The Open Banking Revolution

The Open Banking Revolution

In 2007, Valentin Dominte was in high school, and he certainly did not follow news about how bureaucrats in the European Union were voting. Unbeknown to him, a quiet financial revolution started in Brussels that year, one that would later be significant for his software developer career, for fintechs all over the continent, and for every EU citizen’s money: open banking.

In simple terms, open banking is a way for people to take back control of their financial information. Like Valentin, you might have two or three bank accounts, each with its own app and its particularities for making transfers, checking the balance, or granting a loan. If you wanted to have an accurate overview of your finances, you’d need to log in to each of those bank apps, extract the information and do all the calculations yourself. Open banking breaks down the walls between all of these different apps, making it possible for apps to pull information from the accounts you choose and give you real-time information about your finances that is gathered from all of them.

Technology is at the heart of open banking. At Levi9, Valentin Dominte is one of our most experienced developers working in open banking since 2018, and we’ve asked him to give us his insights into this topic.

“The official definition of open banking is the process of enabling third-party payment service and financial service providers to access consumer banking information such as transactions and payment history through APIs”, says Valentin. Some key expressions he highlights are “third-party payment,” “consumer banking information,” and “APIs”.

consumer banking information

A third party is a service that aggregates that data“, explains Valentin. “It can be an application from one of your banks, but it can also be completely independent, and you can have different third-party providers for different use cases.” The main benefit for the consumer is that they can get information in a way that is easier to use.

Some of the consumer banking information that can be accessed through open banking includes the account holder’s name, the account type (current, savings, etc.), and information about transactions (amounts, merchants, etc.).

APIs are at the heart of open banking, serving as a bridge between multiple financial services. Through APIs, different systems can talk to each other in a standardized way, meaning that developers can use them to build new features or services on top of existing systems. One important feature of APIs, especially in open banking, is that information is shared in a standardized and secure manner.

2. The EU regulations on open banking

Perhaps Valetin did not pay attention to EU open banking regulations in high school, but looking back he says that the concept of open banking in Europe is tightly linked with those regulations known as PSD (Payments Services Directives).

The EU regulations on open banking

The first PSD was released in 2007, with the EU Commission seeking to stimulate competition in the financial industry, enhance the quality of services provided, and protect the end user.

A second version of the PSD was released in 2015, introducing the concept of consumer protection against bank or third-party providers. “The focus now was on the end-user experience and privacy.” Two main concepts were enforced by this PSD2 directive: the first — strong customer authentication. “Basically that means as a bank you shouldn’t allow people to connect to your API without multi-factor authentication, let’s say. And the end user should have the same way of authenticating directly to the bank or through a third party. There should be no difference.” A second concept was related to the fact that third parties should connect to banks in a standardized manner. Third parties are also obliged to register with an authority, adding another level of security.

Valentin says he is now keeping an eye on discussions related to a third directive. While following EU legislation might not be typical everyday work for a developer, Valentin builds a strong case for remaining one step ahead and analyzing the impact of legislation on technology.

EU FinTech cheatsheet

3. How screen scraping became obsolete

To prove this point, Valentin reminisces about one of his first projects in open banking. Before APIs became the norm and before strict European regulations, developers were still looking for ways to let users access their financial data in a more friendly manner. “Because developers are creative and can find workarounds, there is an alternative to APIs: screen scraping”.

Screen scraping imitates what a person does on a portal, doing everything automatically that a person can do by hand. “It meant impersonating the client in the bank portal to extract data or perform action.” Screen scraping solves the issue of missing APIs, but it introduces several other problems”.

“With screen scraping, the third-party provider controls how the consumer’s credentials are stored and secured,” warns Valentin. Moreover, the clients don’t get to choose what information they share but rather have to give full access to the third-party provider. On top of that, screen scraping cannot get around multifactor authentication and could trigger a possible violation of terms and conditions. Developers avoid screen scrapers not just because of security concerns but also because “this kind of integration is quite fragile.” What if the UI of the internet banking system changes for some banks? The third-party has to adjust to those changes each time.

Coupled with EU rules, the technical setbacks were the main reason that screen scraping became an obsolete practice.

4. How open banking breeds innovation

Open banking is a breeding ground for new ideas, and it encourages innovation by chipping away at large bank monopolies. “Third parties can provide a better user experience and steal the show, which should result in lower costs and, hopefully, a better experience for the end user,” says Valentin Dominte.

Saving time for customers

One way that open banking is different is by making it easier for customers to get loans. “For one of Levi9’s customers, we developed a system that saved the bank and its clients a significant amount of time. When applying for credit, clients had two options: one was to manually upload proof of their financial situation, such as salary slips, bank statements, rent agreements, or mortgage contracts. The second one was to log into the bank account, and choose which transactions represent income or housing costs.”

One immediate result was an improved customer experience. “The customers didn’t need to look for salary slips or dig around for their mortgage contract.” At first, about 40% of customers were unsure about sharing their information automatically with the bank. However, over the course of three years, the number of customers using the faster way to log in to the bank increased by a factor of ten.

Instant credit limit

In a second open banking Levi9 project, Valentin and his team replaced cumbersome manual steps and questionnaire filling with instant credit limit calculation. “We had the old system and the new, automated system run side by side. When clients applied for credit, they were randomly assigned to one of the two systems. Some were going the old road of filling out a questionnaire, providing proof of income and expenses, and getting their answers manually assessed by a bank employee. But other customers had a much more straightforward experience, thanks to the Levi9 project: they simply logged into their bank account, their transactions were automatically analyzed, and they were able to receive their credit limit on the spot.

open banking

With standardized communication between services through APIs and clear regulations, open banking is the perfect playground for technological innovation.

We’re supporting your race at your own pace. Choose yours!

'A partnership in anticipation of rapid growth’

Vision and ambition are becoming a reality

Future Insight envisages a great future for the digitalisation of processes and activities within the public domain. Their platform helps people to make the right choices in projects involving the living environment, such as infrastructure, development and the repurposing of sites and buildings. In partnership with Levi9, vision and ambition are becoming a reality. ‘The partnership enables us to think big and also put our ideas into action,’ says CTO and co-founder Rick Klooster.

The company provides three separately developed software solutions designed to optimise collaboration and shape successful projects: Clearly.Projects for construction projects; Clearly.BIM for optimum viewing and interrogation of BIM models; and Clearly.3D-City for accessing 3D-city models (Digital Twins). All three involve software that brings together and makes available data from different sources.

‘This means that the parties involved in construction projects, works on physical infrastructure, or the life-cycle of a building can access the right up-to-date data and tools to enable smart collaboration,’ explains Klooster. ‘We have built our reputation on this. In 2022, Clearly.BIM secured us the Building Smart Award in Estonia, based on the implementation of a BIM-based planning permission process.’

Open Urban Platform

With the assistance of Levi9 Technology Services, these solutions are being further developed and increasingly integrated. ‘Together, we’re building a growing ecosystem of all kinds of services,’ says the CTO. ‘This Open Urban Platform enables us to easily access specific solutions from third parties. Some of these relate to AI. As a result, we no longer need to develop everything ourselves, and other parties can serve part of their market using our platform.’

The Open Urban Platform is part of the Future Insights Clearly.Suite. It represents the combined vision and ambitions of CTO Rick Klooster and CCO Bas Hoorn. ‘It’s a dream that’s becoming a reality,’ says Hoorn, originally an engineer. For his part, Klooster has a lot of experience working with government. Future Insight has now become a genuine knowledge company with highly qualified specialists.


In anticipation of its rapid growth, Future Insight decided to expand its own development team with external knowledge and experience in 2021. Klooster: ‘The key aim is to achieve a stable and rapidly scalable platform. In view of the intended growth, we also aim to organise ourselves and our teams more effectively and professionally. That’s why we made the decision to have a partner develop our technology.’ Following a thorough search, Klooster and Hoorn came into contact with Levi9.

‘They offered the competencies and quality we were looking for in those key areas. The partnership not only enables us to think big, but also to put those ideas into practice,’ says the CTO.

It has been a genuine partnership from the outset. ‘We have a similar culture and way of working,’ explains Albert Klingenberg, account manager at Levi9. ‘Future Insight are completely open with us about their vision and strategy. That’s reciprocated. This openness gives us the opportunity to keep each other on our toes and make real progress. Our people also really love working on the Future Insight platform.’

Important motivator

The founders are convinced that there are genuine global opportunities when it comes to sharing information in urban areas. For example, there are as yet no widely embraced worldwide standards when it comes to smart cities, buildings, areas, and infrastructures. With the help of Levi9, Future Insight is determined to and capable of playing a crucial role in this development. An important motivator in this is the desire to address this global social challenge.

It is also helped by the fact that government authorities across the world are increasingly open to the cloud. CTO Rick Klooster: ‘That will potentially result in an increasingly wider application of international standards in the future. It will then become increasingly easier even for smaller municipalities to engage and collaborate in an integrated way without any form of vendor lock-in.’

Future Insight has the wind in its sails. The company has doubled its staff numbers in the last six months alone. ‘Things are really moving, and we’re working on all kinds of things simultaneously and clearly proving remarkably successful. The people working for us based in Serbia are actually our development department. That’s where our ideas really take shape.’


Rick Klooster, CTO Future Insight

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AWS re:Invent — Niners share their experience

1. Levi9: a proud AWS partner

Back in 2016, a few enthusiastic people from Levi9 decided to start our journey towards AWS partnership. With no certified people at that moment and practically just a bit of experience with AWS it was an unexpected journey. Moving forward to 2022, more than 120 certified people2 AWS competences, 1 partnership program and soon to become Premier Tier partners. We almost succeeded in all, however our ambition is to achieve even more.

2. AWS re:Invent — keynote speeches recap

3. Learning from AWS partners @AWS re:Invent

AWS gives a lot of attention to their partners and during the conference we could hear many great stories and achievements from many companies. Even more, there was a keynote dedicated to partners where many partners had a chance to present their solutions. Most impressive was financial company from Brazil with 10 million accesses per day, 2500 microservices, 1 million API calls per minute which concentrates 10% of all payments in Brazil. They managed to scale from 100.000 customers to more than 20 million customers in just five years! Their example taught us that re-engineering of complete platform and moving it to the “elastic” cloud environment gives a great opportunity for large scaleups. AWS Certified people were also recognized during the whole conference. We’ve managed to meet many inspiring people, some of them having all 12 AWS certificates, which is definitely a great success.

4. AWS re:Invent takeaway — Levi9 is on the right track

By meeting some of the great attendees as well as AWS employees, we’ve realized that we as Levi9 are doing great things and moving in the right direction. It was an amazing experience to compare us to some of the biggest AWS customers and partners. Even though we aren’t the biggest partners compared to all the giants that were there, nor the biggest customer of AWS, our strategy and our goals are leading us into a bright future. So, who knows, with enthusiastic Levi9 people and great energy, we might become one of those giants in the future. 😊

After all, re:Invent is a great place to be. With all the sessions that you can learn from, opportunities to meet experts from all over the world, it is also a nice place to have a bit of fun as well.

‘A partnership that brings out the best in everyone’

°neo - the new ‘banking grade’ SaaS platform

For the last decade, five°degrees has been supplying leading financial institutions with a tried-and-trusted core banking product. Last year saw the launch of a completely cloud-native version that will enable customers to continue to meet ever-changing market requirements even in the long term. The partnership with Levi9 proved to be instrumental in the development of the new platform. ‘It was exactly the type of synergy we needed,’ confirm CEO Martijn Hohmann and CTO Jeffrey Severijn.

Instead of modernising the existing solution, the decision was made to redesign the new one from scratch. It is now ready for the market. ‘Unlike the old stack, the new ‘banking grade’ SaaS platform – known as °neo – is component-based,’ explains CEO Martijn Hohmann. ‘Over time, the number of building blocks will gradually increase. It will also become easier to link external services and ecosystems together.’

Five°degrees and Levi9 Technology Services have been working together for seven years, but the interaction has entered a new phase in the last four years. ‘At management and shareholder level, we’ve been considering how to get the most value out of our relationship for some time,’ says the CEO.

‘Levi9 is really determined to create value on the business side for customers, partly because that’s also interesting for their own employees.’ – Hohmann

Added value

‘Delivering value for business is the holy grail for developers,’ says CTO Jeffrey Severijn, who also has ultimate responsibility for the °neo platform. ‘Being able to offer employees a challenging working environment is important for Levi9. As far as our traditionally designed °matrix solution was concerned, our relationship was gradually entering the danger zone. Developers were just losing their enthusiasm for it.’

According to the CTO, there was also another factor at play, ‘Outsourcing partners are facing significant increases in salaries in their international branches caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That eats into the price advantage. Companies like these now need to distinguish themselves in different ways. For example, through specific market or domain knowledge that we can make use of.’

There is added value for five°degrees if a player like Levi9, with six delivery centres in Eastern Europe, has experience with the Azure cloud, for example within a media company. ‘They can then discuss applying those competencies for other customers, which has advantages for everyone: partner, staff, and customers. It even opens up the potential of wider co-creation in the future.’

It was during a frank discussion with Levi9 about all of this that things started to move forward.

‘We had talks with various different players about modernising our existing core banking product, but we achieved very little. However, Levi9 came from a different direction and suggested adopting a totally different approach using the latest methods and techniques. That brought a fundamental change in our partnership – and one that added value for all of us.’ – Hohmann

Start-up strategy

Around 80 people – half of the total capacity – worked on °neo over a three-year period. The completely new platform features lower variable costs, offers much more flexibility and has an important role to play in the company’s global ambitions. Severijn: ‘Together, we approached it as if it was a start-up: from the initial design to a minimum viable product before going on to develop a technical MVP. All of it agile and focussing on the potential for rapid upscaling. Ultimately, it all turned out well.’

The partnership is based around the shared objectives that the two companies aim to achieve as a team. ‘It really is a joint initiative,’ say the CTO and CEO. ‘Our people sometimes struggled with that. It was no longer a case of “we ask, and they do what we say”, as you would approach it with development teams in India or Vietnam, for example. Everything is based on a relationship of equality.’

According to the management at five°degrees, this has brought out the very best in everyone, starting from a blank piece of paper. Severijn: ‘The contribution made by Levi9 was primarily technical: the Azure cloud, event-driven architecture, microservices, and so on. Our main focus was on the functional aspects. We then came up with a lot of great ideas together.’

Speeding up the process

Examples of this include work relating to Logic Apps for integrating apps, data, services, and systems using automated workflows in Azure. ‘During a demo with the key engineers from Microsoft, it turned out that we were further advanced than they were on some points,’ says Hohmann enthusiastically. ‘It was so good in fact that they even adopted some of our ideas.’

As for the partnership, the CEO is keen to stress how productive and enjoyable it is. ‘If people from Levi9 have ideas about how things can be improved, we’re always keen to listen. In return, we gave a presentation about the future of banking to their development team in Serbia.’

Jeffrey Severijn: ‘During the demos, members of the Levi9 team also made regular contributions. That helps create ownership and mutual understanding. Even when there are challenges, if something takes slightly more time, or if the requirements are unclear. The fact that we already knew each other allowed us to speed up the process that little bit. Ultimately, developing a new relationship always takes time – but we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.’

‘All in all, it was exactly the synergy we needed to make a success of the °neo project,’ concludes CEO Martijn Hohmann. ‘I’d even go so far to say that it would have been impossible without it.’

Martijn Hohmann, CEO five°degrees

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'From concept to American market in record time – by working together'

Incision Assist

Incision has become a worldwide success with its video-based education and training for operation room personnel. Now, alongside its trusted e-learning environment, Incision has launched a new digital assistant, developed in partnership with Levi9. This tool went from idea to market in record time. ‘We started in June 2021, and four months later, it was live,’ says Raimo van der Klein, Chief Product & Technology Officer. “And a year later, we were already running pilots in American hospitals.’

The mobile app is a strategically important expansion of the Amsterdam scale-up’s existing e-learning platform. ‘Now we can offer users direct support before and during the surgery,’ says Van der Klein, who stepped into his role as CP&TO two-and-a-half years ago. ‘This new digital product is crucial for the relationship with the end user.’

Incision Academy has been around for a while, offering e-learning accredited by international medical associations to train medical professionals in operation room-related activities. Now, the new Incision Assist tool gives those professionals direct access in the operation room to all relevant information: instructions, manuals, requirements, and the personal preferences of the performing surgeons – and all this for a wide range of procedures.


Incision Assist was developed in record time in a process of co-creation with Levi9: from concept to worldwide market launch in under one year. ‘The challenge was that there was relatively little we could reuse from our existing e-learning environment. And on top of that, with Assist, we’ll become part of the digital infrastructure of the hospital, so part of a strongly regulated IT environment. That requires enterprise-grade software.’

'We can help the people in the operation room with any procedure'

Incision was founded in 2014 by Dr Theo Wiggers and a group of investors. It is now a cutting-edge collective of driven doctors, software developers, marketers, and professionals working to grow the business from its home base in Amsterdam. ‘We believe in sharing surgery-related knowledge and skills and making them available to everyone,’ says Van der Klein.

The newly developed app will be a boon to students, personnel in training, and temporary staff in particular. ‘With Incision Assist, we can help operation room staff with any process and any procedure, in a uniform way. Its advantages are better preparation, reducing risks, improving team functioning and, ultimately, better medical outcomes. In combination with Incision Academy, this gives us a rock-solid proposition.’

Increasing impact

About the co-development process with Levi9, Van der Klein says, ‘They had also been involved in the development of the existing e-learning platform. From the moment that we decided to increase our impact in the digital domain, we worked out the best approach in a very effective dialogue. The goal was to, in a relatively short amount of time, put out a product that was at least viable, and that we could then scale up to the highest quality requirements fast and efficiently.’

Incision and Levi9 as partners went through a hyper-fast learning phase in a working process in which they used feedback from customers and users to add more and more features to the app. ‘At this point, we’re going forward with the expansion and upscaling of the platform based on modular technology.’

'Without Levi9, we'd never have been able to market a product this good, this fast'

Van der Klein calls the joint development process a transformation within a scale-up. ‘And that in an industry that’s super-complex, that’s struggling to fill jobs right now, that’s heavily regulated, and that has extremely high standards for security. Because of these challenging and above all complex dynamics, we knew we needed a technology partner that could give us the right people, quality, and working methods. Without Levi9, we’d never have been able to do this as well or as fast.’

Raimo van der Klein, CPTO Incision

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Make your job harder and 10 other ways to adopt a total ownership mindset

Make your job harder and 10 other ways to adopt a total ownership mindset

When Codrin Băleanu was a junior software developer he used to print out his code on paper. He would select a particular intricate piece of code, send it to the printer, take the papers with him, and read them quietly. He would read until he saw the workflow in front of his eyes, until he could visualize the data flowing as smooth as rivers.

Now an Engineering Lead at Levi9, Codrin describes himself as simply a person who gets paid to do what he likes. And he credits most of his career advancement to that attitude that made him read code on paper until he understood it completely: Total Ownership Mindset.

Own the project

“Total ownership” is a concept that gets thrown around a lot during agile meetings. It might sound a bit intimidating, as it sounds like people are expected to do much more than their fair share and to place work, the customer, or the project above everything else, including personal life. But Codrin says the concept is completely misunderstood.

I think of it like a car I just bought”, says Codrin. “It is mine, I take care of it. I treat it with care, I don’t want it to get scratched, I don’t want to smash it into walls.” A car owner might seek to always improve his car, buying accessories, equipping it with new gadgets, and finding ways to make it run better. “In the same manner, if I own my work — be it a customer, a product, a task — I take care of it. I want it to work better, faster, and to be more interesting.

In other words, total ownership does not mean that your work never stops, but rather that you treat it as if it’s your job to make it better.

Here are 10 pieces of advice from Codrin about how to approach and boost your ownership mindset.

1. The customer business is your business

The first rule of the ownership mindset is to understand the business of your customer and understand how that business creates money, part of which will end up in your pocket. If your customer has an issue, you’ll be able to move mountains and do anything that needs to be done to solve that problem. You might end up solving problems that are not part of your expertise or technology, but that will help you grow. This is the root of total ownership.

Part of owning a project means understanding that you and the customer are fighting for the same goal. “Listen to the customer when he talks about business”, advises Codrin. “Your mind might be tempted to wonder, but if you understand the business, you’ll be able to open conversations, reframe your proposals from a business point of view and get your point of view across. “

The customer business is your business

Own your code

When you hear “be the owner of the code” you might be tempted to think “of course I am, my code is my baby”. But that’s the opposite of what it means! If your code is your “child” and you get defensive about it being cut, changed, transformed, you are harming the product and business. Ownership means always looking for ways to make it better, at the cost of your own ego sometimes.

2. Pick up the trash

When you walk on the street and see a piece of trash, you will probably take it and throw it in the bin. You can do the same in a project: if there’s a part of work that nobody wants to touch — a procedure, a database — own it. Make it your goal to fix it, repair it, solve it.

Refactoring is part of the same mentality of picking up the trash. For example, if you have a 2000-line Javascript program, don’t be the one that adds another 100. Refactor. Clean up after yourself, don’t postpone this for a future date, because you’ll never get to it.

Refactoring might not be part of the job description or existing inside a story point, so you have to convince the customer that the process is essential. However, try and explain it not from your point of view (“this code is messy”), but from the point of view of the customer. Focus on the value that refactoring will bring, such as: the code working faster, it’s easier to extend or it’s easier to maintain and repair if there are any bugs found. No product manager or architect or customer would refuse the cost. The condition is to bring value.

“Here is my rule”, clarifies Codrin. “If I repeat a line of code a second time, I consider a “yellow” warning. If I have to repeat the same line of code for a third time, I stop and I refactor. I never broke that rule.”

Pick up the trash

3. Wreck something

Once you have an ownership mentality, you will understand accountability. Once more, the concept of accountability sounds scary, because it’s often associated with blaming. Codrin Băleanu sees this differently: “accountability is seeing the bigger picture and asking yourself: Is there something that could be broken if I change this one line of code? Don’t be afraid of failure. Unless you experience it, you’ll never be a good engineer. Wreck something.

After a bit, this attitude gives you more time to innovate, learn or research. And this — as you’ll come to see — is the only way forward.

Wreck something

Own your time

One advice of Codrin for those who want to adopt a total ownership mindset might be summarized as “Don’t be the British Empire!” Sounds easy enough, right? But here is what it means.

“When the British Empire was at its peak, one of the reasons for its success was its ability to take people who were completely unprepared, place them in a factory and have them produce luxury goods, without any training. They had reduced manufacturing to such a degree, that any person was expandable, a cog in the mechanism.” While an admirer of British Empire history, Codrin warns that “If you repeat everything ad infinitum and do everything the same for years and years, you become expendable. The industry will disappear.”

A developer will never feel motivated and engaged in a British-Empire-like process. Simply repeating other bits of code does not leave you content. Being a developer means having the space to be creative and innovative and that also means pushing against being busy all the time. Developers are creative beings.

4. If you are 100% busy, you have no time to think

“If at this moment, you already know what you’ll do in the next 3 or 6 months, then that’s a problem. This is Agile done badly”, says Codrin. Cramming the schedule with tight-fit plans leaves no space for innovation. You cannot bring anything creative into something that has been planned for the next 6 months.

When we are blocked by work, we don’t have time to think. Always push against this. And you do this by continuously improving processes, so they are better and allow you time.”

If you are 100% busy, you have no time to think

5. Innovate. Innovate. Innovate

Monoliths will always fall, just like all the previous monoliths fell when Netflix appeared. In old companies, processes are what they are, people are working and business is going just fine. But all the while, someone from outside is looking at those processes, analyzing them, and seeing spots that can be done better. This is why process innovation is key to staying relevant.

Innovate. Innovate. Innovate

6. Change your way to work

Things tend to quickly get into a routine, but routine is the death of innovation and creativity. You always need to change something — sometimes as simple as changing your way to work. Another example is how you approach a story point, change a technology or change your entire playing field. In time, this will help you to not be scared by anything new, because change will be ingrained in you. You will stay relevant to the market.

Change your way to work

7. Be lazy

One of Codrin’s favorite advice to young developers is to “be lazy”. By that, he means to be very critical with the time they designate for writing code. “Sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours does not make you a software developer.” You need to always have the mindset of “what else can I do? ”. Or, on the contrary, the work might be boring —then find a way to make it interesting. “For example, if you just type data, write a script that automates the process. Make the machine work for you. Be lazy.

Be lazy

Own your progress

As a junior, Codrin used to look for the hardest, most scary thing to do. “I was scared by many things: Linux, databases, VIM editors, the cloud. As I felt overwhelmed by the new, the only solution to that was to learn. I would use a book, a tutorial, or a video.”

If your job is too easy, make it harder.” This attitude sums up Codrin’s approach to how the ownership mindset, together with continuous innovation ties up to professional progress.

8. Identify the people from your future

In the end, this ownership attitude is something that benefits not just the customer and the company, but the developer himself. “Recognized seniority comes with hard work and involvement. Seniority is something you gain. It is not given to you”, he says.

As a practical advice on how to push yourself on the road to a higher rank, Codrin says to look for the people coming from the future: your future. Identify the people you want to be like 5-10 years from now, as they represent your future. Learn from them to increase your chances to end up like them.

Identify the people from your future

9. Own your job to own your purpose

The road to seniority is peppered with “why”. “Why is this needed? Why does the customer want this? Why do we do things a certain way?” Having the answers to why gives you not only ownership, but a sense of professional purpose. When projects are too complex and opaque to understand, Codrin encourages team members to look for the right person to ask questions, until they gain a deeper understanding of its purpose. “If you don’t understand why you do something, and what is the purpose to which you are contributing, you’ll never like what you do.”

Own your job to own your purpose

10. In a changing world, your mindset is the constant

IT is an industry of permanent changes. One company rises, and three others fall. As systems get more and more complex, ownership gets distributed and it gets more and more difficult to understand who is in charge of what. The only way to navigate the continuously transforming landscape is to have this one constant mindset: total ownership.

In a changing world, your mindset is the constant

We’re supporting your race at your own pace. Choose yours!

Data Lake as an answer — The evolution, standards and future driving force

Data Lake as an answer — The evolution, standards and future driving force

Aleksander Bircakovic, Data Teach Lead @ Levi9

Designing a Data Lake: cloud or on-prem system?

Efficiency and scalability

Assessment of the current needs and prediction of potential growth can be a challenging task. When talking about on-prem system, it is necessary to assess the current needs as well as the potential growth in the upcoming period in order to put together a business justification for securing the funds.
On the other hand, Cloud Platforms usually charge for services based on used or reserved processing power and used storage, and with this billing model, they enable quick start of the journey towards an MVP solutions. As the complexity of requirements increases as well as the amount of data, the Cloud platform system can be easily scaled up. Storing data in the form of blobs is usually very cheap and practically unlimited. Database servers can be scaled as needed with the allocation of stronger instances, while processing power in the form of code packaged in containers or distributed systems that are terminated after the work is done is charged according to the used processing power and other resources. Tools like AWS Glue, Google DataFlow, AWS Cloud Functions etc. are just some of the options that offer those capabilities.

Data Catalog and service integration

Reliability, maintenance, and security

  • free disk space,
  • processor and memory allocation,
  • sharing of hardware resources with other applications (shared & noisy hardware) and users,
  • failure of one node in the cluster and redistribution of the topics to another or,
  • in a slightly more extreme case, the termination of the master node.

Cost optimization

AWS, GCP or Azure? Similar concepts, different skin

Data lake and lake-house

Data lake or data mesh? Technological or organizational dilemma?

Data lake layers

Solution as a service — Databricks


How to organize a hackathon to awe your customers and boost team morale

How to organize a hackathon to awe your customers and boost team morale

Hackathons can be fun and engaging activities for your team, as well as incredibly useful for the business of your customers. However, organizing a hackathon is not so straightforward. Organize it at the wrong moment, in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons and you might find yourself with a demotivated team and no valuable business results.

We compiled this easy hackathon organizing guide, taking you step by step through the decisions you face and the best strategy for making sure that both your team and the customer will have a smile on their faces at the end of it all. This guide is based on some of our recent customer hackathon experiences and it includes real-life examples.

Start with the why

“Hackathon” is a buzzword. It sounds good on a company website, it looks impressive on a customer report. But this is not reason enough to have one.

Hackathons are a great way to boost morale, engage the team in an interesting initiative and let the creativity flow. From the point of view of the customer, this activity might encourage creative development and bring value-adding features to its product or service. It’s a win-win!

Beware, though. If you just do it for the sake of the team, then your customers might not be on board and might not use any of the proof of concepts you showed them. This can prove extremely demotivating for the team and they might not be so excited about another hackathon the second time around. On the contrary, if it is only your customer who pushes for the hackathon, but the team is not enthusiastic, then organizing it will just create added pressure and stress.

How to organize a hackathon

Earlier this year, we organized a hackathon for a world-renowned transportation company, right after the first release of the driver app about which you can read more here. It was our customer who proposed that we organize it, with the dual purpose of relaxing the team, after a stressful period and encouraging creative development.

Time it correctly

Great! You have decided that a hackathon is just what you and your customer need… so when should you schedule it? Let’s start with when NOT to schedule it: before a release! As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid all the stressful periods during a project timeline. Otherwise, topping tight deadlines and delivery pressure with the obligation to think creatively for two days simply adds stress and is completely unproductive.

You should schedule the hackathon at a time when the team is not in “survival mode”, putting out fires left and right. It may be after a big release, or it may be during a period when you anticipate an ease in the issues that arise. Check the calendars, to make sure nobody is on holiday during that period. Make sure to agree on the timeline with the customer.

You should also leave a significant period of time to pass between the announcement and when the event actually takes place: aim for at least 3-4 months. This in-between time allows new ideas to rise to the surface, issues to brew, and new features to pop up in discussions between teammates or with the customer.

What about the duration? 1 or 2 days is the norm. Peak work and creativity cannot be sustained for long periods of time. Alternatively, if you just allocate a couple of hours for this fun activity, it’s not enough to come up with a useful result.

How to organize a hackathon

Collect ideas

If the hackathon is not very rushed, then your team has plenty of time to come up with ideas about what they want to do: maybe new features? A new UI? Implement a new technology? Don’t say no to anything just yet. You’ll do that at a later stage.

Both seniors and juniors can propose ideas. If you have a junior team that has never gone through a hackathon before, they might be uncomfortable proposing new and daring ideas. Don’t force them. The first hackathon will be a learning and calibrating experience, teaching them what to expect on similar occasions, what is feasible, how high can they dream, and how limited they are in implementation. The more senior members can set a good example and come up with ideas to be later presented to the whole team.

The customer might also have some ideas of their own. Maybe they’d like your team to tinkle with a new feature or to creatively solve an issue they noticed.

At this stage, all ideas are welcomed.

To keep track of them, you can do a brainstorming meeting or keep an open list.

Select the ideas

Take a look at that idea list. You will not be able to do all of them. But how to select what to work on?

First, use senior members to refine the list. As they have better exposure, they know what can be done. They have interacted with several frameworks and technologies and they already know if ideas such as a watch app, machine learning, or Siri are something that makes sense to be implemented for that particular project. They should also be more aware of the business value of each idea, keeping in mind that the end result is to add value to the customer’s business or service.

Second, validate the list with the product owner: does the customer have something they really want the team to be working on? Is there something they feel would be a complete waste of time? Third, take a team vote: what do they want to work on?

During one of our hackathons, we let our team members vote and decide who wants to do what. They were over-the-hills excited! Our final work order was a list of 2-3 topics per platform and everyone got their pick. No member of the team was forced to work on a topic they did not want.

How to organize a hackathon

Who pays for the hackathon?

Your team will work for several days straight on these ideas, so make sure you clearly know who is financially supporting this. Customer hackathons are usually part of the project management timeline and the project management budget. However, make sure this is very clear for both sides. As the hackathon might cost the customer some money, you might find yourself in the position of having to “sell” this idea to your customer. In this case, your clear “whys” from the first step will be very helpful.

How to organize a hackathon

The day of the hackathon

If your list was correctly put together, then everyone will eagerly await the hackathon. According to the list and the team members’ choice, they will normally be split into groups of two or one. A hackathon day is pretty much like an ordinary day, without all the meetings. Just make sure there’s plenty of food and coffee to go around.

End with a demo

This here is one of the hottest tips we can give you about organizing a hackathon: demo, demo, demo. End this intense, fun effort with a presentation. Each topic on your work list should have resulted in a tangible result that could be presented to the whole team and the customer. Have each group and/or person present his or her ideas in an engaging, visual manner for maximum impact on the customer: from new widgets to Siri voice activation — ideas only come to life if they are properly packaged.

Demos are more than simply impressing a customer. They are great tools for stepping into the shoes of the customer and understanding its needs and the business value of that particular feature or idea. More often than not, developers do not think about these criteria when they are working on something or making project decisions. Presenting something to a customer puts things in perspective and allows for a better understanding of the business expectations, needs and issues.

And one more thing: if the team is aware that they will be expected to deliver a demo at the end of the two days, they will go the extra mile.

Sometimes, the customer will ask you to do another demo, at a higher level. The more people in the audience, the better it is for the team.

Such was the case of our most recent hackathon. It ended with not one demo, but with several demos. As the first demo, inside the group, went very well, the Levi9 team was asked to make a demo at KY level.

How to organize a hackathon

How to measure success

How do you know if your hackathon was successful? Both parties of the hackathon should be quite pleased. Teams should feel more content with their work, after experiencing the immediate impact and reaction they got from the customer during and after the demo. The customers should be enthusiastic about some of the features that were presented and ask for implementation. Keep in mind that even if you fell in love with one of the new features, the customer still might not choose it: the business value will prevail in the final decision.

More often than not, you will know that your effort was successful once you hear this question from both the members of your team and the customer: “So when will we have another hackathon?”

How to organize a hackathon

We’re supporting your race at your own pace. Choose yours!

Giarte ITX 2022 results are in and 86% of our customer would recommend us!

We’re very proud to report that we’ve recently scored great results for the 11th year running in the 2022 Giarte ITX review.

As it turns out, customers rate us very highly when it comes to reliability, communication, skills, empathy, willingness, and openness. Not bad, huh?

This year’s theme was IT experience benchmark, and with our customer focus, it seemed like a match made in heaven!

Obviously, we’re thrilled with the news but we are never one to rest on our laurels. That’s why we’ll continue to strive forward and keep improving in all areas. That’s just who we are!

Three Big Outcomes For Us

There were several key points about our performance that we were particularly proud of.

1) Trust We achieved very high marks on Reliability and a stunning 86% of customers would also recommend us.

The average Levi9 trust score is above our peer group of service providers. This score is curated from trust indicators such as reliability, communication, competence, empathy, willingness, and openness.

2) Customer Focused Levi9 has scored a whopping 84% on the Customer Focused category.

Customer focus is the foundation of our work. We are proud this is recognised and valued by our customers.

3) Knowledgeable and Competencies We scored an 83% in the Knowledgeable and Competencies section, again an above-average score compared to our peer group.

At Levi9 We continuously invest in our people, offering them learning programmes and 360-degree mentorship opportunities where everyone can learn from everyone else. We also offer several online learning resources and certifications, as we believe learning never stops.

This year, 50 customers responded from our customer list, which is a vast majority and says a lot about our relationship with our customers. They are willing to participate and for that we are very grateful.

One of the main reasons for participating in Giarte´s ITX report is to benchmark how we’re performing internally and externally, so that everyone understands the real story behind our business.

To The Future

Levi9’s healthy development over the past years has been a testament to all the hard work from all our levi niners. Because we’ve placed our customers at the heart of our strategy, we´re even more responsive to our customers’ needs.

Overall, this very positive result reflects Levi9´s confidence and customer-centric philosophy. We can take pride in how our customers express their appreciation – which is testament to all levi niners who work with passion every day to deliver the best possible result.

We would also like to thank all our customers who have placed great trust in us and all our levi niners over the years. That is a massive compliment to us all!

A Bit About Giarte

Since 2002, Giarte Research has recorded customer organisations’ experiences of their IT service providers and currently works with around 42 service providers. They ask their customers all sorts of questions around collaboration, gain detailed insights and analysis on market position, and advise IT organisations on both the supply and demand side.

Bringing the tachograph’s simplicity back to drivers’ fingers with a transportation app

Bringing the tachograph’s simplicity back to drivers’ fingers with a transportation app

From the tachograph for trains in 1844 to fleet management solutions, the transportation industry was among the first to adopt modern safety measures for its beneficiaries. Our customer is definitely there to drive the shift, not only from a safety point of view but also from the technological point of view.

They approached us with the project to develop a tailored drivers’ app, with a friendly UX that gives the driver the features of a modern tachograph at the tips of the finger, for both users of Android and iOS.

Their old solution was a complex tool that suited everyone’s needs — administrative staff and drivers would access it alike. As such, a driver would stumble upon needless and distracting information. What they needed was a straightforward app, flexible enough to respond to drivers’ varied levels of tech-savviness and device types.

The Levi9 Approach

Levi9 saw the potential in this project and drew inspiration from the origin of all these safety systems, the tachograph. This instrument’s simplicity revolutionized the safety of transportation and inspired lawmakers to integrate it as a mandatory component, to prevent accidents. According to a large-scale international survey cited by the European Commission’s Road Safety Thematic Report – Fatigue ”between 20 and 25% of the car drivers indicated that, during the last month, they had driven at least once while they were so sleepy that they had trouble keeping their eyes open”. Components such as these ensure the long-time safety of drivers and the general public.

Tiberiu Grădinariu, who is a driver himself, took the wheel for this project. “I usually drive with my children in the car, so I try to be as careful as possible. However, my instinct is to drive fast and hurry, so my driving style is a mixture. Carefully in a hurry.

Tibi’s driving style reflected in the way he approached this project: a heightened attention for safety in the transportation app, as well as a drive to solve problems fast and in the most efficient way. This is what led him to a brave solution.

The multiplatform solution

Levi9 proposed a cross platform approach that optimizes the resources required to maintain the app long-term, both for Android and iOS. Before we tell you what we chose, here are the options we considered.

Levi9 The multiplatform solution

We chose the “new kid on the block”: the Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile. While quite fresh on the market, it brings advantages such as code sharing platform, access to all platform APIs, sharing of what makes sense, and a single logic codebase. When you add the simple maintenance and the ability to revert to native, you get a clean architecture and the ability to share as much common code as possible. According to KMM, over 50% of the participants in a survey share the following between platforms: networking, data serialization, data storage, internal utilities, algorithms and computations, data synchronization logic, and state management. The key benefit of KMM is having consistent logic between iOS and Android apps.

All good developers know that continuous learning and adapting is an important part of the job and this project helped us embrace a new technology that uses Kotlin and Swift. The iOS developers appreciated the challenges of becoming comfortable with Kotlin and Gradle and the KMM paradigm for accessing platform APIs and the Ktor and Koin libraries.

Most of the encountered technical challenges were on iOS and consisted of linking the share code library with the iOS project, Kotlin/Native concurrency, accessing local files in share code, debugging, and Kotlin concepts not available in Swift.

Result: A Cross-Platform Transportation App

Levi9 cross platform transportation app

Levi9 delivered a cross-platform app that has a high performance, a beautiful UX, and great functionality for the end user. The approach of the modern tachograph brings new functionality such as the day’s driving performance, distance and average speed, remaining driving time and when to stop driving, rest times, vehicle information such as fuel, reductant, and oil levels, the ability to create defect reports, and more.

To be continued: A hackathon for brave ideas

After the pilot release of the app, the team organized a hackathon. The context was suited for more experimentation and more courageous ideas.

Tiberiu Gradinariu Mobile Tech Lead Levi9

Thanks to our client’s enthusiasm and openness to new ideas, the transportation app will soon have some features developed during the hackathon.

Or as ideas for a second hackathon.

If you are curious how you can organize a hackathon for a client, with spectacular results, stay tuned — we’ll soon publish a guide based on our experience.

We’re supporting your race at your own pace. Choose yours!