Coming up with the next big Ancillary product – in 2 days

Hackathon at TUI UK&Ireland produced new ideas.

Ancillaries are an important part of TUI´s business. They give our customers the opportunity to add extras that make their holiday experience tailored to their own personal taste.

70 colleagues from around the UK&I business got recently together to take part in an Ancillaries Hackathon. The aim of the two days was to work in teams to come up with a new ancillary product to enhance our customers’ holidays. Here is our report.

Day 1

Teams are discussing their ideas.

It was a warm start as 70 colleagues from all over UK&I squeezed in meeting room. Anticipation was in the air as the colleagues aid their awkward hellos and waited for the day to begin. They speculated about what the next two days might bring. What’s a Hackathon? Do we need to be good at IT? Is it like that bit in The Social Network when Mark Zuckerberg makes them do shots while writing code? (it’s not)

All the myths were debunked pretty quickly by Richard Sofer during his introduction. They wouldn’t be writing code or developing software, they’d be using ideation sessions to quickly come up with lots of ideas, which they’d then filter down to come up with their one winning idea.

To prepare them for this challenge, the first morning was spent learning about TUI´s strategy and the current trends.

Then they split up in to 12 teams of around six. These teams would work together to come up with as many different ideas as possible. To prompt their thinking, every 45 minutes they were given a new theme to consider: new way to sell or present an existing product, trends and consumer behaviour, customer pain points, new projects and ideas, blue sky thinking.

At the end of the first day, there was barely a centimetre of wall space that wasn’t covered by a post-it note. Each team picked their favourite idea from the day to develop and present to the “Dragons“, a jury of senior managers from across the TUI UK and Ireland business.

Day 2

The morning was spent finalising the presentations. Powerpoint was discouraged, so it was down to flip charts and the gift of the gab.

At lunch, the colleagues were joined by the dragons – the perfect opportunity to sweet talk them!

The final afternoon was presentation time. Each team delivered a five minute presentation, outlining their idea and why they think it could be the next big thing. Then they endured a seven minute grilling from the Dragons and the audience.

Katrina Barry, Head of Ancillaries at TUI UK&I and one of the Dragons, says: “Ancillaries is a really important part of our business. We have a stretching vision in terms of how we grow ancillary revenues and margins and with our existing products already performing well, there is only so much we can do to deliver enhanced performance here. Therefore, we have a need to create new ancillary products. The hackathon brought together our colleagues across the business to innovate something new in the ancillary product line up which will deliver a new service to our customers.”

After all 12 ideas had been pitched it was decision time. There was a lot of deliberation but it ended on a unanimous verdict and the winners were announced. The Ancillaries team will now be working with the winning colleagues to define, prototype and trial these ideas with TUI customers.

Lucy Lynam, Finance Manager and part of the winning team, says: “It was great to work collaboratively with people from all over the business and put our thinking caps on. So much hard work went into it, both from the facilitators and the participants, and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.”