard in the Day app, of course. That's a great mindset for our new associate to have. Typically, these people are learning lots and soaking up lots of experience and turning while delivering that is a great way to cement their learning and understanding. 

[00:17:13] Andrew: Yeah. I got this tip once from one of the Microsoft traders, I think it was around the old Catalyst program. It was one of these programs that they did, and they said, okay, we're gonna teach our clients how to use Office 365 and teams and all the things Microsoft. And they said, well, the trainer's gonna run it and you'll have someone shadowing them. And then the next time they run it, they reverse roles. So the person shadowing will do the teaching and the trainer will become the person in the backseat.

[00:17:39] And that's how they'll share that knowledge. Then they'll get a new person shadowing, and then they switch roles and that, and they're building out their training capability. And more and more people can actually deliver this training effectively because they've seen it done, they've done it themselves, and now they can teach others.

[00:17:54] Neil: Yeah. Very cool. In terms of rolling out training, what are your customers doing? Any trends or changes in how users are receiving training whenever they come to use the apps? Do you see a lot of guided learning, for example? Are we doing user guides or anything more sophisticated than that?

[00:18:09] Andrew: Well, I think multifaceted training programs, one that drives them down a certification path, one that drives them around a community. I know Mark Smith has done a lot of work at IBM around that, as in fostering a community internally. Also, another idea has come out there is, you know, gamification, who's actually building it, put him on leaderboard, who's got the most downloaded apps internally, that sort of stuff [...] gamification, and I think it's centered around creating a sense of community internally, within your organization, around our building, and that's how you're gonna get the most benefit. You really just get what you put in with these things rather than just sit back and absorb the training you get. Probably not gonna be digested as well as if you've had a part in building this community together.

[00:18:56] Neil: One of the communities I launched recently with, along with Danny Cahill here in Queensland, is a user group for Australian universities, and was working with a university client. They were, you know, they felt they used to have better connections with other Microsoft-friendly universities and what they were doing with the Power Platform and Dynamics 365.

[00:19:14] They kinda lost touch, Danny [...] We'll try and get you all back together again and put you in a room, learn from each other. Are you seeing more of that in industry or is it really within a bigger enterprise like IBM or some of its larger customers, they're fostering an internal community, or are you seeing kind of cross-competitor communities being formed as well?

[00:19:32] Andrew: There's been a lot of talk around that. I don't have full visibility of what's going on globally. I'm pretty sure that they're running industry like events. They certainly do in other parts of the business whether it's the Red Hat part of the business or the Watson part, there's certainly themes that they can use these opportunities to actually bring these groups together and have those conversations.

[00:19:53] Power Platform, I think, I haven't seen anything like that yet. Not to say it's not going on, but yeah, it'd be something that'd be great to do, I imagine. They actually take a lot of effort to organize as you know, right, to corral all these people together and get a lot of buyer, but if there's a demand for it, absolutely. And I think higher education, like you say, would be a fantastic place to start ‘cause they'll, somewhere along that sort of journey of Dynamics or Power Platform, there have been leaders in that space in APAC for a while. 

[00:20:23] Neil: Yeah, I thought that would be a good industry to start because they tend to be quite collegiate. They're used to sharing knowledge amongst each other. There is a certain level of competition for students between Australian universities, and when I think back to some of the industries that use Dynamics 365, they use it to compete in their industry and they may not wanna share their trade secrets with other competitors in the industry. So, yeah. 

[00:20:46] Andrew: Yeah, yeah. And I remember when I was back in the day at another company, not KPMG, but we did a lot of work outta Asia that didn't really want to do those sort of events where they had knowledge-sharing amongst competitors, quite sort of strict around that sort of stuff. And I think it might have been a cultural thing, but that could never really get off the ground.

[00:21:05] So things like getting user groups off the ground there was challenging, so some sensitivities around that. Yeah, absolutely. But, like you said, like higher education, they're very used to collaboration and maybe that just comes from the academic nature of it, where they're used to collaborating on a number of sort of facets, right?

[00:21:24] Neil: Speaking of user groups, are you still involved in some of the Australian user groups? Is there an Adelaide user group these days? 

[00:21:29] Andrew: Unfortunately, I'm not these days. Very much sort of took a backseat to community events last year. Just needed to give myself a bit of a breather, and a break for it ‘cause I'd been running it for probably I'd say a good seven, eight years prior to that. And as you know, it's a lot of effort, certainly a lot of reward to it. But I think once we started going into pandemic mode, I think the reward was a bit less than it was in prior years. So I was just felt a little bit burnt out, so I took a break from it.

[00:22:01] I like to get back into it probably more from a speaking standpoint, rather than an organizing standpoint, at least in the next sort of 12 months because there's a lot of things I want talk about now. It's like, oh God, I've got a bit of time in my hands. Maybe I could talk about UX or you know, the latest Figma or anything like that. And so part of the reason why I'm on here.

[00:22:23] Neil: That's an interesting one. So let's go into the Figma stuff because I am not a UI person, my designs are pretty dreadful. Many, many years ago I used a UI kind of prototyping tool, wireframing tool called Axure RP Pro, A-X-U-R-E, and I used to take the CRM 3.0 forms and views, and I'd screenshot them, lay them onto this canvas, and then over the top of them, I'd add all the components until you took the screenshot away underneath.

[00:22:51] And what you were left with was an absolute replica, pixel-perfect replica of the form or the grid or whatever it was you had underneath. You could annotate all the widgets and have metadata about them. You can generate a word template, a word specification, or even an HTML prototype. And it took me hundreds of hours and then CRM 4.0 got released and I had to update everything and then [...] but it seems like we're going back to those kind of rapid prototyping tools with Figma and others. I'd love to hear more about what you've experimented with, what your clients are doing with it.

[00:23:25] Andrew: Well, look, I think it's the fastest-growing area in the creative space. And Adobe just acquired Figma. And now, I've read an article recently talking about the Figmatization of Adobe, which is talking about how Adobe is looking to position their products much the way Figma does. It's a collaborative tool. I think they cross between mirror or any other collaborative tools where you could effectively collaborate and build designs together.

[00:23:52] And that's what I think Adobe wants to go to. So it's very interesting. There's been a lot of reaction, I think, to this acquisition of Figma, particularly by Adobe, even the Department of Justice’s looking into it at the moment whether or not how much of the creative space will Adobe end up owning. I just think it's very, it's gonna be fascinating to see how this plays out, but I'm a huge advocate of Figma. I used Figma before. It was sort of, Microsoft positioned it as a tool for building PowerApps on Office 365. I'd done sort of web development and web design in a prior life. And so I was very interested from the UX perspective, but very, very effective.

[00:24:28] It's a great way, like I invite my collaborators, my clients to join me in actually building wireframes for PowerApps. I think the integration between the two systems, Microsoft and Figma isn't quite there yet. Particularly with that PowerApps template, it's getting there. It's a version one, right?

[00:24:48] It's not gonna import cleanly, but at least it gives you an idea. It gives you consistency, right? Which is what you're after when you're actually building PowerApps. So it's been incredibly useful thus far. This is just touching tip of the iceberg for actually app development in PowerApps. So, yeah, I think it's an incredibly powerful tool and I think these sort of tools are just gonna be more and more important going forward into the future for sure.

[00:25:12] Neil: Interesting. We'll see what happens, whether Microsoft continues to invest in it, maybe our partner or somebody else will pick it up as a community project. I have some Adobe shares, I don’t know if you remember years ago, but Microsoft and Adobe announced a big strategic relationship and Microsoft was promoting Adobe campaign to its kind of enterprise marketing customers as an option. Then Microsoft released Dynamics 365 marketing, which is getting better and better and snapping on the heels of Adobe Campaign. But that strategic relationship never really came to much. I bought some shares in Adobe.

[00:25:46] Neil: How's it going anyway?

[00:25:47] Andrew: They've gone pretty good. My Microsoft shares have done much better, but my Adobe shares until Adobe announces the Figma acquisition, we're doing pretty good. And then they tanked. 

[00:25:55] Neil: Oh really? 

[00:25:56] Andrew: Yeah, they dropped [...] I know there's been a general tech sell-off. 

[00:25:59] Neil: I haven't been following the share market. I'm terrible at that stuff. I put mine in Crypto and that went great, yeah. 

[00:26:07] Neil: Yeah, right. You've gone south even more quickly. 

[00:26:11] Andrew: Yeah, I went sideways quickly. Yeah, sure.

[00:26:13] Neil: Yeah. So the Adobe shares dropped quite—I can't remember how much, 10% on the day that they announced the Figma acquisition, but, and I think that was not because of the financials of the deal, but I think there was just a lot of Figma fans who were upset and the market read that reaction and went, oh, these Figma customers are not happy. They like their independence. They like whatever freedom they've got for customers of a small company and now they're gonna be part of a big enterprise. 

[00:26:38] Andrew: Well, will it be rolled into a product like Creative Cloud? Will it be a subscription-based service? I mean, it already is a subscription-based service. I don't know the difference, but you know, from my perspective, I'd say it’s sort of a good thing ‘cause I've got a subscription to Creative Cloud and I've got a subscription to Figma [...] what's about all that?

[00:26:57] Neil: Yeah. Well if they don't charge you any more for Creative Cloud, they just rule Figma in, then you might save a few bucks, yeah.

[00:27:02] Andrew: Yeah, yeah. That'd be—I don’t use half the products in Creative Cloud anyway. 

[00:27:09] Neil: Have you ever touched Microsoft's new Microsoft designer? I think it is. It's, I don't think it's a Figma competitor, but— 

[00:27:15] Andrew: No, it's not. I haven't played with it personally. Yeah. Are they advocating it pretty hard for like Office 365 development? I understand it hasn't gone into the Biz App space, so that's probably why it's not on my radar. 

[00:27:28] Neil: I think it's an experiment. I don't think Microsoft's throwing their full weight behind Microsoft Designer yet. They're gonna see what the customer reaction is like to it. I just, I use Canva a little bit.

[00:27:38] Andrew: Microsoft has done a lot in this space. They've done heaps in this space. They've got the Fluent UI, they've got FrontPage.

[00:27:47] Neil: Publisher, yeah. 

[00:27:48] Andrew: Exactly, yeah. 

[00:27:49] Neil: So yeah, it's interesting. They haven't really taken PowerPoint much further for many years. It's been fairly stable and Canva, obviously snapping on its heels is a graphic design, presentation tool. So yeah, it's good to see some people, you know, Microsoft's a great, great software vendor, great partner, but I love to see people up and coming challenging them and pushing them and making them work a bit harder. So good on them.

[00:28:14] Andrew: Speaking of PowerPoint, do you remember the big push was 3D objects and 3D models into PowerPoint? I think it was like, what was it, four or five years ago, like my first MVP something. Well, we're on a bus and someone's talking about the next iteration of PowerPoint. It's gonna have 3D rotating stuff, and here's something I've done already. 

[00:28:32] Neil: I hope that wasn't an NDA secret. You've just spilled about something you learned on the bus [...] It's probably still on the roadmap somewhere down at the bottom of the backlog. 

[00:28:42] Andrew: No, it's been a feature for like four or five years now. Like it just, it was released. You can actually import a 3D design model directly into your PowerPoint. And you can get like dinosaurs that are running around in your Power—I don't think anyone actually did it. But it was actually cool that you could do it. 

[00:28:59] Neil: No. Well, in Queensland we're still waiting for 3D televisions to take off, you know, the roller ridge four or five years ago, and we all bought the glasses and nothing ever happened. 

[00:29:09] Andrew: There you go.

[00:29:10] Neil: I've seen a couple of presentations recently on Metaverse. I don't know if that's another emerging technology that has any overlap with Biz Apps, but there was a interesting presentation on it at the New Zealand Business Application Summit last week, and Facebook's all in on it. It scares the heck outta me. I don't wanna be in a space that Facebook dominates and controls. That's the last thing I think would be good for the future of the internet. 

[00:29:31] Andrew: Well, are they primarily virtual reality, not an augmented reality, right? And Microsoft's HoloLens, that's mixed reality, which my understanding actually does pass through imagery, overlays content on top whereas Metaverse is looking at taking over your world with virtual reality, right?

[00:29:53] Neil: Mostly, I think it's, there's 20% augmented reality in there as well because there's some of the metaverse headsets, not so much pass through, but it's got exterior cameras, so it's not like a semi-transparent lens like the HoloLens.

[00:30:05] Andrew: Pretty impressive. 

[00:30:07] Neil: Yeah, I saw, I did see a Facebook preview video where there's a couple of cameras at the edge of the rim of a glasses pointing down at your face and so it can detect your facial movements and your muscle movements and your expressions. And so it's not just a cartoon avatar, but they can actually take your face and animate it in real-time during a video call.

[00:30:28] Andrew: And emote it. Yeah, exactly. 

[00:30:29] Neil: Yes, absolutely. You got the lip movements and expressions and reactions. Very clever technology. Whether that scares people or excites people, I don't know, but probably both an equal measure.

[00:30:40] Andrew: I think we're on the cusp. Apple said that they've got, they employed 3000 engineers to work on the next version of their glasses. We haven't even seen their first version of the glasses. That never got released, but apparently, they're onto version two now. So that's gonna be interesting. I think once Apple are in and Facebook, that's gonna take off in a really, really big way. I mean, we've said, been saying it's gonna take off for ages. I mean, I remember getting my first HTC Vive virtual reality set, and I put it on for the first time. I've never seen, I've never felt anything that real in my life like game-wise.

[00:31:16] It was just absolutely immersive. It was just unbelievable. I gave it to my brother and he was playing a racing game and he crashed into a wall and he is like, “oh my God, Jesus.” He goes, “That is the freakiest thing I've ever felt.” It's just one of those things that it's impossible to demo. Like you have to actually give someone a unit and tell 'em to try it and then see what their reactions are to it. It's impossible to put a YouTube clip or, you know, like even talking about it is very difficult to do it justice. But I think absolutely there will be crossover with Biz apps, you know, in the workplace somehow,  some way. 

[00:31:53] Neil: Yeah. Well, even just coming back to those UX sessions. Like you said, even MKBHD said you can't really demonstrate this stuff. And he tried to show a couple of clips, but you're watching a 2D image of what's supposed to be a 3D experience. It's very tough. And there were meeting rooms with online and in-person participants, but they had a collaborative whiteboard. But you're actually feeling the experience of standing up at a whiteboard, moving post-it notes around, and it was, you know, much more immersive experience. Whether it's better than a physical experience, I don’t know. 

[00:32:24] Andrew: I wonder what the equivalent of turning your camera off in a VR meeting is, just get a rope and put it on you. Oh gosh.

[00:32:37] Neil: Brand new world. You know, I wonder what my kids are gonna grow up with whenever they get to work and get to play with some of this stuff. 

[00:32:44] Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Have they thought about what they're doing? They're gonna grow up like dad, go into IT? 

[00:32:50] Neil: I dunno. My son is, he's into all sorts of stuff. He likes trying anything once. My middle daughter, she's pretty technical. She's the one that sets up the remote control, fixes the sonars, fixes her mum's phone, she's seven, she's into it. So we'll probably send her on some coding camps and see if she takes to that. I think she could be pretty gifted at it. And then my youngest one's five, so she's still, you know, drawing pictures of grandma and stuff but—what about your kids? What do you think they're gonna emerge into? 

[00:33:19] Andrew: Dunno, it'd be something to—either a YouTuber, TikToker, probably somewhere on Minecraft building but it changes from week to week like honestly, I just, I dunno what they wanna do. I'm happy to support them whatever they wanna do. That's fine. I just wish they would make up their minds and just choose one thing, yeah. 

[00:33:40] Neil: My parents were very patient with me and I tried everything, you know. I tried most musical instruments, I tried different types of after-school activities and sports and I want my kids to be. Try everything and something will stick and they'll find their passion soon, I hope, but yeah.

[00:33:57] Andrew: And what about you? Did you, straight outta high school what did you do?

[00:34:02] Neil: So I dabbled with computers, so I had a Dragon 32 and I was about 10 years old, learned to program, a bit of basic. I graduated to maintaining the school magazine. So I was a desktop publishing kind of guy with an Atari and then bit of Apple and helped the school produce a magazine. At university, I did a biochemistry degree and nothing to do, very little to do with computers, yeah.

[00:34:24] Andrew: What sent you in that direction? What did you, what did you pick there?

[00:34:27] Neil: Our biology teacher—thanks for the interview questions, by the way. This is awesome. 

[00:34:30] Andrew: Oh, no. It's interesting. I don't think I've ever asked you.

[00:34:34] Neil: I had a biology teacher who said, Neil, I think if you work really hard at biology, you could probably get a B. Like what? This is my favorite subject. Oh, holy God, how will I show you? And of course, she just knew how to motivate me. She knew exactly what she was doing, pressed my button and so I blitz biology. When it came to doing some work experience, [...] at school, you have to do a few days or a week of work experience.

[00:34:58] I struggled to find anywhere that wasn't just working. One of my families, she sent me to work with her sister who was a biomedical researcher at a university near my grandparents. So I stayed with my grandparents, went to her sister's lab for a week, and I thought, this is great. And yeah, a couple of years, well, about a year or two later, I ended up choosing biochemistry, but eventually fell back into IT.

[00:35:19] Andrew: Oh, okay.

[00:35:20] Neil: Long road back. 

[00:35:21] Andrew: Wow. There you go. There you go.

[00:35:24] Neil: What about you? What did you study at uni? Did you go to uni?

[00:35:25] Andrew: I did. I did. Economics management and IT at the same time. But I've always been working like I had to support myself during uni and that sort of stuff, so I took on jobs like computer technicians and fixing people's computers.

[00:35:41] And this is like before Y2K, so it was quite—then that sort of took off. And I had to learn programming ‘cause there was a lot of sort of Y2K type opportunities came up. I'm like cool, I'm gonna give that a shot. That looks like fun. So I did some of that sort of stuff and yeah, I just enjoyed the IT side of it more. So I finished that up. But I've had all sorts of role, worked in factory, worked on farms then before going into education, higher education. Yeah. So yeah, it's been interesting. 

[00:36:16] Neil: When you think about the people coming into the industry now, particularly, I know IBM's recruiting a lot of associates and things, where—what backgrounds do they come from, do you think? Some, you know, is it school leavers? Is it graduates? 

[00:36:27] Andrew: I've seen a lot of people come through from the probably business management side as well. That's what—I mean, that seems to be their primary core discipline at university. And obviously, there's the IT side as well, software engineering side, and they come through. They have a bit of like—the program they have is like a learn or you earn sort of final year program as well to run pretty good internship programs and that gives them exposure. Then they can get an opportunity working in one of their innovation centers at the end of it, which is pretty cool for them. And they get rotated around, get training. So it feels like it's a natural extension from their uni. I like it. And the people we've got coming through are very impressive, are probably better than I was when I came out, but that's not too difficult. 

[00:37:18] Neil: No, I feel the same way. Looking at the crop that, you know, I'm working with in training, you just think, oh, these people seem so much brighter, more driven, more articulate, and better organized than I ever was. It's amazing. 

[00:37:29] Andrew: I think our generations come with a pretty strong, like work ethic. And I think it's probably instilled, I dunno if you're a gen, you're a gen-Xer, right? 

[00:37:39] Neil: Yeah.

[00:37:40] Andrew: Yeah, same. Now I don't want to go into generational debate, but I just think there's certainly something to be said there that could, is sort of our turn to actually coach a lot of these young guys that are coming through the system right now. I think it's great. Like I just don't feel like I really got that sort of support when I was actually coming up. 

[00:38:00] Neil: If there was an emerging application or area within Microsoft business applications and somebody said, “Hey, Andrew, what should I specialize in?” Where do you think the hot topics are now that somebody could, you know, build a career over the next, you know, not lifetime, but next three or four years?

[00:38:15] Andrew: Take your pick, man. Like if you wanted to go into finance, Fin & Ops. I mean, it's not an area that I personally have a lot of experience in. I'm not a CPA, but I mean, definitely a massive growth area. Huge demand in that space, and I wish I knew a lot better. So there's a really good path, but I mean, you've gotta have that right sort of mindset. The guys will see that, you know, do really, really well, either from the technical side, highly into sort of, you know, financial dimensions, that sort of stuff. Or they're CPAs, right? Or a crossover, a mixture of the two, so—and they seem to do really well, but obviously low code. I think the opportunities like a lot broader than when we were looking at it like 10, 12 years ago, I would say, ‘cause we had CRM and there was quite a limited what you could do with CRM.

[00:39:00] You could strip out and replace legacy CRM systems. Great. Now what? And then went and walked into a customer engagement platform, you can actually connect with your B2C customers. Oh, okay. So you are now a portal expert, you know, and it just opened up new things. I think business applications are just a great area, great domain to be in. And who's to say that you have to stick with just one thing. You could traverse around until you actually find your sweet spot. Absolutely. It's a fantastic place to start. 

[00:39:30] Neil: I'm very grateful for the opportunities it's brought me in my career. One of the best things about it has been the global opportunities. I've got a friend who's a Kiwi optometrist, came to the UK, had to re-certify, re-study. If you were in nursing or teaching or law or so many other great professions as well, but geographically, if you are—globally, if you wanna move, it's a little bit tricky. You have to, you know, do some new exams and get acquainted with the differences in the new location you're working in. With IT, you can just pick it up and move anywhere. It's so easy. 

[00:39:58] Andrew: Yeah. But you've moved from what UK and into Australia. Have you worked anywhere else other than UK? 

[00:40:05] Neil: I worked in the US for three years as well in California, yeah. 

[00:40:08] Andrew: And so do you think most of that is sort of trends? 

[00:40:11] Neil: Oh, easily. 

[00:40:12] Andrew: I think most of that carries across, right? It's quite [...] I was talking to my carpenter, a great guy, he’s from Canada and he's telling me all the differences between carpentry in Canada and carpentry in Australia. 

[00:40:24] Neil: What's the difference? A wood’s a wood. 

[00:40:26] Andrew: Just little things like skirting, they call it baseboard. That sounds like some sort of flooring cover or something like that. And it is just words for, I don't know, and so he is trying to go for his building license at the moment is quite interesting. Shout out to Matt. Great bloke.

[00:40:44] Neil: I’m sure he always listens to the Amazing Applications podcast.

[00:40:45] Andrew: I told him I was gonna do a podcast. He's, well, what's that about? I was like probably terrible. 

[00:40:52] Neil: My kids were asking me the weekend over the origin of some Australian slang. Like, where did fair dinkum come from? You know, they kind of know, they kind of know what it means. Where does GLA come from? And my knowledge of Australian slang all, most of it stems from ALF and neighbors 20 years ago. But he wouldn't, he wouldn't use words like bogan or, you know, slang like that. But my Australian diction is pretty poor. I have to brush up on my Australian slang. 

[00:41:23] Andrew: Yeah, yeah. Look, it varies, right? It varies depending on where you are. Like if you're in some of the rougher suburbs [...]

[00:41:34] Neil: Bringing it back around to business applications again. Let's try not to swear too much in Queensland or Australian slang, are there any particular events coming up that you're speaking at, that you're gonna be presenting at, that we can get hold of the latest content or what's happening on your YouTube channel, your blog? Where can people catch up with you and, and follow your content?

[00:41:54] Andrew: I'm hoping—I'm gonna start off a couple of new PowerApps controls that I'm gonna build out because I'm looking at doing a bit more coding and getting my hands stuck into—those of you who don't know, these are custom controls that you can just drop, drag and drop into PowerApps. I'm looking at collaborating with a few other guys in the community around building PCF controls as well.

[00:42:14] Neil: Yeah, you've got a couple already available, don't you? 

[00:42:17] Andrew: Yeah, I've got several. It's all open source, so you can just grab it and download it and use them. So I wanna do a series on, I think it's been a few minutes since we last looked at the PowerApps component framework. And I need to understand what's changed in the last couple of years as well. And so that way I can sort of get up-to-date and then relay that to the rest of the community. So once I do that, I'll probably announce a couple of speaking sessions, I reckon. 

[00:42:42] Neil: Yeah. Cool. So you can embed those now on portal pages and on custom pages as well. So I think custom pages are a really exciting blend of canvas and model apps, and PCF lives right in the heart of that. 

[00:42:54] Andrew: Yup, lot's happening, right? I mean, I think in the past we were sort of limited, very, very limited in what we could do in CRM. And if we could show them that it doesn't necessarily have to be that way, I think that's gonna be a pretty powerful message for our clients.

[00:43:07] Neil: Yeah, my teams are beginning to build and reuse lots of PCF components, really just to react to common scenarios that we hear, like address lookups. So I wanna use this web service in order to, you know, check or validate an address or format it correctly. Okay. And this web service provides us with electro information or local government binder information.

[00:43:29] Great. And we'll grab that and we'll store that on the contact or account record, or I wanna check this ABN, so that's the Australian business number, against the Australian Business Register and pull in their kinds of legal name and that kinda stuff and—

[00:43:41] Andrew: Yeah, I build one of those. 

[00:43:42] Neil: We hear those requests all the time. Yeah, we all have.

[00:43:44] Andrew: Yeah. I think the ones that you mentioned there, I think in the last couple of months have been uploaded to the PCF Gallery, the address look up, and I think even the ACM validator. So it's interesting you mentioned that. 

[00:43:57] Neil: So there's a couple that you built, are they?

[00:43:58] Andrew: No, not that—I actually, I built one out. The problem with the ABN register, I don't wanna get into too much detail into it, but there's some, there's a registration process that's involved as well. I struggled to actually say, well, how do you personalize it so you can include your key? I was just spinning, I was spinning my wheels on it and I never released it, but someone actually did release it last month. So someone's obviously had—this is a great thing about it. Like everyone has the same problem, it's not unique, it's not a unique challenge. So if you build it, you are the first to actually publish it. You get kudos for it. It's great. 

[00:44:33] Neil: Let's talk about community stuff. Can I run an idea past you? I haven't really talked about this in public yet, but I'm feeling a little bit stuck here in Queensland. I haven't been able to make it over to Redmond or any of the community conferences outside of Australia and New Zealand business application Summit was last week. We've had Nordic Summit, we've had South Coast Summit, we had Scottish Summit, we had a Power Platform conference and there was Dynamics gone live. It's all these things happening. I'm so jealous. And international travel seems not that likely for me and my family in the near future. Do you think it'd be sufficient demand for an Australian Power Platform conference? We'd love to have you come up to Queensland, of course, hoisted up here.

[00:45:13] Andrew: I would hope so. I mean, I don't know. I mean, I think we've been doing everything virtually with the user groups for the last couple of years. It would be great to actually run an in-person event. I think it's severely lacking. Maybe it's something we could test. We have an in-person event, I dunno if you're gonna be there, for the MVP due on December. We could bring it up for discussion. I reckon. 

[00:45:40] Neil: Are you gonna go up to Sydney for the MVP catch-up?

[00:45:42] Andrew: Yeah, I'm gonna try to, if I can. See if my schedule's lined up. I'd like to get other people's opinion. I'm really hoping that's the case.

[00:45:51] Neil: I never really thought of booking a little flight. I've got, I'm trying to keep my airline status current and all I have to do is fly once or twice a year and reason to give you a renewal. But, yeah, a little excuse to travel down to Sydney and catch up with a few folks. That might be a great idea. 

[00:46:04] Andrew: Yeah, that's a great idea. But yeah, look, I'm hoping there are other people who are just like dying to do an in-person event as well. If there's one, I would happily volunteer to like support it and speak and that sort of stuff. Absolutely. 

[00:46:17] Neil: Good. You can speak to some of their friends at IBM and organizing sponsorship 

[00:46:21] Andrew: Yeah, look, I'm pretty sure they'd be on board with it, but I know I won’t speak for them, but yeah.

[00:46:27] Neil: Just give your purchase order number. That’ll be great. 

[00:46:31] Andrew: [...] Yeah, exactly. 

[00:46:33] Neil: Well, Andrew, it's been a pleasure to catch up with you and find out the latest about UX and about Figma and about moving into the industry and bringing people up through the industry. Thanks so much for joining us. Any last words you'd like to add? Anything I should have asked you that I didn't? 

[00:46:46] Andrew: No, just say, keep your eye out. Tell me what you think about Figma. Let me know what are some of the things that you are looking forward to in terms of that Figma-Microsoft relationship. I would really like to know, like, I'd like to really get deep into that, in their future. Hopefully, we have another discussion. 

[00:47:02] Neil: Have you seen Danica Hills got a, I can't remember, It's a blog article or a paper of his initial impressions. I don't think he's got a lot of experience with Figma. 

[00:47:10] Andrew: I've seen that. Yeah. Yeah. And I've seen a couple others in the MVP community as well and I think it's pretty good. 

[00:47:15] Neil: Oh, sounds—it's way too late for me then. The [...] already off to the races.

[00:47:19] Andrew: It's an incredible world in there, mate. There's always something to discover. 

[00:47:23] Neil: Yeah, great stuff. Well Andrew, so thanks so much for making some time to come on Amazing Applications show, really appreciate it. And we'll have you back on soon I hope. 

[00:47:30] Andrew: Pleasure. Thanks for the banter mate. 

[00:47:32] Neil: Yeah, good to speak to you. Have a good evening. 

[00:47:33] Andrew: Good on you, mate. Cheers.