Innovation at Alfa
Innovation isn't just for our benefit: it's through innovation that we’ve been able to open-source some of our tooling, and share some of our internally written utilities with customers.
Innovation is at the heart of what we do at Alfa. In addition to our annual Hackathon and regular innovation events, everyone benefits from dedicated investment budget to kick-start their ideas, and a coaching network to drive them forwards.
Innovation Days at Alfa
Innovation is a continuous process. However, Alfa also regularly hosts dedicated innovation events across the year for staff to come together and enjoy. These events represent an exciting opportunity for collaborative innovation, outside the bounds of business-as-usual teams; for all of us to take a step back from our work and get involved in new ideas, initiatives and opportunities at Alfa - to scratch that itch, learn something new, or try out that idea.
"Before you make innovation happen, you have to make it possible. This means establishing a framework that makes people feel comfortable to innovate, and making it clear that innovation is something you want and need in your business. If you provide a democratic, inclusive environment and invite a group of motivated people to go and get on with it, then you see the best bottom-up ideas and the biggest chance of success."
Building innovation teams
During innovation days, teams are formed not by geography or hierarchy, but by passion for the projects and problems they are trying to address. From integrating novel IoT devices with our enterprise application, to revolutionising the way we interact with our customers and define their business needs, to building a notification widget to let everyone know when the free coffee bar is closing. It’s all up to the individual and, if the ideas aren’t there yet, people can join one of our brainstorming exercises, discussing and working on exciting problems posed by key areas of the business.
Hackathons are hugely popular events and the bedrock of the innovation culture at Alfa. They are a time for everyone to work on something new; be that an enhancement to Alfa, our internal tooling, improving an existing process or even a new sustainability initiative.
Held annually in all Alfa regions, these events see staff hack in teams over 24 hours - some through the night - on projects of their choosing and of both a technical and non-technical nature.
Projects can then be entered into the Hackathon competition into one of four categories:
- Product - hacks adding or enhancing features in Alfa products and internal tooling
- Delivery - hacks that enable faster, simpler delivery of Alfa Systems
- People - hacks that make Alfa a better place to work, or help Alfa make a difference in the wider community
- Blue Sky - anything else!
The competition is decided by means of a two-minute presentation to the company and voted on by the whole of the Alfa community. This is followed by a prize-giving ceremony where prizes are awarded to each member of the winning team in each of the four categories.
We’ve had some amazing things come out of previous Hackathons which are now considered part and parcel of our day-to-day life. Past winners include a tool for automating simpler retrofits, a partnership with Tomorrow’s Journey, and even a handy guide for lunch spots near the office.
Read more about innovation at Alfa
The Alfa Innovation Process
The Alfa Innovation process is our take on Lean Innovation, an established approach to innovation within a company or industry. It represents the way for our employees to take their innovation ideas forward in a funded and supported way, for eventual adoption by the company.
One of our most successful projects to make it through the Alfa Innovation process has been Alfa Astra - an automated code refactoring tool which we’ve since open-sourced - sharing this powerful tool with the wider tech community.