The word hackathon might have once filled the C-suite with terror. Groups of young hackers getting together to use their code skills for good or bad, depending on how the mood took them, never sounded like something the board could endorse.
Only, it now turns out, they can and many are.
Facebook is the poster child for hackathons but the phenomenon is becoming a mainstream business activity, albeit a fledgling one. However, there are some notable pioneers, quick to latch onto their potential.
Nestlé, for example, organises events with teams being asked to come up with new marketing ideas and solutions, with a common focus to establish which messages and images resonate well in social media. Teams track response to content before deciding which should be promoted so they can have more impact. Their hackathons also involve the CMO and CIO teams coming together to evaluate, test and improve the tools, so the brand can not only establish which work best, but also tailor them to company’s requirements.
In other organisations, different functions can benefit by coming together to organise events that seek to crack some shared concerns. The ‘problem’ needs to be explained with enough passion that teams feel strongly enough to solve the issue and it might be anything from ‘how do we get a single view of the customer’ or ‘how does social impact our sales return policy’ to ‘how do we take a day out of our back office order process systems?’
Whatever the issues are, a hackathon can be a great weapon that can be added to execs’ arsenal of tools on top of the old favourites like brainstorms, etc. Why? Because not only are the ideas dreamt up, but they’re presented as code that is ready to roll. And this is what makes them so attractive – there are very few C-suite executives who would not relish being given an idea that is already primed for launch rather than presented as a ‘nice to have’ feature that could be worked on.
Those intense sessions of collaborating are also a breath of fresh air for employees who get to think outside their normal daily routine and consider enterprise-wide goals. And they give companies a great opportunity to bring divisions together to find innovative ways to use information to solve business problems.
Even though the idea of holding a hackathon outside of the digital start-up sector is still relatively fresh, examples of some forward thinking established companies show they can work for big enterprises as well. And as such, they will hopefully only become more popular. So, what’s the issue you’d like to hack through?