Driving Innovation | The Crucible Story
How Qonfidi partnered with Palo Alto Networks to drive the India Centre’s Technology & Innovation Hackathon to resounding success
First off: The Impact in Numbers
Increased employee engagement & participation by 4X from the initial sign ups to the final number of participating teams
More than 80% of the ideas were outside the product roadmap - signifying a massive bank of ideas waiting to be tapped into and actioned
Innovation quotient dialled up significantly, resulting in better-than-expected patent-worthy ideas
Received 56 successful pitches across tech functions in India centre
Instrumental in the roll-out of the expanded plans for this programme in the future
At Qonfidi, we believe in enabling our clients to craft a compelling story and create a lasting impact experience.
Founded in 2019, QonfidiHR is a strategy, design and communication consultancy focusing on HR services. We are in the business of humanising internal communications, bringing our expertise in HR, design, content marketing and user experience to craft and execute breakthrough employee experiences at every touch point of their journey.
We knew that we had to elevate this project from “just another hackathon” to a showcase event that would redefine the innovation narrative at Palo Alto for a long time.
Getting The Brief Right
We set out to create a best-in-class hackathon challenge and the campaign and communications leading up to it to ensure strong participation across India Engineering Functions and create a unique employee engagement experience.
The stakeholders involved were:
The IDC Innovation Council: a cross-functional team of Human Resources members and Senior Leadership from both teams
People Managers: who were to be appraised about the programme and exhorted to encourage their employees to participate
Mentors from the India Engineering Team, who were tasked with helping contestants identify their stream of action and provide guidance, support and encouragement as participants moved from ideation to execution
Employees, who were encouraged to participate and then guided through the process of signing up and submitting their ideas. They were organised into teams between 2 and 5 members.
The Challenges At Hand
One of our biggest challenges was that a programme of this scale had never been executed at Palo Alto.
We took this as a challenge and opportunity for Qonfidi to leverage and bring in its expertise to enhance the programme’s communication strategy. From conceptualising a worthy metaphor for the innovation challenge to achieving enthusiastic participation and stakeholder buy-in, we needed to create a strong roadmap for the programme’s success.
Initial participation was driven by excitement - we had to capitalise on that.
In its initial stages, the participation was not expected to be more than 12-15 teams, owing to the novelty of a programme like this. The lack of awareness in the initial stages had created a sense of uncertainty in the minds of the programme mentors and organisers who wondered what the ROE (and Return On Energy) for this huge effort would be.
A robust roadmap was already in place.
Palo Alto Networks, one of the world's foremost cyber security protection companies, already had a robust product roadmap. Since ideas already present in the product roadmap would not be considered, the available pool for new ideas seemed even more limited in scope to the organisers.
Capture attention - and then drive sign-ups and participation.
One of the most important goals for Qonfidi was to communicate and brand the programme in such a way that not only would it make employees sit up and take notice but also get excited enough to want to participate at scale.
Enthuse and spark the "Intrapreneurial Spirit".
The other goal was to enthuse innovation and entrepreneurial spirit throughout the programme, its participants and the entire Tech Function. And to achieve both these objectives a strong communications campaign and strategy encouraging community building and employee engagement needed to be woven into the very fabric of the programme.
Drive the Mission, Vision and Company Values.
Our communications strategy also needed to drive the vision, mission and company values of Palo Alto wherever appropriate. We then took it upon ourselves to create a focused and strong brand identity (read more below) for Crucible as one of the crucial outcomes of the programme.
The Plan Of Action
Designing an end-to-end stakeholder experience
After a few intense sessions on understanding the client’s overall objectives, we began by devising the entire, end-to-end communications strategy plan. We played a key role in ideating, prototyping and delivering specific deliverables like promotional material, internal communications and audio-visuals along the way.
Designing not only the comms strategy - but the comms collaterals themselves
We also acted as the extended design team of the client by interacting and coordinating with its vendors in the design and roll out of artifacts such as certificates, mementos and plaques. Our aim was to create impactful, relevant and useful communications across all available channels as the primary measure of success.
Building aspirational value about the programme
The client felt that once the sign-ups had reached a critical mass, then the programme could be run effectively by the organising team. So creating that ‘critical mass’ was of primary importance.
Pulling It All Together
Our first action was to understand the overall contours of the engagement and the client’s headaches and goals when we approached. In a few subsequent meetings, we then explained our strategy to the core team, resulting in better alignment between our strategy and the client.
Creating an effective, direct communication channel
Once we received buy-in for our ideas and prototypes, we created a shared space where all communication and coordination would occur. This eliminated non-value-added work such as unnecessary emails, WhatsApp messaging and other confusing communication channels. The communications strategy was structured around a matrix of stakeholders, channels and dates.
Single source of truth:
All communications were uploaded onto a single document on Google Docs (yes...low tech) and shared with key decision-makers — allowing for effective collaboration.
Building a visual identity:
Qonfidi also worked with our internal graphic design specialists to create collaterals and micro-copy based on the content.
Ears to the ground:
Frequent check-ins and reviews with the client ensured that, though we worked remotely, we always had our ears to the ground. This allowed us to understand needs so well that we began pre-empting requirements from the employees and the client SPOC.
Iterate & Elevate:
We worked in an iterative mode - creating collaterals that were 80% satisfactory and then iterating till we reached 95%+ satisfaction level — at which time we launched the collateral to the employee population (or stored for later use in a dedicated folder — again shared with everyone on the project team).
By maintaining open lines of communication, we fostered a collaborative environment. Constant check-in, reviews and conversations set the tone for collaboration, iteration and course correction. This was pivotal in achieving the programme’s success and expediting responses to client needs.
Our extensive list of communication channels and mediums came in handy here. This ensured that employees received relevant, informative content about the programme at every stage. This meticulous approach left employees with the impression of a well-managed event, boosting confidence and spiking participation rates.
Enabling key stakeholders
We identified people managers as crucial stakeholders early in the process. Understanding the importance of their role in building active participation in the programme, we tailored communications specifically for them, complete with clear action items.
Crafting The Programme's Identity
A fresh start
The initial project names fell short of capturing the programme’s aspirations and vibe accurately. To align with the Palo Alto stakeholder team’s vision, we brainstormed metaphors with them that accurately reflected the aims and aspirations of the programme. This resulted in five potential options, each of which underwent thorough explorations and was eventually narrowed down to two.
Once we refined the final option, we created logos aligned with our client’s brand guidelines and palettes. We were inspired by Palo Alto's branding systems that created logos using negative spaces and an origami-like final product. Here's what they looked like:
We knew at the outset that any logo we created must reflect these elements.
We then combined the name and the logo to create a logo mark that was at once different from the existing logos but at the same time reflected Palo Alto's logo design philosophy.
The design of the logo itself proved to be a massive boost to interest levels. The interest grew manifold once employees were exposed to the logo on various channels and surfaces.
Palo Alto also requested us to create a logo for the IDC Innovation Council at the India Center in line with Palo Alto's brand - thereby creating a consistent branding identity.
Here's what we created...
Mission Accomplished! The Client Testimonial
Qonfidi’s cross-team collaboration efforts, brand strategy and huge impact on the Crucible project gave Palo Alto the requisite confidence to declare the programme a success internally and to envision it as an annual affair that would be now thrown open to a wider external audience, encouraging young innovators from across the country to participate in Palo Alto’s Crucible innovation hackathon challenge.
Lessons for the future
As a business, the key takeaway from this project for us at Qonfidi was the importance of building a seamless client-agency fit. We collaborated with the client and across its teams, hand-holding wherever necessary and setting the programme up for massive success. We will continue investing in tools and technologies that will eliminate communications clutter - always giving our clients a clear view of projects as they unfold.
“We will continue to stay agile and create great MVPs, but always iterate to high levels of quality.”
Why Qonfidi? Our Secret Sauce!
We partner with clients end-to-end — from vision to execution — right from goal setting to successful execution
We are in the long game — focusing on overall impact rather than immediate, short-term bursts of success
We never compete with our client’s internal resources — we collaborate with them
We are constantly iterating — starting with an 80% MVP and bringing it up to 90-95% success rates (and higher) for the client. Thus, we bring in flexibility and speed of execution for the client.
We believe in open communication and work with clients in a collaborative format — we always help them look at the big picture and enable them to join the dots.
Clients not only sign up with Qonfidi to do the actual execution but also have an efficient and strategic consultant on board to help them align with the overall objectives and plan for their projects.
So, if you are looking to solve for a challenging HR problem and communicate in order to engage your teams, QonfidiHR is here to empower you to make your programmes a success at scale.
Reach out to us at : firstname.lastname@example.org or at 9845450877