Datacom’s signature in-house hackathon looks to build a better society

With seven Datacomp hackathons in six years, Datacom has transformed a playful experiment into a muchanticipated showpiece event.

If you are unfamiliar with hackathons the idea is to invite our people, clients and interested third parties from around Australasia to camp at Datacom for 48-hours where they use cutting edge technology to solve a themed challenge.

It’s about hardwiring innovation into how our teams approach their work in an environment that is free from the constraints of commercial demands.

This year’s event was the first to be held at Datacom’s Auckland office in the Wynyard Quarter. Bright shiny new workspaces were transformed into temporary tent cities, as people camped out to completely focus on the challenge.

Not only does this intensive, two-day exercise hothouse everyone’s imagination, the end results are inevitably positive, useful and of immediate use to those best placed to use them.

This year the almost 300 entrants were given a theme that certainly didn’t lack for ambition. ‘Extraordinary: Design a Future Where Technology Provides a Better Society.’

The theme sparked a passion in our people and facilitated a strong link between their skills and expertise and a real-life problem or situation that needed a solution.

After 48 hours of absolute focus, the teams presented back to our four judges: Lisa King of home grown social enterprise Eat My Lunch; social entrepreneur and founder of GirlBoss New Zealand, Alexia Hilbertidou, Datacom Group CEO Jonathan Ladd, and Greg Davidson, CEO Datacom Systems ANZ.

The various projects were assisted by expert support and advice from Datacom partners, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services who were on-site throughout the weekend.

In third place was the “Making Datacom Magnificent” team, who created a tool to improve the hospital experience for children, parents and healthcare workers alike. They employed ‘track and trace’ technology in a wristband device to track children as they check in and out of various hospital services and locations. In real life this could mean that parents can know exactly where their child is and when they are able to return to the ward.

The runner up were the “Desgenerates” team who modified the Datacom payroll services app to allow employees to make charitable donations to any organisation they like, whenever they like.

The big prize went to the “Happy Life” team, which partnered with the Child Matters, a charity focused onchild abuse prevention.

They developed an app that reduced the paperwork needed to obtain government funding, while matching the information collected with government data.

Not done there, Team Happy Life then donated their $2,000 prize money to the Child Matters charity.

For all the enthusiasm, there is a serious, underlying intent at work here.

Datacomp has become a wonderful tool for showing our employees and our customers what is possible.

Or, as Jonathan Ladd said, “Datacomp reinforces what we can do. There are no limits, we can do just about anything”.
Greg Davidson agreed, saying the event pushed participants into finding new ways to solve the problems presented by society at large. “It’s about compressing learning and the exploration of the possible into 48 hours. When it’s done our people come away feeling energised.”

That outcome isn’t only the result of coming through under pressure, it’s also because they know they’ve done something worthwhile.

“We asked a range of Datacom customers to pose some tricky real-world problems with a strong socially responsible focus,” said Greg Davidson. “These are problems that, if solved, will improve the lives of people around New Zealand. “Innovation sits at the heart of everything we do, it’s the engine that drives our business. Datacomp helps by channelling that innovative know-how to solve a number of social issues and get better results for our customers.”

“Ultimately, it’s not actually a competition, it’s an opportunity to learn, and by choosing a theme like social engineering it has unlocked ideas in ourselves and our customers. You might say it unleashed creativity”.

As an established annual event, Datacomp is having a flow-on effect throughout the company. It’s one thing to say Datacom is at the leading edge of finding new ways to do business, but Datacomp is about putting those words into action. It gives everyone permission to be creative, to try different approaches, which in turn enhances the company’s reputation as an employer of choice.

This makes Datacom’s ongoing investment in the event especially worthwhile. This year the number of participants doubled from last year, and people came from across the Group  – including New Zealand, Australia and Asia – which makes the potential for even further growth very exciting.

“More than 700 people from across Datacom have now experienced Datacomp, and been trained in new ways of working. They are testing themselves with lean, rapid prototyping, humancentred design, lean canvassing, and innovative presentation techniques. They have also been exposed to the newest and sharpest tech available.”

Greg Davidson, CEO Datacom Systems ANZ

“It’s a rare opportunity to explore beyond the bounds of the customer engagements we usually operate in, and to apply different ways of working. It’s always amazing what happens when people are asked to achieve something in short time frames. That pressure can be incredibly galvanising  and it shows once again that our people can come together to co-create solutions and get results quickly.”

Datacomp has become an invaluable tool for uncovering and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.