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What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization?-EN

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For some years now, the term ‘Hackathon’ has become popular in many organizations to refer to an event or competition where a group of people get together for a period of time, which can range from a few hours to several days, to work as a team and develop creative and innovative solutions around a specific problem.     

Usually, hackathons have been linked to profiles more related to software development, but it does not have to be that way. The tools or the way to solve the problem can be different depending on the field of knowledge: innovation, cybersecurity, marketing, sustainability, etc. 

In any case, although the formats and variants when setting up a hackathon may be different, you must have 4 very clear premises:  

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Have a problem that needs a solution.  

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To have a wide audience that wants to participate.  

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Clearly define the criteria and starting information for anyone interested.  

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Gamify the experience and reward the effort.  

In this article, we are going to present how the same format of a Hackathon can be used in the data domain. We can refer to it as a Datathon, and then we are going to look at its characteristics and the benefits of promoting it in an organization. 

What is a Datathon?

Datathons are very popular events in the data science and technology industry communities and, as we have seen previously, like any hackathon they seek to answer a specific problem, either business, social or technological.   

Unlike a hackathon, in this case the problem has to do with analyzing, managing or processing large volumes of data to identify patterns, trends or anomalies and then presenting innovative solutions, which can be presented in different formats, from predictive models and data visualizations to applications that use the data to solve the problem.  

We are talking about problems that can range from, for example, improving the recommendation algorithm in an e-commerce or streaming platform, improving fraud detection in financial institutions or insurance companies, or optimizing pricing based on history, demand or competition. 

Once the competition starts, participants are given access to a set of data and are challenged to analyze it and extract useful information from it with the objective of, depending on the type of challenge they face, facilitating decision making, making recommendations, forecasts, etc.  

Data can come from different sources such as government databases, corporate databases, non-profit organizations, social media platforms, among others. As data is constantly growing exponentially, its management becomes complicated. Therefore, the need to process this heterogeneous data, perform a cleaning task (to eliminate all that is incorrect, incomplete or irrelevant) and analyze and integrate different sources to enable a coherent and unified view of the data.     

This is why, in a datathon, all participants in a team are expected to have at least programming, mathematics and statistics, data analysis and data visualization and storytelling skills. 

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What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

What are the benefits of a datathon for an organization?

Now that we have a better understanding of what a Datathon is, we can talk about the impact and benefits that the promotion of this type of competition can have on an organization. 

Talent development

The most obvious advantage. We are challenging people with certain knowledge and skills to put them into practice by solving a problem (real or fictional) in a safe environment, where they can feel more comfortable and come up with more creative and innovative ideas.    

If we also add the variant of solving it in teams, we will also be allowing the development of other more “soft” skills such as presentation and communication, time management, critical thinking, collaboration, etc.   

Even if it is a challenge that, in addition to data science, involves other knowledge disciplines such as software development, UX/UI design, etc. where collaboration is necessary for its resolution, it is possible to organize multidisciplinary teams that also generate networking within the organization, which can further enrich the experience. 

Datathon
What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

Commitment to the organization

Underlying talent development, an organization that provides space for these types of competitions can often see a positive impact on engagement with the company. Datathons can provide a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to collaborate with other professionals and foster innovation, which can increase a sense of belonging and job satisfaction.  

By participating, professionals can feel that their company values and supports their development and this fosters greater commitment and loyalty to the company, which can have an impact on talent retention in an industry (data science) where demand typically exceeds available supply.  

Profiles such as data engineers, data analysts, data scientists or any variant within an organization can benefit from this.
What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

Talent identification

The competition can serve not only to help us develop internal talent, but also to attract and identify talent outside the organization in case we want to open it to an external audience as well.  

By using the right channels to promote our datathon, we can reach a wide number of data science and analytics enthusiasts with new ideas, ways of doing and thinking that can potentially end up joining the organization as collaborators or junior talent development programs. 

datathon
What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

Business value

Data-related technical profiles aside, the business units of an organization should be the biggest stakeholders in promoting these types of competitions.   

Accepting that you have complex and challenging problems to solve or that you would like to explore opportunities for improvement and giving the opportunity to collaborate with other (responsive) professionals within an organization is one of those things that enhance its culture.   

In addition, business people can also be involved and work as a team, contributing their insight and knowledge to analyze data and create predictive models to solve specific problems, such as predicting product demand, optimizing supply chain performance, or improving operational efficiency.   

Meanwhile, those people linked to the business can also better understand and even develop in the medium/long term their skills around data analysis, modeling or visualization and storytelling with data, which at the same time can improve cohesion and communication between the different business units and the more technical areas and shorten that ‘gap’.   

On top of that, gaining awareness of the so-called Data-Driven mindset, understanding how data generates value for the business, for the organization and being part of it. 

Datathon
What is a Datathon and why is it important for your organization? | Illustration by Andy Baraja

Conclusion:

In conclusion, a datathon is a great opportunity for an organization to challenge a community of technical professionals in the field of data, generate commitment, encourage innovation, continuous improvement and raise awareness among the rest of the organization about the importance of making better decisions based on data.   

Netmind can help you from the conceptualization of your Datathon, through the design of the business challenge and the treatment of the data that can be used to the management and communication of it. Each of its experts involved provides an end-to-end vision from the birth of the idea to the final result with the winning proposal. 

If you would like more information about this and other solutions that we can offer you in the field of Data, do not hesitate to visit our catalog and contact us so that we can advise you.

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