There is a reason that California’s San Francisco Bay Area is the mecca for companies in search of the next big thing in digital solutions.

A pilgrimage to hacking heaven

Where do hacking aficionados go to learn how to take their digital solutions to the next level? Wärtsilä’s Digisauna hackathon winners travelled to San Francisco to soak in all they could.

Text: Anna Aistrich Photo: Kimmo Laasonen

There is a reason that California’s San Francisco Bay Area is the mecca for companies in search of the next big thing in digital solutions. It is home to platform super-disruptors like Uber, AirBnB, Netflix and Apple TV. The success of all these new, cloud-based operational models is stirring up debate over whether they could replace more traditional business models.

Digital tools from Salesforce, another San Francisco-based, cloud-computing giant, support several of Wärtsilä’s functions. Salesforce representatives in Finland, applying their experience from previous hackathons, helped generate the idea of using a hackathon to help Wärtsilä speed up its digitalisation efforts.

So, naturally, when The team travelling to San Francisco included the five Lead Winners’ members from Wärtsilä, the prize for the team with the most innovative, productive and applicable idea was a trip to the Salesforce headquarters in San Francisco in June.

The Digisauna event, held in Vaasa, Finland, challenged seven teams to develop new, creative ideas and digital solutions to help improve the company’s competitiveness and create added value for customers. After tough deliberation, the jury selected the winning team, the Lead Winners.

The team travelling to San Francisco included the five Lead Winners’ members from Wärtsilä –Ilkka Rytkölä, Christina Urot, Anna Murtoniemi-Laine, Fabio Tamaro and Jaime López Gutiérrez –plus Kimmo Laasonen from Salesforce Finland. After the long flight from Helsinki, the group headed off to stretch their legs on a biking tour through scenic Sonoma Valley.

At the Salesforce office the next day, the Lead Winners gained insight into how Salesforce does digital marketing and the lessons they have learned through the years. Ilkka Rytkölä, Portfolio Manager with Wärtsilä Services and Team Leader for the Lead Winners, explained, “They’ve been doing it for a long time and know what works and what doesn’t. So the team got a lot of good advice on capturing leads and using them for digital marketing. It was impressive to see how professional they are on these topics.”

A team member tests virtual reality glasses at Accenture Lab.
A team member tests virtual reality glasses at Accenture Lab.

 
The team also paid a visit to Stanford University and to the Silicon Valley offices of Google, Apple and Accenture. At Accenture, the team got to test different gadgets, such as the HoloLens from Microsoft and some virtual reality glasses. Rytkölä said he was “interested to notice that they have such an academic approach to these gadgets, which I would like to see applied in real life.” For him, the missing link was connections to companies that may have applications where the technology could be tested in an actual business case. The intrigue of these gadgets would be greater if they were co-developed to address real needs.

This experience led Rytkölä to what was, for him, the trip’s biggest take-home message: to bring their app development back to basics. Because their idea will cause a radical change in the way people work, Rytkölä explained that they cannot just say, “Here is an app. Please use it.” He acknowledged that it is easy to jump right to the solution and skip the steps that include user input. So he believes that the key to their solution’s success is to discuss with the sales team what the bottleneck issues are and engage them in the process of developing the app from the beginning.

Aside from the technology-related insights he gained, Rytkölä was fascinated by all the diverse microclimates they experienced during their trip. American author Fitz Hugh Ludlow described this phenomenon perfectly, "To a traveller paying his first visit, [San Francisco] has the interest of a new planet. It ignores the meteorological laws which govern the rest of the world."

So maybe it’s the area’s disregard for the forces of nature that inspires people there to generate such ground-breaking ideas.

Read more:

https://www.wartsila.com/twentyfour7/innovation/pizza-and-programming

Leave a comment

Load more comments