Fighting consequences of the Corona pandemic by means of a hackathon

Before Easter I received an invitation to a hackathon and accepted it, because I had never participated in a hackathon before and was curious how it would all take place. I was additionally motivated because the hackathon was about fighting the consequences of the Corona pandemic with the help of experts from the Project Management Offices (PMOs) throughout the world. I was invited by Americo Pinto, a friend from Brazil and Chairman of the PMO Global Alliance, which takes care of the needs of PMOs worldwide, offers qualification and certification of PMO staff and corresponding awards.

A hackathon is a creative event that is more common in the field of software development. It is about achieving a certain result over a certain period of time with many participants, e.g. to create a software, a concept or another “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)”. Depending on the duration of the co-creative collaboration, one speaks of a “hackathon” (several days or weeks) or “hack days” (few days). Under the label “#PMOsHackingCovid19″, more than 500 participants from more than 80 countries registered, of which 330 people logged in on the tool provided for this purpose, called Slack. In addition to the organization team, there were various roles for which participants could choose, including team member, project manager, tutor or mentor. For these there were then special webinars that explained the hackathon, the process and the rules of the game.

Participants grouped around nine initial themes, including but not limited to „Business Continuity“, „Mental Well-being“, „Remote Work“ or „Business Transformation“. In initial discussions on the platform, ideas were exchanged on what is to be understood by the individual topics, what a PMO could contribute to dealing with the consequences of Covid 19 and which projects would be useful in this respect. Parallel to this, the participants networked on LinkedIn, got to know each other better and were able to exchange ideas on project management and PMOs. After a few days, 36 project ideas were created, which were described on a project sheet provided for this purpose and then released for all to evaluate.

The cooperation in this hackathon was complicated by the very different time zones. On the other hand, it was possible to work on the projects from sunrise in Australia till sunset in South America. From the initial several hundred participants, a “hard core” of almost 80 participants crystallized, who worked on 16 projects towards the end. My task as a mentor was to provide feedback on the results of the work, to give hints for improvement or available literature. All in all a very dynamic process, which ended in a presentation of results and a pitch video for each project.

Topics of the projects touch on “Strategic Decision-making during Crisis Time”; “Digital Transformation of PMOs”, “PMO as a Service Framework” and “Project Management Competency assessment using AI models”. The results will be made public until the end of this months and may contribute to overcoming the Corona crisis. Furthermore, it was a learning journey for the PMO Global Alliance and all the participants. Special batches were offered to all participants, which could be shared via Social Media.

What could I take away from the Hackathon and what can be done better in the future? It was a very dynamic event that relies heavily on self-organisation and therefore doesn’t work equally well for everyone. Some participants were not very active, others were extremely energetic. A clear procedure for selecting and prioritizing projects is needed, otherwise the hackathon runs the risk of getting fuzzy. Energy fizzles out. Some teams were recaptured by an extension of time and a reminder of the rules. Now it will depend on how the results are published and used. Some projects can certainly be worked on further. Thus the crisis shows that opportunities arise even in such difficult times, if only everyone pulls together and in the same direction. I will certainly use this experience in the future for the events I have to organize.

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Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Managementberatung



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