Most companies have been established with one end goal in mind.
Without value creation eventually there’s no company, hence while there can be a million ways or more to create value, in the end, it’s what’s left on the bottom-line/in the bank that counts. That means all activities in the company should have an aim to either create or preserve value and it’s no less so for the finance function. The Business Partnering Institute is established with the purpose of helping the finance function unleash the value potential it can bring to the company through the concept of Business Partnering. However, to many, Business Partnering remains a fluffy concept surrounded by some confusion i.e. is Business Partnering a job role or is it a mindset? Is Business Partnering for the selected few or for everyone in Finance (and other support functions for that matter)? To address the fluffiness and confusion we’re now launching the “Value Creation Series” where we will share concrete examples of how we have created value with Business Partnering in our careers. We will also collaborate with you to bring your stories to the wider finance community so that we can make it clear to everyone how to create value with Business Partnering.
The story of the USD 4M and the picture on the intranet
Allow us to lead the way by telling the story of how Anders helped two of his business stakeholders reach a savings target of 4 mUSD.
Back in 2013, I was working as a Finance Manager for Maersk Drilling in Houston, Texas. 2012 had been a bad year for the company as two drilling rigs had been out of work and suffered significant extra costs to be brought into a condition where they could start working. That meant that for 2013 everyone was asked to find savings to contribute to a better year and this was especially the case of the four drilling rigs that were being built at a shipyard in South Korea and were now ramping up to begin operations. Each had a start-up budget of 20 mUSD and each was asked to save 2 mUSD. Two of these rigs were bound for Houston and the Rig Managers were already present on the ground getting ready for operations themselves. Being the Finance Manager my team and I was responsible for reporting the numbers monthly and discussing with the Rig Managers what to do to improve performance. One day we were in such a discussion in my office and the conversation turned to how we could reach the savings targets of 2 X 2 mUSD. One of the Rig Managers said why don’t we organize a workshop to discuss? That’s where the Business Partnering started.
Tip 1: In any meeting that you’re in, your business stakeholders will always mention at least a couple of things that you could act on to help them improve performance. It doesn’t even have to be directed at you. Take action and if they were not talking directly to you then it’s about “surprise and deliver”. This helps build trust with your stakeholders.
Immediately I turned to my computer and sent an invite for a workshop to be held in two weeks. In between the meeting and the workshop I spent the time putting the storyline together for why we needed to deliver the savings and structured the format of the workshop as a 30 min intro from me, 45 min brainstorming in two groups and 45 min plenum discussion to agree on which ideas to proceed with. That’s pretty much also how the workshop transpired and it turned out that the people from Operations had plenty of ideas of how to save money during the startup phase.
Tip 2: As a business partner, you’re not necessarily expected to come up with all the ideas yourself. Most often the ideas will come from your business stakeholders, however, your job is to facilitate the ideation process and help various stakeholders and departments collaborate on executing the ideas. That’s why facilitation and collaboration are two of the most important skills of Business Partnering.
After the workshop, my Financial Analyst and I ran the numbers on the ideas and solidified the plan for saving the needed money. We sent the plan off to HQ following approval from the Rig Managers and got the go-ahead to execute the plan. From there it was more about following up on if the expected savings came through. Luckily, they did like a charm.
Tip 3: It’s critical as a business partner that you follow the performance issue from end to end. Don’t just participate in the ideation phase and let the business stakeholders take care of the rest. Don’t just sit and wait for them to come to you with some ideas that you can make a business case on. Don’t just expect them to do all the work and you only banging them on the head when they don’t deliver. As a business partner, you play a crucial role every step of the way. That’s how partnerships are created!
So, we delivered the savings and a complimentary article was written for the company intranet and me and the Rig Managers had our picture taken in a collaborative situation. That’s Business Partnering 101 with a happy ending and tangible value created.
Tell us your story and let’s start Creating Value Together!
We know that there are thousands of stories like this one out there, however, we’ve found that very few tell their story. That means that our business stakeholders and even people within Finance continue to question the value of Business Partnering. Let’s together break this trend by telling our stories of how we’ve created value with Business Partnering. This will also help us understand what are the competencies and best practices needed to succeed with Business Partnering. Are you in? If yes, you can either comment on the article, send Anders a message on LinkedIn, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to tell your story!