FNB CodeFest: Highlights from the coolest IT sprint in the FirstRand Group – Part 2

Three more ingredients for the secret sauce of a “mind blowing” event; team coaching through the night, exec sponsorship (and exec dragons) and world class tech support.

Last week the second FNB Codefest saw 250 developers converge for a multi-day sprint to work on over 40 business sponsored ideas of which the winner was a kids savings app. Day 3 of the event was a 24 hour coding marathon during which teams competed to build prototypes that were voted on and the top 6 pitched to a dragons den that included the CEOs of RMB and FNB. These highlights look back on this “world leading” event and explore why our business sponsors feel we should be doing these on a regular basis; see FNB CodeFest Highlights Part 1 for collaboration, mob programming and live streaming. [paragraph 1 of 5]

Every start up business needs a coach; sleep-deprived codeFest teams under time pressure trying to solve big banking problems are no different. Driven Alliance, Britehouse and Elixirr helped teams storyboard their designs and develop their pitches for the dragons den. A solution can be clever and important but business people need to understand its commercial, business value proposition; many teams remarked how important this was and how well these partners helped them achieve this. [2/5]

Without strong exec sponsorship we were just a bunch of techies coding in a room building hammers without any nails (read here about how to avoid this). Day 0 ideation was very important to set the scene a month before the main event when over 40 business ideas were presented and the collaborative, team matching journey began. Once our business sponsors realised they could actually achieve working software within a month, they were engaged and drove the process; many of them joining the hammer-building techies all the way through the 24 hours. [3/5]

During the full day tech set up we had our tech partners on hand; Dimension Data spun up VMs, HP provided workstation-class notebooks as well as their code-testing suite plus Obsidian provided the Atlassian stack and OpenShift cloud. Microsoft also set up their Azure cloud service and Oracle provided 30 database servers and a Weblogic Application Server. We upgraded and stress tested the wifi to cater for at least 3 devices per 250 developers; this proved as essential as the good coffee that Oracle sponsored in the first event. [4/5]

Despite all these ingredients working exceptionally well, issues still arose; eg the dragons den room was on a different wifi from the one in the main venue. We only realised this just before the dragons arrived – network ninjas quickly reprogrammed the wifi point in their den to pick up the main network so the teams had a seamless demo environment. Big CodeFests are complex technical events and delivery teams need coaching and strong support from their customers; these aspects made all the difference in FNB CodeFest 2.0. [5/5]

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