This blog series features the opinions and experiences of five experts working in various roles in global strategy design. They were invited to discuss the best practices outlined in this white paper, and also to add their own. With combined experience of over 70 years, they partner with various businesses, helping them to use data, tools and analytic techniques to ensure effective decision strategies to drive success. The experts share their personal triumphs and difficulties; you’ll be surprised to learn the stark differences, and occasional similarities, in these assorted expert approaches to accomplishing successful data driven strategies across industries.
Stacey West is a Principal Consultant with FICO and has been with the company for 17 years. Stacey’s focus is not only working closely with customers to first gain their trust, but also to value and leverage the client’s knowledge and expertise.
The most imperative first step in a new strategy design engagement is to establish trust. Judgment must be left at the door in order to start the process in a new and different way. This helps to move away from intuitive legacy rules and ensure a smooth implementation of data driven decisions.
I personally experienced the benefits of this approach when I worked with a large financial services company in the UK who were new to data driven strategy builds. The analysts were skeptical of a new tool, FICO® Analytic Modeler Decision Tree Professional, as it was not immediately clear why it has selected a specific metric. However, after taking the time to review the differences between the approaches and the benefits that would arise from the change, trust was gained, and this allowed us to build improved analysis and strategies, together. After taking time to review their data and demonstrate that Decision Tree Professional was identifying accounts as they would expect, we could move forward with mutual understanding.
Ease into Change with Education
Thorough preparation during the planning stage is critical for all parties involved in the strategy design: clients, analysts, and consultants. As my colleague Therese stressed when she shared her best practices, knowing the project objectives up front will make the process much smoother. It is common to be resistant to or suspicious of a strategy change. Many people are of the mindset that their current state is working just fine. However, in my work with countless companies, I've found that walking through the benefits of shifting to a data focused strategy with client specific examples establishes the trust needed to pursue change with confidence.
Acknowledge External Influences
Changes in strategy are often necessary since many triggering events lead companies to reexamine strategies. The world is constantly changing, and strategies must be tweaked to accommodate things such as regulatory changes, purchases of new portfolios, or a new company wide strategy that triggers a change in policy rules. For example, implementing a lower acceptance score in a credit lending model will include more risky accounts and impact downstream rule implementations. By understanding how these outside changes will likely affect the entire portfolio, advisors can jump ahead several iterations in a strategy design project to predict future outcome with new scoring models and new data. This exercise demonstrates how predictive data driven analysis can be, igniting the desire to pursue a shift away from legacy strategy build methods.
A legacy strategy, however, should not be dismissed, as it is likely rich in human knowledge. Decision Tree Professional can be game changing tool, but it is only as good as the people, strategy and data put into it. To develop a winning strategy, it is crucial to engage with experts to capture existing domain knowledge and learned best practices. Without human input, a model might include items that weaken the predictive output of a strategy. Human knowledge about things like policy rules and target markets must be analyzed along with the raw data to guide the analytics and deliver useful results.
All these best practices, particularly the need to establish trust, came together for me in one project. I had a meeting with a client in financial services, however, the team had reservations about how the tool worked and selected predictive metrics. By coming in prepared, including the customer in all stages of the analysis and iterating on Decision Tree Professional, my team and I helped the client save many months of work by providing detailed portfolio insight and reducing the test and learn phase.
The aha moment occurred in the evaluation stage. I gave the same demo twice: once with a generic dataset, then again with the customer's data and participation. Building the demo in real time and including familiar data provided an immediate sense of trust. It also allowed my team to highlight the strategy building capabilities of our tool of choice. Using the client's data in our FICO tool provided insight into the client's portfolios, which highlighted the areas with potential for improvement in their current strategy. The final perk of this approach was transparency. Building the strategy together with the client enabled them to understand and explain how it worked so they could explain the value to their internal teams.
Trust is critical to the success of every strategy design project I work on. If all parties come in with an open mind, it is easy to tackle initial preconceptions and feel comfortable with progressive changes. By including the customer and their existing data in all stages of the analysis, you can save months and possibly years of work-- if future strategies are data driven too -- and that's on top of the benefits that come with new strategies that improve operational decisions and performance results. Chat with experts and fellow users in our TRIAD and Analytics user groups.
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