We hosted our first hackathon at Quorum Software recently, HaQathon 2020, and it was a blast! While we were a little concerned hosting our first-ever hackathon virtually, it worked out well. Here is a look into how we did it!
What is HaQathon?
A hackathon is an event focused on innovation, creativity, and collaboration. Participants come together to solve problems and take ideas from pitch to prototype (and sometimes even to production-ready!). At HaQathon 2020, participants had two days to hack on a wide range of problems: new product features, innovative tools, efficiency-driving process improvements, and more. In the end, we had over 65 ideas pitched, leading to 34 solutions built. Two hundred participants and coaches formed those 34 teams, spanning seven time zones, five countries, and four continents for a truly global event – a great example of #oneQuorum!
A New Concept
Quorum has never hosted an event quite like the HaQathon before. At first, it seemed like an impossible task. Taking a large portion of our company offline for three days was a daunting proposition. Could we afford this many folks away from their “day jobs” for so long? What would be the ROI? However, the idea quickly picked up steam. It had the potential to unlock our next great product feature or productivity tool. It gained support from the executive leadership team and eventually made its way onto the company calendar: May 13 – 15, 2020.
Transition to Virtual
But of course, life threw a curveball. Just as preparations were about to begin, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantines swept across the world. In hopes of an in-person event, we postponed until August. However, it quickly became clear that we would not be returning to the old “normal” any time soon. The organization shifted to full-time remote work, and our people were all adjusting to a new life of working from home.
We decided to proceed with the event as scheduled but shift to a virtual hackathon hosted via Microsoft Teams. The virtual environment fostered an unprecedented level of access and collaboration, provided a welcome break from the work-from-home rut, and allowed the event to scale as excitement built and participation soared past expectations quickly.
Getting Started: Pitch Your Idea
The primary goal of any hackathon is to bring new ideas to life. For HaQathon 2020, ideas were presented in three categories: Customer-Facing Products and Features, Internal Tools and Processes, and No Code / Low Code solutions. This allowed us to drive innovation from multiple directions: both directly with new product features and indirectly through new tools and more efficient processes that will give us more capacity for innovation on an ongoing basis. In the end, over 65 ideas were submitted from around the company. There were suggestions from engineers, product managers, services, sales, QA, even accounting, and HR! Each idea fostered discussion, reactions, and inspiration for more ideas.
The ideation process culminated in a Pitch Fest on the eve of the hackathon. The Pitch Fest was the last opportunity to sell an idea and build a team for the HaQathon, and it was a huge success. The level of creativity and innovation was astounding, as was the support and interaction around them from around the organization. Without a doubt, this was one of the most truly inspirational events in Quorum’s history.
Bringing Ideas to Life
Following the Pitch Fest, interest and participation soared. Between participants and coaches, 200 people registered for the hackathon. We had representation from nearly every department and team across the company. In fact, 43% of participants were from outside of the Engineering department.
Thirty-four hackathon teams formed, most with a range of cross-functional skills. The teams had two days to build a functional POC (Proof of Concept) or MVP (Minimum Viable Product). They also had to record a demo to showcase their findings and their idea’s potential. There was room for fun as well, with several team competitions, including a team photo contest and a virtual scavenger hunt.
In the end, the quality of the demos surpassed all expectations. Nearly 400 employees from around Quorum tuned into the demo session – more than half of the company! This was another incredible event proving that at Quorum, our best asset is our people.
Choosing the Winners
The hardest part about HaQathon 2020 was choosing winners. With so many great ideas and amazing results, it was hard to choose which were best. We evaluated each team based on factors such as innovation, completeness, and the value their idea could bring to Quorum and our customers. Through our panel of executive judges, and one vote-in award for People’s Choice, we eventually narrowed it down to the following winners:
Customer-Facing Products and Features
Team “UPS in the Qloud.” This team created a POC for moving the AFE module of Quorum’s Enterprise Upstream solution to the public cloud, and integrated blockchain tracking for building a partner portal. The result was a scalable, lightweight solution with reliable tracking around AFEs. This is an exciting preview of what’s possible to modernize our products and leverage some of the newest, game-changing technologies. The team included Jimmy Bidwell, Natalie Bodner, Wes Geier, Thanh Duong, Archit Shah, Fazal Syed, and Ben Weis.
No-Code / Low-Code Solutions
Team “Six Degrees of Configuration.” This team created a Power BI report for Quorum’s Pipeline Management solution to show which customers use various modules/features. It compares a customer’s use of the app against core settings and integrates with test rail to show alignment with test coverage. This tool has a lot of potential to save time on upgrades, increase quality, and shed light on how various customers use our software. The team included Lindsey Saunders, Annie Sanna, Malory Goetcheus, Madeline Eschberger, Gineth Valbuena, and Kevin Pitsenbarger.
Best Production-Ready Solution
Team “Spatial Polygon Validation.” This team automated a process to validate spatial data in Quorum’s GIS solution. This was built as a standalone module and has already been validated against multiple customer environments. This will save our customers time from having to validate this data manually, increasing the accuracy and utility of GIS. The team included Matt Hupy, Jacob Toy, Dean Barbalias, and William Fernandez.
Team “Bus Drivers.” This team created a POC for an enhancement to the myQuorum platform for record-level comments, with support for comment resolution tracking, user tagging, and email notifications. This feature would centralize communication and increase collaboration for our customers while advancing the myQuorum platform. The team included Richard Cheng, Tung Tran, Mary Kendrick, William Chou, Madhavi Nambiar, Andrew Ayala, and Rosie Wei.
Team “The Talking Point.” This team included members from three different contracting companies, legacy Quorum “lifers,” and newer Quorum employees through recent acquisitions. They worked across countries and time zones to truly embody what it means to be #oneQuorum. Their collaboration resulted in a compelling POC for using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a conversational chatbot to enhance user support. The team included Brynley Evans, Joe Kraft, Tammy Khan, Molly Hobby, Ghayathry Bala, Kanimozhi Pandian, Mutharasan Jayaseelan, Nathaniel Obee, Nadhiya Bakthavatchalu, Antony Karachnsky, and Danylo Kushch.
Internal Tools and Processes
Team “SMB_haQers.” This team created an internal portal to facilitate more streamlined reporting activities across Quorum’s SMB product offerings. This tool centralizes key metrics from a variety of sources to help Quorum with proactive client relationship management. Also, it helps automate the billing process, which will be a huge time saving for Quorum. The team included Kaitlin Williams, Kyle LeGrand, Michael Martin, Travis Wingerson, Oleksandr Kholod, Nazar Yuras, and Volodomyr Torkalo.
HaQathon 2020 was a resounding success. Within a couple of weeks following the event, multiple ideas were already in use or on a product roadmap. More importantly, HaQathon 2020 marks an important milestone for Quorum. It is a key point in our evolution as a software company and as a leader in oil and gas technology. It embodies our culture of innovation, and it showcases the extreme level of talent and creativity our people have. HaQathon 2020 may have been Quorum’s first-ever hackathon, but it will certainly not be the last.