Every company with a network connection has a strategy around leveraging digital technology. The goals are many: to evolve and remain relevant in a changing business environment, to create better customer offerings and experiences, and to forge ahead into emerging markets, to name just a few.
Digital transformation in practice
These are important objectives, but what does a digital transformation look like in practice? And how do you motivate and unite your employees to come along for the ride – especially when they’re dispersed across the globe?
This was the challenge facing DNV GL’s software teams. More questions started to arise such as:
- As we transform our software products into the cloud and move to a hybrid business model, what new ways of working will be necessary?
- How can we motivate people to shake up their habits, and adopt new tools at the critical mass needed to make them effective?
- And when we do bring people together in virtual teams, enabling them to collaborate in a way that’s never before been possible, what untapped potential could we unleash?
Our solution: the ultimate 48-hour global hackathon
While gathering developers together to hack out a solution to a challenge is nothing new, the sheer scale of this event was something different: an open invitation to more than 400 colleagues across 25 locations worldwide, spanning across developers, testers, product management, UX, support, managers, HR and finance. We wanted to bring people together whose paths would never otherwise cross in new constellations, learning from each other’s expertise and ultimately sparking innovation.
Not only was this new for us, a hackathon of this scale and spread had never been seen by our experienced digital partner – Microsoft.
“Your global software ecosystem hackathon is the most impressive and inspiring event I have attended for a long time,” said Nina Due, Intelligent Cloud Global Specialist Lead at Microsoft. “So many participants in so many locations across the globe hacking solutions for you and your customers – amazing experience!”
The anatomy of a hackathon
Anyone with a technical or business development idea was encouraged to pitch it on a digital ideas board, under more than a dozen ‘tracks’ such as Business development & new revenue, Adopting new channels, Improving user experience, Machine learning / artificial intelligence / cognitive services, Virtual & augmented reality, Internet of Things/ live data, Security and more.
Participants then reviewed the ideas and chose which challenge they wished to work on, self-selecting into teams that spanned time zones, offices, departments and units. Teams planned for the event, figuring out how they were going to overcome potential obstacles to work together.
Once the hackathon kicked off, teams had 48 hours to develop and prove their idea. Microsoft held tech talks and provided valuable access to experts. Teams submitted their innovation in a 5-10 minute video presentation to a cross-disciplinary judging panel consisting of key people from DNV GL and an expert from Microsoft. The ideas were evaluated on criteria including how innovative the solution was, whether it would lead to new revenue, how well it used state-of-the-art technology, whether the solution had been developed through collaboration across software, the new skills and deeper understanding participants had developed, and whether it would help speed up our digital transformation and migration to the cloud.
“In the end, around 220 people across 18 locations worldwide participated, submitting 122 ideas. This resulted in around 50 teams submitting their final video presentations. 40% of people took the opportunity to work on a challenge with people outside their unit”, says Vibeke Fantoft, Project Manager for the global hackathon.
“In general, we see that ideation, scope and hack workshops unleash innovation and creativity in an organization because business problem owners and tech savvy individuals meet in a facilitated and inspiring environment,” said Nina. “However, this hackathon was unique because of its global set-up using the ideation board and [Microsoft] Teams channels for collaboration. It demonstrated that hackathons can be done truly virtually.”
Competition was stiff, but the judging panel managed to narrow down the entries to a winner in each track, as well as an overall top three.
Third place went to team ‘Customer Journey to our ecosystem’, which developed a new user-friendly platform for collaboration and advanced analytics, allowing customers to access DNV GL’s software products and cloud services in a new way. It enables easy access where users can have personalized dashboards, and seamless collaboration and sharing of analytics.
The runner up, team ‘OneCompute the Python Way’, created a new managed service for orchestration of large-scale computations from multiple solvers. Analyses that used to take days or even a week to run can now be done in a few hours. By using our new compute service, designers can iterate faster, in more detail, and incorporate the computations into their own workflows.
Our overall winner developed a new cloud service called ‘Subsea release modelling Software as a Service (SaaS)’, building three new application programming interfaces (APIs) in just 48 hours. The team used our new gateway architecture, which ensures secure access to our cloud services and APIs. The team will keep working with experts from Microsoft to take their new SaaS services to market.
A gamechanger in how we work with customers and cross teams
The outcome of the global hackathon was greater than merely generating innovation. “Through this hackathon, we made the ‘digital transformation’ a real and tangible thing for our people,” says Elling Rishoff, Director of DNV GL’s software business. “It’s turned out to be a gamechanger in how we work across teams, offices and timezones. Using the hackathon tools and ways of working, such as Microsoft Teams and digital ideas boards, we can collaborate and innovate much faster and achieve more. “It has also enabled a ‘learn it all’ culture where we’ve connected people across disciplines and geographies, building our collective knowledge base.”
The next steps: we incorporate the insights gained from this event into our roadmaps, we arrange hackathons with customers, and we continue to develop competence and drive the culture change. We also plan to run a new global hackathon in 2020.