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Adapting team processes to new norms: Coda's July Meetup with Ariana Cofone

Recap of the Coda July 2020 meetup with Ariana Cofone, VP of Operations at Decoded
For July 2020's virtual NYC meetup, I had a chance to speak with , VP of Operations at . Ariana found her way into technology (full-stack web development) after careers in the arts and operations. She dubs herself as a “creative technologist” and enjoys building tools that solve real problems.
As the VP of Operations at , a technology education company, she oversees many processes from coordinating technologists to facilitate workshops to helping the client team improve their processes. She discusses how COVID in the spring of 2020 forced the company to shift to all virtual learning and Ariana built a system to manage that internal transformation.
👉 See Ariana’s Global Team Manager doc
Watch the full replay of the meetup here (crowdcast replay

Start by identifying a problem.

Building processes for the sake of process is never the answer. Before Ariana started building her Coda doc, she wanted to identify the current problems in her team’s workflows.
One problem she singled out was automation. From Google Sheets to Asana to Google Apps Script, Ariana tried various platforms to automate her team’s workflows. She told us that when it comes to building internal tools:
You can make something really beautiful, but no one will use it if you don’t integrate it into their existing ways of working.
Ariana’s experience resonated with me personally. You might think you have the best tool to solve a given problem, but if that tool doesn’t fit into people’s workflows, it won’t get adopted. I think many teams see this very often when a new tool gets introduced top-down and everyone is forced to adapt their style of work to fit that tool’s constraints.

Get people engaged from the start.

Ariana wanted her team engaged as soon as they opened the doc. So, she built the first page as a readme and a place for anyone to add workshops or client meetings.
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First page of Ariana’s Global Team Manager doc

By adding an eye-catching green button to the center of the page, Ariana encourages easy interaction from anyone in the doc. When clicking the button, doc viewers have a chance to enter event details, such as Business Unit, Event Status, and Event Overview:

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Different fields to fill out once you click the Add Event button

Create your databases first.

Dirty data. It’s the worst and we all have headaches navigating it. Ariana’s dealt with this time and time again, so she wanted to overcome that with Coda from the start. For example, sometimes event details would be misspelled and her team would have to manually reconcile data between different data sources.
With her doc, Ariana created sources of truth for event variables, like team members and clients, so that her team would only need to input the data once. The databases are stored in a Databases [Read Only] page, tucked away to discourage unnecessary editing.
You want to input the data once, and have clean clean data.

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The main tables or “databases” powering Ariana’s team manager doc

Calendars on calendars

Once all the events are added in to the main Event Database, Ariana created a calendar layout of all the data so that her entire team can see all the events onーa calendar. Depending on the type of event, the calendar applies conditional formatting to the events so the team can decipher what events are coming up from a bird’s-eye view.
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Global team calendar layout
Ariana engaged her team by having the doc work with people’s existing workflows, like Google Calendar.
You want to embed a process in tools people are already using.
When you double-click each event and open up the row detail, Ariana added a button so that any team member can add that specific event to the team’s shared Google Calendar.

Managing people’s time.

In addition to managing Decoded’s global events, Ariana also set up a table to track people’s time to make sure no is over-resourced. If she sees an imbalance, Ariana can re-allocate commitment so the work is spread out evenly across the team. There are a few resource planning templates like in the doc gallery that you may want to check out.
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Tracking everyone’s time

A note about COVID.

Ariana built this doc right before the pandemic impacted the world and Decoded’s processes. Since Coda is flexible to change, the pivoted ways of working post-pandemic could be easily reflected with a couple of hours of work adjusting the Coda document, versus hours it would take to code alternative solutions. This made relying on it as a single source of truth that much faster and effective for responding to a huge change in the world.

Decoding the future.

When asked about what the future looks like for Decoded and other Coda docs she wants to build, Ariana talked about how other teams are modeling their processes in Coda. The goal is to write something once and have it flow into all different work streams through tool automation and smart processes that data clean!
We also talked about the new Data Academy offering from Decoded where Decoded’s clients learn core skills around python, R, machine learning, and more in order to increase data fluency within the organization. What’s interesting about this offering is that Decoded encourages participants to use their company’s own data so that the skills they learn can be applied right away.
Ariana’s final words on building tools should resonate with anyone who is building internal tools or a new product/startup who wants to get traction with users and customers:
Make it fast, scrappy, and get it to people for feedback.

Present at or attend a future meetup.

If you want to showcase something you've built in Coda for the greater community, feel free to . To RSVP for future meetups, check out our dedicated meetup page which also has content from previous meetups:
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