What is a Hackathon?
A hackathon is typically a single sprint event where a group of motivated technical folks collaborates intensely to implement and demonstrate the solution to a problem use case chosen by each team. It is a rapid development effort where the solutions are designed and implemented towards the overall goals of the hackathon event. Besides valuable business/account benefits, hackathons are known to be great opportunities for hands-on learning and upgrading technical skillsets.
AIS Internal Hackathon
AIS held an internal Power Platform hackathon in the summer of 2021. One such stirring event helped a few motivated AIS team members to learn and upgrade their Power Platform skills while applying those to solve practical problem scenarios at one of our major clients. The event focused on relevant use cases that can use the many features of Power Platform to solve real-time gaps and/or problems across our client enterprise. There were six teams of 4-6 team members each. Each team had at least one Power Platform developer and one person familiar with the client’s business domain. A set of senior Power Platform SMEs acted as advisors for the event.
The Case and Team
I’ve had the opportunity to propose two of the six use cases selected by a team for implementation. My team focused on a crucial financial reconciliation process which proved to be a spot-on candidate for Power Platform modernization. The existing production system was a dusty Windows Forms application created at lightning speed by AIS to help our client avoid renewing a costly COTS product. Power Rippers’ hackathon team consisted of a Power Platform developer and three .NET developers with no Power Platform experience. Two of the team members had domain experience specific to the client we focused on. We’ve had an excellent experience working intensely on the effort as a mini-project. We leveraged Microsoft Teams for all collaboration, including recorded meet-ups, shared OneNote’s, and linked a OneDrive library app to the chat space.
Power Platform and its Wide Range
We learned, utilized, and integrated a wide range of Power Platform components like Model-Driven App, Dataverse, Dataflow, Power BI, paginated reports, data alerts, Power Automate, and OneDrive. Using these technologies, we modernized the existing business processes. In addition, we added a few Power Platform-backed enhancements to demonstrate how the platform can empower business users further.
We had our share of hiccups in the project, which proved to be a significant part of the learning experience. Our team secured 2nd place, which came with a monetary reward!
From a business standpoint, it did not stop there. We made our application into a proof concept. We presented to the application leadership as a possible solution to replace the existing application, with benefits such as the following:
- An application that is easier to maintain
- More functionality than the original application
- Decreased level of effort and costs for continued enhancements
- The ability for the client to configure many aspects of the application through model-driven application
- Moving the application to a platform where the functionality could be maintained, and enhancements could be done by the client themselves with limited training.
From a personal standpoint, it ticked a few checkboxes for my growth, like becoming familiar with PowerApps and Power BI to an intermediary level vs. a lesser-than-a-novice before this. It also allowed me to present my first Lightning Talk, a short presentation to pass on what I learned to others within my company.
The Transformation Saga
This excellent transformation story of a third-party product rewrites into a Power Platform opportunity that materialized to reality due to the hackathon.
This effort is a testament to the technical learning appetite of AIS folks, how we as a company strive to make things beneficial and better for our clients. It also demonstrated how internal activities like hackathons, level-up sessions, lightning talks, etc. help participants achieve personal goals and work together to share their skills and knowledge.