Innovation at your fingertips


In this post, App Dev Manager Adlène Sifi demonstrates innovation at your fingertips by building a real-time earthquake reporting system using Power BI and without writing any code.  You can view a French version of this article on LinkedIn.


Innovation usually involves ideation, rapid prototyping, validation with users, measurement (feedback) and finally adaptation. A multitude of ideas can be generated by involving a multidisciplinary team with diverse experiences, roles, skills or backgrounds. The more diverse your group, the higher the quality of ideas generated.

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Once the ideation phase is complete, we must prioritize the ideas. There are different techniques to do it. The V-SAFE approach gives some evaluation criteria. We can also use this approach or create our own evaluation criteria with a lot of attention. We do not want to eliminate ideas that seem extravagant to us because we have chosen criteria that are too rigid. It is the extravagant ideas that are often at the origin of revolutionary innovations (breakthrough innovation).

After the prioritization, it is the phase of experimentation or rapid prototyping which begins. I will mainly focus on this phase in my article. The idea is to create prototypes quickly and cheaply and then validate them by your target user (and not the target customer). It's the child in us who wakes up! This is the moment to let your imagination run free. Strangely, the goal of this phase is to fail fast. It is by dint of falling that one learns to walk.

About ten years ago, it took advanced skills to create prototypes. It took months or even years to get a prototype that often gave up the business opportunity. It took so much time and money to create a prototype that most companies did not even create prototypes. They were betting on a finished product that nobody wanted.

Today, things are totally different. There are Fab Labs in all cities. Anyone can create a business mobile app without writing a line of code. In a few clicks and with little effort, we can integrate language recognition to interact more naturally with our customers or the sentiment analysis to detect their level of satisfaction. We can even increase our customer service with a (peaceful) army of smart bots, so our customer service agents focus on high value-added services.

But is it so easy to create a prototype today? To verify this, I just challenged myself for the article: create a report that shows earthquakes in real time in the world without writing a single line of code. Why earthquakes? Because my eldest son Yanis loves National Geographic's natural disaster show! Come on, follow me!

I present you my building blocks. I do not reinvent the wheel and I do not want to code:

  1. My source of earthquakes in the world
  2. Microsoft flow for automation of workflows. It's a great productivity tool.
  3. Azure storage
  4. Azure Stream Analytics
  5. Power BI for creating the real-time report. Ah I love this tool that helps to democratize access to business intelligence

As I mentioned before, I did not write a single line of code. Here are the details of my activities:

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Here are the details of activities in Microsoft Flow. To interact with the earthquakes service, I had to create a custom connector in Flow (still without programming):

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And here is the result after only a few hours of work (click the image to explore the live solution in Power BI):

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OK, it may not be the sexiest thing, but the result is there. I wanted to design a prototype, not a finished product.

Now for the validation and measurement part, I really need your comments. What do you think? I am listening.

When I think about Azure cognitive services, when I see the immense potential behind virtual assistants, when I think about the possibilities offered by HoloLens glasses, I must admit : Nothing is impossible, everything is within your reach!

Thank you for sharing your comments and especially taking the time to read me.

Bye for now!


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