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Centric Software Architects Bill Klos, Shawn Wallace, and Morgan Howard explain what a hackathon is, how it benefits companies, and how to start one. They've hosted three hackathons for Centric technologists.
Hi, I’m Bill Klos. Senior Architect and National Practice
Lead for Cloud Services.
Hi, I’m Shawn Wallace. Senior Architect and National
Practice Lead for Custom Application Development.
Hi, I’m Morgan Howard. Senior Consultant in the
Centric Columbus BU specializing in Solution Delivery.
We are an informal, go-with-the-flow kind of bunch.
• Defining the Magic of a Hackathon
• The Formula
• The Big Day
• Lessons Learned
What is a Hackathon?
By definition and then some…
According to Google.
Hackathon (noun): an event, typically lasting several
days, in which a large number of people meet to
engage in collaborative solutioning.
Hack + Marathon = Hackathon
You can also think of it as…
A great opportunity to do the following things:
•Try out new ideas in a safe environment
•Learn new technologies
•Network and connect (internally/externally)
•Make awesome things!
Defining the Universe
Understanding the Hackathon Continuum
Different Types of Hackathons
What’s your deliverable?
• Point of Concept (POC)
• Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
• Ready to Ship Deliverable
• Innovation Backlog
• Process Improvement
• Ideas and Concepts
It is not a way to extend the work week
or catch up on work.
That’s called mandatory working on a
Qualified Hackathon Candidates
• Requirement: contribute to the overall success of the project
• Different perspectives: technical, business, client, etc.
• Non-technical folks welcome
The Ultimate Skillset
All Companies Can Benefit
“…[by] inviting diverse groups of people to the table that wouldn't normally be
given the chance to air their voice to impact a problem or innovate a product or
service proposition, and locking them in a room until the solution is built.
This is far different from workshopping for example, where the idea is given life
but no end product or solution is created.”
- Excerpt from Article by Theo Priestley from Forbes.com "Why Every
Business Should Run Internal Hackathons"
Personal Experience: Centric
Many cool things have come from Hackathons
Let’s Do This: The Formula
Our Recommended Approach
Step 1: Determine Goal (WHY)
1. Do you have a project in mind for a specific
2. Do you have a theme in mind (ex: innovation) and
receptive to ideas?
3. Will the deliverable be a fully baked solution or
4. Will you be developing a product, process, or idea?
This will drive the remaining steps in your planning.
Step 2: Determine Length (WHEN)
• Most Hackathons take place over a weekend (Fri –
• Have an understanding of time (especially if
specific product) – but flexible about daily schedule
• Community Hackathons work well in colder
seasons – consider what’s going on around town
You need enough time to provide measure of value.
Step 3: Determine Participants (WHO)
• Company Hackathon with internal participants
• Company Hackathon with external guests
• Community Hackathon
• Industry Hackathon
• Specific project = specific technical skillset
• Don’t forget to consider your PM or logistics
• There is no magical number for participants
You can market your Hackathon depending on the
WHO you have in mind.
Step 4: Determine Logistics (WHAT)
• If you are planning on delivering a specific type of
project – get toolkit ready for participants in
• Daily schedule/delivery/implementation details
This will assist in determining your location.
Step 5: Determine Location (WHERE)
• Location, location, location
• Consider maximum number of participants in space
• Parking, building access, general dev setup
• Snacks, food, coffee
• Technical setup (avoid crappy hotel WiFi)
• Collaborative seating/environment
Best to host in a space where you normally do work.
Step 6: Determine Process (HOW)
Once you’ve determined your objective and logistics –
next you need to recruit participants
• Internal – spread the word
• External – meetup.com, Eventbrite, social media
• General word-of-mouth in the tech community
Don’t worry – some things will suck the first time. We
call these lessons learned.
You’re All Here…Now What?
Get the group together in a room and discuss the idea.
• Present details if project was identified prior
• Whiteboard ideas if open for discussion
Groups will begin to form around an idea based on
interest, need, and skillset.
What if Someone is Left Out?
It will happen – especially if they have a niche skillset
that doesn’t apply.
• Opportunity to learn something new (even if
unrelated to the Hackathon project)
• The magic Hackathon energy (mind meld)
• Allow flexibility
Both with the solution and logistics.
• General idea of solution architecture
• Requirements if available
• Consider ideation to implementation
• Communicate general schedule at beginning
• Hold regular standups and progress check-ins
• Consider agile methodology/cadence
What happens After the Hackathon
You delivered your goal – whatever that may be – now
what? It depends.
• Hackathon Presentation Day
• Expectations on Delivery
Participants are not expected to continue working
on the project after the weekend…unless they
• Delivering full solution – consider implementation
• Documentation and requirements
• Test the solution if delivering to a client or
completing an implement
Do not make everyone sit in a circle and discuss what
they learned and how they feel about it around a
• Encourage lessons learned (what went well)
• Encourage socializing, networking, connection
Lift up from heads down to have fun and get to know
Have realistic expectations…even if
you don’t really know what that is right
There should be a balance between
the number of people and the amount
of work to do.
You have to be willing to give up on
things in order to make progress.
You don’t always know your
audience…which is kind of cool.
Hackathons are a great way to try
something new…and fail.
Remember: you can curate an
environment that encourages
connection, collaboration, innovation,
and risk taking. CHECK THE EGOS.
To learn more about Centric Consulting Solutions:
Presenters Names: Bill Klos, Shawn Wallace, Morgan Howard
• Bill Klos: email@example.com
• Shawn Wallace: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Morgan Howard: email@example.com