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5 Reasons to Build a Strong FP&A Unit

  • By Marina Theodotou
  • Published: 9/3/2015
teamAt the heart of sound business decision-making is a strong financial planning and analysis (FP&A) function. More than ever, FP&A professionals play an important role in this process. The following are five reasons why a strong FP&A team is a must for any organization focusing on economic growth across industries.

1. The FP&A role is changing fast.

According to John Laschenski, CPA, on the adjunct faculty of the Rochester Institute of Technology, more and more is being demanded of the FP&A professionals. "No longer simply a number cruncher,” Laschenski explained, “the FP&A professional is now expected to be a contributor in driving improvement, enabling the line of business managers and executive teams to make sound decisions and enhancing enterprise value”.

2. Process variation slows down FP&A.

The main functions of FP&A being budgeting, forecasting and financial analysis are critically and increasingly important in fast-moving, growing and competitive markets. Variation in a process is the enemy of efficiency, bearing increased hidden costs and chipping away at value creation. Variation in the FP&A process is no different. Organizations are falling behind due to variation in their internal FP&A processes whereby various and/or inexperienced analysts across locations may use different timelines or processes to do budgeting, forecasting and financial analysis. This increases hidden inefficiency costs to the organization, often times much higher than a few days delay in turning in annual budgets. Organizations with weak FP&A functions find themselves falling behind in agility and efficiency to make sound and swift decisions.

3. A strong FP&A function is good for the bottom line.

The FP&A function can transform from an inefficient cost center to an agile, strategic, value-adding contributor with positive impact on the bottom line. A strong FP&A function consists of analysts with solid FP&A training using the same processes and timelines across locations globally to do budgeting, forecasting, analysis and financial modeling. By minimizing variation in the foundational FP&A processes, the FP&A function can align resources to focus on long-term, value-creating, strategic growth efforts for the organization, including strategic planning, project management, complex financial modeling, risk management and enterprise resource planning.

4. Closing the skills gap in the FP&A function is a must.

The FP&A function can become agile and strategic by identifying the gaps in its FP&A talent. Talent gap identification helps the organization carve a learning strategy to close the gaps and add value to the business lines. Research by Deloitte shows that organizations focusing on and implementing a learning strategy perform better in key business metrics including profitability, time to market, cost cutting, innovation and customer satisfaction. FP&A executives can align with their talent development teams to identify the FP&A function business goals, map the FP&A competencies needed to complete these goals, and assess their team skillsets to identify talent gaps. With a map of the talent gaps, the next step is straightforward.

5. There is light at the end of the FP&A skills tunnel.

To help organizations eliminate process variation and close the skillset gap in the FP&A function, the AFP has created the most comprehensive body of knowledge around FP&A available globally, as well as the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credential. One way to close the skillset gap and prepare for the certification exam is by taking a comprehensive exam prep course offered by several educational providers. The course is intense and immersive, providing students with over 1,000 pages of content across all FP&A key tenets, several practice tips, tools and tests in hard copy books and via an interactive, online tool.

Given the rapidly changing FP&A role, the market need and existing FP&A process variations and skillset gaps, one thing is for sure: organizations that take their FP&A function and talent bench building seriously will find themselves ahead in the economic value creation race.

Marina Theodotou is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Learning Solutions Manager at the American Management Association.

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