We recently completed the second Focus Week at VTS and managed to make significant progress towards our aspirational goal of data health and cleanliness. This effort allowed for a higher level cross-squad pollination, knowledge sharing, and accelerated burn-down.
Our PED (Product, Engineering, and Design) organization adopts the agile way of project management, and we like to think of time periods as sprints (2 weeks) and cycles (3 sprints). This leaves one week at the end of each quarter for all of the squads to take a break from tradition and get together with the hopes to push an internal initiative closer to the finish line. At VTS, we call this the Focus Week. The list of the themes we can choose include programming framework migrations, hackathons, bug bashes, and much more. This go around, we decided to focus on product data collected by VTS and its quality, health, and consistency as it pertains to VTS.
The success of Data Week would be defined by level of engagement, accomplishment, and fun experienced by all participants. We set out to excel in each of the aforementioned factors by filling the week with data-related events and discarding the vast majority of our typical sprint obligations (ie. sprint planning, product backlog refinement, sprint retros). The Data Week schedule was organized as follows:
Kickoff: The entire PED org gathered together first thing in the morning to gain full context on the mission for the week. The data related themes we decided to tackled were:
- WASF — logging metrics to measure our (Weekly Active Square Footage) OKRs for the year.
- Fix the Database (db) — ensuring our db schemas are clean and understandable by our engineers.
- Deal Workflows — improving the VTS core app workflows so that customers have more reliable data to learn from as it pertains to the performance of their assets throughout the different stages of a deal execution cycle.
- UI Consistency — identifying the inconsistencies as “papercuts” and fix them to improve customer’s data comprehension.
Squad Formation: We nominated captains to help drive each initiative and lead a squad in doing so. They handed out raffle tickets to interested participants; these tickets were used to assign people to one of their top 2 choices.
Discovery: After members were allocated into their respective squads, captains ran smaller kickoff meetings with their squads to level set on the goal and plan of action for the week. Day 1 was mostly used to perform an initial discovery into the product, identify outcomes, and create JIRA tickets.
Plan and progress: At the end of Day 1, we met in the kitchen to review the plan and progress of each theme. It also gave the opportunity for squads to course correct in terms of mission and personnel.
Daily prize award: We concluded each day by awarding one lucky raffle ticket holder with a prize such as a portable espresso machine, a wireless bluetooth karaoke microphone, or a leather suitcase vinyl record player.
Squad standup: On subsequent mornings, squads orchestrated their own daily standup to discuss progress and blockers.
Tech Talk: We scheduled a couple of tech talks during the week to help people develop an even stronger data related mindset. Andrew Marshall, one of our Senior Software Engineers, spoke about best practices around configuring a data model. We also had a guest speaker from Mixpanel come onsite and present products and philosophies around event logging as it relates to the VTS use case.
EOD check-in: This short event allowed squad leads to share new wins and learnings with the PED org.
End of week presentation: The final event of the week was filled with a Data Week recap, squad demos, shared wins + learnings, next steps, highlights, and one last raffle prize winner.
Focus week continues to serve a successful use of the 13th week of a quarter for VTS. We all worked together towards one goal, resolved dozens of tickets, shared a fun journey with new folks outside of our traditional squads, and discovered foreign areas of the product. We look forward to refining this process and making an even bigger push into these success factors next quarter.