Hack Week #5 – The ajudando Project

by Sören Blom - 22 Dec 2016

Imaging the following: You and your team are facing a challenging technical situation and could reach out to hundreds of potential experts to help. This wouldn’t consist of merely an email exchange: They would actually come visit your team and spend time with you, making sure the problem was addressed and that you’re equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.

At Zalando Tech, we happen to have this pool of expertise. For Hack Week, we’re looking at how to match it with departmental needs and come up with "rules of play" to organize this type of exchange in a fair, undisruptive manner for delivery.

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Aims of the project

Throughout the week, we’ve been exploring the need and acceptance of a knowledge exchange model between employees, to eventually come up with prototypical solutions. Hack Week has allowed us to speak to many different, relevant stakeholders, to test out our ideas, as well as matching expertise with need between other Hack Week teams for their own projects.

Ideally, as we have a diverse sample of Tech’s population, we won’t only be including the hard-skill programming language aspect of expertise. We want to evaluate this idea end-to-end and not just focus on the technical aspects of building an exchange board web app.

Operational model and prototype

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ajudando – Portuguese for “helping” – is an exchange platform where Zalando staff can access knowledge beyond their teams, across all of our locations – you simply choose to “Join” (as an expert) or “Use” the exchange (to find an expert). We’re looking to create a concentrated timeframe or workshop situation that goes beyond the HipChat room, but isn’t meant to solve staffing issues for teams. This model of exchange would better support knowledge-sharing and communication of our vast expertise across the organization.

We started with some guerilla UX, running around Hack Week to collect the data required: Were fellow Zalandos willing to offer their expertise to help other teams? What would motivate them? What were potential blockers that we could identify from the outset?

Questions we were faced with throughout brainstorming include the amount of time people could dedicate to helping others vs. time spent directly with their own delivery teams. When we surveyed fellow Zalandos asking what would stand in their way of helping, their answers were quite revealing and validated the need for such an exchange: “People wouldn't know how to contact me and/or they don't know that I have the expertise they are looking for.”

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Issues that could potentially be solved via the ajudando platform span all areas of the department: Frontend, Backend, Training, and Product. We begun with early prototypes for respondents to be able to get the idea off the ground. We also spoke with owners of existing tools such as zLive (our social intranet) and the Ideas Board (used to organize Hack Week ideas and teams).

By the end of Hack Week, we hope not only to have helped other Hack Week teams working on projects by connecting them with various experts, but to have a prototype ready for further testing and possibly integrate the results into existing tools for the new year.

Have you had experience with or are involved in a similar knowledge exchange? We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas – reach out via Twitter at @soblom.

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