In our research and in conversations with Mark Gandy (teacher, mentor and growth specialist) we have found that there are 5 critical FP&A TEAM roles:
- The Architect *
- The Data Scientist
- The Analyst *
- The Story Teller *
- The Influencer
At the Digital FP&A Circle, we covered the following topics:
- FP&A team roles
- How to build synergistic FP&A teams?
- How technology can enhance FP&A teams?
- How to adapt FP&A teams to the “New Normal”?
- How to motivate remote and multicultural teams?
- What are the latest trends in FP&A recruitment?
FP&A Team Roles
FP&A teams should not consist only of finance professionals. The roles with marked with an ‘*’ should be considered to be the minimum requirements of an FP&A team.
The Analyst is one that we have always had, but the other roles may well be new to FP&A.
According to Hans Gobin, International FP&A Board Ambassador
- around 25-30% of FP&A Board members have the Data Scientist role
- by having an FP&A Architect, his company was able to reduce its dependence on IT from 100% to around 10%
- for many people Data Scientist, Architect and Influencer are revolutionary roles but they are essential if FP&A are to become an effective team
At the beginning of the Digital FP&A Circle, we conducted a quick poll to see what was the favourite role that our FP&A Circle members like to play. It was surprising to see that the data scientist and architect roles are not well represented – but they are the new roles.
How to Build Synergistic FP&A Teams?
After the discussion on 5 FP&A team roles, Maria Olsson, FP&A Transformation Lead at ConvaTec, explained what is needed for a synergistic team.
The life of an FP&A professional is to tell the story of performance to inform and drive better decisions. To communicate insights effectively, we need to build an information highway throughout the organization.
- We create processes to collect the data and then sift out the noise.
- Once we have tentative findings we can then test various hypotheses
- We can then distil these into a clear picture of what is going on - pictures are the best form of communication as the brain and mind are visual.
- From this we can start conversations.
It's easy to see the wide range of skills needed. Analysts, architects, data scientists and influencers. Unless these people work together, we will not get a synergetic team.
A synergetic team is one where everyone works together in such a way that they leverage each other's strengths. In an unconstrained way, the sum of each of them gets increasingly greater than the sum of the parts.
Synergistic teams are built by understanding where people best fit into the team. The biggest drivers of productivity have always come when people have purpose and are allowed to be creative.
It is important to note that there are also some barriers to team synergy (see the results of the poll below). According to the second Digital FP&A Circle poll, the majority of people think that the lack of alignment around the goals is the biggest barrier. Goals need to be clearly communicated down the organisation. Having different mindsets is like having different goals.
How to Motivate Remote and Multicultural Teams?
Will Ingles, FP&A Director, Avon, the third speaker at the Digital FP&A Circle, shared his insights on team motivation. Motivation is key. You need to engage and communicate even more than you did before.
There are several important recommendations to follow to keep spirits high.
- Be conscious of cross-cultural sensitive. Culture is often very different around the world and can reveal itself in different management styles and what is acceptable. For example, in some countries it is OK to take a nap at a desk, while others seem always to be relaxed even in a time of crisis.
- Be aware of the tools/infrastructure our teams need. With the current crisis where travel is not possible technology becomes an integral part of work routine. Do your team have laptops, reliable internet connections, etc. Can large files be set by email? Have they worked at home before? The “new normal” is going to be working from home and social distancing. In this environment our staff need to know how to present over the internet.
- Be a human being. This is the key to management. Provide empathy, give advice, be aware of personal situations, don’t’ overload on meetings - always keep that personal touch. For example, in Will’s company on Fridays they have a virtual pub lunch – they don’t talk about work but get to know each other.
- Be ready to change the way your team communicate. Do you use Zoom, WhatsApp, etc.? We need to constantly get feedback on what works best for the team.
How to Adapt FP&A Teams to the “New Normal”?
Working at home means people spend more time with their families which can lead to more happy employees. But there are still some remote work challenges that should be considered:
Justine O’Toole, VP Global FP&A, Beam Suntory, explained what has changed for FP&A and how teams can adapt to these changes.
There is one consistent thing in this “new normal” – uncertainty and volatility in business performance. Scenario Planning has become essential. From an FP&A perspective, the “new normal” means that what we've done in the past might not necessarily work right now:
- Business processes – reconsider how we plan
- Business indicators – look at new indicators driven by consumer shifts
- Resources – change the way we allocate resources
- Analytics – understand that history is not necessarily a good guide for the future
Adapting teams to the “new normal” means prioritising what we were already planning to do:
- Creativity in rethinking our planning processes and understanding different business drivers with our constantly changing customer and consumer needs.
- Commercial curiosity and business acumen, when we think about things like resource allocations and doing things fundamentally different from how we've done them in the past.
- Commitment and resilience – the “new normal” has increased workload. We need strong commitment teams who are resilient. Consider getting outside resilience training for teams.
- Trust. There are some really tough, trade-off decisions to be made, so integrity of the team and trust in all areas is vital.
The current situation has revealed some stars and hidden talents, although some have found it challenging.
How Technology Can Enhance FP&A Teams?
Without technology, many of us would not be able to do our job. Therefore, you need to look at what you have and see what you need to make your teams more efficient. FP&A should aim for a unified data set. In his presentation, Alistair Gurney, Group FP&A Director, Unit4, shared some benefits of the technology use:
- Easier collaboration
- More trust
- Quick answers
- More time to spend on higher value things
By using the same version of the truth at any one time, you save a lot of time and you don’t get involved in protracted conversations as to who has the right numbers. Steps in getting there are:
- Define your needs
- Keep the applications simple – don’t overload with functionality
- Enforce adoption – systems get ‘rusty’ if under-utilised; more users means more ideas for future developments
Most of the FP&A Circle members already use or plan to implement a modern collaborative technology for FP&A (see the results of the poll below). It’s interesting to see that 12% have no plans to implement collaborative technology at a time when people are working more and more remotely.
What are the Latest Trends in FP&A Recruitment?
At the end of the first Digital FP&A Circle, we looked into the FP&A recruitment process. Jonathan Firth, MD London & South, Michael Page, shared some trends that Michael Page see for FP&A:
- Two-tiered departments made up of accountants and data analysts who produce models, dashboards etc.
- Qualified accountants are still required to interpret the data, to present, back to, and influence the business. These accountants are expected to understand data structures, how to handle big data, et cetera, but they still seem to need to come from that accounting background. Even someone with an MBA very rarely chosen by departments at the moment.
- Some big companies are building data analysis teams that go across the organisation, however, IT often have the biggest influence on these teams and so, it's not always the perfect solution for FP&A.
- Some SME's tend to go for a junior data person, but then have the problem of needing them to take an accounting qualification in order to keep their career going.
The main challenge facing FP&A at the moment is to explain why things are happening. So, the storyteller and influencer will increase in importance despite any robotics that may come in. As a result, FP&A is the perfect training to be a modern finance director.
In the future FP&A departments may have to stretch, adapt, and open up the type of skills and backgrounds they recruit. In 2019, 68%, of employees struggled to secure the right skills, and even up to January 2020, Gartner declared that staff shortages have become the top emerging risks facing organizations globally.
In recruiting new staff, it’s worth taking note of a survey conducted by PWC in 2019. The survey concluded that your firm's culture and the experience you provide people in the interview process is the main differentiator for securing them, or not.
So, what does your recruitment process say about your organisation?
Conclusions and Recommendations
Research by Carnegie Institute of Technology found that:
“85% of financial success is due to skills in human engineering, your personality, your ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Secondly, only 15% is you to technical knowledge.”