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Following on from our post on Robotics Processing Automation (RBA), we take a look at digital hackathons, and what they entail.

What is a Hackathon?

A hackathon, also known as a codefest, is a social coding event that brings computer programmers and other interested people together to improve upon or build a new software programme. The Digital Hackathon is similar in concept to an ordinary hackathon, but focuses on using digital technology, such as chatbots, task bots, machine learning and artificial intelligence to solve business problems

This was the concept:

  1. Instead of giving a group of developers a key business/world issue to solve, we would create teams which represent various areas of the business; IT, big data, automation, solutions, analysis and design, process improvement, customer care/client-facing consultants and business leadership.
  2. We then build 2 – 3 teams, including Vodacom & TechM resources, and present them with 2 – 3 features which we look to solve for over the 5 days.
  3. As an Agile practice, the hackathon would run a 5-day sprint, with a sprint planning session, daily stand-ups, code reviews, daily demos and end off the week with an end to end demo and retrospective.
  4. We create Proof of Concept design: Removing all the complexity, teams are encouraged to build for the best customer experience and operational efficiency. They build for the ideal design, and not for any exceptions. We note the exceptions and workarounds, but we do not limit the design thinking and encourage an optimal and simplified future state design.
  5. Demo’s are vital to client interaction, so at midday and at end of day, we create a demo, even if broken or piecemealed, and everyone (audience included) are informed that our demo sessions are safe space to fail and learn fast, so this is a respected practice.
  6. As leads, we split some functions. Ashish guides the technical solution thinking and Julian will lead the design and business architecture thinking. Together they ensure the rhythm is maintained and prepare the teams to deliver a solid business case and demo.

The results were as follows:

Jointly with customer operations leadership, we have conducted two digital hackathons to date and have had overwhelming success and great feedback from all our stakeholders. To boast some results, in a day digital hackathon, we:

  • Hack c.3 features which equates to 20-25 user stories, with 60-80 subtasks
  • Run c. 7 mini-sprints, for 2-3 teams of about 6 -8 people per team
  • We build microservices, big data engines, bots, eforms, chats, unified desktops, and use as necessary in our design
  • Significantly decrease process steps, number of clicks, average handling time, end to end ageing, handovers between teams

This is what we have learned and doing differently going forward

  1. The collaboration demonstrates the power of working together  and getting everyone involved across various divisions
  2. Building proof of concepts rapidly increase our speed of delivery
  3. Removing the exceptions and building simply allows teams the freedom of using their skills and knowledge creatively and building optimal design
  4. Frequent demoing and build interaction allows the business units that we service to see, feel and experience the build every single step of the way, making them more invested in the process.
  5. Complete proof of concept/prototype builds means that when we take it into a sprint, we can build for the exceptions that matter, work on operationalising and testing till we are ready to deploy. The challenges with building, designing and engaging the customer have all been overcome in the digital hackathon.

 So, what's next? We grow! We are planning a bigger digital hackathon and we’ll share our experience as we go along.

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