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May 03, 2024

Driving Practical Generative AI Solutions Through Innovation and Collaboration

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The landscape of technology is quickly changing and, at the forefront of this evolution, lies Generative AI (GenAI). With innovative AI models such as ChatGPT producing human-like writing and Midjourney generating photorealistic images from text within seconds, it’s clear that there is enormous potential for the applications of GenAI. Despite the vast potential of this technology, its practical application in solving real-world problems remains a challenge for many organizations. At Excella, we’re embracing these challenges head-on, and exploring how GenAI can solve real problems for real organizations.

Kicking off our journey into developing practical applications of GenAI, Excella recently organized a month-long, asynchronous GenAI Hackathon, inviting all employees to participate. Excellians rallied to form nearly 20 teams comprised of more than 80 employees – all dedicated to exploring the potential of GenAI to create practical solutions for clients in the federal, commercial, and non-profit sectors. A panel of judges comprised of internal and external stakeholders from different professional backgrounds were tasked with evaluating and selecting one solution that rose above the rest for its practical and effective use of GenAI.

Focusing on Real-World Problems and Practical Solutions

The core objective of the GenAI Hackathon was clear. Teams were tasked with creating a technical solution that leverages Generative AI to solve a real-world problem. They were encouraged to focus on practicality, usability, and security, ensuring solutions that could be readily implemented and provide tangible benefits to clients. The judging criteria reflected this focus, prioritizing the integration and responsible use of GenAI, the solution’s practicality and usability, its relevance to clients and Excella, teamwork, presentation quality, and the technical evaluation of the implementation.

Winners and Top Submissions

The Hackathon concluded with a much-anticipated live tool demo with a panel of judges to recognize the most innovative and impactful solutions. The judges awarded Team “Gutenberg HR Bot” the win for their chatbot that effectively addresses simple HR inquiries, reducing the burden on HR personnel and empowering employees with quick access to information. Employees cast their votes for Team “Data Forgers” which secured the win in the Excellians’ Choice award for their groundbreaking tool that enables the secure creation of representative dummy datasets, mitigating privacy risks associated with sensitive data.

Other notable submissions included:

  • Actuarial Increase: A tool that generates personalized improvement plans based on DORA metrics and Agile principles, guiding teams towards enhanced Agile practices.
  • SYNAPSE: An AI-powered solution that analyzes system architecture diagrams and provides actionable security recommendations.
  • DamBeavers: A tool that converts natural language prompts into SQL queries, assisting investigators in uncovering potential fraud within datasets.

Empowering Innovation with Diverse Resources:

Submissions for the Hackathon included the use of a wide array of resources and tools. At the onset, Hackathon teams were encouraged to explore a range of resources and tools to develop and implement their GenAI solutions. Recognizing the varying levels of technical expertise, Excella offered pathways for both no-code/low-code and custom code development. Recommended platforms included leveraging Poe.com and OpenAI’s Playground to create AI assistants and experiment with prompts, or API keys from Anthropic and OpenAI for more advanced integration. For teams interested in developing custom infrastructure and code solutions, options with Azure OpenAI and AWS Bedrock were available. This diverse range of resources enabled all participants, regardless of their technical background, to participate in the Hackathon.

Collaboration Across the Organization

This initiative was not merely a technical exercise; it was a true embodiment of Excella’s collaborative spirit. Excellians across all business units within the company worked together to support each other. Team members were able to use company allotted professional development hours to focus on their projects, while technical experts provided guidance along the way. Leaders across the company also stepped in to promote awareness of the Hackathon and create excitement for the challenge. These efforts culminated in diverse team compositions and solutions with nearly every employee level represented in the final list of participants – from junior consultants all the way to the c-suite.

A Guest Judge’s Perspective

The Hackathon tapped into a multi-disciplined judging panel from various backgrounds, including a client guest judge. Our guest judge expressed admiration for the quality and ingenuity of the submissions, highlighting the event’s success in showcasing the practical application of GenAI. All judges emphasized the importance of initiatives like the Hackathon in fostering innovation and collaboration, ultimately leading to better data-driven decision making and improved mission outcomes for organizations across sectors.

What’s Next for GenAI at Excella

The transformative potential of Generative AI to augment human productivity is undeniable. As our Hackathon demonstrated, GenAI solutions can make great strides across industries by automating tasks, enhancing creativity, streamlining processes, and even scaling security.

From HR bots to natural language-to-code converters – these innovative applications are just the beginning. Excella is committed to further developing its Generative AI capabilities and expertise. By fostering a collaborative environment and providing diverse resources, we’re empowering Excellians to push the boundaries of innovation and deliver solutions that address real-world challenges. Throughout the process, we will firmly keep humans in the loop to provide the context, guidance, and oversight Gen AI-assisted productivity tools require to be successful. Afterall, the future of work will be human-centered, but AI-augmented.

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