Hackathon Success

I’ve written about how Hackathons are a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation which includes various approaches I’ve adopted. I’ve captured how I’ve used my adventures helping customers adopt some of those approaches to good effect and to disrupt their innovation efforts.


This little adventure overview is about the Hackathons I’ve participated in where I won.

Other than observing and practising with others, I’m a pretty keen participant.

The first time I won was at Microsoft the first time I was there (I left for a short while before returning). It wasn’t actually a win in a Hackathon but the Science Fair they often run alongside them.

This was alongside the first global Hackathon run by Microsoft in 2014 which was the brainchild of Satya Nadella who had just become CEO. Take a look at the scale of them now in this great overview of the 2018 event in which I also won (more on that later): This is not your father’s Microsoft.

SuccessGo

So back to 2014 when I won at the local Science Fair in the UK which was a part of the global hackathon. Three of us took part and we developed an app for customer success managers (CSM’s). We called it SuccessGo because it was a mobile app for CSM’s on the go.

Built on Dynamics, it focused on allowing CSM’s to capture success events, that is, interactions with or by customers that might have an impact on usage and could be mapped against a usage report, explained here. It also covered success stories that could be shared on Yammer. The purpose was to share learning of what led to successes as well as have a searchable database. Check out a demo of the app at left. This has to a large part been built into current applications.

Journey

Last year I participated with two other colleagues and we submitted a separate hack in a local two day Hackathon in the UK and won. That allowed us to go on to participate in the global one week Hackathon in Seattle later in the year – the feature image of this post is from one of the main tents.

There we came second amongst the hacks submitted in our category out of over 23000 hackers worldwide that submitted over 5000 hacks. Although three of us formally worked on and submitted the hack, we had upwards of 15 involved at any time and many more in Microsoft interested and supporting us.

The idea for all this started before I left Microsoft and I took it back up upon returning. I wrote a post on LinkedIn detailing its origins on a piece of work with a customer. We called it Journey and here is a video with a demo of what was submitted and won. Hit the button below to find out more about the concept and how we are trying to take it further.

After hitting the button, please vote in the poll you’ll find there and then share that page 🙏 🙇‍♂️

Thought Leadership

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After dissolving the business I had started (more on that here: Birth of Enterprise Social) I continued using the brand to create a platform for thought leadership. I originally had some thoughts around thought leadership (funny that :) in an enterprise environment but decided to put it into practice for myself – see diagram for some quick notes on my thinking.

Essentially a blogging platform which I made available to a group of contributors and thought leaders. Mostly they were friends or colleagues who I knew were good writers and extremely knowledgable on the subject of enterprise social which we were all in at the time, i.e. social networking, innovation and collaboration in the enterprise.

I’ve added this project to the technology solutions category but it was much more than just about technology. We wrote about change management, culture, methodologies, etc. All of the things that make for the real success behind social technology adoption and implementation within the enterprise.

The platform I created was based on WordPress using a multi-author magazine site theme. The video shows different elements of the site:

  • Home page with aggregated content including featured and recent content filtered by category
  • A page to show authors / contributors and a sign up page if you wanted to become one
  • A landing page promoting specific events and activities linked to from an ad in the side bar of the site
  • A page with aggregated videos integrated from YouTube with automated updates every time you added videos to a playlist
  • WordPress admin view with calendar plugin to manage post scheduling and author contributions

Collaborative Workplaces

I’ve worked on several software product development, implementation and support projects (owned many too from a company owner point of view – more on that here: Birth of Enterprise Social). A lot of them have centred around supporting collaborative workspaces. That is to say the use of social technology platforms to facilitate collaboration, content creation and sharing.

As covered in the link page above, these were often based on either Confluence, the third party tool my company resold, customised and supported, or the platform we built ourselves and did the same for.

The link above has a lot of screenshots of some of the work we did for various customers based on either platform. Below you can see some screencasts of work we did for three customers based on Crowdflo, our own platform. In all cases they were extranets, that is to say, externally accessible web based collaboration platforms. They were used by the customer to support their enterprise customers in turn and provide a space for them to create profiles and connect with co-customers.

In all cases my company not only provided the platforms but also the training and support for our customers to support their customers in adopting the platforms.

Crowdsourced Innovation

I’ve worked on several software product development, implementation and support projects (owned many too from a company owner point of view – more on that here: Birth of Enterprise Social). A lot of them have centred around supporting innovation. I’ve even helped with the selection of solutions in this space – more on that here: Technology Selection

I have always believed the invention of new products or services can be a solitary exercise but the diffusion of innovation must be collaborative.

Starting with ideas and moving those forward through multiple iterations, with lots of collaborative input using a technology platform, is one way of supporting that.

Below are the examples of products I have lead and owned the development, implementation and support of based on different platforms.

Confluence idea management solution

Confluence as mentioned, was an enterprise wiki platform and now content collaboration software for modern team work. It was being used by many of my customers as an intranet. It would quite spontaneously be used for logging and tracking ideas but this was not good enough for many organisations. It lacked any specific and intentional, structured way of driving ideas through to conclusion. In the company I ran we developed a custom solution on the back of Confluence that allowed our customers to do just that – see screencast below.

Crowdflo idea management solution

Once we developed our own software platform (covered here) that was also used for generic intranet and extranet work, we looked to replicate the idea management approach we had taken with Confluence. We decided to extend it a little further than just idea management but also provide the means to manage projects that were the result of ideas chosen for implementation. More in the screencast below.

 

Birth of Enterprise Social

I started my own business in 2006 called Netociety first and then eventually renamed it to Socialwrks. I ran it for about 6 years. Initially the business was based on the back of Confluence.

Confluence started out as an enterprise wiki. A platform developed by Atlassian at the beginning of the enterprise social movement that has gone on to become so much more. It is still billed as content collaboration software for modern team work.

As an individual I resold Confluence for a few years and helped large enterprise customers implement the platform into their own environments. I helped them with launching the platform, early stage adoption and then value creation. This was the beginning of my work in and on customer success.

I soon realised the need customers had for custom/bespoke solutions from a functionality as well as design point of view.

I went on to build and run a team of designers, developers and customer success managers. We would customise the platform and extend its functionality through plugins. We also did a lot custom design work. These were mostly around social intranets and idea management platforms.

The company grew to a team of around 12 at its height and the management team grew into a team of four that managed to secure some government grants and early stage investment with some of the angel investors becoming owners/advisors.

At some stage we decided to develop our own product called Crowdflo. This was equivalent to Confluence in many ways but leveraged newer Java technologies and approaches to make the building of custom forms and structures easier. This provided added flexibility in building enterprise social platforms we could create and run for customers. It also got us into the nascent SaaS space. We ran our platform and customer instances on Amazon’s AWS hosting environment.

The business dissolved in 2012 and not in a good way but I learned a great deal from that too. Like the importance of choosing the right partners and how to structure your business right from the beginning. I mean structure from a shareholding point of view. I went on to join another startup (Yammer, the Enterprise Social Network) to help grow its EMEA base from a customer success point of view. This was acquired by Microsoft where I stayed on for many years working on the Office 365 business, still in customer success.

Below are some screenshots of some the work we did (click on an image for a larger pop up and slide show) and you can check these two project pages that detail some specific areas of work with demo screencasts:

Startup Innovation

I’ve written two trend reports so far, both available on iBooks only. I chose iBooks because of my intended audience – senior executives who are most likely to have the devices that can access them. The process of publishing for iBooks is also super easy by using iBooks Author – software that manages the creation and publishing side of things.

The context for both is Work of the Future and they are part of a series. My third is currently in progress here.

Below is the second I wrote:

INNERVENTURES

Executives in boardrooms are increasingly thinking, worrying and talking about a new factor that’s changing everything in their world – the growth, innovation and market power of small and start-up companies. In a recent survey of 250 executives at both large and small firms, about 40 percent said their industries were being disrupted by start-ups. Most respondents believed that small companies have significant marketplace advantages over their larger counterparts, such as a greater willingness to take risks and more flexibility.

In short, large corporations are focusing their attention on small and start-up companies as never before, cooperating with them, mentoring them, investing in them, behaving like them or acquiring them.

As the world of business moves faster, only those agile and innovative enough survive and thrive. A new breed of company is being spawned from the startup ecosystem or is created by entrepreneurial individuals working inside existing organisations, emulating startups and/or working with them. This second report covers the trend and documents those leading the way, their practices and it shows you a path.
ibooks

Mindful over Mind Full

I’ve written two trend reports so far, both available on iBooks only. I chose iBooks because of my intended audience – senior executives who are most likely to have the devices that can access them. The process of publishing for iBooks is also super easy by using iBooks Author – software that manages the creation and publishing side of things.

The context for both is Work of the Future and they are part of a series. My third is currently in progress here.

Below is the first I wrote:

Mindful over Mind Full

Technological innovation is advancing at breakneck speed. We are inundated with choices and overloaded with information. The pace is outstripping our coping mechanisms. Can technology itself help us catch-up or is it time for a new approach?

Mindfulness practice has its origins in the East and is based on ancient Buddhist practice rooted in meditation. It is more than 2 thousand years old and calling Mindfulness the “latest self-help fad” totally ignores how the practice is gaining acceptance among those who would otherwise consider meditation a bit flaky: Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Pentagon chiefs, FORTUNE 500 titans, among others.

Individuals and organisations are cottoning onto the benefits of Mindfulness practice which can be completely secular in nature. Organisations have understood that it’s a means to healthier and happier employees which leads to better results for the company. Employees are happier, more focused, stress free and more productive, making better decisions for themselves and on behalf of the organisation.

There are many ways you can create a more mindful organisation through team practices or by making space for individuals to practice on their own. This report is full of examples about how to go about doing this. Examples are shared of what leading organisations and leaders are doing already with dramatic results and what you could do too.
ibooks

Experience and Subscriptions

Customer Success Managers are the workhorses of the experience and subscription economy.

Born in the Software as a Service (SaaS) sector not that many years ago, customer success has become an indispensable function in small and large technology organisations that target mostly enterprise customers.

Getting to success is part art and science. The latter relies heavily on data – usage data and how it can be tracked and grown. Good methodology comes into it too. Success can be quantified through customers (or users) of a technology platform, using a platform and deriving value from it.

Usage is the currency of the customer success manager who in turn is the custodian of success.

Customer success management can be practised and perfected over time. Many activities can and should be automated but ultimately it is the skill and passion of the people delivering the service that makes the difference (the art).

I am writing a new trend report / eBook on the subject and have written a post that outlines the thinking and chapters: Customer experience, the subscription economy and 10 ways success teams will make you win

The approach is very much in sync with this success hacking approach I wrote about.

Below in the SlideShare deck is some of the early thinking that started all my efforts on the new trend report / eBook.

Since I’ve been in the customer success business since at least 2012 working in startups and large organisations, I also mentor around the practice. If you follow that link you will find the approach I take to scale maturity in customer success teams.

Disrupting Innovation


Let’s be frank, innovation could do with some innovating. Startups are leading the way.

My experience running a startup, working at several and through mentoring startups, has given me unique insights into how well they are positioned to disrupting not just markets, but innovation itself. I wrote a trend report about this: Startup Innovation.

Hackathons have typically been the preserve of startups but large organisations are adopting them too now. I have found them to be rather effective in mixing things up and making something that is normally formal and stuffy, much more fun and engaging. I’ve taken part in many, even won some, at startups and large organisations alike – more here: Hackathon Success.

Having learned a thing or two about what works, I help organisations take the best approaches to disrupting their innovation efforts.

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In line with my Success Hacking approach, I see Hackathons as a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation. This is a post I wrote some time ago based on work I did supporting customers with running hackathons to drive innovation efforts (see article at left, just one example). My post includes a breakdown of the full blown approach we took over several weeks if not months – the full monty. I also describe an instant, no frills approach that you can run with teams over a few hours. This all borrows from practices that startups have popularised and I have been using to good effect.

It is quality rather than quantity that matters in innovation, but without quantity, you might not get to quality. Hackathons are a way of Innovation Hacking, as I call it and is the lean and agile way to get to the few from the many in a fun, informal and engaging way.

Below is a summary video I created to explain the approach at the time.

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