I just participated in a 3 day hackathon ACDC 2022 (arcticclouddeveloperchallenge.net) and it was one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters I have had in MANY years.
Let me just paint the picture first.. ACDC is a yearly hackathon where the best of the best in Norway gather to explore the Dynamics/Power Platform/M365/Azure platforms, creating stellar products. What makes it different from other hackathons?
- Mandatory physical attendance
- Sleepover at the hotel required, even though you live in the city
- Surprise challenges with rewards (head to head)
- Lunch and Dinner every day at the hotel, mandatory attendance
- Mandatory Socializing activities outside of the teams
- Amazing Judges Every time
- End of the hackathon dinner and party
- Great swag
- Lots of energy drinks
- Little to no sleep.. Yea.. I felt that one personally
I know I know.. Many of the hackathons out there have similar setups, but often they only include parts of what we have to offer. I am of course extremely bias, because I am part of the committee. Today I am writing as the participant from the Team Pizza Time.
Most of the teams participating were senior teams with tons of experience in Dynamics and lots of years experience within the workforce. We did however have a few new teams with us this year, and that usually is always quite the challenge. The Rules can be complex to follow the first times, and most would struggle keeping up.
The judges this year did an extraordinary job keeping everyone in line, and also teams helping out all of the new understanding what was going on.
After the initial rigging of computers, each team was introduced. Every team presented their initial ideas and small hints on what technology they were planning to use the next 3 days
- Build a Turles HQ
- Pizza Ordering Store
- Pizza Delivery
An ambitions plan involving the following keyword for technology:
- Power Apps Portals
- Power Bi
- Canvas App
- Model Drive App
- Raspberry PI
- IOT (proximity, heat)
- Motion Sensor Camera
- Hue Color Lights
- Intranet in Teams
Our team had a pre meeting deciding what tech we wanted to work on, and the scenario’s we wanted to solve. Our scenario was to build a Turtles HQ with security notifications and control center functionality. Then we were going to migrate this story into a Pizza Shop having to work with Pizza Orders and Deliveries.
After our first meeting regarding the solution, I think we all had an idea of what we wanted to solve but not necessarily the same one. It is not uncommon for creative people to think differently about one topic even though they think they are on the same page. This is one of the challenges when working with technology. Later on this would prove to be a huge challenge for our team.
After day one we had been picking a solid amount of points. We had our Teams Intranet, Portals for Ordering, Power Apps for Ordering, Power BI report, Raspberry PI, IOT sensors (2 heat, 2 motion sensors, 1 Hue light bulb), Google Nest Hub, Native React app for Pizza inspo etc etc etc .. We were on fire, and far beyond the other teams in technology!! (personal opinion).
We even won a head to head challenge against the other teams. A challenge where the first one to finish received extra points. In the head to head challenge we had to embed a Power App within Power BI report, and read/edit the data in this Power App. The idea was to update Power Bi directly via the embedded Power App. This scored us a solid extra number of points and a new badge for the collection
At this point in time we were seriously kicking some ass and went to bed as potential winners.
Day 2 – WTF happened?
Where to begin…. I woke up happy and proud of all the achievements from day 1. Everything seemed to be going as I had planned. We were geeking BIG TIME and having so much fun putting different technical things together. We were also gathering lots of the extra bonus points for doing the occasional odd “side quest”.
This day we had started to automate processes so that sensors were triggering events, the Power App was connecting to feedback surveys, and the portal for ordering was working with weather API + maps to give estimated delivery times etc etc.
At the end of the day, every team had to deliver a blog post explaining what we had done since day one. We were 9 teams onsite, so it was important for the judges to have something to read through to be able to cover everyone’s updates. We had made some great progress with our technologies and almost all gadgets were functioning in automation as we had planned. We were feeling quite confident in the next round of points.
This is where the rollercoaster of emotions started!
Announcing the points from day 2, we had moved from point winners to point losers. We were almost dead last in every category that we had been winning the day before. This was not only the case for Pizza Time, but it was also the case for a few of the other senior teams. What had happened we were asking each other. The junior team with almost no experience at all was getting all of the points. This surely must have been some type of error.. Right!??!?. Of course we had a lot of meetings with the judges trying to figure out what the f*** had happened, but their answers were quite simple.
“Thomas, did you answer how you had added more value to the main categories from day one?”.
I was baffled..
“Answer: I wrote about all of the amazing things we put together of tech ** Check blog day 2**. What we have done is really cool!!”
“But how does that relate to the categories where you present business value, user experience etc?”
I had to think about that one. In my mind the business value was obvious. We had put together so much technology that was pretty impressive (given the amount of time). After about 30 minutes of not saying much, and just looking at my screen in despair, I realized they were right. We were not presenting the solution with a value proposition. It even made us wonder if the initial value proposition was good enough.
After dinner and some “bad vibes”, started what I personally felt was an extraordinary journey. A journey that made me extremely proud to be a part of the team we were on.
We sat down for almost 2 hours straight just breaking down every piece of our solution, trying to figure out what the business value was. We compared it to other deliveries that had lots of points, and that’s when we noticed a few key elements. They were better at selling business value, where the technology only was secondary. It was so simple and obvious that it pissed me off that I hadn’t thought of that before.
The principle applies to every real life scenario. If I can’t convince my customer that my technology add value to their business, they will never by my services.
So the seniors put their heads together and pulled an “all nighter”. We completely ripped our business case apart, and revitalized every aspect of our technology. Our mission was no longer about the Turtles HQ and keeping the city safe from monsters, but it was about the city being in a bad state and helping out those in need.
I never really know when I started day 3, because I simply didn’t sleep. I was up all night doing adjustments to the tech, having to say yes/no to a few components. It hurt having to trash parts of a solution I had been working on for 1,5 days, but that’s the name of the game!
Our pitch had moved from a crime fighting city with Turtles, to a city in need of help after covid. Unemployment was up and the gaps in poor were even bigger now than ever before. People living on the street needed food, and we had a service that could provide food for the needy. Our mission statement went from being bold and covering a lot of work loads, to simpler “We make pizza for the people, no matter what social status you have”.
You can read more about our final delivery here, and you could even compare it to the first post if curious
The youngsters made us realize what we should have been focusing on all along. What is the problem, and how can we solve it. We were so focused on being geeks and having fun that we lost track of a key element to delivering IT solutions. I am a little angry that I didn’t think of this earlier when delivering, but at the same time it would not have given us the chance to turn around and prove the value of Senior Consultants. When we got hit in the face with reality, we could have just quit.. Instead we pushed through the night and delivered a phenomenal presentation (personal opinion) that we were really proud of.
Eventually we finished 2nd place behind the kids, but I am extremely happy how the team managed to work together and push each other to the limits. We ended up feeling like we won that 2nd place, and next year you better believe that I am coming for the 1st!!!