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FP&A Tips: Building Successful Business Partnerships

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 10/19/2015
handsinDENVER – Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) today is increasingly called upon to work closely with business partners to improve the forecasting and planning process and become a more strategic partner to senior management. That cannot work unless finance professionals develop effective teamwork with their operations counterparts, noted Kevin Boyle, CFO of Shale Inland Holdings and Martin Felli, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at JDA Software Group, Monday morning during an FP&A track session at the 2015 AFP Annual Conference.

A quick onsite poll showed that 60 percent of the session’s attendees believe trust is the most important component of effective collaboration and teamwork, followed by communication (40 percent). Talent came in at under 2 percent.

“Trust reduces the back and forth; it makes teams more efficient and effective and drives results more quickly,” Boyle said. He recommended that FP&A professionals find commonalities with their counterparts and really invest time in building relationships with them.

It’s also essential to make connections with operational management so that they let their guard down. “Have an opportunity to establish a foundation,” Felli added. “Create a frame of reference.”
That may be harder today because so many teams are virtual in nature, as companies are spread along regions and business units.  To build trust in virtual teams, “always take five minutes at the start of the conversation,” Boyle advised, to talk about family, weekend activities, etc., to build a rapport. Second, “communicate regularly,” he said, and at prescheduled times. Finally, establish accountability and follow up regularly.

If for some reason trust erodes, there are ways to regain it, the two speakers said. If you’re new, one thing to do is reassure the operating managers that you’re there to help, according to Boyle. And if you’re not new, “communicate your expectations and your promises and find out what they need from you,” added Felli.

In the end, FP&A cannot do its job effectively if it doesn’t nurture healthy relationships with its business partners. The objective is to get and communicate information. The best way to do it is by fostering successful team work.

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