5 Habits to Manage Remote Data Analytics Teams (or Any Other Remote Teams)
Like many companies, EveryMundo has operated in a remote work setup for over two years. During this period, my team, Data Analytics, has become stronger, enhanced our processes, and delivered outstanding data products. Initially, EveryMundo’s Data Analytics team was based in Miami, but presently, some team members work from various states and countries. Our team includes roles such as a data product manager, a product tracking manager, data analysts, data quality analysts, developers, and QA professionals. We’ve successfully integrated newly onboarded team members into our remote work environment. Let’s learn which 5 habits help manage remote teams!
I credit our success to the following habits of our Data Analytics team (and these habits are also applicable to other remote teams):
Habit #1: Roadmap and Goals
At the beginning of each quarter, the product management team presents the product roadmap for the next quarter with updates on what will come next and later. This gives us a clear vision of what we are working on.
In addition to the product roadmap, we update departmental and individual goals every quarter. These goals encompass 3-month, 6-month, and yearly objectives. They encompass tasks aimed at enhancing our department, such as creating new data lineage documentation or enhancing data quality alerts.
Sprint-Based Workflow and Collaborative Progress Review
We tackle both roadmap items and goals through bi-weekly sprints. Prior to commencing a new sprint, we conduct a brief retrospective. During this time, we celebrate our achievements, and team members have the opportunity to showcase their work to colleagues. Additionally, they share insights on ways to make the next sprint even more successful. This fosters open communication among team members, enabling us to learn from one another, ask questions, and offer constructive feedback for improvement. Once we’ve agreed upon the goals for the next sprint, we get to work.
Our well-defined roadmap, departmental and individual objectives, and bi-weekly goal reviews help us stay aligned with our objectives. It also serves as a starting point for team members to schedule any necessary meetings to delve into details or collaborate further. Otherwise, team members work autonomously from their respective locations.
Habit #2: Open Communication
During a sprint, we employ various communication methods to stay connected with each other and recreate an in-person work environment. This approach is not solely focused on efficiency and productivity but also considers the human element and motivation.
We start with a scheduled morning stand-up every two days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). This helps assess well-being, engage in team discussions, address questions, resolve blockers, and prioritize tasks, ensuring smooth sprint progress. Throughout the day, we utilize Google Chat for ongoing communication and provide formal comments directly on Jira tickets.
Meeting Framework and Collaboration Strategies at EveryMundo
As previously mentioned, we schedule meetings to address specific issues or exchange information. It’s crucial to ensure that everyone actively participates in these discussions, and the responsibility falls on the person who convened the meeting to facilitate this. Ensuring everyone’s participation can be more challenging in an online environment. However, it is not impossible and can be achieved by addressing attendees by name, for instance.
EveryMundo has implemented a structured meeting framework that allocates mornings for various meetings and activities. It also reserves two afternoons weekly for focused “deep work” and designates the remaining afternoons for interviews, collaborative sessions, and cross-departmental brainstorming, which are essential during our growth phase. This framework streamlines collaborative scheduling, ensures dedicated deep work periods, addresses meeting fatigue, and promotes predictability and meeting readiness. Despite our remote work environment, we prioritize face-to-face interaction for team building. We organize quarterly activities such as escape rooms, archery, exotic cuisine tastings, and outdoor barbecues, always adhering to pandemic-related social distancing guidelines.
Habit #3: Processes
The key to succeeding in a remote team involves establishing clear, centralized, and documented processes. Such processes also streamline the onboarding of new team members, making training significantly more straightforward when everyone understands the steps required to achieve a specific objective. Moreover, this documented process serves as a point of reference that can be consulted at any time and updated when necessary. Consequently, there is a reduced need for face-to-face interaction to convey these processes, allowing more time to be dedicated to addressing actual problems.
One critical process we undertake involves maintaining data quality and completeness, requiring cross-departmental collaboration and occasional customer involvement. It’s vital that everyone understands the process’s multiple stages and potential data quality challenges. To facilitate this, we extensively rely on Confluence, our internal wiki, where we document everything from workflows and onboarding processes to product details and customer information, ensuring accessible written documentation for reference.
Habit #4: Documentation
As a company centered around products and driven by data, we consider data to be at the heart of our operations, and it serves as our primary means of communication. Therefore, maintaining centralized documentation for data standards and data lineage holds significant importance.
Data standards encompass the rules governing the description, collection, and utilization of data. To facilitate the sharing, exchange, and comprehension of data, we must standardize not only the format but also the semantics. For instance, we must establish a common agreement on the appropriate object name to use when categorizing a flight as ROUND-TRIP or ONE-WAY. Should it be referred to as “route type,” “journey type,” or “flight type”? To address this, we have developed emDataStandards, which are airline-specific data standards created by EveryMundo. They are an evolution of the IATA NDC data standards. Now, the emDataStandards are an Open Source Project on GitHub, and anyone in the world can benefit from or contribute to them. In case you were wondering, we use journey type to indicate if a flight is ROUND-TRIP or ONE-WAY.
Cataloging Data Assets for Enhanced Discovery and Accessibility
Furthermore, we collect a lot of data at EveryMundo. For example, FareNet (FN) is EveryMundo’s proprietary script that collects user search data from our customers’ internet booking engines (IBE) in real-time. Whenever users search for flight fares, FareNet records the search results (without gathering any personally identifiable information). We then utilize this data to generate various tables, endpoints, and dashboards to address various challenges, leading to the creation of numerous data assets.
We are actively cataloging our data assets to enhance data discovery, accessibility, and management, with the goals of clarifying each asset’s purpose, promoting data reuse, and gaining a deeper understanding of interdependencies. Our future plans involve automation of this process. Documenting relationships between crucial company assets remains essential for remote teams, with a particular emphasis on data standards and assets in our case.
Habit #5: Security
In order for our team to work remotely while guaranteeing data security, we have several security policies in place at EveryMundo.
For instance, in addition to using advanced system monitoring and logging, we implement two-factor authentication and utilize a password manager. We also individually whitelist home IP addresses to grant database access, enhancing our security measures. Each team member has their own token and password for this purpose.
Creating a well-defined strategy for maintaining data security, even when working remotely, instills confidence in us regarding our team members’ remote work capabilities.
More than ever, while working remotely, it is important to keep up the values of our company. Despite working remotely, every interaction we have with one another, whether it’s through meetings, chats, emails, or tickets, offers an opportunity to highlight several crucial aspects. These include teamwork, empowerment, execution, effective communication, opportunities for learning, diverse perspectives and experiences, and a readiness to embrace change. These factors are the key to our team’s success.