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Hacking the employee experience: The third annual Backelite Hackathon

As one of the year’s most anticipated events at Backelite, our third annual hackathon was a whirlwind two and a half days of creativity, passion, and innovation. This year’s challenge: improve the employee experience, by making the office smarter. Nine teams worked hard on various projects, all with the end-user in mind, in this case Backelite employees.

It’s the constraints that fuel creativity and innovation

employee hackathon

We take a few days every year to solve challenges with creative, innovative and surprising solutions that are under enormous time and budgetary constraints. But we believe it’s this special mixture of constraints, our collective energy and multidisciplinary teams that are the magic recipe in producing innovative products after a mere two and a half days.

The Backelite hackathon is an opportunity to test out new tech and bring to life creative concepts that we’ve been dreaming about. Whether it’s transforming these ideas into new products for our clients, or simply improving daily life in the Backelite offices, each hackathon brings a variety of prototypes that excite and inspire. Some projects even live beyond the two day hackathon, and become daily services for our team. – Philippe Bernery, Head of Innovation

Imagine a living office space that communicated with employees, adjusting to their daily needs to make sure they were comfortable, productive and happy.

The theme, Smart Office, was aptly chosen for its close timing to our Paris office move at the end of 2016. What better way to inaugurate the new offices than by finding innovative solutions to the daily inconveniences and grievances in an office. A few of the pain points we sought to soothe: locating and reserving a meeting room online last minute, trying to track down a coworker who is across the building, and the never-ending battle of optimizing the temperature and noise levels in open spaces.

The projects in a nutshell

BeKi the Slack Bot

 

office chatbot hackathon

What is it?

A chatbot on the Backelite Slack group.

How does it improve life at the office?

We wanted to create a central space that would answer employees’ questions related to daily life at the office (procedures, tools, people, etc.). To get started, simply ping @BeKi in Slack or tag her in a message in a channel.  

Based on our user interviews with new employees, we defined three key actions for BeKi:

 

  • Who’s who: Ask Beki who someone is with their first and last name, and she retrieves their title, photo, and where they sit in the office.
  • Tools: Ask BeKi about the internal tools we use, and she redirects you to the appropriate intranet page to provide more information on how to use it.
  • Where to eat?: Last, but certainly not least, BeKi can suggest good restaurants and deals in the area for lunch inspiration.

To get started, simply ping @BeKi in Slack or tag her in a message in a channel.  

What’s next?

BeKi will continue to learn more each time she is solicited, enriching her database of responses. The next step will be to integrate Alfred, the bot that can reserve meeting rooms, among other advanced features.

 

BkMaps

What is it?

A real-time visualization of the office. Is that meeting room free or reserved? Where is Brian working today? Is there toilet paper in the second floor restrooms? All of these questions, among others, can be answered on BkMaps.

How does it improve life at the office?

In our new Paris offices, it can be complicated to find people and open meeting rooms across the five different floors. This project allows people to more efficiently get around the office. And thanks to its interconnection with the other hackathon projects, BkMaps will also be able to improve employee health, diminish fatigue and reinforce the teamwork spirit. The only thing that’s missing: make coffee.

 

SmartBooking

 

office hackathon

What is it?

A new, fun way to handle meeting room reservations. Underneath the projectors in each meeting room, the SmartBooking smart button is installed.

How does it improve life at the office?

As in many offices, our office had a dire need: more efficiently manage the limited meeting rooms and make sure they are being used to their potential by those who need them.  

With one touch of a smart button, it:

  • Confirms you are using the meeting room
  • Keeps you informed how much time in your reservation is left, so to not encroach on someone else’s reservation
  • Informs you if the room is free afterwards in case your meeting runs late
  • Notifies people the room is unused if you finish your meeting early
  • Reserves a room for 15 minutes without needing to log into your calendar if the room is free

What’s next?

Keep working on the LED animation, work more closely with BkBadger so that it recognizes individual employees with NFC. We would also like to add in alternative ambiances and languages, ideally eventually allowing all Backelite employees to scan an employee ID and have SmartBooking adapt to their preferences and local language.

BkCare

What is it?

A connected object with an Apple Watch that encourages employee wellness at the office.

How does it improve life at the office?

BkCare alerts the office once it detects something disruptive to employees’ optimal working environments: temperature, humidity and lighting. It also reminds employees to get up regularly and move around to avoid long periods of sitting. The alerts are designed to be obvious, and they trigger a siren and notifications Apple Watch and Slack.

What’s next?

Make a few improvements to existing hardware (the noise detector), and connect it to the Cloud so its settings can be customized based on specific expectations. The icing on the cake would be giving a voice to BkCare!

BkBadger

 

hackathon office

What is it?

A system that can identify users with their employee IDs (NFC) and suggest contextualized services based on the employee.

How does it improve life at the office?

The first use case developed was a meeting room reservation system instantly without needing to use a computer or phone.

What’s next?

Keep developing features, especially the ability to ask someone using a meeting room to cancel their booking if the meeting didn’t take place. There are also tangential functions in the pipe: voting for themes of upcoming agency parties and reserving testing devices.

Telepod

What is it?

A simple system that allows you to create or join a video conference.

How does it improve life at the office?

You no longer need a computer or to reserve 24 hours in advance to videoconference between offices. The Telepod in each office connects you to the other office with just one push of a button! Those who do not have Telepod, whether they are at the client’s or working from home, can also join in videoconferences.

What’s next?

Add a feature to allow several videoconferences simultaneously, and add additional details such as showing the time, or showing all available video conferences the user is able to join.

Portal

 

What is it?

An Android TV interface connects all international Backelite offices and allow visitors in the offices to get to know us better.

How does it improve life at the office?

Installed in the kitchen for maximum social impact, Portal allows offices to communicate with one another via video and to read news and updates from each office (new hires, new projects, birthdays, etc.). It also can be a corporate communication tool, installed in an entryway to show off international offices and agency news to visitors.

What’s next?

The interface is built, now it needs a data input system and a video chat solution that will allow people to communicate in real time across all Backelite offices.

 

Backelite – The Board Game

What is it?

A board game built for project management, in which one plays a project manager who must pilot a project from pitch through the production phase.

How does it improve life at the office?

The Board Game allows newcomers to more easily assimilate into the office environment, our tools, methods, and history, all in a fun and simple way. During the hackathon, we built the board itself that lights up and guides players where to go by using dedicated colors for each player. The player wins points by answering questions and moving the most amount of spaces in one turn.

What’s next?

Continue to develop features, such as adding on physical buttons that players press to answer questions. A multi-screen interface is also in the works so that players can continue playing and answering questions on their phones.

 

RetroBoard

What is it?

A simple tool that simplifies retrospectives on projects, and provides follow-up to the action plan put in place.

How does it improve life at the office?

Retrospectives are a big part of daily life for many employees, so by making it simpler and fun it can also improve team morale, efficiency and mood.

What’s next?

Make the retrospective even more dynamic with a revamped interface, and develop Android and Web apps for easier access.

What’s next?

The hackathon is only the beginning for these concepts. Our teams will be able to continue working on their projects during our Community Time: dedicated time during which they can freely tinker and work on side projects. Stay tuned for updates from various projects during the year as our Communities continue to develop, test, and improve these first prototypes.

Until then, see you next time!

The third annual Backelite hackathon: Smart Office edition