Why do companies put on internal hackathons? You don’t usually make millions off a hackathon ideas, you aren’t doing it to market your brand, and many ideas don’t ever make it into production. Yet, hackathons add a lot of value, even if you can’t measure it easily on a balance sheet.
Let’s review a few of the benefits to internal, company-wide hackathons.
1. Cost Savings
Yes, by not having people do roadmap work for several days now and then you can save money. Crazy, isn’t it? The key to hackathons is the timebox of how long the event will be. This means you have a fixed cost that you can control. This limits your cost, and it also limits what people participating can accomplish. Instead of wasting six months to design, test, and perfect an idea, a team has to be focused on just the essentials to get a working prototype. This way they don’t get distracted with over building or nice to have features that the customer might not find valuable. It’s a great way to get teams to start thinking about lean processes and a great way to get some quick insights if teams would like to invest in certain technologies.
2. Improve Performance
That tech debt which was slowing down your processes on the backend but everyone said they didn’t have time to do it, well one team of engineers found out how to apply a great new technology and upgraded all of the services as a result of a hackathon. Improving things under the hood might not show directly as cost savings or improving productivity, but it has a large net effect. This will speed up your teams performance, increase their morale, and help get new improvements to products out faster.
3. High Learning ROI
Everyone wins here. The organization wins by getting to see new ideas and whether they are feasible, and individuals get to learn not only new skill sets, but develop soft skills by working across teams and departments. This is going to help bring in new technologies, processes, and ideas that could eventually improve products and increase performance.
4. Increase Employee Engagement
Everyone knows employee engagement is important. High employee engagement means less time spent hiring and training new employees, less disruption to teams, as well as having a positive impact on the company’s revenue. Happy employees are invested in their teams and their work. They will strive to give their best. With a hackathon, you give them the freedom to make something they care about better. They could provide a new solution for a cumbersome processes or get the ability to bring their tech or product idea to life. It gives freedom, creativity, and autonomy over their work — which everyone is seeking.
5. Get Out Of The Box
Many times companies are stuck thinking only of their product lines and what they are traditionally supposed to do. When you have fresh eyes looking at problems you will get solutions that you never would have thought of. It can often be forgotten that a company’s job is not to sell software or products, but to solve problems for customers and meet their needs. Expanding where your ideas come from, will help you find new ways of doing things to help your organization.
Where to start
If you are trying to convince your organization, start small. Pick a problem the organization is having and set teams on a mission to solve it. Start with one day of coding and a time slot for demos. Remember to give product and technology, or the teams participating, plenty of advance notice to plan accordingly for the day off from the product backlog items and time to prepare ideas they would like to explore.
Your organization might find it difficult at first to “not work” for a few days. Try to find someone to help champion the idea, and as mentioned above, start small. Most likely, when they see what teams can accomplish in a short amount of time, they will understand the value and support future hackathons.