The VEERUM team recently hosted our first ever internal hackathon. It was an incredible opportunity to support our culture of innovation and collaborate with cross-functional teams, and build creative solutions on VEERUM’s existing application.
So what exactly is a hackathon?
A hackathon is a combination of the words “hack” and “marathon”. It is a competition style event where participants work together to come up with new and innovative technology solutions to existing problems through exploratory programming. It can last a day or a week, and can include internal employees or external participants. Final results are voted upon by a panel of judges, and prizes are typically awarded.
During VEERUM’s hackathon, we created 6 teams composed of VEERUM employees from marketing, sales, solutions, product, and development. Each team had one hour to brainstorm, 1 day to bring life to their innovations, and 1 hour to present their results. Teams could tackle a variety of themes such as artificial intelligence, 3rd party integrations, machine learning (ML), new markets, metaverse, Internet of Things (IoT), and dashboards. The teams were judged by an executive panel, with prizes awarded based on the value and innovation delivered.
Why host an internal hackathon?
The collaborative nature of a hackathon cultivates great cross-company interaction and morale. It is a chance to brainstorm new ideas, use cases, technologies, or technical approaches to solving problems while having fun and getting to know more people within the team. “This was my first hackathon, I wasn't sure what to expect. If you would have told me we would have solved 3 major industry problems, made our software available in 5 languages at 99% accuracy and created new bonds between employees, I would have never believed you. Hackathons are now permanent creative events that VEERUM will invest in.” -David Lod, VEERUM CEO.
With that, here are 5 tips for hosting your own successful internal hackathon:
1. Open it up to everyone!
The VEERUM hackathon engaged team members from all parts of the company. Although not every member could code, they each brought their own valuable experience and skill sets to conceptualize, build, and present a solution. With this broad range of skill sets, we came up with solutions to improve all aspects of our organization.
2. Establish clear rules but encourage creativity
At VEERUM, we believe it is important to find a good balance between goal-oriented objectives but not stifling creativity. We were encouraged to use input from clients and end users to catalyze our projects and pick from a variety of themes, but had the creative freedom to use whatever means to find the best solution. Security will always be a core pillar of our organization, so teams had to use approved data sets and approved open source 3rd party libraries and tools.
3. Set aside time and resources for your team
To encourage company wide participation, we empowered our team members with the time and resources to innovate. The event was optional, as some team members had client commitments, but we made it a priority for all leadership to set aside time for their team to participate.
4. Recognition, recognition, recognition
We made sure that every team member is recognized for their valuable contributions. We made it essential to thank each and every participant, identify the impact of the work, and award prizes to recognize the time and effort that went into this event.
5. Create a post hackathon action plan
With so many incredible ideas arising from our hackathon, we concluded the event with an innovation plan. We created space in our quarterly development planning process to further advance ideas from the hackathon into VEERUM’s roadmap.
The results of the first VEERUM hackathon were incredibly successful. Each team had such amazing and innovative ideas that touched on a variety of topics, from solving major industry problems to making our software available in different languages. Our panel of judges had such a challenging time crowning a champion that all projects will be heading into production and will be introduced into our application. We can’t wait to hold another hackathon to bring even more participants and new ideas to improve our application. This hackathon will not be an isolated event. It served as an accelerator, pushing us along on our journey for continual improvement and innovation.