Finance business partnering update

Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 in Business Partnering | No Comments

shutterstock_122895541I thought I would use this blog to update you on how finance partners around the world are getting on in their quest to be trusted and be fully integrated members of the management team. I have just finished running the workshop at the annual CIMA Finance Business Partner academy held in central London. It is the third year I have run the workshop at CIMA’s flagship event and I know some blog subscribers were there when we first started and thought it might be interesting to see if things are changing in the world of the finance business partner.

As usual there was a good cross section of business partners and senior finance leaders from across industries and countries and they were thankfully happy to share their experiences and opinions.

Boring accountants

When I first ran the workshop, business partners talked about how they stuggled to overcome the inherent perception of “the boring accountant”.. Although “the boring accountant” is something stemming from comedy all the way back to Monty Python  some delegates said they still found it hard to be fully accepted and struggled to dispel the myth that finance was “the police” with whom only the basic of information should be shared. The general view of the delegates was that building trust with stakeholders was still a challenge. However there were lots of good examples of ways in which partners have been successful in developing trust. One suggestion was for the business partner to prove how they can add value by trumpeting success stories e.g .one partner explained how he had reduced a £2million mobile phone bill by £900k and made sure the business was aware of the benefits of getting involved with your finance business partner. In other work I have done with clients one partner was highly trusted and valued as a result of taking a nice cake to every group meeting – so it doesn’t always have to involve rocket science!

Time taken up by transactional accounting and budgeting was also a problem many business partners had not been able to get out of. I think this could also be linked to the issue of how the role of finance business partner has been defined and what are its key objectives. It would seem that many business partners work in organisations which have great ERM systems such as Oracle or SAP but for some reason don’t use them to automate the transactional processes more. This is still a major challenge needing to be overcome for many business partners and is like having a Ferrari but never getting out of 1st gear.

Role definition.

This is important as in some organisations the finance partner who has a vague brief and gets involved in everything is in danger of becoming an expensive luxury and vulnerable to removal. My advice here would be to get clarity of your role and also keep a tab of the benefits and savings which you have catalysed in your role as a business partner and let everyone know about them.

Building trust with stakeholders.

Trust is not a given and something that successful partners earn by showing how they can add value. Partners that take the initiative and provide information that is often unexpected but gives a stakeholder a valuable insight gain the most trust. One partner explained how without any demand from the sales team had spent a couple of hours reworking some of the costing information so that the sales team were able to much more clearly understand the contribution from different services. The delighted sales director and team are now forever in the business partners debt.

Communicating with the business.

To communicate well with the business successful business partners need to be fully conversant with their business model. If you can show your understanding of the business model and demonstrate through action how you can improve it your status will rise.

Time

It seems that many business partners were still dragged into month end work limiting their time available to focus on partnering. Those that overcame this barrier had done so by redefining the role and ensuring that the IT systems capabilities were focused on improving transactional accounting automation.

In summary partners achieved success when they showed an interest in what their stakeholders were doing and gave a solution to a problem they were having. They kept things simple often using pictures rather than pages of tables and avoided jargon at all costs.

They were also likely to utilize some of the lessons from influence discussed previously and gained empathy with their business stakeholders by sharing some thing personal about themselves outside work to demonstrate they had a human side. This empathy was further improved by those finance partners who ran inhouse seminars to improve the financial literacy of the non financial staff.

However amongst all the above great examples there were also quite a few organisation in which the role of a finance business partner was still nothing more than a management accountant with a new job title.

To find out more about how wise up now can catlyse change in your finance function contact us  and to communicate informally with finance business partners around the globe why not join the Finance Business Partners discussion group.

 

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