BIT by BIT: Organizing a Hackathon to Launch Digital Transformation
About a year ago, OutSystems CEO Paulo Rosado said we were witnessing a turning point in the market, where demands for digital transformation were at the epicenter. A year later, the digital Darwinism is settled. But in this case, the survivors are not the strongest. Instead, they are those best able to adapt to change.
Of course, prioritizing agility is easier said—in this case, written—than done. Whether you’re a CIO, an IT manager, or developer, you’ve probably heard “that’s not a priority” or “we don’t have the right tools, skills, or even time to do that” all too often.
Sonae is a Portuguese-based multinational company that manages a diversified portfolio of business with a major focus on retail. The company was facing this problem. Their specific challenges? The growth in popularity of disruptive players—the so-called discounters—and a focus on well-being and healthier habits, new regulations, and the demand to go online. But a lack of resources was holding things up. So, Sonae knew there was only one thing to be done: organize a hackathon.
A Hackathon? Seriously?
Yes. Despite almost 60 years of experience in the market, Sonae knew that to gain a competitive advantage over new players, it needed to innovate. And what better way to brainstorm than gathering the people who know the business pains best and the people with skills to bring the solutions to life?
That’s exactly what BIT, the information systems area of Sonae, did. Sonae gathered 15 teams, formed from their tech and non-tech professionals, including business analysts, HR professionals, and product managers, as well as engineering students, and issued a challenge. Their mission? Come up with an innovative idea to take retail to a whole other level—in less than 24 hours.
BIT’s goal was simple. They wanted to give the time and tools to business and tech people who could present board members with ideas to make Sonae stores faster and more efficient. Ideas that would hardly be a priority due to the scarcity of resources, but that could truly impact customer and employee experiences.
At the end of 24 hours, the teams presented 15 brand new web and mobile apps, most of them ready to be used, to a jury.
And the Winner Is…
After a long day and night, it was time for the demo. The competition was so tight that not one, but two teams were named winners. One developed a mobile scratch card app. The other, a mobile app that allows users to transfer money from the stored-value card to charity organizations.
But how was a period of only 24 hours enough for teams with no development background to build fully functional mobile apps? The secret was in the tool. All participants were invited to attend a one-day course to learn how to use a low-code platform (yes, you read that right, one day).
Though not mandatory, all teams used the OutSystems low-code platform. The visual language allowed people with no coding experience, but with great ideas for business, to bring their apps to life. On the other hand, the techies were able to speed their development times by removing the complexity of coding. They were then able to use more time to focus on the idea and its benefits to the end-user.
I was one of the jury members for this hackathon. And, I can say that the cool thing about it is that it empowers people who have ideas, but who usually don’t code, with a tool that allows them to execute those ideas and showcase them to the leadership, in less than 24 hours. It’s a true win-win situation.