How we built effective onboarding for a team of systems analysts to grow 10x

How we built effective onboarding for a team of systems analysts to grow 10x

A few years ago, 5 system analysts worked in the department responsible for the development of Magnit’s corporate data warehouse: they completely covered the entire set of tasks that stood before them. But in 2021, there was a sharp increase: data began to be used not by a few departments, as it was before, but by the entire company at once – for large-scale projects. The team grew tenfold: this required a restructuring of the onboarding processes.

I am Hryhoriy Havrylkov, the head of the system analysis department of the corporate data warehouse at Magnit. I will share our experience of a sharp increase in the number of system analysts and tell about the rake that we collected in one and a half years.

2021: the beginning of rapid growth

At the beginning of 2021, a new development strategy for “Magnit” appeared. More and more projects began to pay attention to data. Example:

  • A project of planograms appeared, when layouts of planograms were uploaded to the repository, and third-party systems processed them.

  • Pharmacies have started to become more active in connecting and using data.

  • E-com integrations have begun – with Yandex, Russian Post.

It became clear that the storage needs to be scaled. But it’s not easy to scale linearly — to connect five subject areas instead of three and hire a few more people. It wouldn’t work like that, because everyone has their own piece of work, about which they know everything, and work according to their own structure: it would lead to chaos.

Therefore, within the data department, we began to globally redesign processes. We drew a picture of where we will scale. It was understood that from five system analysts should increase to 50 — in order to be able to close all the projects strategically planned by “Magnit”.

Problems

In the process of growth, every company faces a dilemma: where to hire a sufficient number of professionals who will be able not only to fulfill the tasks, but also to have time to develop, not lose motivation, move forward and move the company forward.

It is obvious that there were not enough ready-made specialists on the market in the quantity we needed: especially taking into account the narrow specificity of the tools used in the company. Therefore, we faced the problem of lack of onboarding and mentoring: by the end of the trial period, the newly minted analyst managed to close one, at most two tasks – this was extremely inefficient.

How onboarding is built

Knowledge base in Confluence

In 2022, a working group was created, which worked for two months on the issue of rapid onboarding for different levels of new system analysts.

As a result, we gathered a single space on Confluence that covers most of the onboarding issues. We chose it as a single point of entry: everything is gathered here to quickly and easily join the team and start performing tasks. After deciding on the structure and boundaries of the space, they began to collect materials for filling: most had to be created from scratch.

The knowledge base contains such sections as:

  • Obtaining access rights and installing and configuring software

  • Strategy of the company, IT and departments

  • Description of internal support and development processes

  • Tasks for familiarization with the KCD (Corporate Data Storage) model

  • General understanding of the department’s structure, goals and objectives

The working group is still meeting for continuous improvement of the onboarding process: we collect feedback during the trial period and necessarily at the final trial period meeting. In the first half of the year, there were frequent process improvements, now they are rare and sporadic.

Matrix structure

Previously, when a system analyst started working, he was given various tasks: one, two, three – this is how he gained expertise. We did not single out a direction: a system analyst could first deal with cash registers and checks, in a month – loyalty, in another month – finances.

The dive went on for quite a long time, by trial and error. Quickly independently learn the legacy accumulated over the years, and even for rare systems, was a difficult task even for very experienced and capable guys.

We solved this problem with the help of a matrix structure: it appeared from the beginning of the creation of the department, but initially there were not enough analysts to work in one direction – the guys “scattered” in several directions. Later, it was possible to “roll out” the matrix structure to the analysts as well: the guys began to gain expertise already point by point in one direction.

Horizontally — developers, analysts, architects, etc. The vertical is our 7 directions. At each intersection there is a certain direction command

Mentor

Each novice is assigned a mentor – he is appointed by the manager, based on the workload of the chosen field. The mentor accompanies the mentee throughout the probationary period.

For new junior and middle level employees, mentors are selected from senior or middle+. The mentor must have the necessary experience in the company and the level of competence. Mentoring was introduced on a voluntary basis.

In the first month, the mentor acts as “dad and mom”, helps to take the first steps and borrow our culture. Analyzes together each task and methods of implementation.

In the second month, in the role of an “experienced friend” who checks the quality of the completed tasks and gives feedback on how to correct the roughness and close the tasks with an acceptable level of quality. Advises on solving complex tasks.

In the third month, he acts as a “controller” and selectively checks tasks performed completely independently. The percentage of involvement of the mentor in the process is approximately as follows: up to 30% in the first month, up to 20% in the second and up to 5–10% in the third.

Individual development plan

Be sure to define goals for the probationary period before the new employee leaves: each new employee receives an IPR – an individual development plan. The first month is prescribed in detail, the next 2 months are supplemented and adjusted according to the results of the immersion in the first month.

Fragment of IPR

Expectations from the employee are regularly discussed and adjusted in special meetings with the mentor and manager. IPR consists of 3 blocks:

1. General information: who is the mentor, who is the manager, in what direction, terms of the probationary period, etc.

2. List of tasks for the probationary period with specific expectations for each item.

3. Tasks after the trial period and until the end of the year.

On the last day of the trial period, we must hold a meeting at which we sum up the results. It is attended by a line manager, a department manager, a mentor and an employee who has completed a probationary period.

At the meeting, the IPR mentor announces the results of each item, highlights strengths and development areas. Everyone gives general feedback on passing the trial period, a decision is made with the result. If the probationary period has been passed successfully, then we speak the vector of tasks and our expectations until the end of the year from point 3 of the IPR.

Community

We have a special data community, which already has almost 400 people. This platform makes it possible to quickly find the necessary experts and solve issues that arise in cooperation with colleagues. Such knowledge sharing increases productivity and develops independence within the team, which is especially important when scaling rapidly.

Result

Result: the duration of the adaptation phase was reduced to 1-2 months compared to 3-4 months before the implementation of the process. Now newcomers begin to benefit earlier: by the end of the trial period, they already manage to complete about 10 tasks, while previously this indicator remained only at the level of one or two.

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