A couple of months ago, we hosted what will be the first of an annual hackathon at PaycheckCity. If you aren’t familiar, a hackathon is typically a gathering of computer engineers lasting several days with the goal of coming up with a new or innovative product or service concept. We changed the rules slightly by condensing our hackathon to three hours and including a variety of functional areas, not just technical folks. We hosted the hackathon to help get our creativity on as we fathom how to expand the impact of PaycheckCity. It’s hard to believe that PaycheckCity has been calculating paychecks for over 18 years, helping millions of American workers, payroll professionals, and small businesses understand payroll withholding. By my measure, our hackathon was a huge success and companies of all types can hold hackathons as a fun, collaborative, brainstorming exercise. With that, I wish to share my top three reasons why you should host a hackathon at your company:
To generate new and creative ideas. The ideas generated by the PaycheckCity hackathon ranged from an app that tells you if your withholding is done correctly when you take a picture of your paystub, to a customizable calculator builder, to a focus on user experience and design. Marketing concepts spanned from Super Bowl ads to guerilla marketing tactics. Needless to say, at PaycheckCity, our Hackathon helped us to think beyond our 18 year history as a provider of online paycheck calculators and into the future of what other resources and tools we can provide that would be of use to our userbase. We walked away with an expanded sense of possibility for what the future may hold for PaycheckCity.
To get people out of their comfort zones. The software developer on the winning team confessed that he hadn’t made a presentation to a large group since college. Thanks to the hackathon, we got him out of his comfort zone and practicing a necessary influencing skill—the art of public speaking. Marketers were forced to think about our technical resources and engineers to think about value propositions and go to market strategies. As a result, we all were stretched to think about PaycheckCity from different points of view.
To get people working together who don’t normally interact. For the PaycheckCity Hackathon, we formed cross-functional teams—one sales person, one software developer, one upper-level manager, and one marketer per team. Not only did this help generate more diverse ideas and concepts than had we kept the teams homogenous, it also did a lot to build company culture. For some, the three hour hackathon exceeded the total time they had spent interacting with one another by three hours! That is to say, by mixing up the groupings, we helped employees begin to build connections to one another that they likely would never otherwise have started. Time will tell how these relationships develop and what fruit we will see from having a company culture that fosters this type of cross department collaboration and communication.
Despite the success of our hackathon, we still aren’t done deciding the future of PaycheckCity. Want to provide input? Please sign up for a brief interview to share your thoughts.
Sign up today: http://www.symmetry.com/paycheckcity-users/