The Successes of Integrating Clients in Hackathons

2016 C&F CAG Hackathon

We have a long history of integrating our clients into “the hackathon” just as a consequence of how we CX. The concept of a hackathon tends to evolve over time.

It might start out as simple as carving out some time for the development team to work on whatever interests them. It might evolve to something as organized as developers picking from a prioritized list of user dreams, originating from user interviews or customer complaints.

If you have a particularly adventurous client, your hackathon could evolve into a live event that engages actual users in brainstorming hacks for the development team to demo.

The plot

Users walk into a classroom with developers clicking away along the periphery. Integrated groups of users and developers form for several ideation activities. Developers are released to create a subset of those ideas. Users can walk around the room do observe developers in their natural habitat. A day later, users get to see their ideas in the app.

The rehearsal

Software development isn’t as interesting to watch as Chuck, Scorpion, or NCIS might lead you to believe. It’s a lot of waiting for your code to build, Googling how to vertically align an element on the screen, thumbing through files figuring out where to plop your code into the existing architecture.

Not, the sexiest process to expose to a user. So! You must make it exciting. And to make it exciting you have to prepare a lot of the normal things ahead of time.

We compiled a list of possible topics the users might ask us to build. We prioritized them by most asked for, least technical risk.

We minimized all of the outstanding technical risk by investigating possible solutions, or pre-creating solutions to the unknowns we had for the idea.

We pre-wrote all of the infrastructure for the ideas.

The stage

We set up in a large classroom. Users would be listening to presentations in this room periodically during the event, so we set up pairing stations along the back wall of the classroom, and a mobbing station in the front corner of the classroom. We made an impromptu task board on the garage door that spanned one of the walls. The rest of the room was set up like a traditional presentation conference room, rows of tables facing a large projector at the front.

We made sure to face our monitors towards the middle of the room so that users could look over our shoulder whenever they’d like. The mob was set up so that a user could drop in and out of the mob as they were interested and available.

We swapped our graphic tees for polos for a couple of days and got to work on an unnatural amount of client-facing socializing for a bunch of introverts.

The show

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