Innovation beyond the Hackathon

Recently, we held our Automation Hackathon, where all Outware employees were given the opportunity to work on projects of their own choosing, with the theme of automating a solution to a problem. Using the skills and tools available in the team, we saw really creative and inspiring prototypes being produced over the course of just one working day. While this event was a great success, innovation doesn’t end when the hackathon is over.

The mistake that many companies make is thinking that innovation can be time-boxed to one-time events like the hackathon and hoping for immediate, tangible business benefits to simply happen. The truth is, hackathons are only one small part of an overall innovation strategy. So how do you get the most out of your hackathon? You need to think about the following questions:

What types of innovation are important to your company?
Innovation, at its broadest definition, is about change that adds value to your organisation. Depending on your company’s core business, different types of innovation will add different types of value:

  • Product Innovation – Do you need to improve on existing products and services in order to stay ahead of the competition and keep your customers happy?
  • Process Innovation – Do you need to increase efficiencies and reduce costs in your processes?
  • Disruptive Innovation – Do you want to disrupt the market with new products or categories that will change the way people do things?

There are many other types of innovation. Most importantly, think about how your business can benefit from change and how this change will be valuable over time. Once you know this, you can focus the theme of your hackathon around these types of innovation activities.

What is your innovation strategy and how does the hackathon fit into this?
Hackathons should always form part of your broader innovation strategy. You need to ensure you have a formal innovation process in place that your team understands so that ideas can be directed through the appropriate channels in your organisation. Danny recently wrote an article for BRW about how to encourage innovation in your organisation. It describes three important themes:

  • People – The right attitude and a feeling of empowerment can be very motivational in driving positive change
  • Process – Keep your innovation activities effective and efficient, and communicate clearly
  • Continuous learning – Nobody remains an expert forever. Develop your team’s skillset and keep feeding their curiosity

If you get the balance right, your team will naturally be motivated and enthusiastic when the hackathon comes around. More importantly, you need to ensure you are clear about the purpose of the hackathon. Is it a breeding ground for new ideas? Is it a time to implement ideas that have been brewing in the team? Is it an opportunity for team members to upskill or work on something different? Plan the hackathon activities around this to get the most value out of the time you have set aside for the event.

What happens after the hackathon?
The most important part of the hackathon is actually the follow through afterwards. Make sure you’ve established what your objectives were before the event, in order to measure your success afterwards. Some questions to ask are:

  • How did your team feel about the event? Get their feedback!
  • Which projects will you pursue further and why? How will you fund these?
  • Did you achieve your goals? What can you improve for next time?

This is also a good time to review your innovation strategy. Reflect on how the hackathon contributed towards your broader innovation goals to make sure that it’s adding value in the right ways.

Hackathons are a great way to develop creative solutions to problems, test new technologies, or prove a concept in a short amount of time. But how they are run is different for every company. Ensure you have clear objectives in mind, plan your event and follow through, to ensure the success of the event.

Outware Mobile publishes a weekly podcast, the OMPodcast, where we share our knowledge and talk to industry experts all about the mobile industry. A couple of episodes that might be of interest are:

  • Episode 19: Peter Dalton (Group General Manager of Innovation at ANZ) talks to us about the Art vs Science of Innovation in an 175 year old organisation like the bank.
  • Episode 13: Hugh Bradlow (Chief Scientist, formerly CTO at Telstra) describes Telstra’s innovation processes in 5G in 2020.

Automation Hackathon

On 19 September, Outware held an “Automation” themed hackathon. We asked the whole team to come up with innovative ways to use automation to solve problems. Individuals then pitched their ideas to the rest of the company and formed teams of up to 5 members, to develop a working prototype of the solution in the time-boxed period of just one working day.

Automation

The event was a great success and we saw working implementations of NFC, robotics, holograms and location-based technology being used in creative and new ways that are likely to see efficiency, process and product improvements across Outware as a company and in client projects. Watch a highlight video of the day.

Many thanks to our guest judges, Alessio Bresciani from Coles Financial Services and Stewart Gleadow from REA, for helping us choose the winning teams in each category:

  • Best Execution: OutwareX for their app-based guest sign-in service for the Outware office
  • Biggest Impact for Outware: The Librarians for their NFC-enabled check-in/out service for test devices
  • Most Innovative: YOLOgram for furthering progress towards a 3D hologram version of FaceTime
  • Hacker of the Day: Alice Smart for demonstrating the Outware values of collaboration, innovation and continuous learning throughout the day in her leadership role on team OutwareX

Congratulations to the teams above for their great work and well done to everyone who participated on the day. We are incredibly proud of the enthusiasm, teamwork and creativity that was demonstrated on the day. But the hackathon doesn’t end there.

Hackathons are a great way to develop creative solutions to problems, test new technologies, or prove a concept in a short amount of time. While they’re fun and effective, they form just one small part of the innovation strategy here at Outware. Innovation is a part of our everyday work. We have both formal processes and cultural initiatives in place to ensure that ideas that come out of events like the hackathon are nurtured through a defined process and can be followed through where practical.

Danny recently wrote an article for BRW about how people, process and continuous learning are crucial to innovation success in business.

We are keen to find partners and sponsors to run themed hackathons and work on innovation initiatives together. If you are interested, or would like to learn more, please contact us.

Outware Turns Five

Outwareteam

Outware Mobile celebrated its 5th birthday in September. To say that it’s been an exciting journey is an understatement. We are incredibly proud of our team’s achievements, and our work with our partners and clients. Some highlights include:

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this journey. We look forward to the next five years of working together!

OMPodcast – Product Development from Conception to Delivery

outware-alessio-bresciani

With Coles Mobile Wallet winning yet another award, we thought it would be a good time to revisit a podcast we did a few weeks ago.

The process of developing a complex business app from conception to delivery is no simple task. Alessio Bresciani, Senior Digital Strategist and Channel Manager at Coles Financial Services joins Keith Smyth (Android Team Lead), Pete Talbot (Visual Design Lead) and Danny Gorog (Director/Co-founder) to take us through the key principles for delivering a successful mobile app, using the Coles Mobile Wallet as an example. The panel discuss the product development process, mobile payments using paytag, contactless payments, and how mobile is changing the way we prove our identity.

Coles Mobile Wallet is the winner of the 2014 Australian Mobile & App Design Awards (Financial Information & Tools) and the 2014 W³ Silver Award for Mobile Applications (Services).

Episode 22 of the OMPodcast is available from – iTunesdirect feed, or direct download.

Outware Apps Win W3 Awards

w3winner_gold_blkWe are pleased to announce that four apps developed by Outware have won the international 2014 W³ Awards:

The W³ honours creative excellence on the web, and recognises the creative and marketing professionals behind award winning apps, sites, videos and marketing programs. The W³ is an international award, and is sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA). Well done to the teams and our clients who worked on these projects.

The OMPodcast – The Swifts

om-podcast

Episode 26 of the OMPodcast is now available for download from iTunes, via direct feed, or direct download (audio file).

In this timely episode, the crew talk swiftly about the ins and outs of Swift from the developer’s perspective. Keith Smyth (Android Team Lead) is outnumbered by three iOS developers, Doug Togno, Bjorn Ho and Daniel Lawrence, to wax lyrical about compile time checking, dynamic types and why square brackets have spawned a love that we all thought could never exist.

If you like what you hear, please review us on iTunes!

Outware in SmartCompany’s Smart50 Awards 2014

Smart50

We are pleased to announce that Outware placed 8th in the Smart50 Awards last night.

SmartCompany’s Smart50 awards recognise and celebrate Australia’s fastest growing SMEs in 2013-2014.

Over the past 12 months, we have experienced incredible growth in our business as well as our team. We’re excited to be part of such a fast-changing industry, where innovation and creativity are a daily part of our work. We look forward to what the future has in store for the mobile space and will work hard with our team and with our clients to remain lean and efficient as we continue to grow.

The OMPodcast – Classrooms in the Cloud

Keith & Matt Witherow

Education is changing. Not only do the things we learn need to change, but the way we learn needs to change.

In the latest episode of the OMPodcast, Keith Smyth  (Android Team Lead) talks to Professor Beverley Oliver (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education) from Deakin University, Matt Witherow (Final year software engineering student/Android developer/Course leader and head tutor of mobile development) from RMIT, and Michael Dalic (Business Development Manager and part-time Masters student), about their views on the role of mobile in education.

The panel discuss everything from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to Digital Badging. We learn about how universities are addressing the need for change and issue of access, the impact of large enterprise systems on an institution’s ability to adapt to new technologies, and why software engineering should be a core subject at school.

Episode 25 of the OMPodcast is available for download from iTunes, via direct feed, or direct download (audio file).

The OMPodcast Special Episode: New Apples!

Danny, Kelly & Doug

The latest episode of the OMPodcast is now available for download – Subscribe via iTunesdirect feed, or download the audio file.

In this special edition of the OMPodcast, Danny Gorog (Director/Co-founder), Doug Togno (iOS Developer) and Kelly Jennings (UX/BA) give their first impressions of Apple’s recent announcement of the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. With the choice of multiple screen sizes and tailored watch models, Apple fans are given an unprecedented amount of choice this year. The crew also discuss how NFC and Apple Pay will change the game in mobile.

This episode is a quick wrap on what will have a significant impact on the industry. Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to learning more together with our clients and partners and bringing real world applications of these exciting devices to life.

Now, the biggest question seems to be: which screen size to choose?

If you like what you hear, please review us on iTunes!

Outware at YOW! Connected 2014

YOW team

YOW! Connected 2014 is a two day conference for developers focused on the world of mobile development and the Internet of Things (IoT). Outware is a strong supporter of YOW! and the wider development community in Australia. As a Gold Sponsor, we were very excited to have three speakers at the conference:

Pece Nikolovski – Working in the Android ecosystem – handling the vast array of versions and devices

Branko Minic – The Android winds of change: Kit-Kat to L, and the power of saving power

Pete Talbot – Resolution Revolution: Designing for every screen

Well done to Pece, Branko and Pete, the YOW event organisers and all the other great speakers over the last two days. We’re proud to be part of a community that shares its knowledge and is invested in continuous learning and development.