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By Gemma Davie, Associate Director, Performance (FP&A) at Compare The Market
According to the FP&A Trends Survey, only 12.5% of organisations spend 40% of their time in value-adding activities. Ironically, the feedback I am getting from my stakeholders is that our Business Partners have never needed us more than they need us today. Clearly, as an FP&A community, we all need to be taking action to empower, execute and become laser-focused on moving up the dial from 12.5% to ensure we can support and guide our Business Partners and show up as our best version.
So, let me share five practical tips on how you can dial up the Value Creation activities in your teams and make you more effective Business Partners.
A few months back, we took part in a time study trial. The 4-week trial aimed to understand WHERE we were spending our time. At first, our team were not bought into this idea, weren’t we busy enough without adding even more admin to our day? But hindsight is a beautiful thing, and the results were eye-opening. We spent less than 15% of our time as “Business Partnering.”
How could we call ourselves Business Partners when spending less than one day a week on value-adding activities?
Our time study showed that 25% of our time was spent on weekly forecasting. What would happen if we went from weekly to bi-weekly forecasting? Our main concern was whether this would impair our forecasting accuracy.
However, the data showed us that we were no more accurate when we forecasted weekly. This, combined with the time study data, was a powerful piece of actionable insight which made the conversation with our CFO around reducing cadence relatively straightforward. Overnight we created a 10% space for Business Partners.
During the lockdown, the RAG review was a “tool” we learned on a virtual Business Partnering course. We are all familiar with RAG (Red Amber Green), but this activity aims to make your commentary more meaningful and value-adding.
Starting with a piece of commentary
This will allow you to get an overview of the balance of your commentary. If two-thirds of your page is Red, it is questionable if it genuinely adds value.
We used the RAG technique to “declutter” our commentary. That did not mean Red was eliminated but use red in moderation. The method also helps to ensure you have covered the “why” and the “so what”, which is where we add value.
How do I make partnering a priority?
A few months ago, my colleague said, "Gemma, your diary is full of meetings. When do you get time to do any thinking or preparation time?” I couldn’t argue, my diary was back-to-back, and I knew I had to change.
So, I began to block out partner preparation and think time, I call them “meetings with myself”. This gives me time to focus on what I want to get out of the Business Partner meetings, what I need to come away with, do I need someone to do something, decide something, or agree to take action.
It sounds pretty simple, but the fact is, a lot of us don’t do it. A runner doesn’t do a race without training. A singer doesn’t go on stage without warming up their voice. It could be as little as 20 min per day, and I can confidently say it will make you more effective. I block out 20 mins before my day of calls starts. It keeps the meetings focused and sets me up to succeed.
I read recently that nowadays, skills have a five-year lifespan. So, if we stood still with no investment in our talents, in 5 years time, our peers will have overtaken us. We need to stay fresh. We need to remain relevant.
In a lockdown, I discovered podcasts – they have changed my life. I’ve become so much more self-aware, tackled my confidence gremlins, increased the effectiveness of my own and my team’s 1:1, and learned how to improve how I empower and get the most out of myself and my people. I definitely have noticed those blades on my own saw are sharper!
They are great things to listen to during “dead time”, such as taking the dog for a walk, getting some fresh air at lunch or on the daily commute.
So how can you put these five tips into action? Here are my five ideas for action
Action 2 – Pick a cadence that’s taking a lot of your team’s time. Calculate how much time it is costing you versus the value it is giving you. Conduct a trial period with a lower cadence.
Action 3 – Pick some commentary from your reporting suite and conduct a RAG review
Action 4 – Get those meetings with yourself in the diary. As a starter, aim for ten dailies. Create this space by reducing some other arrangements from 30 mins to 20 mins and 60 mins to 4 5mins
Have you noticed that if you put 30 mins with someone, you use it all, challenge yourself how long it really needs to be?
Action 5 – Listen to podcasts. My favourite one is the Squiggly career by Amazing If.
Watch the recording of the digital UK & Ireland FP&A Circle to hear more insights from Gemma Davie.
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