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Growing pressure on business to perform is translating into more pressure on financial planning and analysis to collaborate effectively with the operation, using advanced analytics and data-driven decision support. While there’s still a gap between where CFOs want their FP&A teams to be and where they see their teams’ value today, that gap closing. A 2016 Q3 Adaptive Insights CFO Indicator survey shows CFOs expect their FP&A teams to double the amount of time they spend on strategic activities by 2020.
An upcoming AFP FP&A Guide, How FP&A Can Become a Better Business Partner, explores the reasons the FP&A role is changing and provides a detailed roadmap on how FP&A professionals can build trust with the operations and reconfigure their skillset to enhance their relationships with business leaders.
Successful FP&A functions today are measured by the degree to which they contribute to enterprise performance. “It’s about partnering with the business, enabling people to think beyond their functional silos and working together effectively to have a meaningful impact on the company’s performance,” said Katan Goculdas, Director of FP&A at Sparta Systems.
Here are the five reasons the role of FP&A as a partner is gaining momentum:
Improving the forecast. Even a small miss could result in a dramatic and direct hit to the stock price (recall Walgreen’s). The idea is not just to accept the forecast but be able to challenge, collaborate on and understand the numbers at a detailed level. “To be effective, and produce a reliable forecast, you have to be very knowledgeable about the different functional areas of the business,” said finance consultant Brian Fink.
Driving the right decisions. “It’s difficult for functional leaders to make the right decisions without having the right financial information,” said William Howell, FP&A manager at payroll and HR technology provider, Ceridian UK. “FP&A has shifted from being the people who dealt with the data. It’s now about providing concise and actionable information to the business to help them direct their energy and resources appropriately.”
Creating a two-way flow. “I sometimes use an analogy and refer to FP&A as the financial heart of the company and the functional departments being the organs,” said Carl Seidman, an independent management consultant, and trainer.
Making sure everyone is aligned around the strategy. “For FP&A, the value add is— and should be—in helping to drive business collaboration and performance proactively,” said Scott Page, director of FP&A at YP. “The other piece related to better collaboration for the FP&A role is ensuring that functions are attuned to what’s going on in other parts of the business.”
Allowing the business to anticipate the future. “FP&A insight allows the business units to anticipate the future; that’s the value finance brings to the relationship with the business,” said Tony Levy, business unit executive, IBM Analytics Software. That may involve understanding how customer churn data can help the business kick off an initiative to hold on to and grow the most profitable customers. Or on the expense side, it may help HR understand employee attrition and what action it can take to help retain and develop top talent.
Emerging technologies underpin the partnership between the two functions. New solutions include self-service analytics and integrated planning applications that allow FP&A to cut through old functional barriers. “FP&A is the only group that can take operational drivers and link them into financial results,” Levy said.
Finally, FP&A has access to more diversified and actionable information and the ability to share it with multiple stakeholders. “As a result, FP&A can have a more timely and strategic discussion with the business,” said Ian Charles, founder, and CEO of SaaS vendor, Tidemark.
“It’s one thing to give marching orders; it’s another to have the confidence that the organization is marching in the right direction. The core finance group at HQ may not have all the answers. It’s imperative that they work with the real business operators to understand the story behind the numbers.”
Download the AFP FP&A Guide, How FP&A Can Become A Better Business Partner, which is available for a limited time to registered users of the AFP website.
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