“Hackathons” in GICs Can Increase Employee Engagement, Break Down Functional Silos, and Help Hiring | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Hackathon is a portmanteau word that combines the words “hack” and “marathon.” A hackathon’s objective is to team together people from different technical backgrounds to solve a problem. Generally conducted over a period of 24 hours, the uninterrupted and captivating nature of the activity makes it highly productive.

Large technology organizations such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft often conduct internal company hackathons. While hackathons are less common in global in-house centers, (GICs), they can be equally powerful, enabling talent to be hired from the market (when external participants are allowed), increasing employee engagement, encouraging collaboration among functional silos, improving connections with the parent organization, and encouraging entrepreneurship to create a culture of innovation. From an overarching perspective, they allow the opportunity to experiment with different ways of working together.

Hackathon best practices

Following are Everest Group’s top tips for making a GIC hackathon a resounding success.

Plan well and encourage participation across all functions of the organization including development, testing, the project management office (PMO), information security, and the business. Each function can play the role to which it is best suited. For example, business users can provide realistic problem statements for the teams to solve, and supply the teams with resources to help work on their ideas. Or, business users can participate in various teams, and mentor them on fine-tuning their thoughts and ideas. The PMO can be involved in the logistics and event management.

Conduct your hackathons in an informal setting to enable participants to have fun while getting their creative juices flowing. We know of several organizations that have experimented with associating certain social causes with their hackathons.

With the advent of the digital journey, GICs must not only support their parent organization but also lead the way for digital transformation. This in turn requires building strong innovation capabilities and a talent pool for digital. It will be interesting to see if GICs use hackathons as one of the means to this end. Note: we encourage it, for all the above reasons.

Has your GIC held a hackathon? Have you participated in one? Our readers would love to hear your experiences!

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