A hackathon is a fun way to engage lots of people within your organization around a digital culture of change. The key objective is to develop sample apps and cultivate ideas to drive digital transformation. Teams come together, at the line of business or at the global scale, from different roles and departments to compete and create apps that address an organizational need.
The more variety of skills and roles represented, the better. One or more facilitators should be involved in organizing the hackathon and defining the teams and the rules. Also, it might be worth starting the day with a review and demo of Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, Power Virtual Agents, AI Builder, Microsoft Power Platform, and Microsoft Dataverse.
A successful hackathon usually includes team colors, prizes, food, music, laughter, and competition.
In addition to the guidance on this page, the Microsoft Power Platform Hackathon Workbook contains practical step-by-step guidance and templates for running a hackathon. You'll find this workbook and other resources on the Microsoft Power Platform Adoption website.
Planning and logistics
Preparation is key for a successful hackathon, so make sure to consider the following:
- Securing an exec sponsor is vital to credibility of the hackathon.
- Set the dates and give attendees as much notice as possible.
- Pick your judges—choose a panel from business, IT, and executive teams.
- For an in-person event, find a venue or room that provides plenty of seating, whiteboards, power sockets, reliable Wi-Fi, and projectors for presenting the solution. For a virtual event, set up Teams with private channels for each participating team to collaborate and a bridge for them to dial in to.
- Source some prizes as incentives for people to participate.
- Set up a registration mechanism—Microsoft Forms, a SharePoint site, or build your own app.
- Determine your communication strategy—newsletter, intranet, Yammer/Teams.
- Provide training sessions for participants—the more they know ahead of the event, the better the apps they’ll submit. Suggest they attend an App in a Day event, or complete the Learn module Get started with Power Apps canvas apps.
- Set up a call before the hackathon where teams and individuals can bring their ideas and questions to discuss feasibility and unblock knowledge gaps.
- Find out what data sources teams want to connect to and make sure test data is available, and that teams have the right access. An alternative is providing dummy data as an Excel spreadsheet the teams could use to mock up their solutions.
- Building confidence is the key; it maximizes the productivity of the hackathon.
Finding your ideas and use cases
Ask attendees to think about the use case they want to solve prior to the hackathon—having them provide some information on a signup form can be a good way for them to start thinking about what they want to achieve.
Ask the following questions:
- What is the current process like?
- What should the future process look like?
- What are the pain points of the current process?
- What data sources are required to solve your problem?
You could also ask senior stakeholders to vote on the submitted ideas and then—during the hackathon—ask teams to only work on the top-voted ideas. This would increase senior leadership buy-in and ensure the important solutions are addressed.
If attendees are looking to connect to third-party data sources for their solutions, make sure data is available to them. This could be as simple as preparing test data in an Excel file, or populating a Dataverse entity with some sample data for attendees to use.
Either ask attendees to build their own teams, or pick teams yourself. Make sure team members know each other and can communicate prior to the event to prepare together. Setting up a Microsoft Teams channel for the hackathon, and private channels for each team, is a great way to facilitate collaboration.
On the day
Ensure the day is fun—provide snacks and ample coffee. Designing a hackathon logo and getting T-shirts, stickers or button made for the day can be an effective way to motivate attendees. Line up some Microsoft Power Platform champions to help attendees with technical questions, and some facilitators who can help with logistics ("Are there more post-its?" "We need a purple marker!" "We don't have access to xyz." "How do I share my whiteboard with other members on the team?").
Your hackathon can be one day or more, but we recommend planning your agenda upfront and communicating it clearly to attendees, so they know how much time to set aside.
Here’s a sample agenda:
|Introduction and Welcome
|Microsoft Power Platform Introduction
Consider playing videos from Microsoft conferences, such as Unleashing your organization’s creativity and innovation with a deep dive into Microsoft Power Platform or Empower everyone in your organization to drive digital transformation with Microsoft Power Platform. You could also highlight some customer stories for additional inspiration, especially if there is a public case study of a customer in the same or similar industry as your organization.
|Microsoft Power Platform Demonstration
Get hands on with Microsoft Power Platform in front of your attendees, using elements from the App in an hour material can work well here.
|Rules of Engagement, How to work, Questions
This should be the main portion of your day and can either consist of 4-5 hours on Day 1 or span over multiple days.
|Team Presentations, Discussions and Judging
Team presentations and judging
Prepare a template that teams can use when they prepare for the presentation. The template should include team name, app benefits, technical considerations, and vision, in addition to screenshots or process diagrams.
Prepare an evaluation criteria for your judges to use when judging the solutions. The criteria should range from business to technical to design categories, and take into consideration the innovation level, short- and long-term vision, completeness. Suggest awarding bonus points for live demos during the presentation.
After the event
Don’t stop at the hackathon—put together short- and long-term plans:
- What’s the pipeline of apps that are going to be built?
- Will any of the apps built during the hackathon make it into production, and how can your makers be supported on that journey?
- Create enthusiasm for Microsoft Power Platform after the event by sharing some stories in internal newsletters or on your intranet; get creative and ask attendees for quotes or even interview them.