One of the most important elements for FP&A professionals at any stage of their career is the strength of their business partnerships. The nature of this relationship ultimately determines one’s ability to influence and impact the performance of the business.
The job of an FP&A professional is to get the right data, analyze that data, determine what action to take based upon the data, and finally drive others to take action based upon these three steps.
Too often, I see financial analysts get stuck in the first couple of steps evaluating data, satisfied that they have the numbers, proudly presenting them with vigor, only to confront decision makers that are not influenced to action. This happens because the decision makers are swimming in a sea of data, and they will only listen to the person who can provide convincing direction to shore.
For financial analysts the root cause of their shortcoming is often the pyrrhic victory of a hard day or week of work to just get the data clean and presentable. FP&A management needs to set clear expectations on the finance team’s value-add, but also needs to be on the alert to ensure the team has the training and experience to actually add value. Put another way, effective analysts cannot just crunch numbers; they need to bring unique insight to the table.
I like to think that great analysis manifests itself in a clear “punch-list” or actions I want my business partner to take:
- When putting ideas to paper and specifying the actions to take, you may often find faults or gaps in your own line of thought.
- Your partner may find your data, analysis, and recom-mended steps so compelling they simply march to your action list.
As may often be the case, the clarity of analysis allows management, with their experience and training, to poke holes and arrive at a better result because you have made it easy to do so. In a world where time often is the scarcest commodity, the ability to quickly help your business partner understand the issue and potential solution allows everyone a greater chance to succeed.
Where the business relationship eventually ends up is based upon the quality of insight and direction provided, and the results achieved. This seems like common sense, but clarity of action is hard to achieve.
This brings me to my final point. I would argue that our job as FP&A professionals is to develop the business partnerships to the point that they no longer “need” finance’s help to make great choices. We should strive to make the data, analysis, and insight readily digestible by our business partners and, as business is constantly changing, this process is an endless investment. My goal is to enable my business partners to arrive at great decisions. I do not think I will run out of opportunities to be one of the voices of wisdom in the room and enjoy the gratification of driving action.
Having said that, I truly enjoy seeing partners arrive at great decisions without having “said” a word. If I have done my job working with my business partner, the investment was made long before the key decision was needed.
Michael Trzupek, is Senior Director, Finance Operations, Microsoft Corporation