Working with a Fortune 500 company

We worked with Tech Data Cloud to organise their first ever hackathon - signed, sealed, delivered in only 8 weeks.

We met Tech Data in the spring of 2017. As our client David, Tech Data’s Cloud Services Director Europe, said: “We’re the biggest company no one knows about”. And quite right, we didn’t know about them.

I describe them as the shipping industry of IT products and software. Tech Data Corporation, headquartered in Florida, are a big deal. They are currently no. 107 on the Fortune 500 list with over 40 years of IT distribution experience, and following a recent acquisition will soon be a Fortune 100 company.

Thanks to an introduction from our friends at Seric Systems, we were linked in as the company who know how to run a hack and how to make it work for whatever challenge an organisation might be facing.

Connecting Tech Data and ISVs

Tech Data Cloud is moving into new territory, looking at how the independent software vendor (ISV) market can be supported. To understand more about this, they wanted to organise a hack – a smart move seeing as it brings together a wide range of people with different backgrounds and complementary expertise to find solutions in a short space of time.

“So, what is an ISV?” you might be wondering. Let’s start with the platforms. Companies that make digital platforms, like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Apple, and Salesforce, encourage and lend support to ISVs. This is because, in general, the more applications that run on a platform, the more value it offers to customers.

Take the Microsoft Azure platform as an example. ISVs can build apps, services, and systems on Azure that will meet ‘end user’ needs. It might be accountancy software; it could be a tool that helps you navigate A&E; it could be a home sensor that understands your body temperature and plays music that suits how you feel. It could literally be any app, service, or system that fills a need.

Back to ISVs; it means ‘Independent Software Vendor’. They are the individuals or businesses that build, develop, and sell consumer or enterprise software – creating solutions, like the ones mentioned above, that assist individuals and businesses.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered – in only 8 weeks

Tech Data generously wanted to fly out the hack winners to Microsoft Inspire 2017 in Washington DC to showcase their prototype – taking place only a few months after we first met with their team. So with an 8-weeks deadline, we produced, designed, and delivered a 2-day hackathon in London.

Tech Data Cloud Hack focused on bringing ISVs together with Tech Data to look at how Microsoft Azure could be used in designing new services. It was a fast paced two-day hack with 5 teams, many of whom stayed up all night to hack, supported by us and the wonderful team of experts from Tech Data and Microsoft.

What was amazing is that most of the participants were individuals coming to the hack on their own. They quickly formed into teams, developed ideas, designed solutions, and developed (coded) these, finishing by preparing a 7-minute pitch presentation – all in under 30 hours.

From managing freelancers’ expenses to supporting people in emergencies

Following a very tough judging process, involving David Newbould (Tech Data’s Cloud Services Director Europe), David Terrar (Director and Deputy Chair of the Cloud Industry Forum), the VP of StreamOne Bob Kruger (live via video conference from Florida), and myself, we announced the 1st place prize to Hivefy. This team consisted of 3 people who had met on the first day of the event and impressively managed to create not only a website, but a working prototype of a chat bot running on Azure, interacting with an open bank sandbox to help freelancers manage their expenses more effectively.

Tech Data flew two of their team members out to Washington this month to present their prototype at Microsoft Inspire 2017, and will continue supporting them in the development of the application.

In a very close 2nd place we awarded a commendation to Re-Draft – a solution that uses real-time sensors, fluid dynamics, and machine learning to optimise public spaces in the construction and architectural industries.

Other teams had created inspiring solutions such as City Hacks, finding out local insider tips from the city via a chatbot, and a service to support people in live emergencies, based on the recent tragedies in London.

Connecting people to generate innovative solutions

It’s an exciting time for Tech Data and this event format. We’re going to be working with them over the next couple of months to look at how hacks could develop into an incubation process between their sales team (who understand end user problems) and ISVs (who want to build valuable solutions).

Hacks aren’t the ‘be-all and end-all’ in solving problems and developing solutions, but as part of a wider package of research, support, and incubation they are a great, energetic catalyst for bringing networks and new ideas together.

We look forward to seeing the future of our collaboration with Tech Data. We care about helping companies design great services and solutions.

Want to find out how hacks can work for you?