A main goal of many of FP&A professionals I interact with concerns becoming a trusted business partner. Whether that’s with the company as a whole, the C-suite, or a particular business unit, most FP&A professionals want to advance along the maturity curve to become valued and sought-after business partners (and even better, business advisers), rather than some kind of bean counter. The days of sitting in an office and collecting, verifying, and scrubbing reams of data with little or no interaction with the people we support are over.
Everyone wants a seat at the table, but how does one get invited to and, even more importantly, asked to stay? Our partners have businesses to run. If we are viewed only as a demand on their limited time and resources but provide little in return, the chances of success are limited at best.
A great way to build relationships is to take the time to understand the business you are partnered with. Ask questions to gain comprehension rather than to challenge and criticize. In my experience, one of the easiest things to talk about is what my business does, and I truly enjoy building a rapport with people who are interested.
The FP&A team can leverage today’s advanced technology to build credibility and trust with their business partners by using data to provide new insights. I recommend starting off with small wins that can grow to show your partners that you are not just a consumer of data and report generator, but also can help them run their businesses better.
Another way we can help our business partners is by combining our financial acumen, sophisticated communication skills, deep understanding of their business, and the latest technology to produce business-model scenarios.
In the recent past, we were unable to produce this kind of insight due to the constraints of technology and our own abilities. We now have access to much more data (often our actuals), and can transform that data into information and the knowledge and insight that will permit our partners to make better, smarter decisions faster.
It is far less expensive to map out how the future landscape may look and behave than to be caught flatfooted when an event occurs that we hadn’t thought of – or had determined “would never happen.” If nothing else, the financial crisis demonstrated that events most believed highly improbable (a six standard deviation move or tail risk, for example) can have devastating impacts. Now, with the tools and skills to address a wider variety of scenarios, we can focus on minimizing the negative impacts while attempting to maximize the positive.
By developing robust business scenarios for our partners, we aren’t trying to predict the future; we are trying to help them understand what the future may look like. Our work consists of identifying, assessing, analyzing, and monitoring the dynamics that will likely prove to be factors.
With the degree of uncertainty we operate under, the ability to map out the vast universe of possible outcomes has never commanded a higher premium. Being able to provide useful foresight is the value proposition for the FP&A professional today. There is too much change going on for everyone to know everything. We must be willing to leverage all of our resources – people, technology, time, and money – in order to assist the organization to make the proper decisions that will permit it to thrive.
I look forward to the further advances in technology that will permit us to forecast, plan, and react with even greater accuracy and precision to the challenges we face.
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.