Enabling dreams – and partners – with a hackathon

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How do you convince busy IT integration partners to take a deep dive into new technology without asking them to also first sell a solution to a client? After all, time is money for implementation partners. At SAS, we are keen to introduce our partners and, through them, more clients to the many new possibilities in the cloud-based SAS Platform. So in 2018 we launched a SAS Viya Hackathon in the Nordics.

While a Hackathon is not really a novel idea from a software company, we found a fresh perspective on how to go about the content and format. It turned out to be a perfect cocktail of enablement, collaboration and purpose. So we opened a competition to use any available data to solve any untapped opportunity.

While a Hackathon is not really a novel idea from a software company, we found a fresh perspective on how to go about the content and format.

First, we made sure that when we asked our partners to spend time testing out our platform that there was really something in it for them, even though it was not a billable project. The majority of the partners centred their contributions on social responsibility and Data for Good.

The first winner in 2018 was Knowit, who presented a case showing how the patterns of movement in ships may help reveal illegal fishing, a big problem for sustainability that is hard to monitor for authorities.

In 2019, Knowit had once again come up with a winning solution, helping reunite refugee families through facial recognition and big data. But they had to share the victory podium with Evry, who had designed a clever, data-driven way of predicting how a specific residential area would develop over time and how it would affect homebuyers’ investments, as well as city planning.

A new approach to a tested model

The Nordic SAS Hackathon has been different in more ways than one. It seems we have "cracked the code" to a new way of recruiting and onboarding new partners.

We have managed to motivate our partners to try out our Viya platform without starting an IT project, but to access it in the cloud and bring together teams with different skill sets to engage around something unsolved. Instead of teams gathering for a weekend in one location, they have worked remotely, sometimes from several geographical locations, for one team.

This monthlong, virtual hackathon with cross-industry and cross-country teams – sometimes involving the partners’ clients directly, as well as students – has had multiple positive outcomes:

  1. Encouraged belonging, efficient enablement and learning by doing to build new skills.
  2. Created curiosity to try out new, innovative SAS technology.
  3. Motivated new creative use cases and the development of prototypes.
  4. Stimulated best practice sharing in storytelling and video production, as well as fun for the teams.
  5. Showcased the power of the partners to new and broader audiences through the active use of social media.

Enabling dreams

At the same time, we have chosen criteria for the projects that trigger people’s dreams about creating change in the world. We have asked our participating partner teams to build new innovative algorithms that use “data for good,” or to create a solution to an untapped business problem. This is true enablement!

Simply by participating, all partners are winners. But the actual winning team is the one that combines several strengths: They can demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the power of analytics, show the value (business or common good), the “smartness” and usability in relation to the new analytical economy, and the implementation of the analytical life cycle in real life. We also challenge them to stand in the spotlight and "sell" their concept to the jury through video presentations, something that is new to some of the developer teams but which they seem to thoroughly enjoy.

Nomination for global award

Now our Nordic initiative has been nominated for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Excellence Awards, and we are listed as one of the finalists in the category Alliance for Corporate Social Responsibility. ASAP is a nonprofit global professional membership organization with over 2,250 tech and consulting companies from more than 35 countries across the globe. The choice of category is a combination of the way we work with our partners and the result of their contribution. The award winner will be announced at the ASAP Global Summit in Orlando, Florida, this March.

Now our Nordic initiative has been nominated for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Excellence Awards, and we are listed as one of the finalists in the category Alliance for Corporate Social Responsibility.

At the same time, we are gearing up to take the SAS flavour of hackathon to the EMEA stage, and we already have signups from 25 partners who will start their projects here in the spring. I cannot wait to see the solutions they will come up with – and how they can change the world for the better.

Bookmark this webpage and follow SAS EMEA Hackathon developments this spring.

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About Author

Einar Halvorsen

Director, Alliances & Channels – Nordics, Nordics Alliances and Channels

In team "Alliances & Channel" we are responsible for the delivery of a full partner programme including System Integrators and Management Consultancies, Channel Organisations, Service Delivery, Technology Partnerships and Cloud Partnerships. I have 22 years experience from the IT industry and many success stories leading teams and projects. Prior to my profession with in IT I have another 5 years with experience from the service industry in different cultures and countries.

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