Tuesday, 2 October 2012

FedEx Days – Overnight Innovation

FedEx, the shipping company, provides overnight package delivery; FedEx day, within the software world, has become a means of shipping a new idea overnight – allowing developers to quickly bring their innovative concepts into reality by keeping them up all night to code their master piece, also by feeding them pizza and caffeine enriched drinks but most of all providing management backing.

I was first introduced to the concept of FedEx days by my then manager, Darren Ryan (au.linkedin.com/in/darrenmryan), and software that our technical writers were using – Confluence by Atlassian (http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence). Darren suggested that I organize and run the day – I leapt at the chance.

Atlassian has now changed the name to “ShipIt Days”, I’m guessing for legal reasons or something like that. Their site says the following about ShipIt Days...

“Every quarter, we give employees the chance to work on anything that relates to our products, and deliver it during ShipIt Day, our 24-hour hackathon. Been wanting to build that plugin, redesign that interface, or completely rethink that feature that’s been bugging you? You’ve got 24 hours...go!”

I decided to follow the “rules” (https://confluence.atlassian.com/display/DEV/ShipIt+Day+FAQ) as closely as possible, with one small amendment – the idea must provide business value somehow. This allowed tech writers and testers to get more involved as they could present something less codified, like an update to a process, or a presentation of how we could use the TVs in the reception area better. I wanted to make sure that no one felt excluded from the day – by the end of the day it was clear that everyone, developer, tester, manager, has good ideas, they just need an avenue to promote it.

One additional thing that we needed to address was the winner – we worked within a distributed environment, i.e. one team in Australia the other in Malaysia. In the end we had two demo sessions. Both teams had a demo session within their office to determine local winners, the top 3 from each region then re-presented their ideas and from there an overall winner was decided. All ideas were captured on a Sharepoint Wiki, and were available for consideration by Product Owners to be made into real projects/products.  

The reasons why it’s a good thing, according to Atlassian and from my own experience, is it
  • Foster creativity – When there are no rules, anything’s possible.
  • Scratch itches – Every employee has something that bugs them about our products, and ShipIt is the time to tackle it.
  • Get radical, dude – ShipIt gives a spotlight and traction to radical ideas that might not normally be prioritized.
  • Have fun! – Traditions like ShipIt Day help make Atlassian a more fun place to work.

I think FedEx Days (or ShipIt Days) are a great idea, one that every company should partake in – maybe not every quarter like Atlassian, but at least once a year. 

1 comment:

  1. Your right FedEx didnt like Atlassian using their brand. This is a good thing though because it shows how popular the concept has become.
    I think the day you ran at Runge was a lot of fun and led to some great innovation. its certainly something that i talk about a lot when meeting people in the industry.