Suits & sneakers: why smart companies are taking part in hacks


I’ve just signed up to attend the Salesforce Summer Of Hacks. It’s going to be a 3 day non-stop, pizza fuelled, coding sleepover party hackathon in Shoreditch Village Hall. Why am I going? I better start at the beginning.

What is a hackathon?

Although ‘hackathon’ is a word with its roots in technology, at it’s heart, this is about teams of people collaborating to solve a problem. These multi-day events bring people together and task them with coming up with technology solutions to real world needs – often in the form of a software app.

Time-based challenges like this make for scenes of extreme coding, going on late into the night as the teams race against each other to come up with the most innovative, and coolest answer to the question.

The team that wins (and wins big – famously a record-breaking $1m at Dreamforce 2013) is the one that builds the best app within the boundaries of the nominated platform.

Salesforce are putting some big money prizes again behind their Summer Of Hacks. There will be four hacks being held during the month of July, going on in New York, Los Angeles, Bangalore and London, and they are selling out fast.

What’s the deal? How come modern mainstream business love the hack culture?

Hackathons are on the rise, and serious platform-size players such as Salesforce are investing more than just pizza money in making these hacks happen. That’s because these wifi-enabled slumber party provide some important lessons for businesses.

The first clue is there on the Salesforce Summer of Hacks sign up form. You have the opportunity to enter the competition in one of three roles:-

  • Developer : “Code an amazing mobile app and demonstrate you got mad technical chops.”
  • Designer : “Flex your creative muscle and bring your team’s mobile app to life with an awesome user experience.”
  • Secret Weapon: “Use your marketing and business acumen to put your team ahead of the game.”

Salesforce has played a masterstroke here, creating a microcosm of the “real world”. Just as successful business units are made up of people with different skill sets, not just technical skills, and you’ll see the same format here.

It’s a tremendous learning opportunity for those involved. Getting together with people with very different knowledge and capabilities to your own, makes for a far more holistic solution, and one in which would not necessarily be arrived at without the 3 day laser focus a hackathon environment provides.

And that’s the thing about hacks……focus. Or should I say FOCUS!! Hackathons scream FOCUS. Business as usual has a great way of pushing real focus to one side, in the hustle and bustle of a working day. If you temporarily sweep all distractions away, give a group of people a problem and lock them away for a weekend, the results can be astonishing.

Technology + focus + holistic business vision then, makes for a heady combination. No wonder modern businesses are getting behind hackathons.

Why I am going?

I’m a busy business owner and the majority of my working life these days is definitely firmly in the consultancy camp. Talking to customers has taken over from code. Aside from making a pair of sunglasses light up when we log a new deal in Salesforce, my hacking days are largely behind me.

Having said that, aside from a chance to mingle with London’s hip, hi-tech community (Hoxton Hacksters?) there are a few things I believe I’ll take away from the Summer of Hacks.

And the main thing is this: people who go to a hackathon are those who are passionate, engaged and energetic about their technology. I feel the same way about moving customers further towards their business goals. Put this together as a two-way exchange of knowledge and I think I am going to come away from this event with a lot more than an app. I anticipate that I’ll come away with all the smarts I’ll need to bring an entirely new business to market.

What can we all get from the hack spirit?

Collaboration with focus, that’s what I am expecting at the Salesforce Summer Of Hacks. I think that atmosphere is going to create some great apps in an environment where people are encouraged to take some risks.

Take a look at the Salesforce Summer Of Hacks page for details of all the hacks taking place.

The future of business is in the hands of the hacker!


By Matthew Morris
16 July 2014
SalesforceThe Good Systems Blog

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