Communications can get tough when analytics teams work from home, revealing workflow bottlenecks in unexpected ways. At times, analytics teams are called on to comment when they don't have a clear view of workflow concerns, which can cloak growing issues.
At the same time, managers are tasked with giving teams the right data access to allow for faster decision making. This means choosing metrics and data that will trigger discussions and activity around business objectives.
So if you are a manager facing the daunting task of managing data and metrics with a remote team, what can you do to better lead team discussions to produce results? The following suggestions can make your first steps easier.
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Get Ready for Distractions (Squirrel!)
Getting a remote analytics team to work on a range of ad-hoc projects can be like sending a dog into a park filled with squirrels. The dog will chase squirrels all day without hearing a thing you say. In the same way, analytics teams investigating data for data’s sake are really being distracted from more valuable or strategic tasks.
To keep a team on track, ask the following before assigning any task: what would we do differently if metric X associated with this task changes? If metric X clearly relates to a KPI, the task is worthwhile.
Another set of questions you can ask involves the marketing involved. Thinking about the customer experience :
- Where is the activity coming from?
- Does the activity reflect the desired client?
- What is the advertising / marketing campaign driving that activity?
The last two questions are critical be for discovering the impact of the team's activities. Analytics reports offer a multitude of ways to examine data, which makes it possible for teams to work on an analysis task with no real meaning for the customer experience. The questions above can ultimately provide a framework to decide which tasks and associated discussions should be happening.
All analytic tasks can have value, but managers must keep teams on track and clear of distractions that siphon their time and efforts away from the real tasks that need attention.
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Center Discussions Around a Central Progress Report
A central progress report can capture operational activity around analytics issues. Create a table that displays the issue, the latest status on that issue and next steps. Use an indicator to rank issue severity. The indicator can be color coded to match an issue with production-related objectives, like the launch of a campaign or an app update, for example.
A central process report should summarize the narrative with associated bugs in the tags and highlight if enough time for immediate and technical tasks is being allowed. The report should also complement the documentation process I described in the communication post, so that everyone is always up to date.
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Plan Who Should Be Notified
By establishing clear ownership for who should address specific issues, managers can keep work on track and again, cut down on distractions. This often means automating notifications in a system interface to the designated person. A marketing campaign may need the team to adjust tags in a tag manager. The user management in a tag manager can set how publishing, approval, editing triggers and variables happen. Establish an approval process: who reviews the tags and variables to that website or app and the associated media to ensure it reflects the right analytics settings.
A similar approach can be taken regarding data ingested for a predictive model. This can help coordinate when data cleaning tasks can best occur.
The choice of who responds should ultimately rally around data and metric activities that appear to have a clear benefit for the customer. Doing so keeps those activities in the forefront for team as they impact the organization for the long-term.
It's great to have an analytics team that is curious about data and metrics, but priorities can act as guide rails to channel the team's curiosity into ideas that move the team and the organization forward.