Hacking Away To Shape Organisational Culture



We’re taking it back this week to when Carsales gave their developers freedom with the company’s first idea hackathon. The results meant the developers could be a part of the leaders’ idea making process, and the Carsales’ leaders learnt a thing or two about inclusive culture.




A few years ago, the leadership team at Carsales were surprised to discover that developers in the Product & Technology team felt that Carsales was not an innovative company. They were taken aback, because Carsales had a long and proud history of delivering innovative and industry-leading products and services.

But the original ideas for these were coming from our leadership team, not the development team.

So our first Hackathon was born, to offer the development team an opportunity to innovate.

The idea was simple: No rules, no direction, just freedom.

The result was nothing short of amazing. Great ideas can come from anyone and, given the right environment and opportunity; everyone can bring their ideas to fruition. A pleasantly surprising fact is that over 50% of Hackathon projects to date have actually been released to production.

“This is a statistic we are very proud of,” said Carsales CIO, Ajay Bhatia, “because it shows everyone at Carsales that they’re empowered to bring their ideas to life and encourages them to continue innovating day-to-day during the Hackathon off-season. The benefits to us as a business have been beyond what we had imagined.”

The buzz generated during a short two-day period, continues well beyond the actual event.

“One of our core values at Carsales revolves around innovation and our hackathons have been instrumental in bringing innovation to life. But the best part is not what happens every quarter during the few days of the actual Hackathon, but the value delivered post each event and the positive cumulative flow-on effect.”

One of these flow-on effects has been a renewed focus on our customers.  Following the involvement of our Customer Service team during our second Hackathon, every member of the Product & Technology team now spends two hours every few months listening to customer support calls. This has led to the implementation of a number of initiatives that have significantly improved the customer experience for the millions of visitors to Carsales’ network of sites.

We extended the invitation to participate beyond the customer service team and experimented with a number of different approaches to involve the entire business. The turning point was our Jumpstart event, where teams had to take a ‘start-up’ approach to executing their ideas.

The major difference between Jumpstart and our other Hackathons was that it wasn’t only about the ‘code’. Teams had to consider elements such as marketing, commercialisation and revenue opportunities, go-to-market strategies and how to pitch their idea to bring investors on board. The real key to success was branching out and collaborating effectively with people from across the business.

Jumpstart helped in breaking down of barriers across our different departments and gave everyone an opportunity to get to know people that they may have otherwise not met, with carsales now having close to 400 people in our head office.

At Carsales, our initial  objective was to address the perceived lack of innovation within our development team, but what we didn’t expect was the cultural innovation it created in the process.

Putting the customer first, a renewed sense of empowerment now felt by everyone to bring their ideas to life and greater collaboration between departments, are now all key aspects of our culture.

This post originally featured in Volume #10 of AgileTODAY and was written by Brett Wakeman, Iteration Manager at carsales.com.au.

To sign up to either the print or online edition of AgileTODAY please visit the website.

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