askblue hits a total revenue of 13.5 million euros in 2020

askblue hits a total revenue of 13.5 million euros in 2020

The increasing relevance on international markets has been fundamental for the achieved growth of 25%, with relevant projects on the north American and northwestern european markets. Digital transition, together with agile development, have been focus areas

askblue, a portuguese business and technology consultancy form, has registered a consistent growth of 25% in a challenging context such as 2020, reaching a total revenue of 13,5 million euros. The international component of the business has grown even faster, at 30%, making a decisive contribution for the company’s overall performance.

The results achieved reflect the effectiveness of its strategy, supported by agile development methodologies, application maintenance, on the nearshore model and on the deep knowledge of the industries in which it operates, from finance to manufacturing, services and utilities, among other. The operations unit has registered the biggest growth last year, when the company has gained a comprehensive application maintenance contract with one of the biggest banks in Portugal. The askblue technology center (ATC), a part of this unit, has grown beyond their original locations in Lisbon and Coimbra, with the opening in 2020 of a new centre at Terceira Island, in the Azores. This growth meant that, globally, 90% of this team is currently located outside of Lisbon.

According to Pedro Nicolau, askblue’s CEO,
“this was not a typical year, since the specific conditions created by the pandemic have generated a split response. In a first moment, they have let to decision postponement and, on a second one, they have led to new requests, as a result of the need to accelerate the digital transformation of several industries. Internationally, and since we have always worked remotely, this change has proven beneficial for us, since communications networks and collaboration software tools allow us today to create and manage teams that are truly global.”

During the previous year, the company has successfully invested on the international market, where it has grown its presence with projects in several areas. The company has kept close to its strategy as defined on the prior year, which resulted on the creation of a team focused on the development of business on the north American and northwestern european markets. On the former, and just during 2020, the company has made, among other, two major projects. The first one was for an american bank, for which it was selected given its deep knowledge of the financial sector. On the second project, the customer was a public sector entity in which, through a methodology of agile delivery with several of the customers’ stakeholders, it was possible to process a real estate tax for over 160.000 citizens.

Regarding the talent the company has been integrating to respond to the growing complexity and dimension of the customers’ challenges, there was a sharp increase, going from 290 team members at the end of 2019 to 330 at the end of 2020.  Currently, the team already comprises 350 highly skilled professionals. To address this growth and associated challenges, the company has reinforced its HR structure with a People Management Unit that aims to be the first point of contact with the new team members throughout their stay at the firm.

For 2021, the goals are very clear – to continue pursuing the sustained growth that has characterized the company, with a growing weight of the international markets on the current and new geographies. Also to continue to focus on the quality of the projects delivered to its customers, increasingly more complex and critical, supporting their digital transformation initiatives.a

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askblue developed two important applications for Fundação José Neves

Aplicação askblue para a fundação José Neves

askblue developed two important applications for Fundação José Neves

Fundação José Neves (FJN) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to transform Portugal into a knowledge society.

In the link below you can read the case study published by Outsystems, which tells the story of how askblue developed two important applications for FJN in less than six months.

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More effective platforms and banal online interactions: “the changes are here to stay, let us have no illusions.”

foto miguel freire

More effective platforms and banal online interactions: “the changes are here to stay, let us have no illusions.”

The nearshore model adopted for the askblue technology center is ideal for the current moment, says the company. Orders have been growing in the most diverse geographies, but there are challenges. The lack of technological skills resources is one of them.

Launched in May 2019, the askblue technology center is spread over three different locations – Lisbon, Pedro Nunes Institute in Coimbra and Terceira island, in Azores. It is presented as a support center focused on evolutionary and corrective maintenance, as well as support for applications, mostly in OutSystems and / or .NET / SQL technologies.

It exists to “support askblue ‘s clients in the application evolution of their technological solutions, making them more free to concentrate on the business”, said Miguel Freire, askblue ‘s partner, in an interview with SAPO TEK.

As a remote principle, this support center has been gaining customers, due to the procedures and methodologies developed that provide for remote management and monitoring at a time when face-to-face contact is avoided, but also benefiting from the geographical location of Portugal, which “can easily provide services to any country in Europe, with small time differences and easier management of (small) time differences”.

There is also the “excellence of technical skills”, but not everything is rosy there, since the scarcity of resources is foreseen as a problem, hindering the ability to attract and retain talent. Miguel Freire points out some advice in this chapter and foresees challenges in others, while thinking about solutions.

SAPO TEK: Which goals did you set when creating the askblue technology center? Are they being met?

Miguel Freire: ATC is integrated in the Operations unit, which is a strategic bid of the company and which integrates two distinct areas – Application Management (resources dedicated to a Client) and the askblue technology center (ATC), with resources shared amongst several customers. The distinguishing characteristics of this unit are, in addition to the focus on the technologies most used by customers, the specific methodology developed for the appropriation of the development carried out by other organizations for customers, and the underlying technology, to ensure the evolutionary and corrective maintenance of the implemented systems , which allows to ensure the operation and extend the useful life of the applications, reducing the need for significant investments in their replacement. ATC also supports capacity building, led by one of its Team Leaders.

The objective underlying the creation of ATC is being fully accomplished, with a focus on OutSystems’ low-code platform and .NET / SQL technologies. The provision of nearshore services has continued to register remarkable demand, which led to the expansion of this operation to Terceira Island, in the Azores. In total, ATC already employs fifteen highly specialized professionals who serve customers in different geographies, and we expect it to increase its weight in the company’s total operation throughout 2021, as more companies will need to update their application park to respond to the challenges of digital transformation.

SAPO TEK: Did the pandemic bring changes to what you had planned? Were there any changes in strategy and / or functional changes?

Miguel Freire: The nearshore model adopted for this center of excellence is ideal for a situation like the one we are currently experiencing, given that all procedures and methodologies developed provide for remote management and monitoring, for the provision of an excellent service in maintenance and application developments.

“SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CURRENT SITUATION, AND THAT WILL LAST, WILL BENEFIT COMPANIES LIKE ASKBLUE, THAT HAVE CREATED PRESENTIAL / REMOTE HYBRID MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES AND MONITORING AND APPLICATION MAINTENANCE”

SAPO TEK: Since you have a remote service delivery model, did you bring more customers? Or did it bring more competition?

Miguel Freire: At the moment, ATC has been growing in response to requests from more customers from the most diverse geographies. The fact that Portugal has been able to attract more and more talent and prestige with projects and technological companies of reference in the most diverse areas has allowed to place the country in an increasing way on the map for companies from all over the world that look for excellent services for their companies. technological platforms.

askblue is also recognized for its ability to implement projects in technologies within the scope of ATC, as well as in dedicated application management (AM), so the challenges and requests have grown, in a synergy of opportunities for collaboration.

SAPO TEK: What arguments can a company have in Portugal in relation to the rest of the global offer of services of the same kind?

Miguel Freire: There are several advantages that national companies can have over traditional global service providers. First, the proximity factor is important, Portugal can easily provide services to any country in Europe, with small time differences and easier management of (small) time differences. Second, the excellence of technical skills, whether from askblue which is Elite Partner of OutSystems and which manages critical and large-scale applications in .NET (and, for example, JAVA), but also from other national reference players, already recognized in international markets. Then, we have an excellent level of English in our professionals in the area, who can easily integrate into any projects, since English is surely the language of choice in this area. And there is also a competitiveness factor via price / quality in Portugal, which is not the main one, but it is still a relevant factor in the choice.

SAPO TEK: Do you feel that the “resistance” that was felt by some companies regarding the contracting of remote service provision decreased with the pandemic? Could it be something temporary, in the face of contingencies, or is it a “feeling” that is here to stay?

Miguel Freire: The changes are here to stay, let us not be under any illusions.

“PLATFORMS WILL BECOME MORE EFFECTIVE, ONLINE INTERACTIONS WILL BANALIZE, AND THE PROCEDURES AND METHODOLOGIES CREATED TO ENSURE THE WORKFLOW OF PROJECTS IN A REMOTE MODEL WILL STAY AND SHOW MORE EFFICIENT”

They will not replace all physical interaction, which of course is still the preferred one, but we can reserve these interactions for specific situations that require it, as is the case with different services, where we reserve face-to-face contact whenever justified and when the current situation allows it again.

SAPO TEK: How do you look at the issue of lack of resources with technological skills? Are you worried? What do you foresee? Is there a solution? How can Portugal stay? 

Miguel Freire: This is clearly a problem that we anticipate, and that will hinder the growth of the sector in our country. The requalification of professionals from other areas, lifelong learning for those already in the sector, and showing young people the job opportunities that exist for those who want to develop a career in information technology, are some of the initiatives that can be done to mitigate this gap, which will not disappear easily. askblue invests heavily in training, namely initial training, which allows for a rapid and sustained evolution of its employees and, therefore, providing services with internal resources. We will be as competitive as our ability to attract and retain excellent talent in Portugal.

SAPO TEK: What other challenges does your sector face at the moment?

Miguel Freire: The technological consultancy area has the challenge of ensuring its ability to bring the best professionals to serve its customers and to create the necessary skills in the latest technologies and solutions, such as low-code, analytics, Service Design / UX / UI, electronic voting, among others that will gain predominance in the near future.

SAPO TEK: What assessment do you have of your activity at this time?

Miguel Freire: We are deeply satisfied with the results that we have achieved. We hope to end the year within the forecasts, which were already ambitious growth. Our ability to transform business challenges into advanced technological solutions has been recognized by customers, who place their trust in our services and professionals.

SAPO TEK: How do you think it will evolve? What do you foresee for the next year?

Miguel Freire: We believe that next year will be a challenging year, and we are preparing our teams to respond quickly and sustainably to the challenges presented by our customers. Companies that can do this will accelerate digital transformation processes, there will be more competition in the digital space, and companies that manage to create more sophisticated and interactive user experiences for their customers will benefit. At askblue we believe that we have the skills and knowledge to play a decisive role in creating these solutions in the most appropriate way for each Client.

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Digital Transformation is dead! Long live (digital) transformation!

Digital Transformation is dead! Long live (digital) transformation!

Digital transformation is not an end in itself but a way of supporting business transformation, that should be guided by customer needs and journeys.

– Daddy, I want to be a youtuber! – said the 12 years old kid.
– Well Kevin, how about playing soccer like Cristiano Ronaldo?
– No daddy! I want a digital job!

An influencer is neither worried with YouTube digital technology nor knows the analytics methods and AI algorithms that promote

Business oriented transformation should always start with a goal in mind: improve customer experience, make a process more effective and/or efficient, improve quality, etc.

Transform with people onboard

People transform companies. During a change management program, early engagement of different business areas (marketing, sales, customer service, information systems, etc,) with different training backgrounds (management, engineering, design, law, etc) is a key factor for successfully implementation and user adoption of a new application or workflow. The opinion of the different stakeholders matters and is taken beforehand. The solution is built with users and for users. It is also on this phase that trade-offs are “negotiated”, for example, to launch an MVP version in 3 months and evolve from there.

Another key success factor is the user adoption. To maximize it we promote several workshops in the first week of the project (now performed remotely using virtual meetings). The objective is, together with project stakeholders, detail the user journey and the main functionalities available for the different profiles. This approach allows to “sleep on the subject” and not seldom times change ideas in the next day.

This agile way of delivering projects starts with a simple idea (the typical “What about…”) and after one week a detailed requirements document and associated effort forecast. During the development is always possible to make corrections/adjustments as long as the impact on effort and implementation plan are manageable.

This agile approach has been very successfully among our customers, especially on international markets (e.g. US and Netherlands).

Transform leveraging on a platform

On a pos-Covid context, when the only certainty is the necessity to be prepared for change, leveraging on the power of platforms to be more agile is paramount.

Software development is not an exception and OutSystems Low Code platform have been used to speed up the implementation of several projects, some of them awarded internationally by OutSystems itself.

On the initial dialog, Kevin’s answer is fictitious aiming to support the narrative. The real answer was: “PewDiePie makes more money than Cristiano Ronaldo when he had 12 years old”. We will need a whole new article to know the platforms involved in accounting and transferring the money to the Swedish YouTuber and the on-going transformation on the banking sector.

Carlos Costa Cruz askblue, (digital) Transformation Lead

 
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How to create a learning culture for a changing world

How to create a learning culture for a changing world

A company’s ability to adapt and reinvent itself is related to its employees’ ability to adapt and grow.

When we started the year, at a time still pre-COVID, a training plan was defined as a competitive tool in attracting and retaining talent. Due to the changes that 2020 has brought us, we considered that it would be necessary to review the strategy outlined.

With a changing world, the way we relate and how we work has changed, we have learned to work together at a distance, to value (even more) the monitoring and development of our teams. By revising our methodologies and strategies, we understood that the way in which we perceive human resources management and training has inevitably changed.

For some companies, for example in the technological area, embarking on this digital transformation overnight was relatively simple. We set up our desk, brought the computer, said goodbye at a distance and a “see you soon” to the place that welcomes us every day. For other companies, this change implied a complete overhaul of their way of working.

In terms of training, both the training / development departments of the companies and the training companies themselves had to react quickly – review and adapt the plans made, define new modalities and priorities. We entered a more digital world, where the live-training format gained prominence, since, being in real time, it continues to ensure a direct monitoring of the trainees, the clarification of doubts and the dynamics in the relationship between the trainer and the trainees. We have also seen the proliferation of webinars and events 100% online.

The business has adapted, and we have adapted with it. Or was it the other way around?

This is where training proves to be an important tool. A company’s ability to adapt and reinvent itself is related to its employees’ ability to adapt and grow. Investing not only in continuous training, but in a learning culture, contributes for the employees to have the opportunity to develop their skills in a transversal and sustained way, be they technical, methodological, or behavioral.

The increase in digital mode initiatives has also brought us to recognize the importance of technological training within companies. It is increasingly necessary to look at technological training, not only in a perspective of professional requalification / retraining, as has been the bet of many companies and educational institutions, but as a way of adapting the most diverse functions to a constantly changing world. It is essential to ensure that employees, regardless of the area and sector in which they work, have the necessary technological proficiency either to work remotely or to adapt to new systems, machines, etc.

The investment that a company makes in training, whether formal or informal, has been assumed as a differentiating factor and of added value for employees, for example when deciding between two companies. They want to feel that they are part of a company that invests in its evolution, which prepares them, not only for the current functions, but for what they may be in the future.

The investment in training is an investment, not only in individual growth, but also in the future of the company, in the motivation and commitment of employees and, consequently, in the quality of the services provided.

By Sandra Caeiro, Talent and Quality Consultant da askblue

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Banco CTT creates home loan partner portal with OutSystems technology

Banco CTT creates home loan partner portal with OutSystems technology

A portal that will allow more than 500 credit intermediaries to submit credit applications more simply and quickly. The transformation allows for four times faster analysis and an increase in credit approvals granted by Banco CTT.

OutSystems was the technology chosen by Banco CTT for the development of the first partner portal with access to mortgage loans. Allowing more than 500 credit intermediaries to submit credit applications more simply and quickly. The transformation allows for four times faster analysis and an increase in credit approvals granted by Banco CTT.

The OutSystems partner, askblue, worked for six months so that Banco CTT could launch the first mortgage loan application platform by its credit intermediaries. “The union between Banco CTT’s vision and ambition, askblue’s business and technical skills and OutSystems technology, allowed Banco CTT to be the pioneer in Portugal in providing a truly integrated solution in the processes of Banco CTT’s Partners.” – says Filipe Mestre, Project Manager at askblue.

Only six months after the starting to operate, the platform has already shown results above expectations, namely in the increase in order processing, efficiency gains in terms of management and the positive reactions from more than 500 user partners.

“We managed to achieve our goal of being the first ones to reach the market with this solution and, using the OutSystems low-code platform, we were able to create an integrated and optimized experience for all our partners who help us to grow.” explains Luís Brites Santos, Director of Housing Credit at Banco CTT.

According to Rui Pereira, Co-founder and Vice President of Digital Transformation at OutSystems, “this is a project that clearly demonstrates the power of OutSystems, which, by making its low-code technology available, has enabled askblue to develop the platform in just six months. The result is in sight and Banco CTT is already benefiting from important efficiency gains.”

The entire process of requesting mortgage loans by the partners was based on a workflow with emails and, wanting to remain faithful to its agile positioning, Banco CTT, as a challenger bank that recently entered the banking sector, wanted to create a new system to improve the whole process. The new platform thus emerges with a special focus on the needs of consumers and partners.

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A time travel to May 2022

A time travel to May 2022

“When our dependence on digital media increased naturally, we were forced to immerse ourselves in an overdose of digital stimuli” – the opinion of Filipe Mestre, askblue manager.

On my way to the office, I remembered that two years ago today I projected myself into the future, trying to imagine what the world would be like today. AC and DC gained another meaning of change in the World. I highlight two major changes at a personal level and two professional changes, among many others. When our dependence on digital media was naturally increasing, we were forced to immerse ourselves in an overdose of digital stimuli. It has become redundant to expect it to be fashionable to get together on a terrace. The forced relational abstinence reminded us of the value of a simple hug. We were walking at an accelerated pace to Homo Connectus, when the next day we were forced to be it, realizing that the goal of digitization is just to increase our scarce resource, Time.

In active adulthood, we live with the paradox that, in the short-term view, our actions allow us to respond to immediate needs and, in the long-term view, we adapt today to needs that we foresee in a greater or lesser time horizon. The long-term vision was clearly influenced to the extent that we belong to generations that were unaware of the experience of a drastic global change, which brought us another paradox: future insecurity coupled with increased confidence in our adaptive capacities. These changes allowed us to evolve at a professional level in two aspects – Meritocracy and Globalization.

The reduction in the communication scope also implied a reduction in the relational component, which had the direct consequence of an increased focus on the results of the service provided. One of the main changes in the IT Consultancy area is the evaluation of the results of the services provided, which today are more result-oriented. Regarding the Globalization, and unlike other sectors of the economy, IT services can, almost entirely, be provided from a computer with Internet access, regardless of geography, time zone, culture, or language. The consequent globalization, which began some decades ago, has now seen the last resistance of anachronistic models of management being broken, where effective presence was considered a form of control. We accelerated the change in contracting services, both from the perspective of customers and suppliers. Customers structured / matured their infrastructures and their service models, which brought them access to new suppliers, hitherto unattainable, due to distrust, incapacity (lack of structure) and investment value (location of teams). Suppliers confirmed that the physical distance of their employees does not prevent them from forming efficient teams, so they now have wider contracting opportunities and are less focused on geographical criteria.

Basically, 2020 taught us that at these times we reinvent ourselves for the better, more adapted, more attentive, and more aware of our values. We are stronger and more sustained, keeping what we learn close. Nothing is guaranteed, everything must be earned. We have evolved professionally, we are more global where we want to be and more local in what we want to be, our culture has not changed, it has adapted. This sharing of ideas took place on the way between the kitchen and my home office, in Nossa Senhora de Machede, Évora. Where time and space have expanded, where the family is more present and where I can best contribute to society.

Filipe Mestreaskblue Manager

 
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Markets favorable to askblue’s strategy

Markets favorable to askblue’s strategy

A consultora nacional, askblue fez contas aos proveitos obtidos em 2019 e anuncia um encaixe de 10,8 milhões de euros, o que representa um crescimento de 42%, relativamente ao ano anterior. O mercado internacional terá sido decisivo para o desenvolvimento positivo do negócio da empresa, que admitiu ter vindo a aumentar a sua presença além-fronteiras com projetos em diferentes áreas e em geografias atractivas como o Médio Oriente e o Norte da Europa. «Já estão em curso projetos relevantes no Dubai, na Arábia Saudita e na Holanda», destaca a empresa em comunicado.

The financial sector continues to be the main focus of growth for the business, however, diversifying and expanding into the industry, service and utility segments already represent some weight in the volume of business, promising to manifest itself more prominently in the next fiscal year. In terms of projects, there is support for the development of new businesses, the strengthening of the value chain, and the optimization and transformation of operational performance, including digitalization and continuing the business of customers, which will be priorities strengthened in 2020. 

“We are continuing to grow, responding to new customer challenges, especially challenges related to digitalization, making it possible to respond positively to strategic and specific challenges which may arise at the time.”

Satisfied with Askblue’s operations and innovation quality produced in 2019, Pedro Nicolau, the company’s CEO, outlines a promising future supported by developing “strategic and regulatory projects for large clients in the Portuguese financial sector”, and by further strengthening investment in more sophisticated markets. The objectives are clear, “We are continuing to grow, responding to new customer challenges, especially challenges related to digitalization, making it possible to respond positively to strategic and specific challenges which may arise at the time.”

Portugal continues to be our main source of knowledge, innovation, and acquiring references in new areas. Askblue was distinguished by Outsystems with the “Best Innovative Solution in the Industry” award for developing a benefits management solution for Mercer. Also, as a result of being in partnership with the technological voting company, Scytl, electronic voting was successfully implemented to elect the President of the Portuguese Bar Association.

Askblue’s prosperity scenario in 2019 was also marked by organic growth. The company increased its employees from 230 to 290, which was driven by the number of projects awarded during the year and by investing in newly graduated trainees or graduates with a Master’s degree in several engineering areas. A huge amount of investment goes into their training, namely through partnerships with specialized institutions, such as the Instituto Superior Técnico. 38 employees with this profile joined the company in 2019.

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Business-focused development with Story Mapping

adelia_santos_askblue

Business-focused development with Story Mapping

Story Mapping é uma técnica que consiste em criar e priorizar user stories, do ponto de vista dos utilizadores e alinhadas com as necessidades de negócio. Adélia Santos explica as vantagens da sua aplicação.

One of the advantages of implementing agile software development is the way it divides large sets of requirements into smaller, vertical slices of functionality, allowing a step-by-step product construction where all participants can follow the result of the process in each iteration.

Being able to accompany this process encourages users to participate more actively in the different areas of a project. However, when we start to break down the requirements, constructing the product backlog can become confusing and have negative consequences. This is because the general overview of the product can easily be lost, affecting what the software is supposed to do and how the user stories should relate in a coherent way, which could lead to software being developed that does not add value to the business.

Story Mapping is an excellent technique that consists of creating and prioritizing user stories, from the users’ point of view while aligning them with the needs of the business.

The Columbus Egg of Story Mapping

Story Mapping is a method invented by Jeff Patton and is a technique used in agile software development, which helps the team to understand and systematize the scope of the project. It complements the activities of a Scrum team allowing you to make a list of goals from the customer’s perspective focusing on the value of the business. A Story Mapping workshop takes place in sessions of two to three days, depending on the goal that needs to be achieved, and in the presence of the technical team, the product owner, the business analysts and the UX specialists.

Advantages of Story Mapping

Global view – provides a holistic view and a space to think about how user stories relate to each other;
Versatility – can be used in several phases of a project, for example, in an initial workshop to systematize the overview of the product or it can be applied to a smaller context to redefine and prioritize the user stories that integrate the product backlog;
Shared knowledge – allows you to build a shared understanding of the features to be developed and how they relate to each other. This helps the participants to understand and imagine the product better and it promotes an exchange of ideas between the business areas and the IT teams;
Focusing on the business value – this allows you to identify the dependencies and priorities between user stories, preventing the delivery of a feature to be conditioned by the dependence on another, which, although with less business value, may prevent users from using the product.

Creating a Story Map

In the process of making a Story Map, a simple visual is created that supports a discussion on objectives and great ideas including the principles of the product to be developed.

Along the horizontal axis, and by order of importance, the activities are described which the user intends to carry out in the software. On the vertical axis, we find the details associated with each activity, which help to create a more refined backlog. The dynamic is user-centered and encourages debate on the best way to deliver business value in the shortest amount of time.

The result is a simple, matrix-like structure that tells a detailed story from left to right and which is further divided from top to bottom.

Telling a story with a future perspective in mind by assuming how users intend to carry out the activities in the software to be developed, allows us to explore the details and the options, reducing gaps, identifying dependencies between activities and re-prioritizing the work to be developed.

This technique also allows us to identify a set of functionalities that guarantee the delivery of a first version of the software that constitutes the MVP (Minimum Valuable Product), guaranteeing significant deliveries, and this allows the user to be part of a journey.

The main priority in agile software development is to satisfy the customer through the anticipated and continuous delivery of value. It is a strategy based on placing the customer at the center of the business.

Adélia Santos
askblue’s Advanced Certified ScrumMaster

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International Law Firm Vieira de Almeida Prepares for a Digital Future with OutSystems

International Law Firm Vieira de Almeida Prepares for a Digital Future with OutSystems

The firm needed to find a more viable solution. After an assessment of other BPM tools, interactions with OutSystems’ partner askblue evidenced that low-code application development was a better way forward.

Leading Portuguese law firm Vieira de Almeida (VdA) wanted to improve the efficiency of key business processes and free-up its lawyers so they could focus more on adding value for their clients. With OutSystems, the firm has designed and implemented case management and workflow tools that automate and accelerate critical legal processes. But more importantly, VdA is working with OutSystems as a platform to prototype and implement new digital initiatives that will help it thrive in a fast-evolving legal landscape.

Breathing New Life into Old Processes

Challenge – Running a fast-growing business can be exhilarating, but rapid growth doesn’t come without challenges. VdA, one of Portugal’s leading law firms, has experienced fast growth first-hand. With a 40-year track record of providing outstanding legal representation and advice, the firm’s services are highly sought after. Just over the last three years, the firm has increased its headcount from 350 to 500, to handle the growing demand registered both domestically and through its overseas partnerships.

Although VdA’s lawyers are experts in their respective areas of legal practice, they still need to carefully follow established legal procedures in meticulous detail.

The firm was burdened with processes that tied up lawyers with routine administrative tasks. For instance, every time one of VdA’s clients had an interaction with the Portuguese courts, lawyers had to retrieve notifications published in Citius—the national online court management system—feed them into the firm’s document management system, create workflow schedules, and assign tasks to individual lawyers.

This repetitive process was an obvious candidate for automation, but the firm’s attempts to increase efficiency using a business process management (BPM) tool had not been very successful. “The BPM suite we had was very difficult to manage and was not user-friendly,” explains Rui Alves, CIO at VdA. The firm needed to find a more viable solution. After an assessment of other BPM tools, interactions with OutSystems’ partner askblue evidenced that low-code application development was a better way forward.

Moving Beyond BPM, with Low-Code

Solution – The greater flexibility of the OutSystems platform was a critical factor in VdA’s decision to switch to low-code rather than continue its BPM project. The firm has ambitious plans to transform its business through digital technology, so the ability to build a wide range of applications and integrate with all kinds of systems would be vital.

We chose OutSystems because it’s not just a BPM tool. It offers us a strong tool to orchestrate complex case management workflows, but it’s also a platform that will enable us to deploy other new initiatives faster and more easily—and within the same technology stack,” says Rui. “We don’t want to have one tool for each process; we want one tool for all our processes, and for the new solutions we intend to build.

Three askblue developers and a project manager took 16 weeks to deliver the process solution for VdA’s litigation practice area, and subsequently built solutions for four other practice areas over the next three months. The new solutions integrate with robotic process automation (RPA) technology from UiPath to automate the manual effort of retrieving court notifications and setting up schedules and workflows. VdA’s lawyers now have a clearer visibility of their pending tasks in each case and have more time to spend delivering value to clients.

This is an exciting step forward for VdA, positioning the firm in a digital leadership role in its market. “This is the first time a Portuguese law firm has successfully applied RPA to its litigation case management application,” says Muriel Faden da Silva, Head of Quality & Innovation at VdA.

Just three months after go-live, 100 lawyers are already using the new system and the feedback has been very positive. “I’ve had a lot of comments about how much faster and easier to use it is compared to the old BPM tool,” says Pedro Pires Fernandes, senior associate from the litigation practice area. “It’s simpler for lawyers to see the deadlines for all the tasks they need to complete, and they no longer have to do any of that upfront data retrieval and input work.

A Platform for Efficiency and Transformation

Results – As lawyers become accustomed to using the new solution, VdA expects to achieve very high efficiency gains. “The integration between our OutSystems applications and the RPA technology will save us several hours every day,” says Rui. “That’s extra time that our lawyers can spend using their expertise to achieve the best outcomes for our clients.”

Making existing processes more efficient is a critical goal for the firm, but Rui has his sights set on longer-term strategic objectives, too. “We’re on a transformation journey—a gradual adoption of digital tools and new ways of working—so integration between applications and having the agility to change what’s already been built is very important,” he explains. “OutSystems gives us those capabilities, as well as the ability to deploy web and mobile apps, which will be essential as our transformation journey continues.

This digital transformation platform will be critical for VdA’s future. Over the next few years, the Portuguese law sector will see competition from new players, such as consulting firms, offering many of the services traditionally provided solely by law firms.

To remain competitive, VdA will need to evolve, but Rui is confident the firm is ready for the challenge. “We have numerous initiatives that we have already implemented and several ones in the pipeline to help transform the way we do business,” he reveals.

OutSystems is set to play an important role in that transformation, giving us a platform to prototype and implement new ideas. This is bigger than just process improvement—with OutSystems we’re now able to innovate more easily, and I’m excited about what we’ll achieve in the future.

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