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AlignMinds Hails Glory: DBS Hackathon at Singapore

We are immensely happy to share our glorious success at the global hackathon event conducted by DBS Bank, Singapore in association with Ideatory, which is one of the most promising technology startups in Singapore. AlignMinds has elevated a notch higher in its global rating and positioning with this consecutive success.

The success we experienced at both these Hackathons helped us to underline our belief that victory is a result of persistent hard work, impeccable process patterns and a highly focused mindset that was mutually shared and resonated by each of the team members. Each of us put in our best effort to follow the best practices with reference to Rapid prototyping and this helped us in spotting the right areas to focus and execute during the three-day session.

Preparation for the event!

The news about the event reached us on the third week of October when Ideatory team member, Sudhanshu and Amrith contacted us and invited us for the event since we were the winners of the first hackathon event held on August 2014 (details can be read here). Once again, we wish to convey our gratitude to Ideatory team – Sudhanshu and Amrith in special for all their support and assistance.

It was a cold windy morning on 20th, October when we received the confirmation that AlignMinds was formally invited to participate in the DBS hackathon event scheduled on 29th, 30th and 31st of October at DBS Asia Hub, Singapore. We were quick to respond and formed our hackathon team without delay.

We had a couple of unanticipated setbacks since a few of our team members who participated in the first hackathon event were not available due to other international on-site assignments. However, this did not abate our interest to participate as we quickly restructured the team by collecting the best talents in the organization.

We were led by Devanarayanan who is the CEO of AlignMinds Technologies and the mastermind behind each of our successes so far. The team also included Vishnu and Divya who handles Android development, Juny George, Jaigel Jose and Jackson Jacob who are veterans in User experience and User interface tasks and Sowmya Sarath who is our Senior technology evangelist and project coordinator.

Last but not the least, I was fortunate to be able to take up the role of Business Intelligence analyst which gave me the chance to interact with the DBS team and build a smooth communication channel between the team members.

Day 1: The first glance of Singapore!

Our backpacks were ready on October 27th and we boarded our dream flight to Singapore from Cochin International Airport by 11 30 PM. The whole team was bubbling with excitement, anxiety and hopes for a great event in Singapore.

We landed at Singapore the next day and we were welcomed by a gorgeous city which mixed the right combination of technological and architectural excellence with an equal amount of greenery and cleanliness. We headed directly to our boutique hotel since we badly wanted some personal time to put ourselves in place and prepare for the pressure that was about to face on the next three days during the rapid prototyping session.

We were also invited to the ice-breaking session that was scheduled at 5 PM that evening.

After a quick nap, we started off to DBS Asia hub where the 5 other competitors, DBS team and Ideatory team members had gathered. It was a fun event where we met and interacted with our mentors and team members from DBS.

Our team was being mentored by Francesca, and was accompanied by an awesome team that included Fen, Dong, Claren and Chew. During the evening session, we also had the opportunity to select the team name, team number and the challenge to be solved. Our team was named “Dream Catchers” and we were team number 2 on the list. The challenge that was assigned to us was to build a pre-launch application for DBS that would popularize DBS bank in India and help gain maximum visibility among the users.

Day 1 at Singapore was fairly smooth as we returned back to our couches to take rest and be ready for the first day of the hackathon.

Day 2: Hackathon was officially flagged off!

The first day of the DBS hackathon saw the official flag-off of the events by Raju Nair, Laurence and Cade.

The agenda for the day included multiple short sessions which helped the teams to get the feel of how a rapid prototyping session and also helped us ingest the concept of “Customer Centric” development which was considered as the prime focus by the global CEO of DBS Bank, Piyush Gupta.

On the other hand, our team was already brainstorming about the topics that had the “fire” to capture the Indian smartphone users. We came across many different thoughts and opinions ranging from games to quiz applications.

It was then that the concept of a Private social networking application was put up by our CEO, Dev. Within the next few minutes, we could feel the acceptance of each of the team members towards the topic and we decided that this is going to be our “success sutra” for this hackathon event. Without delay, we had started our preparations in the form of mind maps, sketches and basic functionality listing which helped us to visualize the scope of the application. We followed the concept of “Lean Loop” as per the instructions from the team mentors and this proved to be a great approach for the rapid prototyping process.

By the end of the day, we had prepared a detailed idea about what the app would do and how would be designing the app to do it. We wound up our tasks for the day with a wrap-up session by Arjay and Cade. We finished our dinner and headed back to our room in the SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit).

Day 3: The actual “Hackathon” begins!

It was the day next critical task in our hands was to design a visually appealing user interface which has a highly optimized user experience flow. As this process required a high level of coordination between the design team and the functional and technical implementation team members, we decided that our team can take roles and split up.

Based on this suggestion, the DBS team members in our team decided to share the tasks related to preparing and documenting the early customer feedback based on quick surveys. They also decided to work out the financial figures which would allow the DBS decision makers to visualize the ROI statistics of the app.

We, on the other hand, had started working on full swing on the user interface and user flow aspects. Juny who is our lead UX architect was available on Skype conference call wherein he guided us through each and every design item in the app screens.

By lunch, we were ready with the initial set of flows that marked the foundation of the application.

The rest of the day was kept aside for designing the remaining design items and preparing a structured flow based on the user action.

By the end of day 2, we were prepared with the designs and pages that allowed the Android developers to take over.

Towards the end of the day, we took our status checks and listed out our tasks. At that point, we realized that we were going to have an exciting D day. On that expectation, we wrapped up for the day and returned to our rooms.

Day 4: The D Day!

We reached early on Friday (31st October) which was the D day of the event. We started working on the final touch-ups and tweaks on the prototype to make sure that everything is in place.

In the meantime, Fen, Claren, Chew and Dong had completed the surveys and come back with awesome news for us. It was reported that around 92.5% of the people surveyed expressed their acceptance of the app concept. This was a huge boost for us, and we made sure that every aspect related to aesthetics and functionality was optimized to the best of our ability.

Finally, at 16: 15 Singapore time, we submitted our prototype for review along with all the other team members. We presented the app together and answered all the questions that were put in front of us. We were happy to see that the judges were able to realize the value of the concept.

A flawless prototype and the right pitching of the app concept from our DBS teammates made it a wonderful presentation! By 18: 30 Singapore time, the results were out and Dream Catchers were confirmed as the Winning Team in DBS hackathon 2014.

Conclusion

This event, DBS Hackathon conducted at Singapore, was surely a great one for AlignMinds as we got yet another opportunity to prove our skill in solving a business problem with limited time without limiting the quality standards.

We also got the chance to work with some wonderful teammates and each of those moments will be treasured by our team AlignMinds.

We wish to thank each of the staffs at DBS Singapore and Ideatory for providing us with this great chance to build a concept that will surely be a game-changer for DBS in India! After the 4 days of unlimited fun, excitement, productivity and a great result, we have taken home a lot of learning from this event and we are sure that this will help us nail the next challenge put across to us by DBS!

– Anand Krishnan

Our Success Mantra: AlignMinds at DBS Hackathon

The Beginning

All the fun and excitement began on a cold Wednesday morning when we got the news that my team at AlignMinds Technologies was shortlisted among hundreds of mobile app development companies in India. It was a pleasant surprise to know that we were taking part in one of India’s prestigious Hackathon events that was being hosted by Development Bank of Singapore (DBS Bank), Singapore.

For those who are less aware of DBS (the way I was, two weeks back), it is one of the largest banks in South East Asia led by the CEO, Mr Piyush Gupta.

Within a moment’s notice, AlignMinds team was ready for the technology warfare as we call it. We were being led by our top management that includes our CEO, Devnarayanan G Nair, our Head of Technology, Madhusoodanan M P, our Head – Execution and Delivery, Sowmya Sharath and our Head – UI/UX, Juny George. Our development team comprised of three Android developers who had a “bring-it-on” attitude towards the event! They were Muhamed Riyas, Divya and Vishnu. The team would not have been complete without our technical support gurus who ensured that there were always connected to the network. Ravi Varma led this team with the utmost confidence. Finally, it was me who took care of connecting and bridging the communication and analysis between the two groups.

The event was held at the Startup Village, Kochi which is currently the biggest and best incubation centre for technology entrepreneurship. Ideatory, a reputed Singapore based technology startup was in charge of ensuring that the event was a grand success. Ideatory team, headed by Sudhanshu Ahuja, did exactly this by ensuring perfect coordination and management of activities throughout the event.

The best part of the event was that my team would get the opportunity to work with the DBS team and technology innovators who have scaled the organization to its current glory. However, all this excitement came with an equal share of challenges which was to prove my team’s worth and this is exactly what we urged for throughout the 2-day extravaganza!

Day 1

The event was flagged off on 22nd August 2014 at Cherai in a magnificent beach-facing resort. My team and I reached the venue at sharp 6 PM and quickly finished the ice-breaking session with the program coordinators. In between, we were introduced to our wonderful mentors from DBS Bank. This included Ms Elizabeth Chapman, Executive Directors, Akhil Doegar, VP-Product Development and Harish S, Senior Product Manager at DBS. Harish was the primary point of contact from DBS for the 4 days of telephonic discussions with me before the event. During these calls, I could extract as much information as possible regarding the requirements.

During the inaugural event, we were keen to utilize every moment that was at our disposal in understanding the requirements and proactively involved in discussions which would ease our journey in the next two days. Once the initial ice-breaking and socializing was over, we met Harish at his resort cottage and had a detailed brainstorming which brought our ideas much more into alignment.

Interestingly, the whole team was so immersed in the conversation and did not realize the two hours went through! The next two days at the event can be summarized in three words: Excitement, Energy and Determination.

We started the day at 9 AM on Saturday. After a quick post-breakfast meeting, we rushed to our workstation and began our fight for success. The proactive attitude and functioning of the team were greatly appreciated at various incidents by most of the top management from DBS. For us, the question was not “who will do it”, but it was “how well can we do it”!

I wish to re-quote our CEO’s statement given to The New Indian Express, “We were aware of the challenges but we were more focused on the goal which was possible only with sincere hard work, impeccable teamwork and proactive analysis”.

Our CEO says,

“We were aware of the challenges, but we were more focused on the goal, which was possible only with sincere hard work, impeccable teamwork and proactive analysis”

Intermediate Demo

Although the start was perfect, we had our fair share of complexities and challenges in store during the second half. We developed our initial prototype within a record time frame of 6 hours using our rapid prototyping and collaboration tools including InvisionApp. This gave a much clearer picture to our mentors who decided to take a different route. This was followed by a 90 minute stand up meeting where each team member did their best to visualize and ensure that the iterations were bringing us closer to winning the championship. The meeting concluded with great applause which was an immediate reward for the amount of thought we put in to redesign the concept and conceptualize their requirement.

Final Hours

Sunday was reserved for redesigning, prototyping and ensuring that each functionality and layout that was requested for was working in the Android app. My team did this with so much passion and attention to detail, that the quality of the prototype was in par with a live Android application.

Our CEO coined an interesting name for the app – DBS Mongo! Mongo referred to “Money on the Go” since our prototype aimed at easing out the payment procedures and transactions to the bank customers.

We worked and worked till 18: 59 as we had to submit our app at 19: 00. And the rest is history. AlignMinds triumphs in winning the confidence and acceptance from our judges who were the top officials at DBS who had flown down from Singapore. The judging panel included the Group Head – Digital Banking – Olivier Crespin, Chief Innovations Officer, Neal Cross and the Head – Customer Journey Design, Raju Nair.

3d Printed Hackathon Memento

We believe that the success mantra of my team’s triumph was teamwork, speed and determination! We worked together with a single aim and focus which led us to our destination. I believe that our success was destiny but reaching it was our decision. I personally look forward to being part of such events which helps my team and me to take up challenges and prove that we are the best!

Anand Krishnan

Engineering Knowledge in the Digital Age

Often it requires unique teams to practice the philosophy of engineering knowledge. And I’m glad to state that this is what differentiates AlignMinds.

What is knowledge engineering?

Knowledge Engineering is conventionally associated with methodologies to build knowledge-based systems or ‘Expert Systems’. However, in today’s dynamic digital world, it applies to almost all the technology systems that we build, deploy and use.

What is Knowledge?

Our CEO often quotes David Weinber to define ‘Knowledge’ and I always felt that it’s a beautiful summary – “Knowledge results from a far more complex process that is social, goal-driven, contextual, and culturally-bound. We get to knowledge — especially “actionable” knowledge — by having desires and curiosity, through plotting and play, by being wrong more often than right, by talking with others and forming social bonds, by applying methods and then backing away from them, by calculation and serendipity, by rationality and intuition, by institutional processes and social roles”

“Knowledge results from a far more complex process that is social, goal-driven, contextual, and culturally-bound.”

For us, ‘Engineering Knowledge means’ acquisition of knowledge and this process is transformed beyond the conventional specification process used to capture most business requirements. We engage in meaningful conversations, research and follow a dynamic approach towards solving the problem in front. This is particularly relevant since we work with a lot of startups building Minimum Viable Products (MVPs).

Why ‘Engineering Knowledge’?

There are several reasons why such a process makes sense:

  • Unprecedented simplicity has become a crucial success factor of today’s applications compared to conventional software systems
  • Without adequate knowledge acquisition and involvement from key stakeholders, the application has a high likelihood of failure
  • Most of today’s applications – especially in mobility and cloud – have a social role to play.

Speaking a bit about me –After my Masters, I’ve been associated with other verticals in the previous episodes of my career before becoming a part of AlignMinds.

However, what made it enjoyable and inspiring despite my lack of exposure to a technology development environment was our acceptance of the dynamic nature of things around – fellow team members, customers, technology, and always, the business problems we were trying to solve.

Hence in a digital age that is so evolving and changing, we need to constantly seek to build systems based on actionable knowledge – which will excite people and transform the way we do things – compared to monotonous pieces of code that deal with just data and information.

– Sreenivasan K V