5 Reasons Why You Should Organize a Hackathon
What is a hackathon, why is it worth considering, and what are some benefits it can bring to your company?
If these are some of the questions you’re asking yourself, you’ve come to the right place.
Hackathons are events where developers, designers, innovators, and other domain experts collaborate on intense projects to solve specific challenges that companies are facing.
These events are on their way up. Companies staged 40% more hackathons in 2018 than 2016 to help them solve issues within their organization. Clearly, hackathons deliver on their promise to solve company problems.
There are many reasons an event like this can benefit your organization, but if you’re going to leverage the power of hackathons, it’s important to determine the one, very specific objective first. This will enable you and your team to effectively organize the event around solving this problem.
That said, here are five objectives hackathons have been shown to deliver results for.
1. Find business solutions
Traditionally, upper management or project managers are tasked with resolving organizational issues within a company.
The problem with this is that too often, these people aren’t the ones actually working on the issues directly. They’re just overseeing things.
Hackathons can help you find new business solutions in two ways:
- Improving an existing product or process
- Generating new use cases for a specific product or technology.
Let’s go over each of these.
Use hackathons to improve an existing product or process
In the case of finding innovative ideas to improve products or processes, organizations typically assign this to a handful of people. Generally, this is either an R&D department or another department tasked with taking on this role.
Hackathons resolve organizational issues by involving the parties doing the work involved in a business process. When organizing your hackathon, if you want to improve an existing business process, you can task attendees with the objective of finding technical solutions to otherwise non-technical challenges.
Use hackathons to generate new use cases for a specific product or technology
Hackathons can also be useful for finding alternative use cases for products or technologies.
If you’re looking for creative ways to use a product, you can organize a hackathon where attendees are tasked with building creative use cases around a specific technology. This can be great at opening up sales channels for your product that you otherwise may have never thought of.
In any case, if you’re looking for ways to improve a business process or find new and creative ways to use technology, hackathons can help.
2. Launch products faster
When multiple departments are involved, launching a new product can become a time-consuming endeavor.
Typically, there are excessive delays caused by time spent on R&D, lots of red-tape, and excessive submission and approval requirements that take unnecessary amounts of time.
Hackathons can help with product launch delays in two ways.
- By speeding up the process - gather stakeholders and business units together to find creative ways to save time and money.
- By collaborating with mature startups - startups often have unique technologies or existing products that you can make use of.
Using hackathons to speed up product launches
Hackathons can be organized as a regular part of your internal product launch process.
If R&D and prototyping takes an excessive amount of time, organizing MVP hackathons internally in an effort to combine these steps can cut the whole process down to just a few days.
If your organization suffers from product release delays like this, then hackathons can help resolve these issues.
Use hackathons to collaborate with startups to improve product launch times
Hackathons can also be leveraged to connect your organization with talent from mature startups that have an existing product or technology that may assist with your problems.
Startups are known for being agile, and if you can bring this way of thinking into your organization, even if it’s from the outside, it can eliminate unnecessary launch delays.
3. Train and engage your staff
Without careful training, it can take several weeks for your staff to feel prepared to make decisions when working with new tools or processes.
Additionally, if your workplace lacks a culture of creative problem solving and intrapreneurship, your team may not be performing to the best of their ability.
Fortunately, careful planning of a hackathon can help you overcome related problems in the following ways:
- By Integrating a new tool into internal processes - When you add new tools to your workflow, set up a hackathon with objectives that force your staff to overcome common challenges they’re likely to face when using these new tools.
- By training collaborators on new methodologies - If you make changes to your business process, hackathons can be leveraged as a boot-camp style training session to make your team quickly feel comfortable with the changes.
- By engaging your staff - Staff engagement is an important part of keeping your organization internally connected. By hosting hackathons that involve new and existing employees, your new hires will quickly feel as if they’re part of a team.
- By fostering intrapreneurship - Hosting a hackathon can be a fun way to foster intrapreneurship within your organization. If this is your goal, task hackathon attendees with the objective of solving an ongoing issue with your business, coming up with unique ways to use your product, or even building an MVP of a new product altogether.
4. Find new talent
Hiring or even finding talented developers, designers, or other experts can be challenging.
In fact, most talented individuals already work for companies that provide satisfying salaries and great benefits. They’ve likely become very comfortable in their current work environment over the years.
The underlying issue here is that of a talent pool - a database of candidate profiles interested in working for your organisation. If your organization is going to hire the best of the best, you need access to a quality talent pool.
A huge benefit of hackathons is their ability to help you build your organization's talent pool so that you can...
- Attract and hire quality candidates - Most top developers, designers, and engineers see hackathons as a fun event that they want to be a part of. This means that you can organize a hackathon with an objective designed to attract the talent you’re seeking - even if they work for a competitor! By attracting this talent to an event organized by your business, they’ll already have a positive outlook on your organization. This makes things much easier when attempting to convince them to join your team.
- Reducing the time and costs involved in hiring - Rather than going through multiple rounds of interviews and time-consuming trial projects, you’ll have a massive pool of talent to choose from simply by looking at winning teams or individuals that stand out.
- Scale your recruitment process - If your hackathon becomes known within the developer community, scaling up recruitment for a growing organization becomes less of a challenge. When you need new staff, just host another hackathon!
5. Improve developer relations
Technology companies are in constant competition to have other companies, startups and the developer communities use their technologies through an API or SDK.
Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, for example, all have AI solutions and are competing with each other to win over other tech companies and evangelize their solutions within developer communities as well as attract more traditional companies to adopt their solutions.
If this sounds like a challenge your organization faces, hosting a hackathon can help by driving awareness of your solution among the or other companies across different industries you’re targeting.
Hosting a hackathon with an objective that puts your technology front and center will help you increase awareness about your tools and put you ahead of your competitors. In fact, Amazon regularly hosts hackathons to promote their AWS products.
If you want to take it a step further, task your hackathon attendees with solving a very specific problem while leveraging your technology.
The goal here is to improve developer relations with your hackathon by showing developers how your product solves the specific technical issues that it was designed for. This way, when they’re building their own product and are facing a similar struggle, your technology will be top-of-mind.
There you have it - five common objectives that hackathons can help with.
If your organization is faced with any challenges around business processes, talent acquisition, or involving the developer community as a whole, hackathons are very much worth considering. Everyone wants to spend time on cool, creative ideas, but oftentimes, the day-to-day takes priority.
With hackathons, you’ll be able to overcome challenges involved with:
- Finding business solutions by improving processes or generating new use cases for existing products.
- Launch products faster by gathering stakeholders and finding creative ways to save time or collaborating with innovative startups.
- Staff training and engagement by using hackathons as a platform for training and fostering intrapreneurship.
- Recruitment by attracting quality candidates and build a talent pool.
- Developer relations by involving your target audience in an event designed to increase awareness around your technology and grow your developer community.
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