…you’ve likely heard this a number of times, some people think they’re a waste of time, others don’t like working in new teams, but that’s not the case here at Intilery.
Now, you may have heard the word Hackathon before and wondered what on earth one is, or you may be considering running one for your own company but have very little idea where to start. We’ve written this guide to answer your questions and help you get started with your own Hackathon.
As a company we find Hackathons (also known as Hack Days) to be really beneficial, as it allows us to take a step back from our day-to-day roles to look at the bigger picture, encourage creativity and innovation, and give our staff the opportunity to work with colleagues that they wouldn’t usually work with.
In fact, last Friday (09th April), the Intilery team participated in our 2nd Hack Day of 2021. After the success of the first Hack Day in January, that brought us our new in app walk-through tutorial, our team took on some new challenges.
What is a Hackathon?
Although the name might suggest you’ll spend your time hacking into computers, that is not what a Hackathon/ Hack Day is about, so what exactly are they?
A Hackathon is a fixed time, team building event that allows companies the opportunity to develop new ideas, solve problems and achieve specific goals.
There are a number of benefits of running a hackathon; encouraging innovation, team building, employee engagement and a better, broader understanding of the tech you use. Let’s talk more about these benefits and how running one can be advantageous for your business.
Bet you didn’t know that know that the Facebook ‘Like’ button was developed during a Hackathon?
Hackathons encourage members of staff to be creative and motivated with their team projects. As the event is about developing new ideas and creating solutions to problems, there is no limit on the level of innovation involved. A Hackathon is not your typical working day and therefore employees should be championed for taking risks, that could potentially generate inventive results.
Boosting Team Morale
Not only are Hackathons brilliant for producing results, but they also allow employees the opportunity to connect in a way that they usually wouldn’t. Bringing different departments together ensures that there will be differing perspectives and expert opinions on all sides. Members from each team can put their skills and knowledge to good use, creating a positive and collaborative working environment.
Communication between staff is key to boosting team morale, and with so many people still working from home, it’s more important than ever to dedicate the time and space to socialisation between employees.
Allowing staff to build relationships is a fantastic benefit to running a Hackathon, however it can be taken a step further than that. Staff who perhaps don’t work with the tech side of your business on a day-to-day basis, will be given the opportunity to learn more about it, and connect with the developer community. This can be something that is very beneficial in the future, allowing employees to nurture this rapport can aid when there is technical work that needs to be done for new projects.
Now you’re aware of the benefits of hosting a Hackathon, let’s get stuck into setting up and running your own.
Your first step to setting up your own Hack Day is to brainstorm ideas that you can be working on. If you have any general aims or goals for the event, make sure you state these before you start the brainstorming process.
A few days before your Hackathon, set up a space for your staff to note down their thoughts, ideas, projects etc. This will need to be somewhere everyone can access with ease. Giving your team adequate time to think of any problems that need resolving, or to articulate their ideas is key to getting the best out of everyone.
Set a date
Next step is to set some time aside to complete you Hackathon or Hack Day. Consult your colleagues on this, you could maybe even set a poll to decide on the most suitable day that will fit in around everyone’s workload and deadlines. It’s better to decide on a day together, as it’s more likely employees will be willing to get involved if they feel as though they have the time to step away from their day-to-day role, without having to catch up at a later date.
Set up workspaces
Group emails can be tricky to keep track of, so why not set up a workspace to keep the chat flowing. Dependent on the tools you already use, this could be anything from Slack, to WhatsApp to Microsoft Teams.
Consider where you’ll be conducting your Hack Day, if many of your employees are still working from home, it’s important to set up video calling, we find that Discord is the most useful as we are able to break off into groups and have our own channels to focus on. If you’re conducting your Hackathon in the office, make sure you have enough space to allow teams to set up their workstations, without interference from other groups.
Select Ideas and Groups
There are two ways you could go around selecting ideas and groups. Either management can make the final call, allocating an idea to specific groups, or the decision can be made by the whole team voting on which ideas to carry forward and which group they feel they’d contribute to the most.
There are benefits with both options. When management selects the teams, it ensures a variety of people from a number of departments are working together, but similarly, when the employees are able to have a say, they can choose a group where they can best offer their expertise.
Similarly with selecting which ideas to work on. With management choosing, there will be certain aims and goals that could be met. Yet, listening to your staff will help you to learn about the problems that they may be having, by including their ideas into your Hackathon, you will hopefully aid in creating a quick and high-quality solution.
This step is easy, you’ve set up everything you need to ahead of the day, now you need to get stuck in and enjoy yourself.
At the end of your Hackathon, it will be time for your groups to showcase their hard work. It’s important to champion everyone’s ideas and celebrate the determination and dedication that goes into developing a prototype or presenting a new idea to the whole company, especially when there has been a limited timeframe to develop these ideas.
Carry Ideas Forward
Chances are, not everything that is worked on in a Hackathon, will be taken forward. If they are, then they may be something that could be implemented quickly, or it may be that it will be included in the roadmap for your business. Either way, your Hackathon has been a success if you manage to take ideas forward or even solve any problems your company may have been facing. Most importantly, it will be a success if your staff come away feeling positive about the event.