Finance and FP&A communities are regularly traversed by theoretical and generally hot discussions concerning few topics...
In the age of metrics and measurement, what are we doing to measure the satisfaction or happiness of those involved in FP&A?
When organizations have low employee engagement, they incur additional costs related to the overall drain on productivity, turn-over, etc.., but more importantly companies are missing out on the upside potential to grow and compete based on the creativity, innovation and hard-work invested by an engaged workforce.
Likewise, organizations with low FP&A Happiness scores may be both plagued with additional costs related to lower productivity, which is magnified by all those involved within the organization, and robbed of higher-level outcomes related to optimization and innovation that could be pursued by these professionals.
In the remainder of this article, we will examine some recent independent research on FP&A Happiness conducted by FP&A It Forward Ltd. as it relates to existing planning and forecasting processes and technology solution(s).
Happiness with FP&A Processes
With only 12% of business professionals scoring as happy (i.e. 9 or 10 out of 10) with their existing planning and forecasting process, it is no wonder that financial transformation is a key to most digital transformation initiatives. If those who are okay (i.e. 7 or 8 out of 10) with their existing process are included, the percentage jumps from 12% to 46%, which still indicates a lot of room for improvement. Finally, and strikingly, 54% of business professionals are unhappy (i.e. 6 or lower out of 10) with their existing planning process.
If you’re in the unhappy majority, do something about it! Research shows that when professionals are engaged in difficult-but-doable activities and also feel a sense of progress, they are happiest.
- Get buy-in from a colleague and/or superior in the FP&A group and/or better yet in an operational area of the organization who would greatly benefit from the improvements. You don't need to be alone on this journey!
- Flesh out why you’re unhappy with the process and articulate clear reasons for changing it.
- Review your existing process looking for areas to improve and deliver more value and insight to the business in a shorter time.
- Build a business case for change and get commitment and support.
- Develop an improvement strategy with clear and measurable objectives.
- Consider the technology aspect to support the newly envisioned process. However, conversely, a new technology will not necessarily be a silver bullet to make you happy either.
Happiness with FP&A Technology Solution(s)
Overall, only 16% of business professionals are happy with their existing planning technologies or solution. When broken down into two groups for further comparison, those who use Excel only for planning vs. all others, those who use Excel only scored vs. all others scored at 4% vs. 20% respectively.
If those who are okay with their existing process are included, the percentage jumps from 16% to 47%, or from 4% to 18% and 20% to 60% for Excel only vs. all others respectively.
Finally, overall 53% of business professionals are unhappy with their existing planning technologies or solution.
According to this research, business professionals using dedicated planning technologies and solutions are clearly happier than those using Excel only. I think there are many reasons for this, including version control, data structure, centralization of formulas, security and workflow to name a few. But, what might come as a surprise for some, which I can also confirm by way of my experience working with organizations, is that not all professionals using a dedicated platform for budgeting and forecasting are happy either.
As such, maybe the solution your organization currently has is not the problem at all? In many cases, existing software is underutilized, user adoption is low, adequate training has not been provided, trained and knowledgeable resources have left the organization, support is inadequate or the organization’s needs have changed and it is time to revisit the solution’s configuration.
On the other hand, technology can make a big difference! If you are looking at a new FP&A technology, consider these two warnings:
- Firstly, don’t forget to perform an audit on your existing processes and map out an envisioned future that technology, as an enabler, can help you transform towards and achieve.
- Secondly, don’t make it only about the capabilities and cost of a new solution. To be successful and to achieve the happiness that you and your organization deserve, ensure you incorporate other items such as ease of use, maintainability, accessibility and knowledge transfer during the implementation.
I don’t believe there is a ‘happy pill’ for FP&A professionals or a one size fits all solution for everybody when it comes to improving their existing planning and forecasting processes or addressing the enabling technology solution(s).
I do believe that both processes and technologies can be improved; that FP&A professionals involved in these transformations stand to experience greater professional satisfaction and that the organizational impact of these transformations can be measurably significant.