Do you believe cross-functional projects help in improving FP&A Business Partners’ interpersonal skills, strengthening their relationships with stakeholders and increasing their business acumen? To answer these questions, I would like to share the below business case from my experience in working at a global FMCG company.
Introducing a new project and forming a cross-functional team
I worked in a global FMCG company as a Head of Business Finance for Egypt and North Africa region and at that time, the company decided to improve the go-to-market distribution model and re-evaluate the current distributors across the region.
It was the biggest strategic commercial project that year, and it had a significant impact on having sustainable profitable business growth.
The senior leadership decided to kick off the project and formed a steering committee sponsored by the Managing Director, and then they formed four groups, each group had to be responsible for a certain geographical area.
I was proud that the company gave me such a great opportunity to lead one of the four groups consisted of cross-functional team members from sales, marketing, HR, IT, controllership & logistics. Also, my finance team got the chance to join the other three groups.
Our task was to evaluate the company’s distributors across different geographies from different perspectives. After the evaluation, we had to deliver a complete document of findings, assessment, conclusion, and recommendation about each distributor in the region.
Responsibilities of a Project leader
As a Project leader, I started to build the team from different functions to help in evaluating the distributors from all dimensions (People, Market, distribution, infrastructure, financial capabilities, etc.). After forming the team, I had to agree with them on the project objectives, plan the time frame and scope, in addition to setting together the evaluation criteria and how to score every element.
After productive brainstorming discussion with the project members, we created questionnaires, scoring and evaluation templates to help us standardise the outcomes from the distributor’s field visits.
Evaluating the distributors
The main criteria we used in scoring and evaluating the distributors were:
- Alignment with the company strategy
- Financial Capabilities
- Salesforce capabilities
- Infrastructure and IT
- Warehousing & Distribution (Warehouse, Van’s condition, no of Van’s, etc.)
- Sales performance
- Marketing mix execution
- Management capabilities
- Growth potential and willingness
- Succession planning
It was a fantastic experience as finance to visit with my project team each distributor’s office, facilities, warehouse, meet their team, and review the distributor’s quality of coverage in the market, and get feedback from retailers and consumers as well. We had to evaluate six distributors from different geographies in 3 weeks (around full 15 working days)
After each field visit, I had to meet my project team to discuss, score, and evaluate the outcomes from each team member about the distributor’s (financial capability, distribution and coverage, team capabilities’, infrastructure & IT, logistics, warehouses, and even the truck’s condition used in distribution our goods)
What an amazing project and intensive business acumen we got, and finally as a project team we had to present the final comprehensive report to the steering committee.
Based on our project team’s recommendations the company took several actions to improve the distribution model, for example; increased business with high potential and strong distributors, gave corrective actions to some distributors to be implemented within a strict time frame and terminated the contract with low-profile and weak performance distributors.
Project’s outcomes on the FP&A team:
- FP&A team got a deep business understanding and were able to understand clearly what was behind the reported numbers.
- The team built strong business relationships with stakeholders across functions through working closely in the project
- FP&A learned to speak with business their language not technical finance language
- Many interpersonal skills had been improved within the finance team like communication skills, creative thinking, team working and collaboration with others, and presentation skills
- FP&A team moved out from their comfort zone and discovered many new areas in the business
- The company discovered new talents within the Finance team throughout the project
- The self-confidence and motivational level increased within the FP&A team after achieving such great outcomes one of the biggest strategic commercial projects
Finally, I encourage each FP&A business partner to try to join cross-functional projects, it is a really great opportunity to learn, increase business acumen, strengthening the business relationship with other stakeholders, and improve interpersonal and social skills. The outcomes are really outstanding!