We have all heard about traditional hackathons where students gather for a few days. They work day and night on a project. Some of them sleep right at their desks to not lose any time. The project is usually something that requires a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and the use of new technologies.
After working for several days teams present their results and several hours later winners are announced. How can this type of hackathon be run in a corporation? The answer is simple: it cannot. Employees have other responsibilities and cannot stay in the office for days. Small prizes are not enough to replace the time that they would lose.
Then, how can a company organize a hackathon? It needs to consider quite a few things:
Hackathon has to be run during business hours. Preparation, the post-hackathon review also have to be done during the business hours. That limits the size of the project. Nothing that requires more than 2-3 days should be included. Also, consider that these days might not be consecutive, and some people will not be available the whole time.
Participants in the regular hackathon are mostly students. They have similar experience and knowledge. At the corporate hackathon, it is not the case. Participants have different backgrounds, experiences, etc. Some have also never done hackathons before and have wrong expectations (mostly just expecting a lecture). The project should be easy enough for everyone to participate but difficult enough to make it interesting for the people who have a similar background.
The traditional hackathon is mostly an entertaining way to build teams and improve technical skills. These skills are not necessarily used later. The corporate hackathon is completely different. The company organizes it for a specific reason. Usually, it is to learn a new skill that it wants to utilize. It probably has a new project coming or some existing issues that it hopes to fix. The result should participants who have enough knowledge and hands-on skills. The material and the project should be aligned with the purpose of the hackathon.
A corporate hackathon is done in teams. The team should consist of anyone who would participate in a real project. For example, in a technical project, it should include business analysts, UI designers, developers, and QA. Why? Because the hackathon is unique in allowing participants to learn more about other people’s routines. People get to do what they normally would not do. It allows them to broaden their horizon, improve understanding of the project.
The project can be done in phases so first everyone needs to do what they would normally do. After that, they all need to do the most challenging and the biggest piece of the project.
As you can see running a corporate hackathon is significantly more challenging than running a regular hackathon. We cannot just easily move the rules and apply them in the corporate world. Running a corporate hackathon takes a lot of work and involves lots of people. That is why we offer our hackathons. Our company has a lot of experience in organizing them and can save you time, money, and headache.