RBS Hackathon, was it worth 48 hours of my weekend?

When a corporate giant puts out a request for the attendance of its internal people as well as external professionals across the disciplines of development, design, business and entrepreneurship for a weekend of free working, some may think it's a bit of a cheek.

Initially, I did!

So what is the RBS Hackathon?

In summary, it's; brainstorming, firepitches, team formations, idea development, build, technical and business workshops, mentoring, pitching, finals and awards all in 48 hours. 

If you've never taken part in a Hackathon of this level, I urge you to give it a go. Here's a snapshot of my experience and what I learned in 3mins:

The Firepitch - A stage, a mic and one minute to pitch your idea to three hundred people.

Thankfully, I ran a mini-workshop with some colleagues in the studio and had some starters. At the event, I had 20 minutes to put my idea into a one minute pitch. The idea was around paying off your mortgage faster, who doesn't want to do that?

The adrenaline was pumping, and it went down ok. The biggest challenge was cutting through the other ideas. Fifty people stood on that stage, that's 49 different ideas to compete with!

Team formation - Tout your idea and get the best people to help you bring it to life.

This was the hardest part for me. Walking off the stage and being ushered into what can only be described as a cattle market where people were frantically selling their idea. If I'm honest, it took me by surprise, and I was a little overwhelmed. Initially, I approached a few people who had similar ideas, but this didn't feel right. I then went into interview mode and couldn't settle on people that had the right skills.

In the end, I ran out of time and ended up joining another team, leaving my idea behind! The new idea; customised bank statements for the 21st century.

Design and build - work with your team to define the audience, refine the idea, build a prototype and test it.

Next morning we got to work. Our team of five consisted of me, two RBS graduates, a student and a seasoned RBS developer.

We had a good mix of skills to create a rounded concept. We started with the customer. Why would they use our idea? Who are they? What does it help them do? What would make them love it? We interviewed other attendees, put a questionnaire out on social and validated the idea with 55 responses. 89% of people said they'd use our idea.

Once we knew who our customer was, we then took another look at our idea. Was is simple enough? Did it need more features? Could we explain it in 3 minutes and convince the judging panel to take it to the final heats?

We took some great advice from the mentors and decided to strip it back to a simple idea that could be built into an MVP (minimum viable product) in the time we had left.

We mapped out the process, designed the front-end, built a prototype, tested it with real customers from the bank's customer portal, calculated the potential revenue and savings it could deliver, defined the benefits and predicted a vision for future development.

On the final morning, we practised the pitch to death, refined the prototype, then pitched 19.5 hours of work in 3 minutes to the judging panel.

We waited... Was it good enough? Had we done enough? Was it too simple? One hour later, thirteen ideas were selected and, sadly, we didn't make the final cut. They say it's not about the winning, but we were gutted. We believed in our idea and put blood sweat and tears into it.

But it was a great experience, shared with a great team and we left with our heads high and a hope that, even though it didn't make the cut, the bank may move it forward in some way in the future. I'm sure the guys in the team that are RBS staff will be flying the flag.

What did I learn?

To believe in my idea and be ruthless in selling it - My original idea was a good one, next time I'll be more like Delboy.

Have faith in people - I tried too hard to find the right people to join me in bringing my idea to life. I should have believed in the people that I talked to and got them on board. One of the women I spoke to went on to win!

Shiny stuff does make a difference - While we were encouraged by mentors to keep the idea simple and achievable in the time. Bells and whistles do help, so get the balance right.

Co-creation is the way forward. Start with the audiencesprototype and test, refine and release. Work with multidisciplinary teams, not just designers and developers.

So, was it worth giving up 48 hours of my weekend?

Absolutely. I got out of my comfort zone, met some great people, learned a lot and know what to expect at the next one. There was an awesome barista there too, coffee was exceptional and required.