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Working in a corporate environment with enterprise tools doesn’t often provide opportunities for innovation or experimentation. Any developer with experience in a large organisation or corporate environment knows that the amount of work that needs to get done on a daily basis and the particular processes that need to be followed don’t leave much time for experimenting with or optimising systems. However, the increasing ubiquity of open source software in corporate environments has given organisations first-hand experience of the benefits it can provide, not only to developers, but the company as a whole. As a result, many large corporates are not only advocating the use of open source software, they’re doing everything they can to leverage its potential to create new levels of efficiency and improve the performance of their staff. In this blog, we’ll take a look at what makes open source DevOps software the perfect platform for easily creating Proof of Concepts (POCs) and Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), and how some of the major figures in international business are using similar platforms to facilitate workplace innovation.
Hackdays and hackathons are becoming an intrinsic part of tech culture – and beyond.
As open source tools have become more frequently adopted in enterprises, a growing number of organisations are beginning to leverage the business benefits of letting their employees break free from the usual restrictions that come with using proprietary software and experiment on passion projects that might have little or nothing to do with the organisation itself. The scope and scale of how this is implemented can vary from place to place, from simply encouraging developers to spend time optimising code to improve processes within the business, to hosting a week-long event in which employees are given free rein to work on anything they choose. Atlassian for example have “ShipIt” days where employees can work on anything for 24 hours which they describe as 20% time on steroids – 20% time being the Google initiative to encourage employees to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. Gmail, for example, started life as a 20% time project!
While there’s a trend towards businesses organising their own hacking events, there are also a huge number of popular public hackathons ranging from small meetups to fully-fledged events complete with catering services and sponsors. TechCrunch’s Disrupt Hackathon, which will be taking place in London on the 5th and 6th of December, has become so popular that spectator tickets are now being sold for people who aren’t taking part, but want to experience the hackathon.
How do hackathons benefit your developers and your business?
There are many benefits to hosting a hackathon, whether you’re part of a start-up or an already-established organisation. Start-ups can leverage them to meet developers in their local community, and larger organisations can use them to scout for new talent or get help outside the organisation for innovating or improving their services. Open source DevOps tools make it easy for individuals or teams hack out POCs and MVPs by providing an automatable framework that ties every team member into the project in equal measure. On tight timeframes and even tighter budgets, any way to maximise speed and quality whilst removing errors is invaluable, and open source DevOps tools are the logical way to achieve this.
What are the big players in tech doing to embrace the hackathon trend?
Some of the biggest names in tech, including Dropbox, Twitter, Google and Facebook, periodically host hackathons and hackdays of their own. Google’s DevFest is a community-run combination between a conference and a hackathon, featuring full-day hack days as well as speakers across multiple product areas. DevFest operates on the shared idea that great things happen when developers come together, but the specifics are tailored to the local community organising each particular event, meaning no two DevFests are ever the same.
Dropbox runs an annual Hack Week, during which its 800 employees are given carte blanche to innovate and create anything at all – whether or not it’s related to their job title, or even to Dropbox itself. “We don’t actually set any restrictions,” says Max Belanger, one of the organisers behind Hack Week. “A lot of people are actually going to work on projects that are completely unrelated to Dropbox itself.”
While there’s no pressure to deliver something that will push the company forward, some employees take the opportunity to work on problems that pertain specifically to the business. Dropbox’s multi-account feature, for example, was first conceived in a Hack Week project, and went on to be integrated into the product’s core offering. But the spirit of hackathons goes beyond this – As Alicia Chen said in an article on The Verge, “Part of the spirit of Hack Week is getting out of your comfort zone, learning something new, doing something unusual.”
Hackathons aren’t only beneficial for developers– they’re a great place for organisations to source talent and build relationships
Part of the reason that hackathons are so successful is that everybody takes something out after attending. For the organisation hosting, it’s a great opportunity to source talented developers and build relationships with your local development community. For developers both inside and outside the organisation, it’s an invaluable chance to hone your skills and meet and engage with like-minded professionals who share a passion for coding and innovation. It’s also an excellent opportunity for tech companies to build a name for themselves by supporting the event through sponsorships and prizes. For example, CircleCI, an open source DevOps software provider, sponsored prizes for the recent TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. The cultural component of hackathons can also not be underestimated – many companies use them as a way to advertise their internal culture and source developers and other staff that identify with the way they work and their company values.
ECS Digital has a wealth of experience in open source DevOps tools and offers a variety of services for their implementation including consultation and training. As you would expect given the ethos of tight timelines and budgets around POCs and MVPs, we offer a variety of “quick starts” enabling organisations to get where they want to be as fast as possible. If you’d like to find out more about us, including our comprehensive training and enablement programmes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.