Innovation thrives with hackathon days at Widen

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Innovation thrives with hackathon days at Widen

By Annette Jensen, Software Development Manager at Widen

In the past, when I read about creative companies and how there were specialized teams working specifically on innovation, I often wondered how someone might land a position like that? I have seen these job descriptions, and I always thought that it would make a dream job for me. Now, I can't help wondering, however, just how sustainable is it to keep an entire team focused solely on innovation?

As we finished our bi-annual hackathon days here at Widen, it occurred to me that such a team actually already exists here; and it includes our entire software division. Even though we have a dedicated product management team, all Widen departments, are constantly innovating across our open environment floor, not just during our hackathons, but all the time. Groups made up of members from: marketing, customer service, product management, development and quality assurance. Teams are holding fireside chats, training sessions and so on. Everyone at the company frequently participates to improve experiences for the next generation of customers and users of our tools. 

The first thing that comes immediately to mind is our many and varied fireside chats. I am excited to recall how many Widen developers attended the recent discussion, called “Thirty Minutes of Marketing.” Members of the marketing team facilitated inventive brainstorming about common marketing department struggles, not only with the use of a DAM system as a stand alone tool, but as an integral part of a company’s marketing technology stack. 

The other example that I've already discussed to some degree is our hackathon days. They are such an important cultural event at Widen, because they give software developers and/or anyone wanting to participate, the ability to work on a project for several days, to bring forward cool, new, technology ideas. At the end of the hackathon, demos are given, and those participating share their ideas and technology with the entire software division. Many of the ideas from the latest hackathon were gaming related. My favorite were the fun ways we sought to increase adoption of certain parts of our products, such as Meta Miner! Analytics was another growing topic and several projects were based on data mining and how to present it in a creative and meaningful way. Finally, improvements with internal tools have lead to better ways to be more efficient on a daily basis.

What comes out of these demos is not only prize money, cross-team collaboration and just the kind of innovation that I tended to day-dream about before working at Widen! Following our most recent event a few weeks ago, I heard things like, “Wow, I really need to talk to you about that. I have several customers who have asked for this type of functionality,” and I often hear, “I am so excited that you built that. Can we take that to production tomorrow?” Through such events, we are constantly finding new ways to solve real problems that are different than traditional innovation teams, but just as effective and more enjoyable for all.

Not only do our marketing, customer service and product management teams listen to customers, but so do our developers. Nowhere was this more evident than when we all participate in our Widen User Summit, each year. The summit gives customers time to talk one-on-one with our software developers and QA staff.

During our recent hackathon days, many used the time to solve issues that they heard about specifically from customers at the Widen Summit. You have to understand that the hackathon projects are not required to be directly work-related; they can be anything that is based in technology. I found it particularly impressive that the majority of projects that I saw could at some point be used to improve future experiences for our customers. Our developers listened, and they were excited to help! With this type of talent developing digital asset management software and our cross-team collaboration, Widen is able to connect marketing content to solve real customer problems. 

It really is amazing to see the ideas that get tossed around when you get these opportunities. Who needs a specialized innovation team?

Some of the best ideas demonstrated at our most recent Widen hackathon event included:

  • An interactive mobile app to apply metadata in a way that is more fun for all contributors.
  • Visual ways to work through groups of assets for smarter collaboration and curation needs. 
  • Digital asset usage analytics for global visibility across all customers.
  • Gamifying user engagement and rollout, through awards and recognition.
  • Collective Glass, exploring the use of wearables to capture and ingest content.
  • Asset tagging, with facial recognition and visual search, for similar assets. 
  • Social content aggregators, with Instagram and Twitter integration, for the Widen Media Collective.

We look forward to bringing many of the these ideas into our product portfolio some day.

Got an idea you’d like to discuss? Let us know if you’d like to chat more about our innovative ideas in digital asset management and marketing technology.

Topics: Culture & Company

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