Rethinking our annual makeathons: Midwest

  • Posted on August 20, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes
Rethinking our annual makeathons: Midwest

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Jeff Vilimek.

A key part of Avanade’s global innovation program – !nnovate – are the regional Makeathon events. What is a Makeathon? Each of Avanade’s regions bring together their employees to hold a multi-day event where teams come up with ideas to solve client or societal challenges.

In a typical year, it’s an exciting, collaborative event. You can almost feel ideas whizzing through the air. But as COVID-19 spread across the world and shut down offices this spring, it became clear that Makeathons could not go forward as usual. One option would have been for us to pause these events. But we saw the passion and innovation that our teams were bringing forward across the world, and we knew that there is no better time to come together to celebrate our innovative spirit. Did things look different? Yes! We’ve gathered stories from four regions, and this is part 2 in the four-part series.

Similar to our colleagues in the other regions, the Midwest Makeathon was scheduled for early spring and was postponed. We pushed our planning on a revised event until later in the summer, hoping for a clearer picture of the trajectory through the end of the year. With that delay, we were able to both learn from the regions that did so well converting to virtual events as well as more deeply engage clients who had moved with us into this new way of working.

Midwest had a legacy of large Makeathon participation and experienced innovators over the past two years. That, coupled with the innovative use of our collaboration tools pioneered by Ramon Miranda and the team in Spain, allowed us to build out a virtual platform and program to support the event. Our 2.5-week event made extensive use of Teams public and private channels, PowerApps, Mural, live analytics, and live and recorded sessions to engage over 130 participants as innovators, sponsors, coaches and judges.

We also pivoted the entire focus of the challenges to be 100% client-centric. We invited CxO level executives at a major recreational vehicle manufacturer, a large regional bank, and a wonderful, long standing Chicago social good institution. The clients were able to participate directly in our Teams sites and virtually “walk the halls,” seeing teams in action and providing input and guidance for the entire event.

Finally, we built on the fun theme concept around our global !nnovate Month to add our own spin to the global backstage music festival concept. Our teams modeled themselves as “bands” performing (through their innovation concepts) in a 16 team “battle of the bands” over the 2.5 weeks. A dynamic PowerApp provided daily surprise challenges and “record sales” points tallied daily on virtual record charts, allowing them to compete against each other on their journey to “platinum” of 1 million in record sales points. We capped the event off with live presentations to the clients, tallying their feedback and scoring as final points, awarded prizes to the winners and toasted everyone virtually in a video session with live music from a Chicago dueling pianos act.

Amazing engagement from our people and high praise from our client sponsors has resulted in working continuing today to make the top innovation concepts a reality in their markets to engage their clients and empower their workforces. We are incredibly pleased to be able to continues these partnerships.

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