ReadyTech’s payroll and workforce management clients will benefit from a virtual innovation day that brought together technology teams from across the Region.
‘Hackathons’ are usually an in-person affair. Bringing tech-minded types together into one (often sugar and coffee-fuelled) location, they typically involve working in close-knit, competitive groups over laptop and mobile screens for 24 – 48 hours to hash out breakthrough tech solutions.
ReadyTech Workforce Solutions’ innovation day was similar in some ways – but different in others.
“This time we needed to do everything remotely,” says Alojz Kiseli, Head of Technology, Workforce Solutions, at ReadyTech. “We had a 30-strong remote workforce of software developers from across the region coming together in real-time, online to collaborate and innovate.”
The end results? Five solutions that can be picked up, polished and rolled out for ReadyTech’s clients.
“The event was virtual – but the solutions are very real. What we have now are some really useful tech solutions we can roll out to evolve our payroll and workforce management software. At the same time, we’ve also managed to bring our disparate technology teams closer together through the process.”
Beyond Boundaries, Toward Solutions
ReadyTech’s payroll and workforce management software is used by large and small businesses alike across Australia and New Zealand. At a time where the economy and regulations are changing so fast, it was hoped the Innovation Day would contribute to the evolution of premium software for clients.
“The basic premise of the Innovation Day was to allow our teams to explore new technologies and innovative ways of solving problems. At its heart, it was designed as a fun, intense software development and coding competition, stimulating collaboration, ideation and innovation.”
Though held in a remote environment, Innovation Day was also meant to bring people together.
“We want to build an environment at ReadyTech that encourages collaboration and friendly competition while empowering each other to make vital decisions at any given moment. Innovation Day was really the type of day you come to work for – where you can be part of an agile culture helping to meet the changing needs of customers while having a bit of fun at the same time.”
The Rules, Tools and Challenges
Innovation Day was structured as a competition between five teams of six developers. With two weeks of preparation time given for work in advance, the day itself was an eight-hour sprint where teams were able to finesse and finalise their work ahead of assessment by a judging panel. Teams were given a number of rules and tools, as well as a series of pre-defined software challenges.
- Teams were free to use any technology at all
- This included any third-party or cloud-based tools (within pricing limits)
- Teams were able to do as much pre-work as they liked
- Everyone in the team had to have a voice around the solution
- A team Zoom account was available for real-time communication and collaboration
- A JIRA (by Atlassian) project board was created for each team to manage workflows
- A Confluence (by Atlassian) page was available to document any group requirements
- Dedicated infrastructure and UX staff were on standby for teams to use if required
- Create a user friendly, self-service way of managing wage Award interpretations
- Train a machine learning algorithm to determine if any employee has been underpaid based on their applicable Award
- Create an Office 365 Flow Connector / PowerApp that will allow manager approval from Outlook email & automatically push the leave into an Outlook Calendar (Employee & Manager)
- Create an interactive bot for employees to manage their time and attendance
- Create a scalable and re-usable file mapping and import tool
Tiebreaking the Technology
Teams were judged on three pre-determined criteria. They were; the degree of technical difficulty involved, the impressiveness or ‘wow’ factor of the software solutions, and the degree of innovation that was on display – or in other words, how much did they go above and beyond expectations?
It was left to a panel of judges from ReadyTech’s senior executive, technology and security teams to field 10-minute pitches from the teams on their final solutions, before scoring and naming a winner (this proved to be difficult – the top two solutions had to be split through a special tiebreaker).
The winner: An interactive Slack bot for employees to manage their time and attendance won the competition – if only by a nose. The new feature incorporated a lot of benefits for end users.
- An employee-first approach
- Flexibility around commands
- Multiple platform integrations
- Multiple implementation variations
- Increases employee engagement
- Streamlines business processes
- Greater accessibility of information
- Ability to port over to other messaging platforms (i.e., Microsoft Teams)
The runner up: The Office 365 connector came in second. Similar to the winning Slack bot, it is expected to help streamline processes (such as leave requests and approvals, leave balance requests, and others) for software customers by allowing employees and managers to interact within their existing Microsoft Business tools rather than having to login to the platform.
New Way to Break Through
Alojz Kiseli said each solution developed on Innovation Day has the potential to help drive ReadyTech’s vision for the #futureofwork. “We’re looking forward to maturing these solutions into robust, enterprise ready products/features in the near future.” He added that the Innovation Day model might help other organisations in pressing fast forward on progress for a few reasons:
It is a useful way to organise teams and create space for work on distinct projects or problems.
“Rather than being hampered by silos or existing workloads, teams can focus and collaborate creatively and effectively.” Instead of having to go through the rigour of planning out specific platform projects and the complexity of having to manage the transitioning of resources across teams (which can take months in some organisations), the simplest way to make this happen might be to create special projects that teams can work on independently of their day-to-day tasks.
Organisations might find they get more out of their project teams than they ever imagined.
“Given that this was a fully remote event, we gave the teams two weeks to prepare. And did they ever! All teams immediately jumped into action and were organising Zoom meetings, setting up Jira projects and boards, working with the infrastructure teams to get their environments configured, as well as with our resident UX guru to have their user interfaces designed. The amount of work achieved by the teams in those two weeks was absolutely phenomenal.”
It’s a way to cement productive team relationships and put organisational values into action.
“Through creative work initiatives like this you can get teams putting organisational values into action in ways that nurture productivity.” For example – At ReadyTech, this event embodied the true spirit of ‘love our customers’, ‘stay curious’ and ‘have courage’, which are some of our organisational values. It was great to see the team really taking a customer and employee-first approach when designing their solution (versus it just being an opportunity to experiment with new tech).
Innovate and Prosper
Innovation is a concept that is difficult to define. But rather than being something that seems out of reach for the majority of organisations, Alojz said it was best to view innovation as a series of small and incremental steps in new directions, that can lead to change – and indeed prosperity.
One of my favourite quotes around the topic is “innovation is the parent of prosperity”. I believe innovation is what drives businesses and industries forward, and historically those businesses who have invested more in innovation have tended to prosper, while others have been overtaken by change (key example is Kodak vs Apple).
“I’d like to think that we at ReadyTech can really influence the #futureofwork through continuing to look to deliver innovative solutions to help our customers grow. We want to make it easier for them to manage an ever-changing workforce, and our focus is on ensuring their employees’ wellbeing and engagement are at the centre of what we do.”