In Hidden Figures, three women challenge racism at NASA Hopper Stone/courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
In "Hidden Figures," three women challenge racism at NASA. They also demonstrate the importance of excellent decision-making. PHOTO: Hopper Stone/Twentieth Century Fox

If you've seen the movie “Hidden Figures,” you may recall a scene between mathematician Katherine Johnson and Al Harrison, director of the NASA Space Task Group.

Johnson, played by Taraji Henson, explains to Harrison, played by Kevin Costner, that she needs to attend a high-level meeting, where she ultimately impresses everyone with her math skills.

Accurate Data Is Essential

Well, we may be a generation from the first space flight, but the need for accurate data, full information and clear communication has not changed.

These days people are accessing data and dashboards from a wide range of locations — easing some challenges but introducing new concerns about communicating in real-time on the go.

So what skills are best suited for a remote work environment?

Here are a few tips that will best ensure remote work success, no matter what industry you are in, or how many people are on your analytics team.

1. Know What Types of Technical Knowledge Are Needed

Someone who works remotely will need specific knowledge on a number of kinds of supporting software to get tasks accomplished. Without face-to-face interaction, remote workers need to be extremely self-reliant.

That means understanding what supporting tools are available, and becoming familiar with the skills that can transfer between toolsets. For example, an analytics report may have to be exported into a spreadsheet dashboard.

So some familiarity with Excel functions may be necessary to create pivot tables and graphs along with knowing where to pull certain reports from the analytics solution.  

Remote workers who have experimented early and often with a range of solutions can frame required steps to a reporting project and narrow the needs down to key essentials in an organization. They should understand metrics fundamentals to quickly get up to speed on a solution.

2. Stay Aware of What Metrics Are Important

Working effectively remotely means being guided by the organization objectives.

The metrics examined need to compliment business objectives, but there are instances when agendas behind the objectives change. When that happens, the order of importance for metrics can be altered.

To keep up, communicating what metrics are needed are essential. That communication can take the form of a mini-workshop to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Such a workshop can be done via web conference, instant messaging or even a phone call for small teams.

3. Develop a Cadence for How Data Is Accessed

Accessing and querying data can increase in variety as more professional use self-service business intelligence (BI) tools. Gaps in understanding how tasks are accomplished with remote workers can occur, with lost opportunity to share best practices for dashboards.

Review how data is queried. Are certain data types being queried faster than others? Repeated tasks dictate the kinds of data management tools, and can make the difference in deciding if a data lake is better for some data while others are readily access by self-service BI dashboards.

The result is managing productivity on the data being consumed daily.

Speak about work communication style as well. Managers can let analysts or developers know if time gaps in communication are harmless.

A team must work to establish a communication rhythm that lets remote work get accomplished without becoming a productivity drag by unnecessarily requests.

Maintaining good communication is a daily balancing act because it is extremely easy to silo managers and analysts away from vital information.

The need for analytics is not abating any time soon, and with rising demand for analytics practitioners and data scientists, it is essential to establish good practices to communicate quickly and to provide avenues to understand the context behind the numbers. Only with good communication will analysis take off the way businesses expect.