Surround Yourself with Analytics Experts

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Richard Sowell
VP of Reporting & Analytics, Coastal Credit Union
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Business intelligence teams can boldly step into leadership positions.

Note: This article first appeared on CUNA News on August 1, 2021.

As more credit unions confront the need to improve their data engines and analytics capabilities to better serve members, business intelligence (BI) teams are in a time of transition.

The BI function once had a reactive posture, responding to requests for data and insight. Today’s BI teams, however, are expected to be much more proactive.

In fact, many are expected to lead the credit union’s strategy based on the stories the data is telling.

One thing we know about great leaders: they surround themselves with experts. 

For credit union BI and analytics teams navigating new expectations from the enterprise, that often means layering in the perspective of an outside analytics expert.

The trick is finding the right one. Credit unions need an analytics partner willing to flex and adjust. 

Too often, data analytics vendors are unwilling to break from templated scopes of work or worse, rigid technology solutions. While this approach is understandable from efficiency and profitability standpoints, it doesn’t gel with credit unions that take an agile approach to innovation. 

Credit unions are on wildly divergent paths to data transformation. A one-size-fits-all strategy is a non-starter.

Recognizing that the search for a partner willing to break from the mold can be an uphill battle, it pays to establish rules of engagement before talking to vendors. 

Here are some examples:

  • The partner is willing to listen and adapt its services to your goals.
  • Analytics capabilities must translate through showing as much as doing. 
  • Your internal team’s skill set will grow as a result of the partnership. 

Our team set up similar rules ahead of our search and, as a result, leapfrogged traditional milestones on the road to analytics mastery. 

In collaboration with the data analytics consulting team at AdvantEdge Digital, our team has achieved several wins that generated substantial momentum for the future while also supporting us in leading Coastal Credit Union’s data strategy.

Some examples:

« Drastically shortened insights delivery time. Coastal’s analytics team has established processes and techniques for getting business intelligence into the right hands quickly. 

We’ve assisted our outbound calling team with highly targeted leads from predictive models, quickly answered ad hoc business questions from executives, and delivered forward-looking balance insights to our mortgage and business lending teams. 

Soon, we’ll have a delinquency dashboard to keep outreach efforts focused on those members who can benefit most.

« Deepened internal analytics knowledge. At the outset of our engagement, AdvantEdge Digital delivered a lot of analytics capabilities with practical outputs. Midway through it became clear that the greatest value for our team would be to learn from their experts so we could evolve our own analytics expertise. 

We asked if they would teach us how to provide business-altering information internally and they did. The engagement enriched the team, and I personally learned a lot about how to do analytics well.

« Continuously building predictive models. The credit union benefits from our partner’s knowledge of what works in various industries and styles of business. Their “in the wild” experience taught us advanced methods for building data models we can continuously reuse for different marketing efforts. 

We’re now poised to take a much more predictive approach to helping members through their financial journeys.

A vendor/partner’s willingness to listen to a credit union’s needs and quickly pivot their services to match ensures measurable and enriching outcomes. 

My advice to any credit union BI team looking to boldly step into the leadership position is to find an external resource willing to contribute to the development of internal competencies. It takes time to pin down the right partner, but it's worth every ounce of effort to find a good match.