May / June 2021

Emerging Leaders Editorial: A Winning Virtual Hackathon

John Clarke
Emerging Leaders Editorial: John Clarke

2020 was a year for finding new ways of working for the entire ISPE Emerging Leaders (EL) community. In February, Emerging Leaders stepped up the challenge by holding the first fully virtual International Hackathon. With over 22 countries represented, the Hackathon required the participants to consider real-life challenges with working remotely and across time zones. Innovation was key to generate solutions to the problem statement provided by Bayer.

The event was planned by a task team of Emerging Leaders members from European Union and North American Affiliates and Chapters, along with colleagues from Bayer. At times, the organization of the event was a Hackathon in itself, requiring weekly calls and brainstorming sessions.

Real-World Challenges

The Hackathon problem required the participants to work to deliver a solution for a fictional company, Pharmaceutical Universal Exports, a contract manufacturing organization for several pharmaceutical and consumer care companies. The teams were requested to expand their sites to find lean solutions without over-engineering their digital journey.

The solution required transforming paper-based documentation into a digital and readable format. The solution had to innovate to avoid the retrospective digitalization of paper-based documentation and ensure (a) real-time availability of data; (b) manual processes were avoided; and (c) the solution allowed for simultaneous recording in paper and digital formats.

Each team was assigned two coaches to support and mentor them through the workshop. The coaches are industry leaders who volunteered to check in with the teams at each milestone and used their expertise to promote innovative and creative approaches to the problem. The event would not have been possible had it not been for the support and engagement provided by the coaches throughout.

Virtual Hackathon

The Hackathon ran for four weeks. The first week allowed the newly formed teams a chance to establish a schedule for the workshop, assign roles, and do some preliminary research on the problem statement. Week 2 was for incubation and development of the solutions, and week 3 was devoted to maturation of the proposal and generation of a video presentation for judging. Each team submitted a 15-minute video presentation, and it was apparent that the format supported the teams in pushing the boundaries of their creativity to present an optimal solution to the problem.

The virtual format of the Hackathon allowed a different approach from past ISPE Emerging Leaders Hackathons, especially when it came to the judging. A panel of eight judges with representatives from the ISPE International Board of Directors and Bayer assessed and scored submissions from each team in a preliminary judging round.

The fourth week culminated in a Grand Finale, where the two finalist teams presented their solutions live to the panel of judges. The Digi-Engineers and Optimus Prime teams were the finalists, and these teams blew everyone away with the quality and creativity of their solutions. The Digi-Engineers were ultimately named the winners.

The Winning Solution

The Digi-Engineers successfully identified a system innovation solution, Digitalization, a single-user interface that provides automation, advanced analytics, and continuous process verification (CPV). Real-time collaboration, interactive dashboards and reports, automation, advanced analytics, and continuous process verification equal increased productivity and profitability in the solution.

The Digi-Engineers team was Prudence Edwards, Pablo Benitez, Giuseppina Elena Dragonetti, Stephan Huelber, Domiziana Piili, Nadin Osman, Andrew Svetozarov, and Andrea Tanzini. The coaches were Stuart Hall and Jean-François Duliere.

Team Lemniscate was recognized for the Best Video Presentation. Team members were Moneem Ahmed, Veneshia Alison, Teri Del Rosario, G. P. Wahyunanda, Joanne Patricia, Firena Setyanti, Charlotte Gallardo, Tania Hamdhani, and Fenny Mulyo. The coaches were Jesus del Valle Rosales and Cy Rodriguez.

Congratulations to the Digi-Engineers and all the teams who took part in this year’s Hackathon. Their engagement and effort really showed in the solutions presented!

Meet the Winners