This paper, based on our interviews with 25 top FP&A practitioners and thought leaders along with...
The Vision for FP&A
Many FP&A teams are still not optimised to perform. According to the 2023 FP&A Trends Survey, only 34% of FP&A teams’ cumulative time is spent on high-value activities such as insights generation and driving actions. At the recent FP&A Trends webinar hosted on December 13, 2023, we focused on how FP&A leaders can build their FP&A teams and what should be done to increase our impact on our businesses.
The panellists for the webinar represented the diversity of industries and company maturity perspectives.
- Natasha Rathee, SVP, Head of Finance at Bluerock Therapeutics (a division of Bayer), discussed her experiences leading mature FP&A departments and building an FP&A team in a start-up environment.
- Garrett Dennie, CFO at Knix, discussed his learnings from the retail industry and provided many insights on the importance of team building.
- Tiffany Little, Global Reporting Manager at City Electric, recounted her experience that ebbed and flowed between the FP&A roles based on the team’s needs.
What Do We Need to Build a World-Class FP&A Team?
The webinar panel emphasised the need for FP&A leaders to focus on six factors in order to build a world-class FP&A team. These six factors were as follows:
- Developing and fostering a clear and intentional culture.
- Role-modelling, authentic and consistent leadership.
- Attracting and retaining top talent.
- Developing a culture of ownership and the ability to make challenging decisions.
- Creating an environment of psychological safety where teams embrace healthy conflict.
- Embracing a forward-looking and innovative approach.
Overall, creating such an environment is a goal for FP&A leaders who want consistent results and elevated team engagement.
We also discussed the five roles a leading FP&A team should have. The roles are:
There are two additional roles that can be less known but are also important.
- 6. The Interpreter
- 7. The Connector
The FP&A community is already familiar with such roles as the Analyst, the Influencer, and the Storyteller. These roles remain extremely important and are even more impactful if FP&A leaders embrace their significance. The panel deep-dived into the core responsibilities of each role, but particular attention was dedicated to Data Scientists and Architects.
- are skilled in predictive technologies.
- can uncover key analytical drivers and trends.
- can integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and statistical modelling into FP&A processes.
- are familiar with master data management.
The Data Architect is the bridge between the Finance and IT functions. Individuals in this position have the following abilities:
- They connect IT, Finance, and Strategy.
- They develop systems architecture.
- They harmonise planning processes.
- Create driver-based, real-time analytical models.
- Involved in data warehouse management.
Not surprisingly, the webinar audience also underscored the significance of these two roles. We launched an interactive webinar poll, and it confirmed that the Data Scientist (26%) and Data Architect (20%) were in the top three roles that would benefit the respondents.
Key Insights from the Panellists
After the FP&A roles were explained, each panellist discussed their approaches and experiences building their FP&A teams. Natasha Rathee highlighted how the business and FP&A landscape has changed and said that FP&A leaders have to respond with different approaches in order to help their businesses thrive. A few of her key points were as follows:
- Technology has advanced rapidly.
- The role of strategic Business Partnering has grown significantly.
- Uncertain economic conditions have led to an increase in the importance of risk planning.
Natasha then talked about how it is important to start with a clear understanding of where the team is by auditing the existing skill sets. The next step would be to define the ideal team structure and fill gaps by hiring new individuals and upskilling existing members. She stressed the ability to wear multiple hats and not just focus on one role. Except for Natasha’s presentation, the necessity of wearing a few “hats” came through in all the presentations.
Garrett Dennie introduced one of the two additional roles, the FP&A Connector. He talked about how he had to develop all the other foundational roles in order to become a knowledgeable and trusted Business Partner. After he had invested a significant amount of time building this knowledge and trust, he became ‘the Connector.’
The powerful example that Garrett shared was about connecting the operational and financial plans. He shared specific actions which helped their organisation achieve the desired goal:
- Start the planning process several months before a traditional approach.
- Focus the business stakeholders on controllable areas while the FP&A team managed items that were out of the business’ control.
This two-pronged approach helped them connect the operational and strategic plans. The role of ‘Connector’ is critical and can help organisations develop high-value processes which may foster better ROI decisions.
Last but not least, Tiffany Little discussed the rapidly changing needs and how each of the five roles gained greater importance at different points in her team’s journey. Initially, Tiffany and her CFO were huddled around spreadsheets. However, as the business grew, the team needed to bring in Data Scientists to help build a bottom-up data structure. They also needed to develop their analytical capabilities and leverage the Data Analyst’s role. Finally, the team responded by emphasising the role(s) that was most important.
What Hinders FP&A Team’s Synergy?
We have also conducted the second poll during the webinar to identify the biggest barrier to team synergy. Most of our webinar audience (42%) believe that a lack of alignment around goals can be the key obstacle to team synergy. Poor listening and communication skills (19%) and knowledge deficit (18%) were the top factors hindering the FP&A team’s synergy.
The world has changed dramatically in the last few years and will continue to change at an even greater rate. Traditional organisational structures in FP&A will not work, so FP&A leaders should consider the five FP&A team roles along with the additional ones in order to stay competitive. The webinar panel also emphasised the need for leveraging Architect’s and Data Scientist’s skills within your team. This can form a great base, and the team can build great analytical capabilities where the Analyst becomes a more prominent role.
This webinar was proudly sponsored by Board International.
You can watch the full recording of this session here.