When it comes to designing applications or new functionalities, software development is often a matter of weeks or months of programming and testing. But it can also be approached differently. A combined team consisting of Vtel and IPerity members proved last month with a hackathon. Within 24 hours, we laid the basis for a new chat function for Vcare.

A hackathon is hot: more and more companies and organizations put software engineers, business analysts, and other experts together 24 hours a day. During the 24-hour period, intensive work is being done on innovative concepts. This creative way to shape ideas into a “proof of concept” is gaining popularity.

The hackathon that was organized at Vtel aimed to investigate whether a chat function could be implemented. In addition to software developers Han Jannink and Rick Everink, engineer Jeroen Noordman, as well as Marnix Suyver and marketer Sanne van Geenhuizen were also involved. The hackathon partner was telecom specialist IPerity, with whom Vtel is already working intensively. Product Manager Jeroen Naeff came to Enschede with the specialist team – Nathan Bruning, Laszlo and Tena Kocevar – from The Hague for this challenge.

Jeroen: “You want to create something that actually works within 24 hours. That is the setup of a hackathon where you ensure that you keep the pace and focus. Of course, there is a plan in advance and you do preliminary research. But, as it is normally the case, there are now no forty pages of specifications. With this approach, you want something tangible in those 24 hours.”

Marnix Suyver, R&D Director at Vtel, also did not want to miss this hackathon. “Normally, when developing a new function or application, you look very carefully at the requirements and wishes of the customer, at specifications, etc. That is a long process, which of course must be followed carefully. That is not a case with a hackathon: we then cut off a few sharp turns and it is “quick and dirty”. But what it yields is a “proof of concept” that you can say: this can work.”

Jeroen adds: “You don’t go into detail either. A lot of aspects still need to be addressed in a chat function. How long does someone want to wait for an answer, how many chats can someone handle,… You do not know exactly what is going to work, but that is not yet important at that stage.”

But a hackathon also has a different purpose, Suyver says: “Normally you deal with each other formally. This is a different kind of collaboration, you are more casual, you get to know each other in a different way. You motivate and encourage each other to come to concrete solutions together.”

Marnix looks back enthusiastically on this first hackathon with IPerity: “Wonderful to see this pressure cooker collaboration. In the end, a closed, secure chat solution was set up in 24 hours with the option of asking triage questions automatically and responding to them. Not unrelated to other applications, but integrated into the Vcare Operator.”

“In the end, a closed, secure chat solution was set up in 24 hours with the option of asking triage questions automatically and responding to them. Not unrelated to other applications, but integrated into the Vcare Operator.”

The article was originally written in Dutch by Vtel and this is a translation.