Experience in organizing and conducting corporate conferences for analysts
My name is Nikolai Tolmachyov, I am the head of the system and business analysis department in an IT company. There are now 22 people in the department, and 16 analysts among IT analysts in the full sense of the word (the rest are closer to SQL developers or project managers). For the third year in a row, we have been holding an internal conference of analysts, and the last time it finally turned out well.
Our experience in organizing and conducting internal conferences - under the cut.
What is an analyst conference
The concept is as follows: the analyst conference is an event where all the analysts working in the company get together, tell each other interesting things, discuss urgent problems and have fun. Note: the term “analyst” in this article refers to employees engaged in the development of software requirements.
Events of this type are especially useful in companies where analysts work in small groups on different unrelated projects, and rarely overlap in work. In such a situation, “command separatism” and the tendency to constantly reinvent bicycles inevitably grow (rather than re-use ready-made solutions from other teams), and the ability of analysts to move between projects decreases (since the neighbors have “everything is different”). In our company, the situation is exactly this - in parallel, 5-7 projects are in the active phase of development, each of which has from 1 to 4 analysts.
- Main characteristics - time and place, duration, participants, speakers, budget, etc.
- Program - names and summary of the reports.
- Identified in the course of the pros and cons.
The following is a typification of reports that were at conferences and were considered successful. About each type recommendations are given, on what it is worth to focus attention.
At the end, there are general recommendations for holding internal conferences , which we formulated after three years of experience in holding conferences.
It should be noted that we are not professionals in carrying out these events, and this is precisely personal experience - how could we organize interesting and useful internal events with our own resources with a minimum budget in a relatively small company.
During 2016 there was a significant increase in the number of the department, new people came (including new leading analysts came), there was a request for exchange of experience. In particular, everyone was interested in what projects people were engaged in earlier, how processes were arranged, what tools were used, how work in other companies differs from ours. Anyway - lapatniki we or modern people? As a response to this request, it was decided to hold a conference and share experiences.
HR was responsible for searching and booking the hall and organizing the afterparty; the rest was done on their own: program formation, preparation of reports and rehearsals, feedback form, video recording, etc.
- The date is October 29, 2016.
- The report is from 9:30 to 17:00.
- 13 reports, of which: 12 from analysts, 1 from the head of regional development.
- Venue - a rented conference room in the business center.
- We ordered lunch and two coffee breaks (in the same business center).
- Present - all analysts, several people from related departments, a couple of reports went to the CEO. Only about 25 people.
- Afterparty - culinary master class.
Total conference budget:
- 30 thousand rubles for the hall, lunches and coffee breaks.
- 25 thousand rubles for a culinary master class.
- 130 man-hours for preparing and rehearsing reports.
As anchor, there were reports from new employees, as well as a trio of reports on three user interface concepts - Material Design, Metro (Windows UI) and Apple Human Interface Guidelines. The rest was finished according to the principle “from each according to his ability.”
|Material Design||Обзор принципов Google Material Design.|
|Eclipse BIRT||Разработка отчетных форм в BIRT: возможности BIRT, что нужно чтобы создать отчет, как это делают, ограничения.|
|Почему интерфейс Metro такой… и сякой||Обзор принципов Metro (Windows UI).|
|DDD MDD и прочие DD. Оно нам надо?||Опыт применения Domain Driven Development от нового сотрудника.|
|Мобильный проект, особенности разработки||Опыт нового сотрудника, который пришел из компании, которая активно занималась разработкой мобильных приложений. В нашей компании больших компетенций по мобильной разработке не было.|
|Особенности национального школьного питания||Рассказ о ранее реализованном в компании проекте по автоматизации школьного питания.|
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|Скевоморфизм или как Apple зомбирует пользователей||Эволюция пользовательских интерфейсов Apple в последних версиях iOS, основные принципы построения интерфейса штатных приложений.|
|Разработка документации по ГОСТ 34||Тонкости разработки документации технического проекта по ГОСТ серии 34.|
|Курорты Баренцева моря||Рассказ о реализованном проекте Региональный центр социального процессинга Ненецкого автономного округа.|
|«Карточные» проекты||Рассказ о реализованных в нашей компании проектах в сфере эмиссии и обслуживания транспортных карт, социальных карт, универсальных электронных карт.|
|Практики работы над проектом, мой опыт. Стильно, модно, молодежно||Опыт нового сотрудника о процессах разработки на предыдущем месте работы.|
|Моделирование общих процессов Евразийской Экономической Комиссии||Опыт нового сотрудника об участии в разработке крупной межгосударственной информационной системы.|
- 4 доклада – опыт работы в других компаниях (категория «Внешний опыт»)
- 3 доклада – стандарты пользовательского интерфейса (категория «UI»)
- 3 доклада – проекты, реализованные в нашей компании (категория «Проекты»)
- 2 доклада – инструментарий (категория «Инструменты»)
- 1 доклад – непонятно про что :(
The main response to the results of the conference was “how great it is that we are doing this,” but a number of shortcomings were noted. Including:
- When preparing, there was a principle “from each according to the report”; they tried for each analyst to pick up some topic. It turned out almost from all. The problem was a different level of speakers, not everyone was able (and wanted) to tell and present the material. Some reports came out crumpled and incomprehensible, which negatively affected the general impression of the conference.
- Too many reports, including content, too many different topics. It was very tiring for all participants, the latest reports were already perceived with difficulty - it is difficult to concentrate attention for such a long time.
- Previously, almost all reports were rehearsed (sometimes 2 times). It took a lot of time at the rehearsal. In this rehearsal, I essentially engaged in one, and for two weeks because of them dropped out of active work.
- Little time was allocated to questions and answers after the reports. Sometimes the discussions were very stormy and interesting, because of which all subsequent reports shifted, the schedule was not maintained.
- A cooking workshop was held as an afterparty, it was tiring. As it turned out, this is surprisingly an active event that requires attention, concentration and effort. After the reports it was hard.
- Not enough feedback from related units. There was only one report from the head of regional development, and he was not understood. According to the results of the first conference, a new request was formulated - what do adjacent departments think about us, what we do well, what is bad, how we can become better.
- One report was incomprehensible about that. There were no rehearsals for him, so the speaker (seemingly) high-level, with extensive experience, etc. It is necessary to rehearse all the reports (or at least understand what the speaker will talk about).
We decided to take into account these shortcomings and do better next time.
It should also be noted that for the first time we conducted a video recording of all reports. It turned out to be a completely useless task - the DVD with videos has been in my nightstand for 3 years already. More video we did not practice.
During 2017, there were no large personnel changes in the department; much less new people arrived. Feedback was chosen as the main topic for the conference - what developers and testers think about us, if we work well, how we can become better.
- The date is November 25, 2017.
- Reporting - from 10:00 to 17:15.
- 8 reports, including 3 from analysts, 2 from project managers, 1 from testing manager, 1 from development manager, 1 joint from analytics manager and development manager.
- Round table to discuss sensitive issues.
- Venue - rented conference room at the hotel.
- We ordered lunch and two coffee breaks.
- Present - almost all analysts, project managers, managers, and some development teams and testing. There were also tech support staff who are interested in the analyst's position in the future. Only about 25 people.
- Afterparty - a joint trip to the cafe.
- 28 thousand rubles for the hall, lunches and coffee breaks.
- 30 man-hours for preparing and rehearsing reports.
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|Рассказ от руководителя проекта – как он видит роль аналитика, с каким аналитиком ему было бы комфортно и эффективно работать, чего сейчас не хватает.|
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|Идеальный аналитик глазами коллег (от разработки)||Аналогичный рассказ от руководителя разработки.|
|Идеальный аналитик глазами коллег (от менеджеров)||Еще один аналогичный рассказ от другого руководителя проектов.|
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|Круглый стол – часть 1. 8 самых острых вопросов в жизни аналитика||Были собраны острые и проблемные темы, о которых хотят поговорить аналитики. Темы касались организации работы в целом, взаимодействия со смежными подразделениями, распределения проектов и т.д. Были определены два модератора, которые по очереди поднимают актуальные темы, задают вектор дискуссии, и далее модерируют обсуждение.|
|Круглый стол – часть 2. 8 самых острых вопросов в жизни аналитика||Продолжение круглого стола.|
- 4 доклада – обратная связь от смежных подразделений (категория «Обратная связь»)
- 2 доклада – теоретические о применении различных методологий и подходов (раздел «Методологии»)
- 2 доклад – история компании и отдела, основные вехи развития, ключевые проекты (раздел «История»)
- Круглый стол – обсуждение текущих наболевших вопросов
The main problem of the second conference was a negative background - and the feedback and the round table revolved around problems and shortcomings. As a result, the conference was difficult to call an "easy" and "fun" event, towards the end the mood of most of the participants was depressed.
Based on the results, the following disadvantages were formulated:
- There are too few informative reports in which you can learn something new and useful in your work. The overall usefulness of the conference was assessed as insufficient.
- Too much feedback. In this case, the speakers focused on the shortcomings and problems, so by the end of the block of reports on the feedback analysts were sad and depressed. Unfortunately, the speakers could not stand the "principle of the sandwich".
- The participation of the heads of related departments and project managers in the round table. All these are active, enterprising people, and as a result they were soloists at the round table. Although it was intended to be a discussion among analysts. This format was considered unsuccessful.
- Almost no one went to the afterparty, as the mood was not very good, and the afterparty program did not seem very interesting. I also could not go. But they say that it turned out mentally.
Were recognized as successful:
- The total duration of the conference is not too much and not too short.
- Availability (but not quantity!) Of reports from representatives of related departments.
We again decided to take into account the disadvantages, develop the advantages and do better next time.
- The date is November 10, 2018.
- Reporting - from 10:00 to 17:15.
- 8 reports, 5 of them from analysts, 1 from the head of the group of information security analysts, 1 from the team leader of the development team, 1 from the project manager.
- After the reports, a business game was conducted.
- Venue - a rented conference room in an office building.
- Coffee breaks and lunch organized on their own. There was a cooler and mugs in the hall, bought cookies for coffee breaks, ordered pizza and rolls for lunch.
- Present - almost all analysts, from a related department - information security analysts, speakers from related departments (head of the group of information analysts, one of the development teams, project manager). Only about 28 people.
- Afterparty - a joint trip to the cafe.
- 5 600 rubles - rent a room for the day.
- 10 500 rubles - meals and coffee breaks on your own.
- 60 man-hours for the selection, preparation and rehearsal of reports.
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|Техники проведения мозгового штурма.|
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|Три безответных вопроса про персональные данные||В октябре 2018 года в Екатеринбурге проводился митап аналитиков, на котором был доклад про защиту персональных данных. А на конференции был доклад-возражение по мотивам доклада с митапа.|
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|Субсидии и компенсации расходов||Рассказ от руководителя проектов о двух своих крупных проектах, в которых в настоящее время аналитики практически не участвуют.|
|Деловая игра||Деловая игра на тему сбора требований к ПО|
Участники разбиваются на группы; в каждой группе ведущий и 3-4 участника.
Ведущий выступает в роли заказчика и рассказывает о своей проблеме (со стороны бизнес-заказчика). Далее участники задают ведущему уточняющие вопросы о его проблеме.
Далее участники удаляются на совещание и вырабатывают решение проблемы заказчика, которое затем презентуют.
У заказчика было какое-то своё решение (которое он не называл в ходе опроса), он его озвучивает, далее сравниваются два решения.
A survey of the satisfaction of the participants of the conference (via Google Forms) was conducted, the results are as follows (on a 5-point scale):
- General impressions about the conference: 4.4
- Interesting reports: 4.1
- reports usefulness: 4
- report quality: 4
- business game: 3.9
- venue: 3.8
According to previous conferences, the survey was on paper, unfortunately the results were not preserved.
Based on the results, the following disadvantages were formulated:
- Someone had to come to the hall early, check that everything is in order. And then there was not enough water in the cooler, there was no remote from the projector. The clicker promised, but it was never found.
- There are few people left on the business game. We assumed that there would be 5 teams (and had 5 trained leaders), and only two of them were formed. As a result, the three leading walked restless.
- IV quarter is not the best time for a conference. The load on projects at the end of the year is higher than usual, and preparation for the conference takes substantially time with the speakers.
As you can see, the shortcomings are not as significant as they were after the conferences in 2016 and 2017.
Were recognized as successful:
- The proportion of different types of reports. Half - developing informational reports, the second half - everything else: stories about projects, about the activities of related departments, etc.
- The presence of the organizing committee. The organization was engaged in a group of 5-6 people. General meetings were held, plus everyone was given a load. For example, distributed who with whom rehearses reports. It is hard to drag one organization, but the organizing committee turned out to be just right (although 3-4 people were enough, not 5-6).
- More involved HR. Firstly, small corporate gifts for the speakers were prepared - it was very nice. Secondly, there was a photo report on social networks (in the past, they somehow did not pay attention to it). Well, in general, it is good when there is a person who can be blamed on some organizational issues.
- The method of selection of reports. The algorithm looked like this: we formulated a common pool of topics - we launched a questionnaire, looked at the feedback from the previous conference, added some relevant topics. Then the organizing committee gathered, reviewed all the topics, voted, suggested who could tell. We held a series of talks with potential speakers and formed a program.
- Level of reports. Reported only those that can, wants and understands why he needs it. The level was fairly uniform and high.
- The practice of joint reports. The report is made by two employees, and they should be at about the same level (so that one does not suppress the other with authority or experience) and should not work in one project. The level of elaboration of joint reports turned out to be higher than that of individual ones: people do not allow each other to skive, discuss among themselves, train on each other.
- Experience of conducting a business game. For the first time it turned out surprisingly well.
There were several types of reports that were at our conferences and turned out to be interesting for the participants:
- The story of personal experience using the tool, approach or technique. This is a very valuable, but very rare category. It is necessary for the speaker to have personal experience in using something, and the majority of students do not have this experience. The structure of the report - at the beginning to talk about the tool / approach / methodology, while trying to convey the basic value. Further, personal experience - where and why it was used, and evaluation of the experience of the application. At the end - recommendations where it is worth using, and where not worth it.
- The theoretical report. The speaker has studied some question in theory and tells the audience about it. The format is very complicated: if you simply retell a book or an article, then this may be interesting, but it will definitely not be useful: most listeners will have nothing left in their head. It is important to “bridge bridges” to the already applied approaches / techniques, to current projects, tasks.
- The story of the experience of other companies. Such stories are well done by middle + and senior-analysts who came to the company no more than a year ago, but no less than 3 months ago. They are still fresh memories of the previous place of work, and they already have an understanding of the current. In this case, it is desirable that the person on the previous and current job has similar functionality. Of greatest interest are not the projects, but the processes: in what form did the demands express, what tools were used, how did they interact with related departments, etc.
- The story of the projects implemented within the company. The story makes sense if analysts work in groups on different projects, and do not overlap with each other in terms of work. It is advisable to make a report retrospectively - when the project is already implemented, implemented and in use. From this distance one can already see what was good, what was bad, what was worth reuse, and what was better to forget. In reports of this type, you need a brief overview of the business sense of the project, a bit of history, a funny bike, and most importantly, what can be reused: which approaches and solutions have proved themselves and can be replicated.
- Report feedback. Reports of this type are made by representatives of related departments that directly interact with analysts. In our company, these project managers, developers and testers. The main thing in such reports is that they motivate to be better and call for new achievements, and not drop self-esteem below the plinth. It is desirable to apply the “sandwich principle” - to praise / scold / praise, and also not to become personal. It is very desirable to arrange a rehearsal of the report.
From the “height” of our three-year experience in organizing conferences - a small set of recommendations:
- We need a small budget, for example 1-2 thousand rubles per person.
- Do not hold a conference in the office. Suppose there is a hall, a dining room, and anything else - but still it is better to go somewhere.
- Need an initiative group of at least 3 people. Alone, pulling the organization is very difficult. It is advisable to attract an HR or event manager.
- You need at least 15 participants.
- The cumulative length of the report should not be 6 hours and less than 4 hours.
- After each report you need to leave 10-15 minutes for questions and answers, often they are even more interesting than the report itself.
- At least half of the reports should be developing. That is, participants must learn from them something new and useful in their work. The rest can be infotainment.
- The most important report is the second one. On the first report, many are late and some technical problems constantly come out, the sensations from it are blurred. But the second sets the tone for the entire conference. Put the second best of the developing reports.
- An ambiguous question - to hold a conference on a working day or a day off. The worker can ensure a turnout of 100%. The output is easier to coordinate with the top management and only those who are really important and interested will come. We chose a day off.
- It is difficult to choose the format afterparty, which would suit the majority of participants. Various options were considered, but we could not find anything better than “sitting in a cafe”.
- For the chamber and home environment there should not be a lot of outside people who are unknown to most of the participants. If this is an “analyst conference,” then most of the participants are analysts.
- Every year we wanted to hold a conference in the country - to rent a cottage, and after the report part, to make a barbecue. But according to the results of preliminary surveys, less than half of the participants were ready for this. Someone has a jealous husband, someone has small children - it is difficult to leave for the whole day or, especially, with an overnight stay. While this idea was abandoned due to unrealizability.
- It is necessary to pay attention to the choice of the hall and catering. The main claim to the halls is stuffy, there is no required equipment and drinking water. Meals - if you order complex lunches in a hotel / business center - in most cases it will not taste good. This is really important, after two hours in a stuffy room, attention is greatly reduced and reports are flying past their ears.
How are internal conferences useful? I formulated it for myself as follows:
- Employee development. You can suggest topics of reports, the preparation of which best contributes to the development of the employee. This is especially true for employees with little experience, but an inquiring mind.
- Tradition. The annual conference has become traditional, which is good. The presence of tradition unites the team.
- Competitive advantage. When conducting interviews in the course of a company story, it is useful to mention the candidate that “annual analyst conferences are held in the company”. For some, this turns out to be a significant factor.
- Team building. If analysts work on different projects and rarely overlap with each other, then holding such events allows them to feel like a single analytics team. It seems to me that people are beginning to communicate more, to consult, to discuss some decisions that benefit the cause.
- Experience exchange. In the course of the story about the implemented project, you can focus on the applied new solutions that can be reused.
In 2019, we also plan to hold a conference. Regarding 2018, we plan to change the following:
- Pay more attention to the choice of hall and catering. It seems to be a trifle, but it affects the mood. In the hall must go "to explore." And do not forget the clicker.
- Hold a conference early, in September or early October. To minimize the fourth quarter, and that the street was still warm and more sun. Starting in the dark and ending in the dark is not very pleasant.
- Revise the format of a business game. We realized that some interactive was useful at the conference, but perhaps in a different format. It could be some kind of hackathon, master class or something else.
- In advance, search for topics for reports, so that closer to the conference there was an already formed pool from which to choose.