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HARNESS: Solving an In-House Problem With In-House Talent & New Tech

20 Aug 2015
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Imagine this: you’ve got a meeting with your team to discuss an upcoming project with a huge client, and you’ve booked a conference room—let’s say, Voldemort. (What, your conference rooms aren’t named after super villains?)

You show up on time at the doorway of He Who Shall Not Be Named, but it’s occupied. Perhaps by a team in the middle of an important call. Perhaps by your CEO. The bottom line: you’re not getting in there.

This is a problem we often face at Chaotic Moon, where we have 200 employees with conflicting schedules working on dozens of different projects at any given time. So, in typical Chaotic Moon fashion, when we saw that problem, we also saw the opportunity to solve it—with technology, naturally. It also presented a valuable opportunity for experimentation.

“Following Google I/O 2014, I was looking for a way to get our Android devs on top of the new technologies,” said Chaotic Moon Android Platform Lead and Architect, Justin Hong. “In our typical everyday work, we aren’t exposed to the latest and greatest; we’re building for what’s on the market now. I thought there was value to be had in being experts in the latest and greatest before other people so that when the market catches up, we’re there and ready for it.”

Enter Harness, which was developed with a two-part goal: to solve that aforementioned in-office issue and present the Android dev team with the chance to familiarize themselves with the most recent technology.

“Harness was a platform in which we could play and learn—really dig into the new tech.” Hong explained. “The idea is experimentation and practical application, to gain experience doing something more meaningful than the standard ‘Hello, world!’ app.”

Hong also approached other Chaotic Moon departments, such as design, and pitched it to them the same way: Here’s a way for you to get ahead of the curve and experiment with the newest platforms and software out there so you’re ready to hit the ground running when customers start clamoring for it.

“We like to keep an internal product backlog for our team to innovate and experiment with new tech,” explained Chaotic Moon EVP of Technology C.K. Sample III. “Harness was a logical evolution in terms of a play-around app where we could Frankenstein-ian things we could use around the office with tools we want to teach ourselves anyways. We’re harnessing the power of our internal talent to improve our workflow and processes, and on every front, it’s going to help us get better.”

(A past example of in-office experimentation like this? Our Gopher Tracker, which utilized iBeacons to keep track of elusive interns.)

“Innovation starts in-house,” said Chaotic Moon CEO Ben Lamm. “We’re committed to jumping on new technologies the second they’re available so we can master them first and present our clients with the most cutting-edge products possible.”

Harness recently launched, and currently the app is being used by our Android-wielding employees and efficiently solving that initial problem and giving Chaotic Moon team members a simple, seamless way to see what conference rooms are available (Maleficent? Vader? Khan?)  and book—or release—them via phone with the simple tap of a finger.

“Before we were using a Google cal to find an open room, and it doesn’t sound like a complex process, but there were like 14 steps,” said Sample. “Now we can basically do it instantly by just pulling up the app.”

While the initial version is pretty awesome, the eventual goal is for Harness to be an entire productivity suite with various applications that users can opt to add at their will, and according to Sample, the next feature on tap is a bathroom usage indicator that will work with sensors to let users know whether the restroom is empty.

Because, you know, priorities.