Hackathons are cropping up all over the place, but contrary to popular belief, they are about much more than simply “cutting code”. Here’s how one progressive accounting firm used the hackathon format to turbo charge their process improvement, and our top 3 tips to ensure #success if you’re thinking you might like to jump on this trend train.

A little while back we were recently invited to take part in an internal hackathon for a progressive accounting and advisory practice based in New South Wales – #trendy – a full day event that saw saw 50 staff put down “the tools” for a day and break up into 7 teams to focus on different aspects of their core compliance processes. We work with accountants and financial planners every day to help them uncover and navigate efficiency improvements, so needless to say we really enjoyed being one of two external“Experts” brought in to assist the teams formulate and validate their ideas, as well as be on call for any technical questions.

Each team was given a specific topic, and with oversight and guidance from directors, were challenged to create their own process improvement for their topic. Topics included bookkeeping efficiencies, report compilation, on-the-job processing, and requesting information. After spending time working on their idea, teams then “pitched” to the directors, who either gave the projects the thumbs up, or requested more ground-work be undertaken.

The group crafted checklists of actions, assigned responsibilities to various teams and individuals, and most importantly, imposed deadlines for each action – not to mention the entire team was pumped for the projects to get underway.

The event gave the directors the opportunity to put their team in the “driver’s seat” for things that impact them all day to day, but which they may not have thought they could impact previously. The surge of enthusiasm that emerged when everyone on the team was given that opportunity to stop and reflect was truly great to experience, and we’d recommend an activity like this to other firms as a great way to get the team involved in process improvement with focus, energy, and excitement.

“The hackathon was a great team building exercise and once the ideas are fully implemented will be significant improvements for our business. Having Scott available was incredibly valuable. Scott was used by the team as a brains trust, idea’s man, sounding board, technical adviser and planner. Best of all he was there on tap so the momentum of the day was never lost. He had a ‘dance card’ to help manage the demands of the 7 teams and it was always full.” – Craig Stanmore, CEO, Enspira Financial

If you’re thinking a hackathon could be what you need to create focus and energy on developing and implementing process improvements, here are our top 3 tips to make sure your event is a #success.

  1. Put your team in the drivers seat by giving them the opportunity to nominate focus areas or topics. If there is a specific direction you want the team to take, give direction at a higher level and let them nominate more micro topics or actions. This will create a sense of ownership over the improvement – rather than simply being given another task to do.
  2. Have a clear agenda or plan for the day and communicate that to the team well in advance. Many in professional services like to be overly organised, so give your team plenty of notice, and clearly set out not only how the day will work, but the expected outcomes and level or type of involvement you want from everyone.
  3. Give the right support and get the help or input from an external expert who can help guide improvements or offer technical knowledge. Quite often a fancy excel formula or custom report can form the basis of a great efficiency gain, and having an expert on hand could give you immediate process improvements, as well as help make larger projects more manageable.

If you’re interested in having one of our team onsite for a similar event, we are available for full or half day consultations – the cost of which may be able to be offset against the implementation of one of our packaged solutions. Reach out to us and let’s chat about how we can help you make it all work.