Running the First Project Week

by Robbin Vernooij

Data School project week: problem, workflow, solution and presentation.

Part of the Data School are project weeks, where we work for clients to get hands on experience with setting up and running projects.

The clients come in with a ‘problem’ on Monday, we discuss the project with them to identify their needs and expectations, for us to then tackle it throughout the week and deliver our outcomes to them on the Friday.

I had the honours of running the first project as the project lead aka scrum captain. Below, I have tried to break down the first project week into three parts to give you some insights on how we operated and how I experienced being the first project lead.


1. The ‘Problem’

The client came in on Monday, not actually with a particular problem, but rather a whole lot of data, which contained potentially valuable information. They are keen to start using this continuously growing data set to carry out proactive analysis rather than obtaining retrospective insights. Therefore, having a solid base of Tableau dashboards which can easily be updated to the clients needs was the ultimate goal.

The Data was provided by the client as Tableau data files! And at first sight, didn’t look like it was in too bad of a shape. We spend the morning going through the data with the client to get insight into their needs and expectations.

When meeting with the client, we always try keep the following four questions in the back of our heads to shape the discussion:

Why? What? Where? When? (Thanks Andy)

Clients are generally very keen to talk about there problems, but if you do not frequently ask questions, you will miss out on essential information which seems trivial to the client but might block you from delivering the right outcomes if unknown to you.

The Monday morning discussion gave us a great deal of insight on the data, as well as a good list of actual deliverable outcomes to work towards.

Later in the day we started tackling the data ourselves. As expected, having little knowledge on the field names within the five different database extracts provided by the client, we did end up running into filtering problems.

However, after a few hours of data exploration, accumulating our questions and sharing those with the client using a google doc, the client was able to answer those by the next working day. Online documents such as the google docs are particularly helpful when reaching out to several people at the clients side.


2. The Workflow

Narrowing down the deliverable outcomes allowed us to assign tasks within the DS8 team, outline them on post-its them to keep track of progress and to get going.

After a morning of inspiring workflow and infographics viz creation by Caroline Beavon (@carolinebeavon) on Tuesday, we followed her teachings and started off with outlining our tasks to rapidly give rise to multiple dashboards by Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon consisted of a catch up with the client via a video-link, to keep things in check and share some of the work progress. As a team, we found this incredibly helpful, as it helps you to get a feeling if the clients likes your work, gives you a chance to clarify some unknowns and to get ready for the final sprint before Friday.

Thursday afternoon arrived shortly after day 2 on visual analytics by Luke Stoughton (@barnsleybeast) helping us immensely with the design of the right graphs, colours, symbols and additional tools to focus the Tableau dashboards viewer on the important analytics.

This was followed up by some healthy late afternoon stress (tomorrow is the day!). Nevertheless, final bits of analytical insights were found, dashboards were finalised, beverages for inspiration were consumed, all in order to get ready for the upcoming presentations.


3. The Solution – Presentation Day

The Friday morning was utilised to finish the last bits of work and discuss, as a team, on how we are going to present the outcomes. First of all, it was important to identify our audience.

Apart from the clients we met on Monday, who are intending to further work with the data, several (senior)-managers were going to dial-in to the web conference. This meant we had to balance our presentation between convincing the client of some of the insights and making sure the client understood our workflow in order for them to continue to develop the Tableau dashboards.

We decided on a top to bottom approach (overall business first, narrowing down to specific business departments) after first re-creating one of our final dashboards from scratch, live, during the web conference within 5 minutes. This allowed the client to help understand on how we operate, from an empty workbook to a dashboard.

Practice makes perfect, this also applies to your presentation. I can speak for all of the DS8’rs when it comes taking a few minutes to practice your bit of the presentation in front of another colleague. Your presentation is as import as your work.

The presentation proceeded smoothly with interesting discussions on data insights throughout the talks.

After hearing back from the client, during and after the presentation, I can say with confidence that we achieved our goals, managed to close our first project and most importantly impress the client.

Time to pass on my hat to the next scrum captain in line, Tom!