I love to work with FP&A and change management. After working 14 years in various FP&A positions, this is my game. One thing to start with though, if this is your pick of a career, make sure to; eat well, sleep well, exercise as much as possible and meditate frequently.
Below activities, that took place during 10 months during one of my assignments, includes several recommendations for anyone who is about to set up a brand-new FP&A department in a company in transition.
Mission of consultancy assignment
When I took on this assignment as interim Head of Group FP&A Manager, I had three main objectives:
- Build up a solid FP&A department with existing or new staff
- Establish the objective for the team and hand over to a permanent manager after 9 months whom I would recruit
- Maintain the recurring tasks as well as projects
This article explores these objectives – at the same as implementing a new ERP system, re-making the budgeting process, hiring new staff, re-organizing the company with a new portfolio.
The FP&A Team
The team in the 70 M$ company, let us call it Company Ltd. for further mentioning, consisted of 1 permanent employee who’d been with the company for 7 years, 3 consultants of which one was a hire-purchase and 1 new hire on probation period. All members were quite experienced but lacked guidance and joint agenda. They also worked as financial controllers and not as FP&A professionals. The atmosphere in the team was very good. From my experience I know that the micro-culture in a group and atmosphere is vital and very much linked to success in a team that will go through large transformation.
The first challenge was to lead the budget process one month into the assignment. The main issue was the new portfolio but mostly that the organization was not fully acquainted to the BI system. The FP&A team solved this issue by quickly creating a BI manual with mandatory trainings.
There are several recommendations that could be followed when introducing changes to a budget process:
- Evaluate the old processes and adapt
- Initiate trainings prior the process starts
- Carefully choose the way of communicating. Make sure that the information flow works well between you, the CFO and the team as well as in and between all departments. The flow of information is vital when it comes to meeting deadlines and quick updates.
- Invest time in planning the process rather than jumping into the budget. This leads to a more structured process
When evaluating the prior budgeting process, it is a good idea to make a poll. I would recommend using some of the below 7 categories and speak to all functions or departments:
- Did the communication between the budget leader, CFO, the team and the organization work well?
- Were the guidelines clear?
- Were the deadlines doable?
- Was the calendar well communicated and well in advance?
- Was there sufficient analysis performed prior to the budget and what would the organization need more support from FP&A on?
- Were the meetings effective between FP&A and the organization as well as the internal department meetings?
- Did the BI system work well and was the training qualitative?
After a couple of months, I was faced with a shortfall of staff. 2 members left and one critical worker received an appealing offer from another firm. In a situation like this there are a few things you can do:
- Pay attention to critical workers. Sometimes you need to take extensive actions to retain this member. For example; put together a new development plan, remake the role with more senior responsibility, a new severance package along with a promotion.
- Take on yourself some tasks on a temporary basis.
- Try to re-allocate some of the tasks to another division temporary
- Hire an experienced consultant immediately
- Partner with a talent manager. Having a brilliant talent manager will help in solving many issues. In Company Ltd we kick-started a new hiring process.
- Secure all remaining roles and create a back-up plan for all members and tasks
After this chaotic period, I decided to start fresh with the new team and hold a kick-off. Some good topics for discussion with your team could be found in the “Team Building” section on FP&A Trends. The main objective with our conference was to identify the very essence of the team, establish the vision and mission as well as deciding the focus areas of work. I decided on having the following education for the team:
- What is FP&A?
- Main FP&A areas of work
- The 4 roles
- Key attributes of an FP&A Professional and the mind of a worlds-class FP&A
- FP&A maturity stages: analytics, business partnering, rolling forecast
- Top trends and driver-based forecasting
All members of the team had to contribute and the meeting agenda included:
- What does value-added work mean for us
- Current budget and forecast process
- List all work tasks and separate out the ones not to do
- Discussion around our separate roles, ownership
- Business Partnering
- Define the focus areas for the team and set targets
- Measure what the time spend on the focus areas are now
- Identify your stage of the FP&A Analytics, FP&A Business Partnering and Rolling Forecast Maturity Models.
- Devise an action plan with several projects that will help you step up on the maturity stages.
- Create a mission exclusively for the FP&A team
During the 3 day conference we nailed down our 5 focus areas as well as a before and after scenario. We invited accounting to tell us more about their processes and calendar and had a handshake with them on where to draw the line between their area of work and ours.
We also defined in which stage of the FP&A Analytics, the FP&A Business Partnering and Rolling Forecast Maturity Model we were as a FP&A team. We ended up having an action plan with several projects making us stepping up significantly on the maturity stages within 1 year.
I also started to measure the teams time spent in our focus areas to make sure we progressed. I think that this conference is when we started moving the team from being financial controllers to FP&A professionals.
6 months into the assignment the Company Ltd. management team decided to go with a re-organisation of the business areas to adapt to the company’s future portfolio. With a new ERP system in place and an ongoing budgeting process, it was not clear how the re-organisation would impact our time.
The FP&A team was asked to handle this re-organization and I handed over the project lead to our most senior member who set up a time plan with activities, responsibilities, sign offs and a realistic deadline on when to go live with the new structure. I redistributed other less important projects for the senior member who now could focus fully on the re-organization. We got up to full speed on the project and 2 months later it was completed.
The below recommendations are based on our experience:
- Find a person who will be the most suitable leader for the re-organisation process.
- Perform a risk-analysis prior deciding on implementing a new structure. This would help identify several threats to the project and the possibility of them to materialize.
- Do not perform any other large projects at the same time if not needed
Motivating and Transformative Leadership
Since the team during all of my assignment had gone through quite a heavy workload, it is natural that the motivation varied. I focused on 5 things to keep my team motivated:
- Let your staff see and make sure they understand the bigger picture. Why do we do things? I think having the team really understand by giving as much info that you possibly can at a management level works well. What exactly, will change to the better, by giving examples.
- Get to know your staff and learn what makes them tick. Make sure they consistently work with tasks that they most desire will continue to keep them motivated.
- Let the team be a part of as much decision making as possible and ask for input to base your decisions on as a manager. To put this into practice I normally try to include my teams as much as possible into the decision making, making them feel that they own the situation to as a great extent as possible.
- Go back and reflect on the thing you actually finalized, recognize achievements on both group and individual basis. Here it is important to pin point what was actually was well done and by whom.
- Always take time for one-on-ones where you let the employee or the consultant speak for 80% of the time. If you postpone or cancel one-on-ones you can just as well say; “I don’t care about you”. The one-one-ones should never be underestimated since this is when you can feel the pulse on your colleague. How motivated is he or she, are they feeling well, how is the work-load, are they getting along with other members and do they have any concerns that needs to be addressed.
In this assignment I used transformative leadership which is possible the most effective leadership model. Bernard M. Bass developed the original theory and defined 4 main components; Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation and Individual Consideration. The focus in this model is also to value creativity and independence in the team, showing a genuine interest in the employees, what they want to achieve and where they are heading in their careers.
One thing I will always remember is the advice my father gave me before my first management position, and that is that an employee simply wants to be seen by his manager.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Looking back at the 10 months assignment I can conclude that I accomplished the most important thing; create a solid FP&A team with a clear objective. We also successfully managed to adjust the focus areas for the members. Maintaining the focus on my main objectives, despite large transformations in the organization, and keep the process continuously ongoing was the solution. Below you will find my summarized advice if you sign up for a similar role:
- Always stay positive, motivating yourself and your surroundings, encourage risk taking
- Take care of yourself and your team, perform one-to-ones discussing workload, stress
- Retain focus on the main objective despite other critical tasks, make sure to verify with your manager whether the main objective changes.
- Learn how to prioritize among equally highly important tasks and support the team in doing the same
- Do not be afraid to say no and ask uncomfortable questions or dispute decision taken on a higher hierarchical level
- Never forget the team, let them be a part of as much decision making as possible and try to use transformational leadership
- The right staff and micro-culture is everything and the key to success
- Regard your stakeholders as your business partners, coach the staff in acting as true business partners and for them to request the same in return.