How does a company innovate and expand their offerings if they are constantly on the driving edge of technology? That was exactly the issue that solutions provider Britehouse faced.
Britehouse delivers SAP, Microsoft, Mobile and Social Business Process Solutions, and invests in companies with specific business software application skill and delivery track records.
The company is a Dimension Data company, and has a number of entities under its control, such as Firestring, 3fifteen and Auto-Mate.
Thinking outside of the proverbial box, Britehouse decided to host a military-themed internal hackathon, to encourage its staff members to collaborate across all divisions and come up with new strategies, applications and solutions to drive to business.
“The hackathon came at the right time. We thought of how you join the businesses in the group with one vision. All the companies have different personalities, but we positioned it to meet our objectives. For the hackathon we had three key points: collaborate, inspire and innovation,” explained Rudy Gopaul, Britehouse’s Chief Technology Officer.
Through a series of in-house advertisements and video teaser trailers, Gopaul and his team enticed Britehouse employees to participate in the company’s first-ever hackathon.
“We created a focus from a group perspective, where people will be tasked to look at solutions that we can push back into the various businesses, and the hackathon is where we got everyone involved. The solutions that came from it is not only relevant now, but also in the future,” he explained. “People don’t think outside the box, and we wanted them to think differently.”
Gopaul said that the fundamental element for the Britehouse hackathon was to get employees to move away from their comfort zone and collaborate with other employees who they might not come into contact with on a daily basis.
“We wanted to attract right talent to the right groups. Not to create just code, but everybody to think about different things for collaboration and innovation.”
Just to sweeten the deal and inspire the creative juices, the company also took the decision to incentivise the winners of the best solution – 25% of the profit for the next two years. “We had a number of prizes for the competing teams, and people even took it so far as to have secret meeting, and formed their own teams.”
The various teams consisted of member and mentors, who helped them with the business aspects of selling, marketing and advice. Gopaul explained that since the planning stages took part during employees’ off-time, they didn’t have to build an entire product, just as long as they could present it.
But the main hackathon, relaying on all the planning, late nights and sweat, took place over a 22-hour period on 1 November at Turbine Hall in Johannesburg – continuing with the military theme. “At the main hackathon, most teams put their stuff together and only had to present – that is how much effort they put into it. We had a very good result.”
To determine the winner of the hackathon on the day, the theme shifted from military to that of the popular television series Dragon’s Den. The teams had to pitch their solutions and ideas to a panel of judges, who voted on their favourite.
“The judging was like the Dragon’s Den TV show. For the judges, the team’s execution plan was very important, so from on investment point, it was crucial,” explained Gopaul.
Gopaul added that all sorts of applications and solutions came to the fore, which included CSI platform tools, Big Data tools, Mobile customer interactive platforms, and even widget driven tools on a tablet for Business Intelligence.
But as with any competition, there can only be one winner, which was ACE. The team produced their Automotive Telematics Mobile, which is a telemetry tool for vehicles. While ACE were the winners on the day, there are a number of other solutions that Gopaul and the management team would like to investigate further.
“We saw about five or six products that we would like to know more about it. As part of the competition, we told the teams that we are going to run a due-diligence on every product, and will be looking at all of them to see who we can invest in.”
While the hackathon helped Britehouse identify up-and-going stars as well as new solutions that they could be providing to clients, the company has expansion plans of its own.
“We are definitely looking at expanding the business further into Africa, such as Kenya. We are looking at it from a group perspective, and we’ll get more value out of it. Africa and Middle East are definitely on our radar for the next four years.” Gopaul added.
With the hackathon an overwhelming success and Britehouse looking to expand further, Gopaul is excited for the future. “It’s amazing to be part of an organisation that it forward-thinking, and we try to be a spear-head in the market.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor