2016_2 pizza and programming

Pizza and Programming

Wärtsilä’s CIO Jukka Kumpulainen is convinced that Wärtsilä needs to bring the spirit and atmosphere of Silicon Valley hackathons to its software development.


This will be your home for 48 hours,” says Paavo Kotinurmi, one of the organizers of Wärtsilä’s first ever hackathon, the Digisauna event, as a group of people steps out of the elevator into a room lit with red and blue strips of lights.

For inspiration, a photo of San Francisco is projected on the wall. The team with the most innovative, productive and applicable idea will travel to California in June.

At the event held in Vaasa, Finland, in April, seven teams raced to develop new, creative ideas and digital solutions to help improve the company’s competitiveness and create added value for customers. Fundamental to the approach was seeing the problem through customers’ eyes.


The idea for Wärtsilä’s first hackathon was born in October, when Eero Tuomikoski and Paavo Kotinurmi met Salesforce representatives. Salesforce, whose programs support Wärtsilä’s functions, already had experience in hackathons, and an idea arose. What if Wärtsilä could speed up its digitalisation with a new way of working?

The application process yielded thirty-five finalists, selected based on their skills, motivation and topic of interest, who were invited to the Digisauna. Seven mixed teams, diversified in terms of background, experience and gender, were created to boost the collision of ideas.

The teams came up with catchy names: Team SärMä, ChattsUpp, SF 46ers, Lead Winners, Team Sun, SunForce and Hotel California. Each team consisted of a business topic owner, whose real-life problem the team needed to solve, and a business end user, or client. There was also a Team Lead and two coders, the citizen developer and the alpha developer.


Hanna Carlson, member of the SF 46ers, thought that the hackathon is just what Wärtsilä needed.

“In order to keep Wärtsilä competitive, we need to change our ways of working. We need to make our inner processes easier so we can manoeuvre faster.”

The experts from Salesforce and Wärtsilä’s own Salesforce architect helped the teams with technical issues, and by evening, everyone had advanced their prototypes to a suitable stage. In a short time, several mobile apps, client portals and analytics tools were created.

On the hackathon’s last day, the teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges. Each team had five minutes to answer some tough questions: How will the client bene t from the solution? How will the tool generate money? How quickly can the prototype be turned into a real tool?


After tough deliberation, the jury selected the winner, and the team travelling to San Francisco, the Lead Winners.

The winning pitch at DIGISAUNA tackled a real business problem. And so did the others, which keeps the teams moving forward. e teams have continued to work together after the event, giving final touches to their solutions and working out the detailed deployment plans. Pleased with the outcomes of Wärtsilä’s first hackathon, the organisers plan to continue it in one format or other.



When a team from Wärtsilä and its supplier Bilot (WESAP team) won SAPSyke – the 36-hour hackathon arranged by SAP’s Finnish User Group – it convinced them that hackathons could play a useful role in Wärtsilä’s future software development.

“It’s very innovative,” said Kati Helenius, a member of the winning team. “If you have a challenge in mind but as yet no solution, then a hackathon is a good tool to find that.”

The winning AirSpare concept foresees using, as a complement the global logistics system, an Uber or Airbnb-like model to handle individual shipments of smaller spare parts and components and an Internet-of-Things-based solution for connecting shipments, couriers and customers.

The idea is to let ordinary travellers bid for a courier job on a website or app, pick up small spare parts/components using “parcel hubs” (lockers at selected airports), carry the parcel with them on flights, and then deliver it to an airport locker at the destination site.

At the award ceremony on May 19 in Helsinki, the team picked up the EUR 2,000 prize, which it donated to the Finnish Cancer Foundation.

Helenius said the experience showed her that hackathons work best when business people as well as programmers are involved, as they are better able to de ne real problems.

“I think, at this point in time, I wouldn’t use it for major projects. I would concentrate on something that is not only technical but also involves the business side,” she said.

Read more:

A pilgrimage to hacking heaven

A Piece of Cloud

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