Planning a Low-Code/No-Code Appathon for Your Team

Objectives
After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Plan an appathon for your team with approval from management, for the right participants, the desired outcome and necessary resources

Planning a Low-Code/No-Code Appathon

Hopefully by now, you’re sold on the idea of hackathons and especially on appathons to drive citizen development forward. That can only mean one thing – that you’re ready to start planning it on your own! In this lesson, we’ll get into the details of planning a low-code/no-code appathon.

We’re going to first discuss who exactly should be involved in the session from your company. Then we’ll talk about determining outcomes, a crucial step in the planning process. Lastly, we’ll look at the operational pieces, such as timing and resources.

Get your boss on board

It should go without saying that putting together any kind of activity that takes up employee time will need to be approved by management. Before jumping into the planning, spend some time thinking about what the value of your team appathon will be and how you can pitch this to your boss and other potential executive sponsors (and later to potential participants).

There are different ways to present the idea but consider putting together some short slides. Some points to include:

  • Why is an appathon a good idea for your team?
  • How will the team benefit from working on the tools in this session?
  • How much time, resources, and budget will be taken up?

Keeping in mind all the benefits we’ve already seen that these initiatives can have for organizations, you'll have no trouble making your own case for an appathon.

Decide which SAP low-code / no-code tools you will use

When deciding where to focus for your first team appathon, think through the experience you just had with your low-code / no-code learning journey, and imagine which one is most important for your team right now?

It’s a subjective question and depends on your business situation and the level of access to SAP technology of the people you want to have involved. However, the good news is that you can get access to SAP AppGyver and SAP Process Automation via their free-tier subscriptions to get started.

Who should participate in an appathon?

Before you start planning your low-code/no-code appathon, it’s helpful to spend some time thinking about who your target participants will be. Who in your team will benefit the most from working with low-code/no-code tools in this setting?

In an earlier lesson, we looked at how SAP’s Co-Innovation Lab helps partners reach success through Hack2Build. One of our experts, Rudi Held, described the teams as small startups that place an emphasis on diversity.

When planning whom to involve in your own appathon, consider the following:

  • Interest - Who among your network has expressed legitimate interest in citizen development? Do they regularly work with SAP systems and see chances to improve their workflows? They will likely be most receptive to an appathon proposal.
  • Professional backgrounds and areas of expertise of potential participants. Depending on your goals for the session, you should consider having participants who come from a variety of areas. If the appathon is going to be for one specific non-development team, such as sales or marketing, then it will be important to involve someone who has expertise in the tool, as we did with our own appathon session I mentioned in the last lesson.
  • Bridge between business experts and IT - In upcoming lessons, we’ll meet more experts in citizen development who will share why building a bridge between the technical and business teams is crucial, not only for those on the citizen developer path, but for successful business transformation. Appathons are a way to pave the path for smoother collaboration between business and IT.

Another way to think about which participants to invite is to remember what you learned at the beginning of this learning journey, about the various participants involved in any process – both primary and secondary – as well as stakeholders. You could use this as a first filter on deciding about attendees, and then filter again to ensure you have the right mix of business and IT colleagues involved.

Deciding on a desired outcome

This is one of the most significant steps in planning the appathon. Defining what kind of outcome you want to achieve will help you determine every other aspect of planning. This can take many different forms, but here are the main types of outcomes you can consider:

  • Provide a fun and inspiring experience through building (with no tangible results).
  • Develop prototypes or proof of concepts that can be tested based on real use cases.
  • Pitch decks with more polished and rounded out ideas.
  • Production-ready solutions.

Most likely with your first low-code/no-code appathon, you won’t be striving for production-ready solutions just yet. And if you are, a hackathon might be more appropriate depending on the complexity of the problem you have in mind. But even something on a smaller scale, such as an engaging building session, can have value on its own. It’s a great way to get started before taking on a more intensive approach.

When defining the desired outcome, it is useful to reflect on an earlier lesson where we talked about process automation maturity levels. Having a perspective through the lens of that framework on the status of automation in your line of business is also helpful to figure out your desired outcome. Things to consider include:

  • How much automation already exists in your work life?
  • Where can you start with incremental improvements while the appathon participants are in the early stage of their learning curve with the new LCNC toolset?
  • What does the current process look like? What are the pain points?
  • What do you want the future process to look like?
  • What data sources need to be available to successfully solve the problem, and do you have the right access?

Once the desired outcome is defined, you can then decide how participants will present their resultsduring the finale of your appathon. Again, there are many possibilities here. Some examples include:

  • Elevator pitches with or without recording video
  • Sketches and mockups
  • App demos, such as with SAP AppGyver Preview
  • Presentation slides

Whatever format is best for you, just be sure you define some way to show and celebrate the results. Not only does that ensure a more satisfying conclusion to the appathon, but you also won’t want to walk away from the event without having outcomes to share across your organization. Because remember – the opportunity for citizen development is not over when your appathon ends – you can inspire other teams by telling them about the fun and success your group had with low-code / no-code.

Some results that may be relevant to ask the teams to mention when they are presenting include:

  • Did it work? Was the problem solved or not, and if not how close did they get?
  • What is the business value – qualitative and quantitative benefits – for the organization? Can other lines of business also benefit from the outcome?
  • What was the teamwork experience like? How did the different individuals affect the perspectives and creativity of the result?

Now that you have figured out the results you want to achieve, let’s get into some organizational details about appathons.

Time and resources

Once you know what kind of appathon session you want to run, the logistics should hopefully be simple to figure out. In general, when organizing internal enablement events, time and resources might be limited, though by looking at what we achieved in our own team session, you can see that even a little bit can go a long way.

The main aspects you’ll need to look at include:

  • Budget or time budget – how many hours of your colleagues’ working time will be taken up
  • Support – if you require extra guidance from an expert (which we recommend), how many people will that involve, and how much of their time it will take.
  • Required tools and access to them – if they are using SAP low-code/no-code tools (for example SAP AppGyver, SAP Process Automation, etc.), how they will access the environments.
  • Conferencing software– if your team is in a virtual setup, they’ll need to stay connected through the entire session.
  • Any additional resources– this includes external services such as an API, so considering if individual API keys are needed to authenticate users and how they can be obtained.

Another thing to consider when looking at time and resources is how you can help people get started efficiently, so that no time is wasted during the actual session. You can prepare a small prerequisite assignment with the purpose of both getting participants initially set up, as well as having their first contact with the tool ahead of the session. You’ll recall the example I provided earlier with the prerequisites that Kanishka gave to our team to get ready for our event.

Factor the effort to do this into your time budget as well, and with that, you can present a clear outline of the session to your boss, colleagues and other stakeholders when you pitch the idea. This will become extremely important in the next lesson, which goes into getting the team onboard for the appathon.

Also keep it in mind to decide on your dates and block the attendees' calendars as soon as you get management approval to proceed.

Summary: Planning out the Appathon

Let’s do a quick recap of this lesson on planning your low-code/no-code appathon. The main areas to consider include:

  • Getting your boss on board – Before you start planning you should present the value proposition and explain the benefits this will have for the teams.
  • Deciding what tools to use – Consider which low-code/no-code tool will be most impactful for your team right now.
  • Who to involve – When planning your appathon, you’ll want the participants to be a nice mix of professionals, and especially include those who are motivated to become citizen developers.
  • Deciding an outcome – Once you define what it is you want the participants to achieve, whether it’s a prototype or simply inspiration, then the rest of planning becomes clearer.
  • Time and resources – This includes budgets, required tools and access to them, support people, and video conferencing software for virtual setups.

In our next Hear from the Experts, we’ll get some insights and tips on each of these areas. We’ll also meet Sarah Schwerdtner of SAP Strategic Operations and Product Management, who has been on her own citizen developer journey building apps and automations.

Here’s a preview of what they’ll share:

"Don’t focus on one area like sales, but have different teams involved, and then randomize the groups. This gives them a chance to meet people they’ve never met before and connect with each other."

"With things like hackathons and communities around these tools, it’s much easier for [people] to get started. It's all about lowering the entry barrier so that people who are not technical can be a part of the talent pool that improves the company’s business processes."

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