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A recent study from AFP shows that FP&A professionals themselves rank their role as strategic partners as their number one job responsibility. The survey, which looks at various aspects of the FP&A professional’s role and attributes, reveals that almost 70 percent of respondents listed “support senior management teams with in-depth analyses” was their biggest task. In the number two spot, with 68 percent, was "continuing to develop core FP&A processes." Supporting the business units with in-depth analyses came in third. Analyzing trends and monitoring key performance indicators was in fourth place.
The data confirms what FP&A practitioners and AFP have been saying for some time. FP&A is becoming a more important role within the organization—one that requires a new combination of skills and a new mindset. Instead of focusing on technical skills alone, senior managers are looking for staff that can bring both technical acumen and interpersonal, influencing and storytelling skills to the role.
“As the business and financial environments become more volatile, FP&A professionals must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They need to make recommendations to management sometimes based on limited data and be more agile in their responses to business change,” according to a recently released AFP FP&A Guide, Addressing the FP&A Talent Gap.
As part of working closely with management, FP&A teams are also collaborating more with the business. What was once a one-sided relationship is turning increasingly into a two-way street. “I actually got a call from operations; they challenged us to review their process and offer improvement ideas,” said a senior FP&A professional. “They wanted us to run process analysis.”
“The other thing I see in the space of FP&A is the issue of the art of partnership vs. the analytics,” concurred Michael Tzupek, vice president of systems finance at Providence Health & Services. “The latter is easier to do, teach and test, whereas the art of partnership is a social skill that we in the finance space don’t invest enough resources and training in to really help train our people. I think it’s the unspoken challenge when it comes to FP&A.”
This article will appear in an upcoming edition of AFP Exchange.