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November 27 2014

Why run Hack Days?

I've experienced many hack day events over the past few years, and the advantages of running such events in a organisation are overwhelmingly clear. For executives looking at these events through a lens of uncertainty, you will be be assured that they may be well worth the effort. Hack days

Some of the clear benefits that may be easily articulated, cover enough ROI value to convince any hardline exec that running a hack day isn't only awesome fun for staff, and often will help ignite internal innovation inside organisation that will encourage better and faster methods for delivering an end to finish product, solution or process. The benefits of running internal hack days can filter right through a business, energising the complete company, the teams involved and individual workers. This could only be a positive thing, thinking about it through any lens.
Team Collaboration - Bringing the Company Together

One of the real issues companies face since they become bigger and much more complex, is how you can sustain momentum and work cohesively with various teams over the broader business. I've seen companies apply numerous operating models during my time i.e. by capability, by function and by profession. These models were implemented with all the objective of enabling broader collaboration and also to gain delivery efficiencies, however, all were adopted with varied success. Regardless how you swing it, there is always a degree of segmentation of men and women, which can cause friction in just a business. It's very easy to get rid of track of which team you actually work with, and the roles people play inside the organisation, that essentially give you support as a possible employee, when you've got your mind down busily working away. hackathon

Hack days supply a real life scenario where one can bring different areas (and roles) with the business together to be effective collaboratively on something which will benefit the organisation. The vision of success for any hack day happens when the thing is teams form that have product people, technical people, financially minded people, and business people working closely together, forming, pitching and building their ideas. Hack day teams formed with mixed roles and backgrounds are the glue that assist build ongoing collaboration, essentially bringing a small business closer together.

Working more closely with assorted regions of the business often stops working barriers, you never knew have there been. It becomes the conduit that reveals different and new opportunities for individuals both personally and professionally within a business. Broader team collaboration in a organisation also helps take away the unhealthy "us versus them" mentality that can sometimes occur within different business departments across a company (I'm not talking healthy competition between teams, After all the caustic "why will they always have more budget and attention than us" type "us versus them").
Hack Day Themes

Internal hack days may be themed to concentrate on creating specific new services, introducing new capabilities or processes, and adopting new technical solutions inside business, for example data analytics, data services or improved sales productivity stemming from the new/improved application. I am involved in hack days which have been both themed and un-themed, both create a a feeling of excitement and creativity delivering great results.

The advantages of developing a theme for your internal hack day, is that it can provide your teams assistance with an important subject material that your organisation really must focus in on. You can find endless themes that you could work with when planning a hack day, but I'll list out a few to provide you with an idea of the assorted ideas that may be applied.

 Hack on what ever you want - Open theme, your teams arrive at choose any idea to operate on.
 Hack it forward - Community focused event (charity)
 BIG DATA - Data focused Hack Days (Datathon)
 Internal Systems Hack Days
 Legacy Systems/code Hack Days
 Reporting & Visualisation Hack Days
 Sales Productivity Hack Days
 Past or Present Project Hack Days
 Consumer Focused Hack Days
 Customer Focused Hack Days
 Mobile First Hack Days
 Personalisation Hack Days
 Supply chain Hack Days
 Internal Culture Hack Days
 ...limitless theme ideas.

One of the most important parts to theming your hack day, is always to understand that Hack Days ARE NOT just for this or technical folk - Everyone within your organisation will get involved and contribute to a successful hack day. Think about the different areas in your business (Finance, Legal, Contract Management, Sales teams, Call Centres) and identify an area of curiosity (maybe something causing concern, or even an inefficient process/application, new service) and develop your theme for this. Your theme must be a thing that all matter of roles from over the business, may wish to be concerned with.
Internal Innovation

Internal Innovation can be a term thrown around fairly loosely, and may mean different things to various people. Internal innovation done properly, along with the right goal at heart, can really pay back for an organisation. Giving teams and individuals enough time to stop and think, let the creativity flow, also to do things not in the box (more often) will embed a culture and framework of internal innovation inside business. The return on your investment in organising and running an internal hack day can be demonstrated. Recently, among Americas additionally known toy companies, Hasbro, held an internal hack day involving over 150 developers, who developed 45 items that were pitched for your event. This type of activity will be the equivalent to vast amounts of dollars in traditional development and research costs companies often spend to attain similar results. Hack days harness and encourage internal innovation that spans people throughout the entire company. This method needs to be better and much more rewarding for an organisation over hiring one or two people who sit and "innovate" as their daily jobs.

By giving people inside organisation a chance to think outside of the box and also to explore things that fall outside their day to day working environments (and role description), publication rack creating an atmosphere of creativity and keenness that provide an enjoyable, experimental, collaborative and inventive outlet for teams.
Staff Engagement & Retention

One of the strongest components, as well as in my personal among the most valued benefits of running internal hack days is the pure people related benefits. I'm talking increased staff engagement and inevitably higher staff retention - Keep your people happy and they hang around, and are more bought into exactly what the organisation does. Folks are one of the most valuable focal point a business and the engagement and get in from your teams determines your ability to succeed being a company. Regardless how good a service or product your organisation offers, you are lost with no strong team with a healthy culture to support your top rated product or service.

I've spent a long time leading both small and big teams and also have seen the raw and positive impact that running hacks days sports the people within a company. Internally run hack days give staff the opportunity to incept and make something that isn't necessarily part of their standard role description or immediate responsibility, which reduces boredom (groundhog day effect), essentially stimulating people's minds. It also gives people a broader understanding of the business enterprise strategy and the way they could align by delivering a thing that truly benefits the company. It ignites the eagerness within people, to collaborate and create something amazing.
Success is incorporated in the Preparation & Delivery

Hack days require a great deal of preparation and staff engagement to obtain right. Again, you can prepare and plan your event depending on its theme to make the event really unique and be noticeable for the staff.

Probably the most significant things is to make the event fun please remember that hack days have to do with individuals involved, and the varied benefits that can come from this from the people and company perspective.

Some of the items that be noticeable as essential when organising a hack day event are announcing it to the company, giving your employees time for you to think of ideas ahead of the event, registration for that event (so that you discover how many people will probably be involved), what sort of you host it (cannot be an individual meeting room...), the date you hold it and definately will it's a multi-day event (maybe an overnight event), networking and power, catering food and drinks (yes, beer helps), preparation depending on your theme (do you really need specific data sets etc), prizes and trophies, audio/visual and creating the atmosphere you want.

It is not a simple thing to get right, especially if you haven't experienced a properly run Hack Day event previously. To learn more about Vivify Labs hosted hack day experiences, visit our micro-site at www.Hackdays.com.au

Quoting a fantastic line, from a record classic movie (cough) "Build it and they will come" is indeed apparent when talking in regards to the success of planning and running your own hack day. A highly organised and well run internal hack day event will be the buzz amongst your workers and envy of your fiercest competitor for a long time in the future.

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