Predictive Goes Cloud and So Does the Hackathon

It has been two years now since we first started to rethink learning. While many consider learning to be dull, we found a way to make hot topics, in our case Predictive Analytics, hot to learn—Predictive Hackathons—an experimental learning concept that is not only a lot more fun, but also greatly oriented on real-life project work.

One of our New Year’s resolutions for this year was to repeat the great time we had last year with these Hackathons. Of course, we wanted to be up to date with the content and so we shifted the focus to the new and exciting predictive functionalities in SAP Analytics Cloud. Hence, we didn’t waste any time and started right away to continue this great format in 2019 following the company’s strategy into the cloud. But no worries: The essential characteristics stayed the same.

Let me quickly guide you through those characteristics. Apart from other trainings, the focus of our hackathons is on real life use cases and the extensive hands-on sessions that make the participants use the tool on their own as much as possible. The participants work together in teams to master two challenges. While the first task is a real use case picked by the trainers, the second one lies in the participants hands. They are free to come up with their own ideas and define the concept of this use case. Further, they can earn extra credits if they implement it with open available data. Even it the focus is on learning and having fun on the last day all teams present their results and the best team is rewarded with one of our fabulous prices from the SAP collection.

But of course, the teams are not left on their own. Trainers with different backgrounds share their knowledge with the participants and are available all the time to support the teams. In daily expert sessions the trainers give the teams a quick overview of different aspects of the tool. After each expert session, the participants can prove what they learned (or not) in a quick quiz. The trainers’ favorite part is always to listen to the teams great and innovative ideas. Well, besides the evening event with pizza maybe.

So how did it go?

  • What started as an internal new learning experience resonated so well with the participating colleagues that we took our courage to further develop the format into a customer event. But this meant to set our customers’ expectations right. Most of them were surprised that SAP offers such an innovative format and at first, expected a standard classroom training with the teachers showing something, and the participants meticulously following a rigid script.
  • The casual dress code and the informal evening event with pizza caused some surprised looks among the participants at first. Some even asked, “Are you sure this is an SAP event?” But after the first astonishment passed, they enjoyed it a lot. At the end of the event the comments went more in the direction of “next time we need cold pizza, like in the good old days at the university”.
  • As a very nice side effect of the teamwork across different companies, industries, and knowledge levels regarding the SAP tools, participants started to share their knowledge and experience. Students started to learn from other students which added a new perspective to the event. Some participants even showed amazing dashboards and projects they had already developed for their companies.
  • Since in the end it felt as if we were one user community happily hacking together, every participant was asked to democratically vote for the best team.

For the trainers, it was especially rewarding to see how well the Hackathon format was received by the participants, thus justifying the effort that went into designing and preparing the event.

So next,  let’s have a quick look of what needed to be adjusted to move the Hackathon to the cloud.

Life Could Be So Easy!

Preparing the workshop turned out to be much simpler than in the on-premise world: Nine pages of installation instructions could be reduced to the simple prerequisite of having the chrome browser installed. This immediately convinced the teachers and the audience of the charm of cloud solutions.

Great Minds Think Alike

Using a tool like SAP Analytics Cloud that combines business intelligence (BI) and predictive capabilities brought two types of users to the Hackathon:

  • The ones looking from a BI perspective with a simplified notion of statistics being standard functions like averages.
  • The ones looking from a predictive perspective failing to see that even the most sophisticated mathematical result should be presented clearly and concisely.

By working in teams both groups were able to benefit from each other by challenging their respective way of thinking and getting a different view on advanced analytics.

Building Dashboards—the Hidden Challenge

How do you build a clear and concise dashboard? In order to build a good dashboard, you need to know your audience and the content that is relevant to them. It is important that the visual elements support the message but do not distract the user.

The experts held a session on best practices for building dashboards and provided examples for good and bad ones.

  • In the style of Design Thinking, the teams were asked to define the persona that represents the potential dashboard user before the actual dashboard was built.
  • This Session convinced the participants that everybody can learn how to build good dashboards with SAP Analytics Cloud.
  • Additionally, building a dashboard on top of predictive results also gave the participants the chance to walk through the whole process from building predictive models up to visualizing the results in a way suited for business users.

Feedback

The Hackathon also provided the possibility to give feedback on the product. Participants’ feedback on missing features and suggestions for product improvement will be fed back into product management. With this we want to make sure that customers’ suggestions are being taken into account at this early stage for Smart Predict, the newest discipline within SAP Analytics Cloud that yet has to celebrate its first birthday.

Thank You

These successful Hackathons and their ambitious internal and external rollout plans are made possible by colleagues from different departments like presales, consulting, product management and global skills management working together and participants—customers and colleagues alike—by putting in efforts and ideas to master the challenges and keeping up the good spirit.

Special thanks go to our sponsors

  • Rolf Zeidler, Global Practice Unit Lead for Analytics & Insight Services
  • Jens Ihringer, Head of Practice Unit Analytics & Insight GER2
  • Brett Philpott, DBS Skill Management

We are looking forward to more events with our great team, consisting of Daniel Gerdes, Martina Schnelle, and Deborah Mateja. Stay tuned and watch out for upcoming Hackathons.