Are you looking for new ways to inspire innovation and digital transformation in your business? Holding an internal hackathon might just be the solution you’re after.

Boosting innovation, whether you’re a small business owner or an executive or innovation manager in a larger company, can be tough to get started with. Undoubtedly, using technology to foster novel solutions is adamant. However, undergoing a real digital transformation requires you to pair the use of technology with bright ideas – which can come from people from every business unit.

“The app hackathon made us look at our business from a new perspective – to me, that’s digitalization hands-on.”

That’s where an app hackathon – which is open for non-technical team members as well – can come in handy. What’s it about? Your whole team gets together and brainstorms app ideas that can be realized with the help of technology, and that offers smarter ways to get things done. App hackathons foster digital thinking and generally increase the potential of your business for digitalization.

Hackathon brainstorming

The rise of no-code platforms gives you a great level of freedom to realize app hackathons together with your whole team. No-code development does not require knowledge of coding, so everyone can become a ‘citizen developer’ and set up a useful and working app. Thus, the best part is that such hackathons are available to all, and not only to developers.

“You know hackathons for IT experts. For business teams this is unusual but really effective – teams develop applications that are ready to use, they understand processes and necessities much better and get skills that are very helpful for digitalization.”

With the help of no-code, you can also organize an app hackathon online and thus adapt to the current pandemic times without sacrificing team-building opportunities and chances for fostering innovation. The event will bring your entire team together to brainstorm ideas and easily realize them with the help of automatic app creation.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of how to hold your first no-code app internal hackathon – whether live or online – and do it like a pro.

How do app hackathons work?

It’s incredibly easy to hold a no-code app hackathon in your company with an intuitive no-code platform like Open as App. You can organize the event live in your office, or as we’re now practicing social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also host it online.

App hackathons allow everyone on your team to experience and become a part of the digital transformation of the whole company. They empower employees to create apps that meet the needs of their departments and the respective specific processes they have. The new tools can cover essential functions such as calculations, surveys, maps, lists, and dashboards.

Organizing a no-code app hackathon is a great opportunity for all team members to get involved in the innovation process of your company. At the same time, even though no programming skills are required, your IT department can have full control over the created apps.

The typical agenda of an app hackathon can include:

  • Get together all team members who will take part
  • Make a short but sweet introduction, presenting the goals of the hackathon, as well as giving a quick tutorial about the tools that people can use
  • Announce the prizes for the most useful app
  • Have team members form groups
  • Allow 2 to 3 hours for participants to roll their sleeves and let their imagination wild
  • Have a shared lunch (if live) or a virtual get-together (if online)
  • Host another 2 to 3 hours of app creation
  • Invite everyone to present their results in a pitching format
  • Award the prize for the group that created the best app

App hackathon with Open as App mentoring

With Open as App, you can also opt-in for an app hackathon with mentoring. Our no-code app specialists can organize your event – whether on-site or online – to help you get the most of it. Typically, we offer two-day mentored hackathons.

In case you go for this option, you’ll get invaluable support in holding your internal hackathon. We’ll work together to formulate the use cases that you want to focus on. For this purpose, we will analyze the data that you want to use and help you prepare them for automatic app creation. This can come from Excel or a Google spreadsheet, database, online data, or a SaaS app, so all your business data can be used in the process.

Afterward, our experts will assist you with choosing the right place and time, as well as ensuring all team members have the necessary tools. All participants will get demo access for Open as App for the hackathon. If you decide to have an award ceremony at the end, which is advisable, we’ll give you our insights about the evaluation process, the jury, and the prizes.

You can learn more about the App Hackathon Digital Experience with Open as App here.

app hackathon innovation

How to do an app hackathon with your team

If you’re ready to start preparations for your first no-code app hackathon, here are the steps that you should follow to make sure it’s a successful one.

Do your homework

The preparation stage of organizing an app hackathon is essential. First of all, you should get well acquainted with the data that your business possesses in the form of spreadsheets. As the organizer, you should have a thorough understanding of spreadsheet tools, or work closely with an expert.

Next, you have to get familiar with the no-code platform Open as App. You have to grasp how it works so that you can easily explain it to the rest of the team. That’s how all of you would have the best knowledge about what you can achieve with its help. You can get a demo call with our team in advance to get assistance or watch our tutorials.

After you’ve understood the basics about Open as App, it’s time to experiment with the platform. You can create apps from the sample files on our website and test their capabilities. By doing this, you can understand in depth the functionalities that you can benefit from. Our tutorials and webinars can be of help at this stage too.

The last step is to build a test app on your own. It doesn’t need to be the most complicated one, but it’s a good idea to input some of your business data that you’d really like to work with via the platform. When you’ve created the app, you can share it with a limited circle of team members to further test it.

Get your team together and go for it

After you have prepared for the hackathon, it’s time to create the right setting for the rest of your team.

When you’ve decided on a date for the event, you have to collect the ideas of your team. You can ask each participant to share their goals for the hackathon.

You will also need to gather the necessary spreadsheet or database links that contain the relevant data.

After collecting this information, you need to decide on the use cases that you want to pursue from the list of initial ideas. You can base your choice on the potential benefits of creating certain apps, such as improving the productivity of task execution, shortening the time necessary for internal processes, and other types of efficiency that you may be able to gain.

At this stage, you should also consider the potential user base of future apps. The larger they are, the more attention the team should pay to them during the hackathon. One way to go about it is to set the user base in the hackathon rules before you start it. Alternatively, you can also let the participants decide when they launch the brainstorming. The exact approach will depend on your business needs.

For the actual hackathon, you have to ensure that all team members have the necessary tools. They will have to use a laptop or a smartphone and will need access to wireless internet. They need to register an account with Open as App as well.

After the initial set up you can go through the steps of the following algorithm. Gather your team – live or online – and start with an introduction about the goals of the hackathon. Outline the main focus, so that everyone is on board.

Then move on to a short tutorial of how automatic app creation works with Open as App. You can present it verbally yourself, and watch some of the helpful videos as well.

The next step is to set up teams that will work on separate projects. It’s a good idea to have an Excel (or spreadsheet) expert in each group, paired with people who have in-depth business insight. The first type of group members will be able to provide the necessary knowledge about formulas and logic in spreadsheets. The second one will guide the app creation efforts in the most meaningful direction in terms of business goals.

It’s a good idea to spread out the hackathon in a few sessions, with breaks in-between. For example, if you decide to have two working sessions, you can host a lunch in-between, if the event is in your office. This will give a chance to the team to have periods of focused effort, alternated with free socializing time.

At the end of the hackathon, it’s time for acknowledgment and celebration. Invite all groups to present their ideas and apps. You can do this in the format of pitching, which will help create the real experience of hackathons for your team.

The created apps can be deployed, tested, and shared straight away via Open as App’s platform. You can decide together which of them you want to put into use and in what departments.

“My team was delighted. We already use a couple of the apps we created on the day. They have a different approach to innovation and change now.”

The best way to finish off the day is by awarding prizes for the best apps. Having a reward after an intense day of brainstorming and creating is a good stimulus for team members.

In general, you should strive to make your internal app hackathon as fun as possible. If you’re hosting it live, it’s great to offer food and drinks to the participants. Even if you’re organizing an online event, you can also adopt a fun approach that helps people relax and engage in creativity.

Hackathon winners

The Do’s and Don’ts of hackathons

Organizing hackathons is not rocket science – unless they deal with that topic. Still, it’s best if you follow a well-thought-out, predefined workflow, as well as useful tips from experienced hackathon leaders.

An important tip that’s worth following is to never hold an internal hackathon without solid preparation. You as the organizer should have a clear overview of the goals, the tools, and the process. That’s how you can transfer the information to the rest of your team and direct the event in the most meaningful way.

Another useful tip is to set goals at the start of each hackathon. The idea is not simply to get people together and have them brainstorm in various directions. Rather, there should be a concise aim that you should set for them to strive for – i.e. to create apps that streamline the work of the sales team, or that improve the processes of the operations team.

It’s also important to thoughtfully select the hackathon teams. Each group needs to have at least one member who has in-depth Excel knowledge. This is necessary for reaching the best results from your Excel files with a no-code platform like Open as App.

A good rule of thumb to follow is not to limit team members’ creativity. Let the hackathon process be interactive, as they are interactive in essence.

Hold your first team hackathon with Open as App

The benefits of hosting an internal app hackathon are numerous – and it allows you to truly employ the creative potential of your team to solve complex business cases.

“I’m glad I organized an app hackathon for my team. We got a lot of ideas to save time and make more of our data and know-how.” 

If you’re ready to get started with your first no-code hackathon, you can get a demo call to learn how you can use Open as App.

We’re here to help! You can also book a hackathon on-site if you’re based in Europe, or with online support.

Create your first app now

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