The Second Digital North American FP&A Board was held on the 27th of October 2020. We had five great presentations on the subject of “Building Winning FP&A Teams”, delivered by a truly international board panel based in the US, Canada and Europe.
What are the FP&A Critical roles at Nielsen?
Alban De Vatteville, VP Finance & FP&A Leader Global Connect at Nielsen, shared with us his vision of how FP&A should be set up and how technology is a key driver.
FP&A team structure is moving from having a few superstars, who would have been experts in everything, to a superstar team of specialists with different defined roles.
Multiple data sets from multiple sources (ERP, CRM, SRM, supply chain, client, supplier and external data, etc.) and the expectation of being able to use these data as live as much as possible, has also helped fuel this change.
The FP&A team in Nielsen is now split into Group 10%, Geographies 50% and Business Intel 40%. The specialist roles are split between Data Specialists who sit within the Business Intel Team and Business Interpreters who sit mostly in business and drive value from the data provided. Each role requires a different skillset and with the right mix, one can drive the FP&A and organisation forward.
Our first poll was on the most important FP&A role for the organisation. The softer skills were much more prominent at 64% which highlighted the huge potential that still exists through skills in the Analyst /Architect / Data Scientist area.
Building Synergistic Teams at Solera
Paul Barnhurst, Director of FP&A, Dealer and Aftermarket Division at Solera, started off by looking at what synergy meant to him and his team. Paul went on to elaborate on the 4 key aspects of building an effective and synergistic team:
- Understanding skills required for team
- Provide freedom to learn and fail
- Establish high expectations and clear objectives
- Build trust and respect
It is crucial to manage team performance no matter how far you are in the team-building process and Paul is using “the four stages of team performance” (slide below) and the boys scout EDGE principle to achieve this. The EDGE principle stands for Explaining / Demonstrating / Guiding / Enabling and can be used as follows: forming stages – explaining/storming stage – demonstrating/norming stage – guiding and performing stage – enabling.
Our second poll looked at the biggest barrier to team synergy. It showed that the majority (39%) was due to lack of alignment around goals. We have goals for ourselves that sometimes do not align with organisational goals. It is very important for leaders to agree and align the goals and communicate these to the teams. Through better communication and understanding of the goals, leaders can help improve the other pain points on the polls as well.
Adapting FP&A Teams at Kruger Products
Ron Monteiro, Corporate (Senior) Director of Finance at Kruger Products, shared with us how FP&A at Kruger reacted positively to the pandemic. They changed the following:
- Forecasting – changed to a faster and higher-level process enabling the S&M, Supply Chain and other BU’s to concentrate on getting much-needed products to customers
- Budgeting – scenario-based approach (macro assumptions the organisation wanted to align on and the scenarios they wanted to pivot on)
- SKU rationalisation – dramatic reduction in the number of SKU’s and increased milling efficiency and profitability which is being carried forward into business as usual
- Thinking outside of the box – global hiring for the first time.
During these times of crisis, there are always opportunities. With a broad skillset, FP&A leaders should help organisations and teams to thrive. The 4 key areas FP&A leaders must address in uncertain situation are shared below
Our third poll highlighted the challenges of remote working with 25% feeling lonely and lack of human interaction and more surprising that 38% felt there were communication issues. Leaders are managing these challenges by using informal chat tools, buddying up with people to ensure team members have someone to talk to. Also, leaders should ensure that they address the “working too much” issue.
Using technology to build winning FP&A teams
In his presentation, Pras Chatterjee, Senior Director at SAP, shared with us the key points of the recent FP&A Trends Empowerment Survey:
- 31% say FP&A is not viewed as strategic
- 74% time spent on data gathering
- 63% most communication conducted via email
Pras then went on to talk about having the basics in place: 1) cloud-based planning which is owned by finance; 2) analytics built in the tool to tell better stories and 3) collaboration.
Predictive Planning is key going forward. It can predict scenarios with machine learning, uncover hidden insights with ml and simulate various outcomes whenever we want.
Finally, FP&A also needs to align plans with technology so that they have enterprise-wide planning which can respond to any market disruption and much more importantly take decision making to that next level.
The final poll, which looked at the use of modern collaborative technology, surprisingly showed that only 31% of companies use it. Encouragingly 46% are planning to implement this technology. However, 23% do not intend to implement it which is worrying. It may be because of lack of resources and no proper ROI done. FP&A leaders should educate management about the benefits.
What does FP&A recruitment look like in the New Normal?
Jason Flanders, Global Executive Director at Robert Half, shared with us what the market is like now, skills in demand, and the key trends.
The Current market
- The national average unemployment rate currently running at 7.9% but only 2.8% for finance.
- Projected job growth 2019-2029 averaging at 4% but 15% for finance.
- Finding skilled candidates is challenging.
- Companies are worried about retention.
- Hiring process is changing.
In times of uncertainties, special importance must be given to the recruitment of new teams. As FP&A leaders, we must ensure measures are in place for teams to carry on being synergistic and that their welfare and morale are kept high and skillsets reflect the changing world. We also need to use technology whenever and wherever possible to ensure the best team performance.
We would like to thank our global sponsors and partners SAP and Robert Half, for their great support with the second North American Digital FP&A Board.
Also, we are very grateful to our panel of experts for delivering great presentations and insights and to the FP&A Board attendees!