“Do I have the right skill set for FP&A in 2018 and beyond?” That is a question I am asked all the time, whether I’m in Kuala Lumpur, Montevideo, or San Francisco. The role of the modern FP&A professional has changed greatly over the past 20 years, but the change I have witnessed over the past five years has truly been amazing.
When I would add talent to my FP&A teams 10 years ago, what I wanted was a Jedi master in Excel who had a strong background in accounting. Those days are long gone, because the scope and scale of what our FP&A teams can actually accomplish, as far as planning, budgeting, and forecasting are concerned, have grown at an accelerating pace.
Due to advances that have occurred in the technology and tools available today, activities that we could only dream of accomplishing a few years ago are either possible right now or will be possible in the very near future. Gone are the days of scheduled (and instantly out-of-date) plans and static reporting. We now live in a world of dynamic planning and real-time reporting. We can incorporate our actuals, in real time, to be able to determine if we are on track to reach our goals and objectives and if not, to make changes to our activities. We now regularly incorporate integrated reporting into the normal course of our communications with our stakeholders.
All of this change has created opportunities as well as challenges for today’s FP&A professional. While being able to utilize Excel is important (it’s never going away, folks), along with a strong understanding of accounting, those are merely table stakes in today’s world. The three key skill sets that today’s FP&A pro must possess are financial acumen, technology and communication fluency, and a keen insight into the business. A strong dose of curiosity is also critical to being a best-in-class FP&A professional.
Those FP&A professionals who are able to master these new technologies and tools that are coming down the pike will be the ones in the greatest demand. I hear from CFOs from around the world that they expect the amount of strategic work their FP&A teams will be doing to double over the next few years. The majority of these same CFOs believe they have the proper number of people in their FP&A teams. How do they expect to close this chasm between the expected increase in workload without a corresponding increase in headcount? The overwhelming response is technology.
The challenge for organizations will be to determine if they have the right people in place to maximize the ROI for their outlays of these new technologies and tools. Not to minimize my skill set, but you can give me the most advanced surgical devices available to mankind, and I can guarantee that you don’t want me operating on you. Similarly, for FP&A talent to succeed, they will need the flexibility and agility to learn, master, and leverage these new technologies into their organizations as they come online.
The knack to be able to explain our plans or tell a story about our budgets, forecasts, analyses, insights, and foresights to a wide array of audiences, is critical to the success of our organizations. When you enter into the world of dynamic planning, the importance of communications grows ten-fold, as organizations must be able to explain why change is necessary to achieve success.
In a future article, I’ll expand upon my thoughts and ideas on the importance of understanding the business in order to maximize the value FP&A professionals can bring to our business partners as well as the company as a whole.
Brian is Founder and Principal at Kalish Consulting. He is Former Executive Director – Global FP&A Practice at AFP. He has over 20 years of experience in Finance, FP&A, Treasury and Investor Relations. He previously held a number of treasury and finance positions with the FHLB, Washington Mutual/JP Morgan, NRUCFC, Fifth Third and Fannie Mae. He has spoken all over the world to audiences both large and small hosting FP&A Roundtable meetings in North America, Europe, Asia and soon South America. Brian attended Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, GA for his undergraduate studies in Business and the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech for his graduate work. In 2014, Brian was awarded the Global Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation.