In this edition of our Partner Spotlight series, we continue highlighting partners at the forefront of app innovation on the commercial marketplace. Throughout the series, we will be telling the unique stories of partners who are leading the way with AI in app development, who are building using multiple Microsoft products, and who are publishing transactable applications on the marketplace. In this article, I sat down with Dalikoo‘s Arik Kalininsky to learn more about their story and partner journey.
About Arik: Arik Kalininsky is the founder and CEO of Dalikoo, a Microsoft partner specializing in Microsoft 365, Azure, and AI. Dalikoo builds productivity, management and social empowerment applications that are available through the marketplace. As a cloud expert, Dalikoo also provides migration and integration services as well as consulting in areas ranging from Intranets and communications to Modern Workplace and AI. Arik has over 20 years of experience in diverse managerial and architectural roles that span many facets of industry, including hardware, software development, telecommunications, manufacturing, and logistics. Arik had the privilege of speaking at numerous industry events such as Microsoft’s Global SharePoint conference, and many other leadership and CEO/CIO events throughout North America.
[JR]: Can you provide an overview of your application and its primary functionalities on the commercial marketplace?
[AK]: Celebrations is a fun Microsoft Teams application that helps you stay connected with your teammates on their special days. With Celebrations, employees receive notifications in Microsoft Teams about their coworkers’ birthdays and anniversaries, they can then contact their coworkers and send a personal note or a greeting card. Celebrations can receive date information from Active Directory, Microsoft Excel, a SharePoint List, or even manually from each user. The date source is determined by the Teams administrator once the app is installed. The Celebrations Teams application is accompanied by a SaaS application called Celebrations Plan, which lets customers procure and transact the app through the Microsoft marketplace.
[JR]: How did you decide to integrate AI tools into your app’s development process? What specific challenges or opportunities drove this decision?
[AK]: Earlier in the development process we tested a few options involving cross team collaboration with GitHub CoPilot. We were excited about the potential of AI, but we faced multiple hiccups at first. The early issues were related to usage and the overall accuracy of the results. However, as we worked with the technology, we noticed it getting more refined and more useable in general. This in turn, prompted us to consider an opportunity to enhance our user interfaces by incorporating AI into the customer facing areas of our Microsoft Teams application.
[JR]: Microsoft offers a variety of AI tools and services. Could you elaborate on which Microsoft AI tools you integrated into your app and how they have enhanced its capabilities?
[AK]: We have added a new Azure OpenAI user interface to Celebrations utilizing Azure OpenAI. Originally, the Celebrations applications notified employees about their coworkers’ birthdays and anniversaries, enabling them to reach out and send personal wishes. We have recently added a collaborative functionality that enables people to plan a get-together or a party for an upcoming celebration. This new party planning component lists upcoming celebrations in a Teams channel tab (for example, ‘Jane’s work anniversary is coming up on October 5’). When Teams users click on an upcoming event, a new conversation starts in the channel pertaining to the event (using the previous example: ‘Jane’s get-together planning thread’). Everyone on the thread can now contribute ideas and participate in the event planning and confirmation using standard Teams conversation tools. In the latest version of the app, we have added an AI component that participates in this event planning Teams conversation. The new AI component suggests activities and places to go to based on previous celebrations. For example, once the team initiates a conversation about an upcoming work anniversary for someone (e.g. Jane), the AI component can then provide input such as: “when we celebrated Mike’s anniversary a few weeks ago, we went to the cafeteria at noon and had cake, perhaps this can work for Jane’s anniversary too”.
[JR]: What were the key benefits you experienced by leveraging Microsoft’s AI tools during the development phase of your application?
[AK]: We have been using GitHub Copilot as part of our overall development efforts in over a year. Lately, we have also added GitHub Copilot Chat to our coding environment, and have some developers use it to debug code written by other developers as well as run unit tests. The combination of these AI GitHub tools helped us optimize our development process and increase productivity while having different teams work on interconnecting components.
[JR]: How has ISV Success supported you in your journey to publishing on the marketplace?
[AK]: ISV Success has provided us with inexpensive consumption options of Azure as well as helped us expedite our access requests to Azure OpenAI. Furthermore, while building the technical architecture and planning for AI integration, we have utilized technical and managerial resources provided by ISV Success. These resources helped us mitigate technical issues that came up during the initial Proof of Concept (PoC) stage. When we were ready to move on with coding of the features and integrate OpenAI with our app, we relied on ISV success, including our contacts and online resources, to provide us with guidance and advise on best practices.
[JR]: For other ISVs considering AI integration, what advice would you offer based on your experience with Microsoft’s AI tools? Are there any lessons learned or best practices you’d like to share?
[AK]: Since Azure OpenAI and CoPilot are pretty new technologies, I would recommend working with Microsoft’s technical resources that can help expedite support, provide new and upcoming information, and just make helpful suggestions overall. Some good first steps include joining Microsoft technical forums, and of course connecting with ISV Success.
[JR]: Looking ahead, how do you envision further leveraging Microsoft’s AI tools to enhance your application’s features or expand its offerings in the marketplace?
[AK]: We work across multiple facets of Microsoft 365, including Power platform elements such as Power BI and Power Apps. When designing and implementing Power Apps for customers, our primary goal is to deliver a great user experience. For example, if we’re creating a complex form that presents questions based on previous answers, we must pay a lot of attention to the overall flow and cadence. We want the users to feel comfortable with the app and keep returning to it. This is where Copilot for Power Apps can really revolutionize the user interface. We can have Copilot assist the users as they’re going through the app, anticipate difficulties, and make helpful suggestions. Copilot will reduce the users’ doubts and frustration when stumbling upon challenging areas, leading to a more pleasant user experience. We are looking forward to working with Copilot for Power Apps. Our immediate roadmap includes creating a PoC involving a few Canvas applications, and then reviewing options for deployment in a Power Apps production environment.