Elevating Finance Knowledge for Non-Financial Partners

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 3/16/2023
Finance Charts

When the Head of FP&A first arrived at an air navigation services company, he was tasked with re-energizing an FP&A function that had diminishing influence. By taking a proactive approach to demonstrating FP&A’s capabilities and raising the financial acumen of non-finance teams, he restored FP&A’s role as a business partner.

The AFP FP&A Case Study series is designed to help you build up key FP&A capabilities and skills by sharing examples of how leading practitioners have tackled challenges in their work and the lessons learned.

Presented at an AFP Advisory Council Meeting, this case study contains elements that are anonymized to maintain privacy and encourage open discussion.

Insight: By raising the financial knowledge of the organization, FP&A raises its own stature at the same time.

Company Size: Medium
Industry: Aviation/Governmental
Geography: Regional
FP&A Maturity Model: Business Partnership, Communication

Business Partnering: Finance works closely with the business as a highly credible, trusted advisor to add value to strategic and operational decisions.

Communication: Finance has frequent, clear communication with the business, presents persuasively, and leads with insight that is supported by strong analysis and is based on consistent data and presentation.

Background: General Information About the Company

The company is a quasi-governmental agency with multiple strategic objectives, including:

  • Becoming a high-performance company conforming to international standards.
  • Investing in local talent to bolster capabilities.
  • Implementing new and proactive methodologies in the field of safety.
  • Providing services to its clients in line with the highest standards.
  • Achieving financial and administrative independence.

This case study was presented by the Head of FP&A who joined the company during the pandemic, in the spring of 2021.

Challenge: The Work or Difficulty FP&A Had to Address

FP&A was experiencing diminishing influence in the organization, which in turn led to diminished financial knowledge throughout the organization (e.g., human resources, supply chain, engineering, air traffic controllers, etc.). This threatened the FP&A team’s ability to meet its objectives.

Causes and symptoms of this challenge included:

  • FP&A working in silos. Before, FP&A did not engage with other departments, and as such, they did not perform many business partner activities.
  • Lack of proper communication and knowledge sharing with other departments.
  • FP&A capabilities and skills not utilized in an optimal way.
  • Core FP&A responsibility taken out of FP&A department. Sub-optimal decisions from previous FP&A management disempowered the FP&A team to the point where financial planning, the annual business plan and strategic long-term planning were not being performed by FP&A.

Approach: How FP&A Addressed the Challenge

Part 1: Re-Energize FP&A and Restore Its Role

The Head of FP&A approached the challenge in two parts. Part one was to re-energize FP&A and restore its role in the organization. His goal was for finance to recover the annual business plan back to its domain and, partnering with the strategy department, engage heavily in the long-term plan.

To accomplish this, FP&A needed to demonstrate confidence, capability and dependability. At the start of the exercise of the annual business plan, the Head of FP&A, along with the FP&A team, stepped into the process and teamed up with the strategy team.

As the budget progressed, it was clear to management that the FP&A team had a deep understanding when it came to the details of the business and how to integrate those details. FP&A was able to demonstrate high-quality work in aligning with top management on financial results, gathering top management for meetings, preparing the financial model, preparing analytical reports, and conducting and establishing the alignment meetings with all the departments. Gradually, more and more of the annual business plan was moved back to FP&A.

Part 2: Raise the Financial Acumen of Non-Finance Teams

The second milestone was to share financial knowledge with the non-finance teams and empower the organization to have full awareness of the financial information. To accomplish this, the Head of FP&A created a training that was customized to knowledge that is relevant to the aviation business.

The FP&A team laid out clear objectives for the training ahead of time and partnered with HR to make it happen. It took the team 280+ hours of preparation, over the course of six to seven months, to create the training materials in alignment with the CFO, without reliance on external materials.

The training was conducted in person through five sessions at the company’s premises. Each session lasted three hours and had 15 to 25 people. The Head of FP&A, a Section Head within FP&A and a finance professional with a master’s degree in finance served as the trainers.

The content of the training was a mix of conceptual information, such as OpEx versus CapEx, and topics involving financial figures, such as the implication that a transaction for acquiring an asset has on the financial statement. Because the trainers were presenting case studies based on actual financial results, attendees could see how their actions had an impact on financial decisions and the related outcomes.

Outcome: What Came of FP&A’s Efforts and What Was Learned

Feedback from attendees was very positive, with 91% giving it four or five stars out of five. The entire C-suite attended the sessions and expressed tremendous support and enthusiasm. The only people who gave an “unsatisfactory” rating were those who wanted more time and content, which was a positive sign of their interest.

Those thinking about designing their own training should consider including these key elements in an evaluation sheet:

  • Overall quality of training material.
  • The objectives of the training were clearly defined.
  • The training department was supportive and cooperative.
  • The meeting room and facilities were adequate and comfortable.
  • Knowledge retained from the course is useful/related to my job.
  • The trainer has conducted multiple exercises and case studies.
  • The trainer was able to use training modes and aids effectively.
  • The trainer was knowledgeable about the training topics.
  • The time allotted for the training was sufficient.
  • The trainer was able to control and manage the training session.

Since the training, the finance team has noticed, through the year-end closing and monthly department forecast reviews, an improvement in finance understanding from non-finance teams that results in more sophisticated conversations and better business outcomes. The causes and challenges mentioned above have been completely turned around:

  • Instead of working in silos, FP&A is directly engaging with the business and forming strong relationships.
  • The business understands the role and expertise of FP&A and invites them into operational discussions.
  • FP&A has moved beyond financial reporting to decision support and bringing its financial acumen directly to the business.
  • Core responsibilities such as ownership of the budget and operating plan have been restored to FP&A which has the skills, organization and relationship to deliver this key function.

The CEO also expressed a desire to continue the training and increase the allotted time from three hours to six hours, which will allow the trainers to enrich the materials with more exercises and case studies. Going forward, FP&A will focus on training more people, identifying weak points to improve and business partnering with the departments.

Build up key FP&A capabilities and skills with AFP’s FP&A Maturity Model, a roadmap to help you and your team become leading practitioners.

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