Before we look into the topic why hackathons are important for lean enterprises, let me explain the concept of a Yonder hackathon first.
Well, it is one and a half day in which together with your assigned team you focus solely on solving your particular challenge. Yonder hackathons are different from traditional hackathons which are about spontaneous creativity and innovation. At Yonder, we prepare the projects upfront, and our hackathon is an out of bound event allowing your organization to run experiments.
VMS companies can no longer afford to pour huge amounts of money into R&D. Those days are gone, but the need for creation and innovation are not. So what do you do, if you need to create more value but have fewer resources to do so? You have to become lean and make sure that your resources are spent wisely and efficiently. One way to do this is to ensure that you are spending your resources where they can actually have an impact. How do you figure out what makes an impact? If you evolve an idea/product/add-on constantly in small increments trying to disprove the assumptions behind it at every step. And if somehow you can’t, it probably means that you are onto something!
In the past, many of the projects were about building prototypes for applications, often mobile apps. These prototypes or actual applications were used to gain a further understanding of how the application should look and behave. Plus, to get your SIG or GVG group together more easily and to ultimately find launching customers that could co-fund the actual product. A picture is worth more than a thousand words, and we can hook you up with UX designers to build those application mockups. But why not take it a step further and build a clickable prototype that mimics the anticipated solution?
You also need to focus on your future revenue stream. I believe that you are close to your customers and understand exactly what their software needs and desires are in the long run (the third horizon). But it’s more about the things your customers do not know themselves yet that they need or desire. Evaluating new developments and innovations in technologies and seeing how these could be applied in your vertical market enables you to create your future revenue stream. But in this context, it is a sort of numbers game: you need to run a certain amount of experiments to find a fine gold vein that can potentially become your future competitive advantage.
Some of the projects of the past hackathons were about exploring these new developments like experimenting with machine learning, seeing if you can use public solutions to collect data automatically based on pictures or categorize that data. We have also run experiments with conversational interfaces, connecting backend APIs to smart assistants like Amazon Alexa allowing humans to interact with your services using natural language. Taking it a step further than the now traditional smart assistants, there is quite a development trend in using chatbots to automate processes. Following the model of Slack, why not build upon your chat functionality features allowing your users to interact with your solutions directly from a chat-based conversation. Imagine the applicability of such a feature: from support to actual business and process automation. There are many innovations like blockchain that could potentially bring value to your product. If you don’t fully understand these new technologies or the applicability in your vertical market, we will be more than pleased in looking into these and helping you explore the possibilities.
Sometimes your business faces a complex problem that requires a complex solution. In any complex solution, there are technical risks that can have a major impact on the success, either regarding budget (time & material) or further complexity and feasibility. Before committing to any technical solution, it is a good practice to run a proof of concept or experiment to validate that there is no unknown or unforeseen technical risk hidden down the road. Next to the validation, it also worth ensuring that the technical risks are well addressed and that the anticipated solution works. And taking these preemptive steps before committing any serious resources. We have had teams working on such technical challenges as well during the hackathons. Teams that were running experiments trying to extract microservices from monolith applications to understand the complexities and challenges of the tasks. Trying to build APIs on top of legacy technology and applications to see if you can enable modernizations on top of them. And also some more challenging technical problems that were very specific to the customers and problems they had.
Traditionally hackathons are run by a company’s internal staff. This is a good idea that has many benefits including team dynamics and organizational culture. However, the opposite is true as well. It is good to break loose from the traditional approach and get a fresh look with a completely different team from a different organization. Yonder is an excellent choice for an external hackathon team. First and foremost, because of the quick learning cycle that we as an organization are used to, as we work for many different companies. Working on so many projects and even implementing the same type of applications many times allows us to learn the best approaches quickly and refine them. By working with teams that went through all these evolutionary refinements, you get the chance to benefit from our learnings. It is a tremendous advantage to know which approaches, frameworks and architectures deliver the highest value for the buck. Furthermore, Yonder professionals are young, energetic and as said very experienced. Yet they are still young enough to be very involved in the life of a city centered around the best universities of Romania.
22 – 24 June, Cluj Napoca, Romania