I first came across the FAST Modelling Standard when I was working as a project finance adviser and was sent on a course by my then employer. Although it would not be called the FAST Standard until a number of years later, it was already a well-developed modelling methodology.
I could see straight away why it was better than most of the modelling I saw around me at the time. My employer spent a lot of money sending people on modelling courses. It was mostly money wasted.
Because after the course was finished I went back to my desk and had to start working with the same old awful models.
There was no budget or time to rebuild them, and the really useful techniques I’d learned on the course just couldn’t be applied in these models.
After the course, everybody went back to their own way of modelling.
The company saw very little return on investment. Later on they asked why they’d spent so much money on training and yet saw so little improvement in their modelling.
Below are the 6 steps that should have been made to ensure my training effort wasn’t wasted:
1. Choose a standard.
We recommend FAST but there are others. When choosing a standard make sure that:
- a. It is sufficiently evolved and prescriptive (to be recognised when you see it)
- b. it’s easy to teach and learn
- c. It’s open and independent
- d. It has broad industry backing and involvement
2. Ensure that you have top down sponsorship and awareness.
Modelling standardisation should have backing from the very top. Ensure that model users know what to expect and how to get the best from models built to the standard. Managers and model users should reject models that have not been written to the standard. Increase the chances of adoption by creating a culture where adherence to the standard is an expected part of the job.
3. Train a critical mass of people upfront to kick start the transition.
These “champions” or “super-users” will play a critical role in spreading the word. If possible, equip them to train others rather than paying for more courses; this does a better job of creating a culture of shared modelling practice and provides people with contacts within the organisation to whom they can go to for help.
4. Ensure that support continues outside the classroom.
Classroom based learning is the start of the journey, not the end. It’s after the course that the real learning occurs, when analysts get back to their desks and try to put what they have learned into action. Select a training programme that includes online self-learning materials (pre and post course), and a support forum (offering answers to questions). Include a programme of testing and certification as part of training.
5. Invest in re-writing existing models.
If modellers are forced to use legacy models you will not get the benefits that standardisation can bring. Throw out legacy models and rebuild them according to the agreed standard. It’s as simple as that. To do otherwise is to send the message that it’s OK to keep using poorly built models. It will seem like a lot of work upfront, but not doing so will cause more work over a longer period. If you don’t have the capacity to do this with your existing team, bring in some additional modelling support just for this task.
6. Provide ongoing model compliance checking and individual certification of modellers.
There should be a programme of checking that models comply with the standard. This can be on a random, spot-checking basis and / or for models that are deemed to be of particular importance. The highly structured nature of FAST models means that compliance can be efficiently checked using software tools.