Finance business partners are dubbed as the new black in Finance lately. Every transformation effort in the finance function is aimed at empowering these guys and gals to do a stellar job and help the frontline add value to the company. However, it got me into quite a bit of trouble saying that accountants were an endangered species and not everyone was convinced that finance should be an analytics powerhouse. So, let’s start this post with putting things into perspective. If I do a random search on LinkedIn for jobs in the US, I get roughly 17,000 open jobs looking for an accountant of some sort, but only 100 open finance business partner jobs. If I change the search criteria to say, “business finance” I do get more than 4,000, but still well below the 17,000. So while the trend indicates that finance is changing to do less transactional tasks and more value adding stuff then my unscientific survey indicates that accountants are still very much alive and well.
You the finance business partner
Now continuing the series about the finance transformation nine box where we have transformed the finance function from bean counters to business partners we need to look closer at you the finance business partner. Last week we discussed what finance business partnering really is, but what should you actually do when you start in a finance business partner role? Here are 7 tips to the new finance business partner.
- Start by getting to know your stakeholders. To be an effective finance business partner, you need to manage all your stakeholders well so you need to develop an in-depth understanding of them early on.
- Challenge the current numbers. The fast track to failure as a finance business partner is presenting wrong numbers or analyses to the business. Start by reviewing the data flows to see if there is a high degree of transparency and if the numbers are generally understood and accepted by the business
- Learn about the business. If you don’t know the business well already start by spending time in the frontline. If you are part of an international company go see how your company works in other parts of the world.
- Pick your best humble attitude. If you want to get buy-in from the business you need to recognize and communicate that finance is a support function and that you are not here to run the business. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge the business by any means, but simply that you are only successful if the business is successful.
- Insist on getting out from your desk and get together with the business. There is much debate about reporting lines for finance business partners (business leaders vs. the finance function), but no matter what you need to spend as much time with the business as possible. Physically sit with them a couple of times a week so you can develop a good relationship with them.
- Don’t panic about creating results from day 1 all on your own. Finance business partners are expected to deliver value, but you do so by facilitating and communicating as well as analyzing how the business runs. The business will create the results, but you need to give them a gentle nod.
- Don’t ask frontline managers what you can help them with. You are expected to figure this one out on your own most of the time. You do so by participating in meetings and talking with the business and picking up on what’s said between lines. Frontline managers will be quite impressed if you can “read” their minds.
You are the new face of finance
As the finance business partner, you are expected to take charge of finance and give it a good image amongst frontline managers. Finance is their partner and someone they can count on to help deliver business results. They are no longer just naysayers who don’t have the slightest idea the business and what the frontline managers are doing. Finance now wants to be part of the business and the finance business partner needs to take them there. It’s a tall order, but you can find a bit of comfort in the fact that most companies still haven’t managed to get the desired value out of the business partner concept. That means you have a great chance of surprising and impressing both the CFO and the frontline. I’ll post some more tips about how to be a great finance business partner below, but for now stop reading and get out there and explore the business, add some value and become a successful finance business partner!
Let me know what you think about the finance business partner concept? Have you seen it be a success?