ERGO Hackathon 2018: Teamwork, creativity and product quality

Digitalization & innovation, 24.04.2018

From practice to real-life experience: At the second ERGO Hackathon from 18 to 20 April 2018, trainees and IT students also developed prototypes for the ERGO and ERGO Direkt specialist departments. The “Hackstreet Boys” team not only prevailed against seven other groups, but also managed to beat the clock.

“Come in and smell the start-up air!” was one of the slogans on a sign in front of the “Berlin” conference hall in Düsseldorf. 42 young IT talents in eight groups from ERGO, ITERGO, ERGO Direkt and RWTH Aachen gathered behind one of the heavy doors of the wood-panelled room to implement the development ideas of the specialist departments into functioning prototypes. And all within a time frame of just 48 hours.

The benefit to the company in terms of usability was just as important as high product quality. But all competitiveness aside, the fun factor was the most important part of the ERGO Hackathon 2018. There was an atmosphere of cooperation that grew within the team, which in turn had a positive effect on their performance.

Innovation and know-how

In a motivational opening speech on Wednesday morning, Sita Schwenzer, director of the ERGO Digital Transformation Office, pointed out that the Hackathon not only implements tangible digital ideas – but also offers the interns and students a glimpse into the working life of the future. Among the tasks, from which the young IT talents got to choose, were, for example, “payment data for scanner apps” or the development of “instant electronic policies”. Lars Kahra of ITERGO, who organised the event together with colleagues, sees “the exchange of perspectives that comes about as the result of the diversity of different team members and their differing ideas and approaches” as a further benefit of the Hackathon.

Most of the participants brought with them the experiences they had gathered from the ERGO Hackathon 2017. They built teams that best matched their respective abilities, decided on one of the presented tasks – and got cracking. According to Lars Kahra: “For us, an especially important aspect of the group building was that all teams be more or less equally strong so that the competition remains fair”.

The guidelines of the specialist departments were to be implemented as “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) – in other words, as simply as possible, without investing too much time in procedures and processes. “A brilliant digital product requires the courage to test out different routes along the path to the final goal and to discard those that don’t work at an early stage”, Sita Schwenzer advises. One of the most difficult tasks for the young computer scientists was probably deciding for once to abandon the path previously taken and to start all over again.

Keep it short & simple

The deadline was Friday at noon. After a short opportunity to recuperate during lunch, an hour later, it was already time for the presentations. The teams had five minutes each to present their prototypes in the form of start-up pitches to a top-class jury of ERGO managers. The panel based its assessment on three criteria: “Design/usability”, “technical implementation” and “benefit to the company”.

With its development of an “instant electronic policy for events” and a clear presentation in Pitch, the “Hackstreet Boys” managed to best convince the jury. The five-member group chose to take the approach they did because they felt it was “perfectly compatible with the different strengths of the individual team members” – and, with its “avoidance of unnecessary paperwork”, was associated with a positive environmental effect. As a prize, they each received a “Raspberry Pi”, a programmable mini computer. This is with certainty going to give the passionate programmers a great deal of enjoyment in their spare time.

By Eva Zölzer

Impressions by Hackathon 2018

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