What do you get when you put together a team of colleagues passionate about mobile, our users, and the digital industry? A winning hackathon team, that’s what!
In December 2014, the National Australia Bank (NAB) held an innovation weekend (iDay), whereby companies were invited to join a two day hackathon. NAB held the hackathon with the aim of gaining innovative ideas to service their health and agribusiness industries, both for their clients and internal NAB industry staff.
Prior to the hackathon, we were told only of the industries that we could develop the product for, and an initial API briefing (but without access to the API itself). We did some research prior to the event, including looking at the two industries, NAB’s involvement, and the more or less NAB campaign, which featured as a criteria selection point for the solution. Being a mobile design and development company, we knew that we were going to design and build an app; and with the development team that we assembled, we knew it was going to be an iOS app.
We researched in the industries the apps available in the App Store, apps that had received awards, that were known for their innovation and interesting functionality. We decided to focus on the agribusiness industry, due to the ability to help in the digitisation of this industry, and bringing remote farmers and their NAB Business Managers closer together through technology.
(Photo: The team at Outware the day after the hackathon. L-R: Kelly Jennings, Michael Loo, Hadi Badjian, Jinju Jang.)
We pulled together a team from Outware that was cross-discipline, enabling us to utilise different skills to create a well thought-out, designed and developed app. Our team was made up of:
Half-way through the first day, we came up with a team name which was a combination of functionality of the app, the industry we chose to work on in the hackathon, and the product we were creating. With a combination of data mining (functionality), crops and agriculture (industry) and software (product) we came up with Minecroft!
Day One – Research and idea formation
We spent the morning of the first day doing a fair bit of research, looking into real customer insights that had been collected for the hackathon, looking at industry reports, and talking to the Agribusiness NAB employees about their insights. We started seeing a pattern in terms of pain points experienced by both clients and internal staff, and what was on the wishlist for what could make doing business between these parties easier.
Our idea revolved around data visualisation and forecasting results in order to help share knowledge and provide farmers with more information when making financial decisions.
Our idea was to overlay personal (farmer’s) data over industry benchmarking data, in a visually appealing way. We also included functionality to help with forecasting, based on previous expenses and income data from a farmer, and forecasted market prices and rainfall. From this, the farmers could determine farm inefficiencies and calculate production amounts required for the coming year to achieve their financial targets and pay off their NAB loan and/or apply for a loan. This was about giving the farmer access to more knowledge to assist them in making big financial decisions.
Setting up the environment, going through the API, and workshopping the screens
Due to time constraints, we developed an app for iPhone (iPad would have been great, but would have been a longer development time). Whilst the development environment was being set up, we were given access to the NAB API. This access came at midday, which was when we could determine the data that we could surface and play with. We were really able to start exploring what we could get the app to do, and how it might look for our users. We workshopped the screens and functionality, before separating off to work on the dev environment, wireframes and user interface.
In true hackathon style, we pulled apart our idea at 6pm, and went over all of the information that we had collected earlier. Something wasn’t quite right, and we worked on refining one of the screens until we were really happy with it and knew that our idea was at a pretty good state. We then finished up the night before midnight and made sure we were rested for the next day.
Day Two – user interface design, functionality, and presenting
The second day was spent on designing the user interface and developing the functionality, whereby we were able to draw from seven of the NAB APIs to bring the data alive in our app. We also worked on our final pitch, ensuring that the solution met all of the criteria outlined at the start of the hackathon, and addressing how we met all of the points. It was a crazy busy morning and early afternoon, before we had to put our tools down at 2pm.
(Photo: We presented our app via a simulator to show how it worked and looked, while talking through how the app worked and met the hackathon criteria.)
From 2pm, all of the 15 teams pitched their ideas in four minute timeslots to not only the judges, but all of the competing teams as well. It was great seeing all of the ideas that the others had worked on, and the potential for how the NAB API could be used to better serve their customers as well as being used internally with their staff.
(Photo: A big novelty cheque is always fun! We were presented our cheque from NAB and Intel, one of the event’s sponsors.)
I’m excited to say that our research and co-design sessions really paid off – we took home the top prize of $10,000 for the agribusiness sector! The judges told us that we really listened to the pain points and what the industry could benefit from, and our use of the APIs in creating our solution. Hackathons aren’t just about showing off your capabilities – they are about listening to the problem, and working out how it could be solved using an innovative solution. They also aren’t just for developers – a real mixture of skills is needed to be able to pull together a well-rounded solution! It was a really well-run event and we all had a great time meeting all of the hackers and support staff – bring on the next one!
Credit where credit is due
Photos of us presenting and being presented the cheque: Bradley Clayton
Twitter: You can check out the fun and hype on Twitter using @NAB #nabapi #iDay #hackathon #nabiday