Not long ago, Upwork’s five-person analytics team struggled to keep up with increased demands, and it was difficult to find the skills they needed locally. They decided to increase productivity by building a hybrid analytics team, but they had concerns. How can they maintain data security with remote workers? Can they remain productive with team members scattered across the globe?
On a hybrid team, employees perform the core work, and freelancers help with project-based work requiring specialized skills. What Upwork’s analytics team learned is that freelancers can be as productive and reliable as in-house analysts—once you set the right processes, protocols, and tools in place. Here’s a glimpse at some of their processes.
ESTABLISHING A SOLID VETTING PROCESS
The team lead sourced several analysts on Upwork Enterprise. Each person began with a small project to demonstrate their work quality, communication style, and how well they utilize the related project information provided. The talent who deliver the best work are contracted for a larger project. By following this four-step process, the analytics team maintains a bench of reliable talent who consistently delivers high-quality work.
How Upwork’s analytics team vets talent
- Source: Post a project on Upwork and vet proposals.
- Shortlist: Create a shortlist of 5-10 qualified freelancers.
- Test: Give each person 5 small projects.
- Filter: Contract those with the best work product and motivation for a larger project.
Safely sharing data
Many data teams are understandably concerned about sharing PII (personally identifiable information) and non-PII data with freelancers. Here’s the security protocol Upwork created for sharing data with remote teams.
Step 1: Categorize data by risk level
Avoid the one-size-fits-all approach. Consider all the different types of data that a freelancer may access. This helps you categorize the amount of risk your company may incur if the data becomes compromised.
Step 2: Regularly evaluate access
Security protocols require that each team member utilizing freelancers to regularly evaluate the talent’s level of access. You want to ensure talent doesn’t receive more access than required as project needs change.
Step 3: Minimize data being copied locally
To prevent data from being copied without permission, the data is accessed and worked on within a tool. Talent logs into DOMO or Looker to access and work on scripts.
Step 4: Work on pre-production environments
While building models, data analysts work on pre-production environments. This enables talent to work on simulated, instead of live data. For example, if you’re working with social security numbers, freelancers see a simulated data set like 123-45-6789. Then you can run models to see how the outputs work.
Step 5: Log data accessed by freelancers
If talent has access to PII, Upwork uses monitoring and logging tools to understand what kind of data team members use, what queries they run, and the output from those queries. When accessing data, all applications and tools are on their VPN. This enables staff to see what the team members see. And it provides controls on what the talent can access. For added defense, their VPN has a multi-factor configuration.
ARE HYBRID TEAMS WORTH THE EFFORT?
Within the first year, the analytics team nearly doubled their productivity and achieved critical milestones within their data infrastructure. “After putting the right vetting and security processes in place, we can confidently utilize freelancers for nearly any type of data-based projects,” says Adam Rhuberg, director of analytics at Upwork. “The upfront effort was definitely worth it as freelancers helped double our productivity, and they give us access to critical skills that aren’t available in-house.”
For a closer look at the tools and processes Rhuberg’s team used for vetting to communicating with their team, download: An Inside Look at Building a Reliable Analytics Team with Freelancers. It’s a quick, yet informative guide.
Upwork is a freelancing website where businesses of all sizes can find talented professionals across multiple disciplines and categories. If you are a business and are looking to get projects done, consider signing up!