INNOVATIONACA AS AN EMPLOYER
05/12/2023 • ACA Group Team

Ship-IT Day 2023: recap of an innovative day!

November 30, 2023 marked a highly anticipated day for numerous ACA employees.  Because on Ship-IT Day, nine teams of ACA team members, whether or not supplemented with customer experts, delved into creating inventive solutions for customer challenges or for ACA Group itself. The hackathon proved to be both inspiring and productive, with at the end a deserved winner! 

The atmosphere in the ACA office in Hasselt was sizzling right from the early start. Eight out of the nine project teams were stationed here. During the coffee cake breakfast, you immediately felt that it was going to be an extraordinary day. There was a palpable sense of excitement among the project team members, as well as a desire to tackle the complex challenges ahead. 

breakfast aca ship-it day

9 innovative projects for internal and external challenges 🚀

After breakfast, the eight project teams swarmed to their working habitat for the day. The ninth team competed in the ACA office in Leuven. We list the teams here:

  1. Chatbot & course integration in customer portal
  2. System integration tests in a CI/CD pipeline
  3. Onboarding portal/platform including gamification
  4. Automatic dubbing, transcription and summary of conversations
  5. publiq film offering data import via ML
  6. SMOCS, Low level mock management system
  7. Composable data processing architecture
  8. Virtual employees
  9. Automated invoicing

If you want to know more about the scope of the different project teams, read our first blog article Ship-IT Day 2023: all projects at a glance.

Sensing the atmosphere in the teams

Right before noon, we wondered how the teams had started and how their work was evolving. And so we went to take a quick look... 👀

1. Chatbot & course integration in customer portal

“After a short kick-off meeting with the customer, we divided the tasks and got to work straight away,” says Bernd Van Velsen. “The atmosphere is great and at the end of the day, we hope to present a result that will inspire the customer. In the best case, we will soon be able to use AI tools in a real customer project with the aim of making more optimal use of the customer's many data.”

“The Ship-IT Day is an annual tradition that I like to participate in,” says Bernd. “Not only because it is great to collaborate with colleagues from other departments, but also because it is super educational.”

2. System integration tests in a CI/CD pipeline

“We want to demonstrate that we can perform click tests in the frontend in an existing environment and verify whether everything works together properly,” says Stef Noten. “We can currently run the necessary tests locally, so we are good on schedule. The next step is to also make this work in our build pipeline. At the end of the day, we hope we will be able to run the tests either manually or scheduled on the latest version of the backend and frontend.”

3. Onboarding portal/platform including gamification

The members of this project team all started at ACA fairly recently. And that is exactly what brought them together, because their goal was to develop a platform that makes the onboarding process for new employees more efficient and fun.

aca team at the kanban board

Dieter Vennekens shared his enthusiasm with us, stating, "We kicked off with a brainstorming session to define the platform's requirements and goals. Subsequently, we reviewed these with the key users to ensure the final product aligns with their expectations. Our aim is to establish the basic structure before lunch, allowing us to focus on development and styling intensively in the afternoon. By the day's end, our objective is to unveil a functional prototype. This project serves as an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of Low-Code.”

4. Automatic dubbing, transcription and summary of conversations

Upon entering their meeting room, we found the project team engrossed in their work, and Katrien Gistelinck provided a concise explanation for their business. "Our project is essentially divided into two aspects. Firstly, we aim to develop an automatic transcription and summary of a conversation. Concurrently, we are working on the live dubbing of a conversation, although we're uncertain about the feasibility of the latter within the day. It might be a tad ambitious, but we are determined to give it a try."

She continued, "This morning, our focus was on defining the user flow and selecting the tools we'll utilize. Currently, multiple tasks are progressing simultaneously, addressing both the UI and backend components."

5. publiq film offering data import via ML

Comprising six publiq employees and three from ACA, this team engaged in an introductory round followed by a discussion of the project approach at the whiteboard. They then allocated tasks among themselves.

Peter Jans mentioned, "Everyone is diligently working on their assigned tasks, and we maintain continuous communication. The atmosphere is positive, and we even took a group photo! Collaborating with the customer on a solution to a specific challenge for an entire day is energizing."

publiq team at ship-it day

"At the close of the day, our objective is to present a functional demo showcasing the AI and ML (Machine Learning) processing of an email attachment, followed by the upload of the data to the UIT database. The outcome should be accessible on uitinvlaanderen.be."
Peter adds optimistically, "We're aiming for the win." That's the spirit, Peter!

6. SMOCS, Low level mock management system

Upon our arrival, the SMOCS team was deeply engrossed in their discussions, making us hesitant to interrupt. Eventually, they graciously took the time to address our questions, and the atmosphere was undoubtedly positive.

"We initiated the process with a brief brainstorming session at the whiteboard. After establishing our priorities, we allocated tasks accordingly. Currently, we are on track with our schedule: the design phase is largely completed, and substantial progress has been made with the API. We conduct a status check every hour, making adjustments as needed," they shared.

ship-it project team meeting

"By the end of the day, our aim is to showcase an initial version of SMOCS, complete with a dashboard offering a comprehensive overview of the sent requests along with associated responses that we can adjust. Additionally, we have high hopes that the customized response will also show up in the end-user application."

7. Composable data processing architecture

This project team aims to establish a basic architecture applicable to similar projects often centered around data collection and processing. Currently, customers typically start projects from scratch, while many building blocks could be reused via platform engineering and composable data.

“Although time flies very quickly, we have already collected a lot of good ideas,” says Christopher Scheerlinck. “What do we want to present later? A very complex scheme that no one understands (laughs). No, we aspire to showcase our concepts for realizing a reusable architecture, which we can later pitch to the customer. Given that we can't provide a demo akin to other teams, we've already come to terms with the likelihood of securing second place!"

8. Virtual employees

This team may have been the smallest of them all, but a lot of work had already been done just before noon. “This morning we first had a short meeting with the customer to discuss their expectations,” Remco Goyvaerts explains. “We then identified the priority tasks and both of us quickly got to work. The goal is to develop a virtual colleague who can be fed with new information based on AI and ML. This virtual colleague can help new employees find certain information without having to disturb other employees. I am sure that we will be able to show something beautiful, so at the moment the stress is well under control.”

Chatbot technology is becoming more and more popular. Remco sees this Ship-IT project as the ideal opportunity to learn more about applications with long-term memory. “The Ship-It Day is a fantastic initiative,” says Remco. “It's wonderful to have the opportunity to break away from the routine work structure and explore innovative ideas.”

9. Automated invoicing

The client involved in this project handles 50,000 invoices annually in various languages. The objective is to extract accurate information from these invoices, translate it into the appropriate language, and convert it into a format easily manageable for the customer.

“Although we started quite late, we have already made great progress,” notes Bram Meerten. "We can already send the invoice to Azure, which extracts the necessary data reasonably well. Subsequently, we transmit that data to ChatGPT, yielding great results. Our focus now is on visualizing it in a frontend. The next phase involves implementing additional checks and solutions for line information that isn't processed correctly."

Bram expresses enthusiasm for the Ship-IT Day concept, stating, "It's fun to start from scratch in the morning and present a functional solution at the end of the day. While it may not be finished to perfection, it will certainly be a nice prototype."

And the winner is …. 🏆

At 5 p.m., the moment had arrived...
Each team had the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments in a 5-minute pitch, followed by a voting session where everyone present could choose their favorite. All teams successfully presented a functional prototype addressing their customer's challenges.

While the SMOCS team may not have managed to visualize their solution, they introduced additional business ideas with the SMOCintosh and the SMOCS-to-go food concept. However, these ideas fell just short of securing victory.

In a thrilling final showdown, the team working on the onboarding platform for ACA came out as the winners! Under the name NACA (New at ACA), they presented an impressive prototype of the onboarding platform, where employees gradually build a rocket while progressing through their onboarding journey. Not only was the functionality noteworthy, but the user interface also received high praise.

Congratulations to the well-deserving winners! Enjoy your shopping and dinner vouchers. 🤩

See you next year!