Supermarket Sweep: How Sainsbury’s used a Hackathon to Unlock Employee Creativity

September 16, 2015
Supermarket Sweep: How Sainsbury’s used a Hackathon to Unlock Employee Creativity

With IT now at the heart of nearly every business decision, many organisations are taking steps to make their technology as accessible as possible to the workforce. And although we may be some years from realising Gartner’s prediction that a quarter of new business applications would be built by ‘citizen developers’, we are starting to see the fundamentals drop into place.

Leading the trend is Sainsbury’s. As a long-time VMware user the leading retailer already understands the importance of using IT as a tool for productivity, efficiency and, ultimately, business growth.

Cultural Change

Looking to continue its progress in digital excellence and unlock the creative thinking of its workforce, Sainsbury’s has hosted its first ever company hackathon in their new Digital Lab. Running for 24 hours, colleagues from stores all across the UK – including Scotland, Carlisle and Bournemouth – came together with the Sainsbury’s digital team to create new applications based on ideas from individuals.

Given free rein to develop any application that could improve the team’s working life or enhance the customer experience, the Sainsbury’s judging panel were looking for the freshest, newest and most interesting ideas. Nothing was off limits – and it showed with some really innovative entries.

Firm Foundations

Critical to the hackathon was the use of Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry on VMware vCloud Air, the hybrid cloud service run and owned by VMware. Being able to repeatedly spin up test and development environments in less than 10 minutes allowed the teams to build extensive and fully-functioning integrated applications within the short 24 hour window. The experience showed the teams that they had the ability to change the company, empowering staff to use their digital skills.

Alongside Jon Rudoe, Digital & Technology Director of Sainsbury’s and Charlotte Briscall, Head of Digital Experience, Sainsbury’s, VMware’s own Joe Baguley, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, EMEA, was on the judging panel: “I have to applaud Sainsbury’s forward thinking in this. Not only have they demonstrated the organisation’s commitment to digital transformation but they have done so by unlocking the skills and expertise of their own employees from across the business right down to store colleagues – people who closely understand the needs and challenges of the business. As customer interaction becomes increasingly digitally-led, businesses such as Sainsbury’s, who can apply technology in a way which enhances the customer’s experience, will be the ones who thrive. This is a great example of an organisation which has not only accepted the new world of IT but has embraced it and is leading a cultural change. For me, that is the surest sign of business agility.”

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