FNB CodeFest: Highlights from the coolest IT sprint in the FirstRand Group – Part 1

“I was blown away by the energy and progressive thinking … world leading … streets ahead”; these comments from a business colleague after our second FNB CodeFest last week, read on to see why he felt that way.

No matter how well you plan something or bring an expert team together, there’s a special magic when everything comes together on the day; the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. FNB CodeFest 2.0 felt like that; after months of planning, the 6 day sprint truly did seem to be the coolest gathering of the coolest techies in the largest financial services company on the continent. A couple of aspects stood out, I’ll cover three of them in Part 1 as we look back and wrap up FNB CodeFest; collaboration, mob programming and live streaming. [paragraph 1 of 5]

The collaboration really happened at CodeFest, and at all levels – it’s easy to put this buzzword on the posters and marketing material but what is it really and how do you know when it’s working? We didn’t let teams self-register for CodeFest or IT departments would have just relocated, we created teams from across different parts of the bank by matching skills to prototypes. Some teams literally embodied group wide collaboration; they had people from the investment bank (RMB), the vehicle asset finance division (Wesbank), the retail bank (FNB) and investments (Ashburton). [2/5]

As I’ve written previously, big companies usually don’t really need new, or more “stuff” we just need to work out how to better use the stuff we’ve already got. Value in doing this is only created from collaboration at the lowest level in modular teams when people are willing to get into the Johari Window together. This was the secret sauce of FNB CodeFest; add in a long night under pressure and 21kg of caffeine! (Some teams were pre-existing and did simply re-locate for the sprint; this achieved our acceleration objective – more on this in Part 2.) [3/5]

I learnt about “mob programming” for the first time during CodeFest (never mind the well known Agile “pair programming”) this is when a whole team works on a project at the same time, all sitting round the same computer – usually with a very large screen. One of the block chain teams worked in this format and we highlighted it live on camera during the Youtube Live Stream video when I interviewed their team lead. It’s basically collaborative IT development on steroids and if you bring in code visualisation techniques then even business people can get involved and help direct progress and product quality. [4/5]

The Youtube Live Stream mentioned above really opened CodeFest up to the world right from inside the venue during the 24 hour coding marathon; we couldn’t share details but it really helped communicate the energy and essence of the event. I interviewed business people, developers, partners, key stakeholders and execs, all who offered valuable insights on CodeFest and the magic happening right in front of them. Some highlights from this video (click for that section); “Banks are dead”, “Fantastic opportunity to collaborate across the group”, “I would love us to do this on a daily basis” and Innovators Programme and Codefest in Partnership. [5/5]

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