Andy Kelk

Digital Technology Leader


DevFoundry September 2015

We’ve recently finished the inaugural DevFoundry event with the technology teams at News Corp Australia. While we do many product-focused NewsFoundry events which result in new products, we also wanted to throw the challenge to our tech staff to see what they would come up with.


 

We set just one rule: you can’t build a new customer or consumer-facing product. What you build must be relevant for our internal use. The event kicked off a week ahead of time with an hour of pitches. Anyone who had an idea they wanted to work on was invited up to tell the audience about their vision.


 

I thought we’d probably get through them all within 30 minutes but, even with the iPad timer to keep us moving, we used up a full hour and ended up with 24 different ideas.


 

After the pitching session, we invited everyone to swarm around the ideas that made most sense to them and to start forming teams. After a few teams combined and idea proposers decided which of their multiple ideas they wanted to run with, we ended up with 13 teams taking part. In total, around 60 people.


 

One of the best things about the NewsFoundry series of events is that we get everyone who’s working on a project to sit in the same area. This allows free interchange of ideas, it creates a sense of urgency and it allows some mild competition between teams to flourish.


 

The side-effect of having everyone in one space is that we use a large open area on the ground floor and everyone entering and leaving the building can see what we’re up to. That invites questions and curiosity and lets people know what we’re doing.


 

The teams were given a constrained amount of time to work in; it’s my belief that constraints will breed creativity.


 

Even when we’re developing internal tools, we still use customer discovery approaches. The team working on improving our testing environments interviewed internal users of the environment to solve their pain points.


 

Throughout the day, my role is about supporting the teams and making sure they have everything they need to keep going. As the day draws to a close, that involved popping out to the local pizza shop.


 

Day 2 is when reality starts to hit – there needs to be something to show in just a few hours.


 

And, of course, we need to make sure that everyone has fuel to keep going through the last hours of work.


 

Meanwhile, some teams are already starting to decorate their marketplace stalls. The printers get a good workout as posters are created.


 

And some more creative approaches to marketing are put into place.


 

Running a marketplace to show off what’s been built is a first for the NewsFoundry series. It creates a sense of occasion and energy and frees us from Death by Powerpoint. It also invites curious onlookers to pop in and see what we’ve been doing.


 

We ended up with three winning teams: two chosen by judges (for best use of technology and best enhancement to daily life) and one chosen by votes from the visitors to the marketplace.


 

Our winning entries cover a wide spectrum of needs: finding out where in the publishing pipeline content has got to; guiding the onboarding of new staff; and rating and discovering nearby lunch options.


 

We’re already starting to plan round two.


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