Our BT team ran a hackathon that drove nearly 30% of employees to participate. Here’s how they did it

Workato's automation hackathon

When thinking of the employees who participate in a hackathon, you’ll likely come up with a few roles, such as a developer, a designer, and a project manager.

While the individuals in these roles are certainly capable of working together to brainstorm and implement powerful solutions, you’re neglecting the vast majority of employees. The opportunity cost in doing so can’t be overstated: powerful solutions won’t see the light of day; employees across regions and teams won’t learn from and connect with one another; and the team at large will feel left out. 

Our business technology team knew they could turn the traditional hackathon experience on its head with our low-code/no-code platform. And just a few months ago, that’s exactly what they did.

They invited everyone at the company to participate in our first-annual hackathon and empowered the teams that signed up to flex their creativity by allowing them to build any solution with Workato.

And while the results were staggering (more on this later), the experience told a bigger story: 

BT can create an environment that encourages the team at large to work with one another and build innovative solutions, safely.

We’ll share the specific steps our BT team took so that yours could do something similar.

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Two of the employees who organized the hackathon walked through every step they took during their session at Automate.

Watch the session’s recording

Acting as internal marketers

The first challenge BT faced was making employees aware of the event itself.

To tackle this, they harnessed their inner marketer and promoted the event in several ways: Our CIO posted a Linkedin article that introduced the hackathon; our director of business applications and automations shared information on the hackathon in our #general Slack channel and in company-wide emails; and another employee in BT created a Slack channel dedicated to the hackathon and added every employee to it. 

Moreover, BT offered up cash prizes for 5 categories (“Best Overall Hack”, “Biggest Value for Customers”, “Biggest Value for Internal Use”, “Most Whacky”, and “Most Innovative”), which not only drew further attention to the event but also gave participating teams license to go in whatever direction they wanted. 

The enrollment numbers that came out of these recruitment efforts speak for themselves: 209 employees participated (nearly 30% of our employee base at the time) across 77 teams. 

Automating the enrollment process

Since BT already has critical day-to-day responsibilities to stay on top of, they needed a way to streamline the Hackaton’s enrollment process. 

That’s when Weizhuang Tan, a Product Owner at Workato, ideated and implemented the following solution with “April Bot,” a customized Workbot for Slack.

1. Once an employee accesses April Bot, they can fill out a form that asks for their team name, their team members, and a brief description of their idea.

2. Once submitted, April Bot creates a new Workato Workspace and adds the appropriate team members to it. 

3. A new Google Drive folder gets created and shared with these team members, where they can add their video submission. 

4. A Google Group is set up to facilitate communication within the team. 

5. April Bot reaches out to each team member via Slack, sharing high-level information about the event as well as asking them if they’d like some hackathon swag (a nifty shirt). If an employee decides they want the swag, they’d simply provide the bot their size and mailing address.

6. April Bot shares the team submission through the hackathon Slack channel, notifying everyone of its team members, the fun team name they chose, and the creative idea they plan to pursue.

7. Finally, April Bot’s homepage provides all of the resources participants are looking for, such as their team’s Workato Workspace, Google Drive folder, and Google Group email address. The homepage even has a button that allows participants to ask BT any question, whether it’s around the hackathon or using Workato.

Transformative solutions for our sales process, employee experience, and beyond

While there’s not enough space to highlight all of our incredible submissions, you can get a sense of how inspired and savvy our teams were by reviewing the winners below.

Biggest Value for Internal Use: Deck Bot

As our reps and CSMs prepare to have strategic conversations with prospects and clients, they often need to create personalized and comprehensive slide decks. 

Each deck would take CSMs and reps roughly 30 minutes to create, making the endeavor time consuming and costly, considering the other activities they can pursue with that time. 

With this in mind, Alvin Ee, a Customer Success Manager, and Andrew Tay, an Automation Consultant, built a solution that allows a CSM or rep to create their entire deck in a matter of clicks in Slack.

Biggest Value for Customers: Automated Recipe Review

When implementing automations in Workato, our customers’ admin users have certain best practices they want to enforce.

To help admins maintain these best practices, 3 of our Solutions Consultants—Rohit Tiwari,  Narmadha Raji, and Amarnath Munkur—and Prerna Sharma, a Security Information Analyst, teamed up to build the customized Workbot, “RecipeReviewBot.” 

Using the bot, our customers can set up the rules and policies they’d like to enforce, and then select specific recipes they’d like to assess against these rules—all in a matter of clicks. The bot then returns a report that the client can download as a PDF or receive in an email.

Most Innovative: SportBot

Here at Workato, we love taking prospects and customers out to sporting events. But the process of organizing these events can be manually-intensive. 

Akhil Reddy, a Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, largely removed the painful tasks involved with his customized Workbot, “SportBot.” Using the bot, employees can select the city they’re interested in and the appropriate date range. From there, the bot not only returns the sporting events taking place but also the contacts at client and prospect accounts who live in that city.

Most Wacky: Memories Bot

As you likely know all too well, channels in Slack or Microsoft Teams are constantly getting created and archived. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it does mean that the messages, photos, and documents in a channel are likely available for a limited amount of time.

Bryan Yap, a Senior Solutions Consultant, Ryan Tin, a Site Reliability Engineer, Ryan Koh, The Global Head of Partner Success, and Amlan Debnath, The SVP of Global Field Operations and Customer Success, decided to change this by building the customized Workbot, “Memories Bot.”

Whenever you want specific photos to last longer than the channel they’re shared in, you can add Memories Bot to the channel. The bot will automatically recognize the photos, create a shared album in Google Photos, and add the photos to that album. The bot then shares the album with the channel and provides a bookmark so that anyone can access it easily.

Best Hack Overall: GEARS Bot

Our enterprise architecture team has established a GEARS (govern, enablement, adoption, run & optimize, and scale) framework to help clients develop and run their automation program successfully over time. And while the principles and best practices provided in the framework seem fairly straightforward, applying them isn’t always easy. To help, four members of our enterprise architecture team—Andres Ramirez, Ami Lalan, Philip Rigazzi, and Pratik Dholakia—used the hackathon to work together and implement the customized Workbot, “Gears Bot.”

Despite it being BT’s first go-around, the hackathon was a resounding success. It proved that BT can do much more than “keep the lights on”; they can provide the environment necessary for business teams to build rapport and to develop powerful solutions, both for themselves and for clients.

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About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.