Blog / Technology

As excitement builds for this year's IRESS Global Hackathon, our CTO Andrew Todd, looks at what makes a winning idea and why this is set to be our biggest and best hackathon yet.

Last year was my first IRESS Global Hackathon. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've been involved in hackathons, innovation days and codefests in the past, but this was different.

Five continents, 12 locations and over 160 teams, many of them spanning across different functional lines and borders, I was very curious to see how it was all going to work.

I was really impressed and excited by what I saw. Driven by a willingness to innovate, solve problems, work together and (of course) eat a lot of pizza, over 800 people got involved in what was our biggest 24-hour Global Hackathon yet.

Insight, idea, action

As a global technology company, collaboration and agility across teams and time-zones is core to the way we work. It's fundamental to our strategy. So a real highlight was seeing the number of cross-functional and cross-regional hackathon teams being assembled and taking part. This was reflected in the amount of ideas that quickly moved from idea to prototype to production - including iAssist, the winning idea, which we shipped in XPLAN 2.23.

A relatively simple concept, it enables our support teams to help XPLAN users with their issues remotely as if they were standing next to the user.

Its winning combination of insight, idea and action meant it beat 20 other finalists in our hackathon.

What makes a winning idea?

Overall, almost 350 ideas were submitted in our hackathon that year, a fantastic display of enthusiasm, innovation and creativity.

But coming up with ideas is the easy part. How do you know when you're onto a good one? And how can you make sure you get more of the game-changing ones?

There are three factors that I think go into making winning ideas.

1. Client centric thinking

"There's a way to do it better - find it." - Thomas Edison

Any idea, whether it's presented as part of a hackathon or a business meeting, has to have something in it for the customer. It must be meaningful, be an improvement, add value, and ultimately make a genuine difference.

The IRESS Global Hackathon winner did exactly that. The team identified an opportunity, came up with a solution and quantified the business benefits it would deliver, which is what helped get other people behind it too. 

And there's no need to complicate things. It can be the simplest innovation that makes the biggest difference.

2. An innovation culture

"A mind that's stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension." - Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr

Innovation starts with people, not technology. Running an event like a hackathon can have a big impact on culture and culture is what drives organisations forward.

This will be our fourth annual hackathon and it's an event that our people look forward to every year. There's a perception that hackathons are just for developers but that's simply not the case. If innovation is going to be the centre of our DNA, our people and teams that work to deliver solutions and services to our customers need to be part of it.

In our experience, one of the most valuable things a hackathon does is build relationships between people, giving them the opportunity to work with people they might not know or work with regularly. Some of the best outcomes I've seen are from teams that work cross-functionally together, even across borders and time-zones.

And that's something that can continue long after the hackathon has ended.

3. Taking a risk

"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." - Oscar Wilde


Hackathons present the perfect opportunity to explore and test ideas in a low-risk environment.

It's not often you get a chance to do that.


Feeling able to make a difference and take some risks is central to any successful innovation culture. Whether during a hackathon, business meeting or brainstorm, no idea should be off limits. Fail as fast as you can, iterate quickly on the idea, keep validating the idea with clients and users and you'll deliver something that's valuable, something clients or users will want, or desire.

Keep pushing forward

Ultimately, this is what the IRESS Global Hackathon is all about. Applying creative thinking to solve real problems for our clients, and teams working together to bring them to life.

I love a challenge, to change and improve, and to keep pushing forward. In this spirit, I'm laying down the gauntlet for us to make the 2018 IRESS Global Hackathon even bigger and better than last year. More participants, more teams, more ideas, more great client outcomes. And definitely more pizza. 

The IRESS Global Hackathon takes place on Thursday 10 - Friday 11 May. Follow all the action on Twitter and Instagram at #iresshackathon18.


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