Develop FP&A Team as a Trusted Business Advisor
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Trusted business advisor

Develop FP&A Team as a Trusted Business Advisor

The increasing pace of change in competition, technology, and business landscape is driving FP&A leaders to provide real-time insights from large amounts of data. FP&A is expected to be more agile, more insight-oriented, and more data-driven. How can FP&A become a trusted business advisor and help organisations navigate through uncertainty? There are 5 things to keep in mind.

1. Build Strong Relationships with Other Functions

FP&A needs to start by building strong business relationships with other functions including commercial, supply chain, IT, Marketing, Sales and HR. The FP&A team needs to create ways to build rapport with the other functions so that they feel comfortable talking to finance, explaining their goals, needs, and business challenges. The next step is for FP&A to work on helping them achieve their goals.

There are few guidelines for FP&A to follow:

  • Smile and be supportive. Remember, other teams are not as versed in finance speak and may need coaching. Taking a course to learn coaching skills could be a valuable investment in your future.
  • Get to know your business partners.  Let them talk about themselves and ask them non-intrusive questions. For example, how was your weekend, how are you or how is your family?
  • Always be proactive and offer help.
  • Consider having discussions with them outside of formal meetings. This helps build rapport between you.

2. Understand the Business

Business acumen is one of the most important competencies for any FP&A team. It includes a full understanding of the company’s operations and a complete awareness of all external factors. In other words, a person who has solid business acumen can see the full picture of the business including both internal and external views. To better understand the business, FP&A leaders can do the following:

  • Draw out the company’s business model and value chain with the finance team.
  • Have regular strategy conversations with senior leaders.
  • Conduct frequent field visits.
  • Take part in cross-functional projects and talk to colleagues from other departments.
  • Become familiar with the product list.
  • Meet external partners such as distributors, wholesalers, suppliers, and customers.

3. Improve Data Quality

FP&A’s credibility can be impacted positively or negatively based on the quality of data they use. As we know “Garbage in, Garbage out”. There are several ways to ensure that FP&A are getting the data they need to provide business with relevant insights. FP&A need to:

  • Understand the business fully to capture any non-sense data.
  • Question estimates and assumptions to result in more precise values.
  • Perform trend and comparison analysis to find any outliers in the data.
  • Support data with sufficient evidence, where possible from independent sources.
  • Train and develop their team to be highly capable.
  • Automate processes to minimise human errors (e.g., robotic process automation technology (RPA))
  • Ensure proper controls, reconciliations and preventive check points are installed to help validate the final data output. For example, assign someone outside of the finance team to review.

4. Provide Business Insights

FP&A’s role is not to provide business leaders with accurate data explaining what happened or why it happened. Rather, FP&A need to show business leaders what they do not yet know and answer the question of what might happen. This can be enabled through a digital transformation process where FP&A leverages artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics and technological advances to provide real-time business insights.

How can FP&A achieve this?

  • Have strong relationships with their business partners and solid business acumen. This will allow them to ask the right questions and get deep business insights.
  • Have proper digital analytics tools such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise performance management (EPM), business intelligence (BI) and machine learning (ML) or AI enabled analytics.
  • Have a decision-making culture in your organisation that is data driven.

5. Tell an Impactful Business Story

FP&A need to transform numbers into narratives and inspire action through stories. Facts are not as memorable as stories. The career path of FP&A can stop at analysis or problem solving. Yet, the skill of storytelling can facilitate a move from gatekeeper to a trusted business advisor. There are several key steps to deliver an impactful business story:

  • Start with an attention-grabbing headline. This may be a question to spark thoughts or an actionable title to drive action.
  • Know who the decision makers are and what motivates them to listen.
  • Use the language of the decision makers rather than very technical or complex terminologies.
  • Make the story straight forward. Use simple visuals instead of busy tables.
  • Respect the decision maker’s time since executives are busy. Remember “less is more.”
  • Understand what lies behind the numbers to provide the full context.
  • End your story with one or many calls to action, telling the audience what you want them to do.

Conclusion

FP&A has a unique opportunity to become a trusted business advisor by building strong business relationships, telling impactful business stories, gaining solid business acumen, and providing helpful business insights. The increasing pace of change in today’s business environment has also demonstrated that FP&A needs to leverage technology by implementing the right analytical tools.

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