Hack Days: What Are They?

 In Blog, Corporate Social Responsibility Smb

When we hear the word “hack,” we usually think of negative connotations of the word.

Computer hacking and to hack something together are phrases that come to mind. Merriam-Webster definition of the word hack is “to cut or shape by or as if by crude or ruthless strokes.”

So what is SalesPad hack day and does it really live up to the definition of the word?

Hack day is time for developers to work on a project of their choosing, focusing largely on something that is not part of regular development process. A developer may start by hacking various ideas together, but the end product is polished and worthwhile.

Hack days are part of SalesPad’s culture and encourage creative thinking. They allow developers to take timeout from mainstream development and work on their “own” projects. This increases developer productivity and innovation and adds new features from which the customer benefits.

Hack days are important for several reasons. When it comes to adding functionality to SalesPad products, it is done in two different ways – new feature requests and custom development. New feature requests are not always high priority and may take some time to implement. Custom development, on the other hand, has extra cost associated with it. This is where hack days come into play. Hack days are the source of cool new features and most of the time they are something the customer has requested and which he or she finds useful.

There are two types of hack days – new feature development and in-house improvements.

New feature development means adding new features or improving existing ones. It is something that one will see or experience firsthand. A Quick Report wizard that allows you to create quick reports quickly and easily without XML and SQL knowledge is a good example of a new feature development. In-house improvements are internal improvements that will not affect the customer directly, but will provide benefits in the long run. For example, adding a unified Script Manager to SalesPad GP improves management of scripts and reduces development time, which in turn reduces the time one has to wait for scripts to be completed.

One of the hack day projects I have worked on for SalesPad GP is the Custom Module Updater. One of our larger customers mentioned that it would be nice to have the ability to automatically update custom modules after installing new builds of SalesPad GP.

SalesPad GP is a large application and it also has about 130 custom and extended modules tailored for certain customers. To update a SalesPad GP custom module, custom dynamic link library (DLL) needs to be placed in the SalesPad installation directory on every workstation after every update. This makes the update process tedious and cumbersome, especially if there is a large number of workstations to update.

The customer needed a way to easily update 60 or more workstations with custom modules after new builds of SalesPad GP are released. This is where Custom Module Updater comes in. Custom Module Updater allows administrators to set an update directory from where custom modules are pulled and automatically copied for each workstation running SalesPad. This makes the update process easy and fast as custom modules need to be updated in only one place every time SalesPad is updated.

Hack days at SalesPad redefine the meaning of the word “hack.” Hack days are fun and encourage developer creativity and innovation. Hack day projects start by being hacked together, but are eventually molded into features that benefit everyone. Hack days encourage developer innovation and better software for everybody.

So, the next time you see a cool feature in SalesPad GP, DataCollection, or CardControl, it was most likely the result of a hack day project.

— Sinisa Malbasa

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