Jeff Altman is a marathoner, which may explain his long-run perspective on the changing dynamics of FP&A. He is also the Executive Director, Finance Leadership Development for Verizon, and a member of AFP’s FP&A Advisory Council and thinks a lot about the future of finance. I recently asked Jeff for his thoughts on changes to FP&A brought about by new technology and data.
AFP: You spend a lot of time thinking about “digital culture.” What is that, and why does it matter?
Jeff Altman: Digital Culture is about thinking of today’s tasks in a new light. As technology advances, we have an opportunity to revisit today’s processes to find better, more efficient ways to handle. Understanding the capabilities that are available—whether it is through visualization, analytics, robotics, cognitive computing, just to name a few areas—then identifying where to apply them in the current environment to create a new model going forward… that is a digital culture. Digital culture enables a company to leverage tech tools to more efficiently communicate insights with precision and rapid pace to compete in the digital economy. In addition, increasing a firm’s use of digital to become more effective and efficient enables them to keep operating expenses in-line while still being able to do more with less.
AFP: Do you see the role of FP&A changing, or the tools, or both?
Jeff Altman: Historically, FP&A has been a reporting and forecasting machine. That role is changing, as FP&A needs to be more holistic in its view of the financials. The tools are part of it, as mentioned in digital culture thoughts above, but the mindset needs to be one of thinking how impacts ripple across the company while better analyzing the why behind a firm’s results (not just the what). FP&A capabilities needs to be faster and more flexible to incorporate changes in the external environment.
AFP: What is the last piece of technological capability have you added that has made a significant impact?
Jeff Altman: Visualization through Tableau has been a significant improvement in our Dashboards, and in our ability to highlight key business performance more clearly, providing teams to have more time to get to the root cause of the drivers and not just the output.
AFP: How do individuals learn what they need to know next and make their own digital readiness plan?
Jeff Altman: In Verizon Finance, we are laser focused on ensuring that our employees have access to the tools they need. This includes opportunities/training on digital tool capabilities, and an emphasis from the CFO down on the importance of not just knowing but applying digital to your job. We have a page on our internal web which provides access to a large amount of beginner, intermediate and advanced training (internally developed as well as externally sourced) across the Digital spectrum. In addition, we work with our employees to incorporate use of digital applications into annual performance objectives.
AFP: How do you balance the need to be good today with the need to actively prepare for tomorrow?
Jeff Altman: You just balance. No magic sauce here—you need to do both. There has to be both a short term and long-term focus. You have to just keep pushing the boundaries given your competitors will be doing the same. There is no perfect answer.
How is your digital readiness, and how does it compare with your peers? Complete AFP’s new survey, Your Personal Digital Readiness, to find out.
You can also check out our interactive Roadmap to The Future of Finance to see how you can master the new capabilities and models impacting finance.