Goodbye suggestion box, hello hackathon!

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As you might know, Rocket organizes a company wide hackathon every December at our global headquarters in Boston. What you might not know is that many of the Rocket offices also do a local version of that hackathon (Rocket.Build/local) every year. We just had the second Rocket.Build/Local in Dordrecht and one of the things I noticed is that the audience becomes more diverse, or less technical if you will, every year.

Come one, come all!

Rocket Build Dordrecht foodAt Rocket, we build software that matters. When we organised our first local hackathon, the majority of people that participated were software engineers or “techies” with a big focus on the “building software” part. During the actual event, colleagues from other departments like legal and finance stopped by to not only admire what the developers were building but also to give suggestions on what they thought the developers should build next. They were asking for software that mattered to them.

So, the second year we invited the whole office to submit ideas for the local hackathon, and the suggestions from the “non-technical” departments turned out to be very inspiring! Apparently, the hackathon inspired people in those departments in a way the suggestion box could not. Or would they have found other ways to get what they want anyway?

A way to avoid Shadow IT?

Rocket.Build Dordrecht DemoToday, anyone can purchase low-cost subscription licenses and have a new application up and running in no time at all without IT approving (or even be aware of) these new systems. This phenomenon is referred to as Shadow IT and is considered a big risk for a company, its data, and security. Personally, I believe that the fact that companies have to deal with Shadow IT proves that the classic suggestion box has seen its best days.

With my hackathon experiences in mind, I can only say that if you still depend on a suggestion box in your company to capture innovative ideas from your employees, then you really should organise a hackathon. It will not only provide a stage for the people with those innovative ideas, but it will also allow them to put their ideas to the test by working closely with an actual developer.

Give it a go! After all, who knows, you might find out that the future disruptor of your vertical is actually working for you at the moment 🙂

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Jeroen van Dun

Manager of Software Engineering at Rocket Software
Jeroen van Dun is Product Manager in the Rocket LegaSuite Lab.

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