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Case study – The Breakthrough

Aims and benefits

This is a case study about excitement at new possibilities, thanks to information generated by a small amount of data.

It relates to a company that installs roof gardens.  These are created by covering an existing roof with tightly packed containers of plants. 

Roof gardens have been around for a long time.  They help to insulate buildings, extend the lives of roofs, retain rainfall that might otherwise contribute to flooding, extend the habitat for insects and birds. 

That said, data allowing the actual benefits for a specific building to be calculated, and whether they outweigh the costs (installation, load support, water and maintenance), is in short supply. 

Selling the benefits of roof gardens can therefore be surprisingly difficult.


A Hackathon was convened to put a section of the company’s garden roof product to the test.  Our task was to show how the data collected could nail the question about the benefits once and for all. 

This would transform the company’s ability to sell roof gardens to clients – typically keen to know the extent to which the benefits would outweigh the costs – and to confirm the wisdom of a great many Local, City and District Authorities using roof gardens to help achieve their net zero carbon ambitions.

Roof garden image


Data collection is still in its early stages, yet the real benefit from the exercise has already been realised.


It is there in the excitement expressed by the company, who, thanks to asking the right question and assembling people with the right skills, can see a major barrier to growth potentially falling away, and a breakthrough coming in the company’s prospects that will step them closer to realising their aspirations and ambitions.

This in turn builds confidence to do more with data and technology and have more breakthroughs potentially within reach.  If, over a couple of days, work has been achieved that an industry has failed to achieve over many years – what more might be done?

And it is there in the excitement of the community of technologists who came together determined to make a difference.


When businesses look to make better use of data, the focus is often upon the platform and the savings that it will bring – people performing tasks more easily and quickly, the opportunity for technology to ‘sort the business out’ – get everything in one place, make it clear what everyone is doing.

Rarely is it upon the difference that people can make to the fortunes of the business – the opportunity to harness the efforts of people who want to make a difference, to use data to harness energy and build excitement, prospects, and aspirations.


The Hackathon demonstrated the difference it can make when you start a discussion about technology with the question ‘what to do you want to achieve?’ rather than, what do you want to save. 

Other questions can follow such as:

‘What would really excite you?’

‘What difference do you want to make?’

‘How can data help us to realise our ambitions?’

If answers to questions such as these are placed front and centre at the start of the search for a new platform or better systems, less money will probably be needed because it will be clearer what the technology has to do, and so much more value would be realised from the investment.

Data is supposed to be a business enabler.  Have confidence to make it one.

Paul Clarke

Director Ltd

Tel: +44 333 301 0302

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