The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease

Leave anecdotal evidence in the past and make decisions on fact-based analysis.

As the Finance leader for several Financial Services firms, I often found myself in the middle of some passionate discussions related to very difficult challenge.  The sales team on the ground were valiantly fighting the good fight but the finance, reporting and analysis teams conducted work at “a thousand feet”. This led to conversations & decisions based on anecdotal evidence only.  Here are some of the things I commonly heard:

  • “My competitors are raising rates and new business is at risk”
  • “Our underwriting policies are too strict and out-of-market”
  • “My competitor is stealing all of the quality customers”
  • “My pipeline is drying up, too small or shrinking”
  • “The local economy is doing poorly”

The loudest voice….or worse, the voice with the most political weight often won the day and we frequently made decisions that were hammered in with a blunt object.  In other words, the squeaky wheel often got the grease. Finding myself between not having the information at my fingertips to stop the madness, and wanting to have a positive impact on the business, I often interrupted with a running joke:


This little joke was the cue to the executives in the room that I will conduct a thorough investigation of the problem and get back with them in a week or so.

As you know, these types of questions cannot be properly addressed by traditional, static reports.  In fact, most spreadsheets and desktop-only visualization tools would only make matters worse (see every article ever that bashes spreadsheets).  Having a separate database/spreadsheet/pivot table that provides the ability to drill to detail, combine disparate data sources and reconcile with managerial reports was always necessary but each analysis (because of the size of data and the number of data sources) was bespoke, time-consuming and often full of errors.

Finally, if I didn’t get the answer quickly, the decision would be made without my input and this….was always a primary source of frustration for me.

An alternative exists:

The video below is the product of smart partnering between Qlik, Alteryx and Bardess Group.  It is one example (of many) that combines market data & internal data to solve the difficult problem of providing a large audience with the information and insights to make decisions based on factual analysis, a “mass customization of analytics” if you will.

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This solution goes far beyond a desktop visualization and allows for each of the 93,000 bank branch managers across the United States to measure their performance against the local competition.  Complexity of the business problem is transparent to the user and an unlimited number of market definitions are a few clicks away.

It’s a great example as discussed in my previous blog (I Know It When I See It) that provides a deep integration of Qlik with common 3rd party analytical engines (R, SAS, SPSS, Matlab, Alteryx).

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