I’ve always been enthusiastic about hackathons, both as a participant and as an organizer. I believe hackathons are a great way to navigate new technology while promoting rapid prototyping and the ‘fail fast’ theory, wherein new ideas are deployed and tested quickly. I had already seen the benefits firsthand, both in university hackathons, and those hosted in past years by other organizations, including Jibestream. Over the course of 2019, the full range of Inpixon’s products had expanded and the team had grown significantly with the addition of mapping and video analytics technology to the existing indoor data and positioning hardware and software. A hackathon seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring our people and products together, and establish a culture of innovation in our new, larger organization.
Integration and Collaboration
Shortly after Jibestream was acquired by Inpixon, a leadership summit was held where people managers and subject matter experts came together from across the organization. At one of our team lunches during the summit, I mentioned potentially hosting an organization-wide hackathon to our CTO, Adam Benson. Because of our wide range of technologies, products and services, I thought a hackathon would be a great icebreaker for our larger engineering team to have the opportunity to collaborate and learn about the full breadth of Inpixon’s products and services. Beyond that, I believed it would encourage innovation and integration between teams that are distributed across continents and time zones.
Adam and the other members of the executive team shared in my excitement, and we got to work with organizing the event. It was very motivating and encouraging to see how open the leadership team is to new ideas and how serious they are about it. To me, it was a clear demonstration of a bottom-up approach working organically.
The hackathon was held November 13 – 14, 2019. The theme was “Integration and Collaboration,” and the goals were for everyone to learn about Inpixon’s new range of products and services and aim to integrate two or more products while collaborating with colleagues that they usually don’t get a chance to work with. Teams were spread across all of Inpixon’s offices, meaning everyone would have to collaborate with colleagues across different time zones and countries.
At the end of the 48-hour run, the teams submitted their projects. Before we even reviewed the submissions, it felt like we had achieved more than what we expected. Teams had successfully integrated multiple in-house and third-party products and services. Staff across all our offices were communicating with each other for the first time, learning about new products, and getting help from each other. When things were not working as expected, teams came up with innovative ways of unblocking themselves and getting to the finish line on time. As testament to our increase in communication, we saw that messaging on Slack increased more than 50% during the hackathon.
All of the projects that were submitted addressed dynamic, interesting use cases for our solutions, including an emergency evacuation system, near real-time analytics projects like dynamic room booking and statistics, and location-based messaging systems.
While there’s always room to grow and improve future hackathons, I would say that Inpixon’s first hackathon was without a doubt a triumph. Successfully integrating multiple companies’ systems, culture, processes, and roles into one unified company can take months, if not years, to accomplish. It becomes even more complicated when teams are distributed around the world. This exercise in innovation, integration, and collaboration has not only fast-tracked our progress in getting to know each other and our expanded product offerings, it also showcased what a talented team we have.
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