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Innovation News

Investing in Tomorrow, Today by Unleashing Innovation at Vena

December 15, 2023 |
by Vena Solutions

 

 

Vena demonstrates its ongoing commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology and driving innovation in FP&A through hackathons


To fuel our mission of helping teams plan for anything, we pride ourselves on not waiting for the future. We like to create it, today. And we have fun doing it—by running and participating in hackathons. It all comes down to how we see innovation. It happens from the ground up. These events are like a playground for our teams—a place where they can experiment, push boundaries and dream up a groundbreaking idea that could potentially become the cornerstone of a new product offering or service.

Hugh Cumming, Chief Technology Officer at Vena, understands that an innovative work environment is deeply engaging for employees. “Our best source of ideas comes from our people,” he says. “We listen to them. We ask them for feedback in all areas of our business, including how to improve our product capabilities and operational    efficiency, and encourage them to have fun developing those ideas in our workplace with colleagues.” 

Innovation Is a Team Sport

Innovation thrives when people from various departments and backgrounds come together, share ideas and bring a unique set of knowledge and skills to the table.

“For us, hackathons are the ultimate bridge builders. They break down the barriers of cubicles or Zoom backgrounds and encourage cross-functional teams to collaborate like never before,” says Hugh.

Vena’s hackathons, which take place quarterly,  offer an oasis of creative freedom, where teams are encouraged to unleash their creativity and pitch their wildest ideas.

At a Vena’s Microsoft Azure-focused hackathon , Shahin Imtiaz, Senior Software Developer at Vena, and her team, experienced firsthand how collaboration has the power to spark innovation.

During the hackathon, Shahin and her team worked on adding version control in the Vena platform for data insights, using a new product called Microsoft Fabric and Azure Repos. In the version control feature they worked on, if a user was making some analysis and graphs and wanted to see their changes from a day or a week ago, they could do that with just a few clicks. Their team was selected as one of the winners of the hackathon.

“Vena’s keenness to keep reinventing, developing and staying ahead of the curve really showed during the process of this recent hackathon and innovation,” Shahin explains. “We had all the support we could have wanted from our leadership, infrastructure teams and various people from product and tech. It is in large part, thanks to them, we were able to go all in and experiment, iterate and innovate. It was a team effort through and through.”


Fueling Team Engagement, Pride and Satisfaction

 

“Our team effort was a great example of an idea that was expanded into research and even became a part of our product roadmap.”
                                                              —Olha Trostianchuk,
                                                              Technical Lead - Staff Software Developer at Vena

 

That feeling of triumph you get when you finally solve an impossible puzzle—that's the same satisfaction we want our team to feel when they transform their ideas into working prototypes during our Vena hackathons. Our hackathons are rooted in the Microsoft ecosystem to continuously help businesses get more out of their existing investments in the Microsoft Office suite.    

This happened for Olha Trostianchuk, Technical Lead - Staff Software Developer at Vena, and her team. “Vena decided to run hackathons frequently, which gives everyone a chance to try experimenting with Microsoft technologies, even if they missed previous events. During the hackathons, everyone has dedicated time, available environments, options to either do it solo or gather a team, everything to bring innovation into our product, as well as to stay on top of tech trends. Our team effort was a great example of an idea that was expanded into research and even became a part of our product roadmap,” she explains.

The pride that comes from seeing one's idea evolve into a tangible reality is immeasurable. It's the equivalent of a digital high-five that boosts morale and reminds employees why they fell in love with tech and innovation in the first place.

Showcasing Innovation in Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Office of Finance


“At Vena, we believe in the transformative power of technology to reshape the way organizations approach financial planning and analysis.”

                                                                           —Hugh Cumming,
                                                                            Chief Technology Officer at Vena 


Back in the summer, Vena was invited to participate in
Vista Equity Partners’ (Vista) 2023 Global Hackathon, which focused on generative artificial intelligence (AI). Vista, an investor in Vena, brought together talented developers, engineers and data scientists from Vista portfolio companies from around the world to explore and advance the possibilities of generative AI to engage with customers and deliver value. All teams were joined by students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), providing hands-on experience, strengthening their knowledge and giving them real-world experience in leveraging emerging technology.  

 "We were thrilled to participate in Vista’s hackathon dedicated to generative AI. At Vena, we believe in the transformative power of technology to reshape the way organizations approach financial planning and analysis," said Hugh. "Through our participation, we were looking to collaborate with talented individuals and organizations to develop innovative generative AI solutions that will enable our customers to unlock new insights and drive better business outcomes."


Harnessing the Power of AI

 

“Being a part of the data insights team, we felt the problem of deriving insightful needles from financial haystacks was well within our wheelhouse.”
                                                               —Kevin Chan
                                                                Staff Software Developer at Vena

 

Vena’s participation in Vista’s Global Hackathon underscored its dedication to staying at the cutting edge of technological advancements. By harnessing the power of generative AI to empower finance and operations professionals, we’re enabling organizations to make data-driven decisions, optimize processes and gain a competitive edge. Vena aims to continue collaborating with other leading minds in the industry and collectively explore the potential of generative AI in revolutionizing financial planning, forecasting and analysis.

During the hackathon, participants leveraged the power of generative AI models to assist in ideation, problem-solving and prototyping. This breakthrough technology empowered participants to explore novel solutions, generate creative ideas and receive real-time feedback to refine their concepts.

Vena’s team of software developers and product managers, who were already familiar with running internal quarterly hackathons that nurture creativity, collaboration and innovation at Vena, worked on developing groundbreaking generative AI models specifically tailored for the office of finance.

“It was a three-day event with an opening ceremony, 24 hours of non-stop coding and closing day with idea pitching and winners announced,” explains Olha.

There was a submission process where we had to put together a high-level problem statement that held promise from both a technical and business perspective,” says Kevin Chan. “Being a part of the data insights team, we felt the problem of deriving insightful needles from financial haystacks was well within our wheelhouse.”

As part of their hackathon submission, the Vena team was also tasked with providing a Responsible AI Assessment, which is as crucial for generative AI technologies as understanding of their use cases and impact nature.    

How did the Vena team showcase innovation in generative AI for the Office of Finance?


“We used generative AI to derive useful metrics, analysis and graphs from financial data with minimal handholding by the user.”

                                                                                    —Shahin Imtiaz,
                                                                                    Senior Software Developer at Vena


Content generation was a big one, but another common theme at the hackathon was the ability to create highly personalized experiences for customers that could be shaped organically by industry.

“We used generative AI to derive useful metrics, analysis and graphs from financial data with minimal hand-holding by the user. Given a question asked by a user about their financial data, such as ’What is my year-over-year growth? ’ we made a feature that would figure out what information is needed to answer the question, extract it, run analysis and metrics on it and then also generate some relevant graphs for it. All from just asking a single question,” explains Shahin.
 

Unlocking New Insights and Driving Better Business Outcomes for Customers

How are we applying our learnings from the Vista Global Hackathon to inform our product roadmap?

The Vena team discovered that by training AI models on vast datasets, we can empower finance professionals with more accurate and efficient forecasting, scenario planning and decision-making capabilities.

“I imagine it will free up our customers to do the deep work and focus on what's important to their business. I think of it as having a finance specialist at your fingertips who will write the reports and make the graphs with little to no direction,” says Shahin.

As we continue to focus on innovation at Vena, we look forward to sharing our learnings and accomplishments from hackathons with our customers, partners and the broader industry. By harnessing the collective power of generative AI and other emerging technologies, we strive to revolutionize the FP&A landscape and help organizations navigate the ever-evolving business environment with confidence and agility.

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