If you had to draft an all-star FP&A team, who would you recruit? What types of players would fill the positions on your team and what skills would they need to have?
No longer can an FP&A team rely solely on one type of player. FP&A teams must diversify their player roster to not only tackle the variety of business issues CFOs expect them to conquer, but also to manage the digital transformation impacting their companies. Do you have an all-star FP&A team that can work together to tackle these business challenges while coping with accelerating technology trends? Check out the recommended draft picks below for your FP&A team.
- FP&A professionals: These should be your main recruits for your FP&A team. Budgeting, forecasting and reporting is their specialty and this will never go away as the core responsibility of the FP&A team. These players have significant FP&A experience and an AFP FP&A certification. They can manage a multimillion dollar budget and ensure revenue and expenses are on target with annual goals over the fiscal year by collaborating with the business partners who own this budget. They can implement a long-range plan, zero-based budgeting, or a rolling forecast without breaking a sweat. The core of your all-star team will be trained, experienced FP&A professionals along with those rookies—accounting and finance undergraduates or MBA graduates—that you recruit from strong business programs to train on FP&A.
- Accountants: Yes, your FP&A team interacts regularly with your accounting teams, but it doesn’t hurt to recruit a few accountants who want to transition off a controller career path to join FP&A. Accountants will provide best practices to improve how the FP&A team collaborates with the accounting team to hasten the monthly close process. Accountants can expose financial modeling mistakes that are not adhering to GAAP or IFRS accounting guidance. Accountants also are well-versed in identifying risks that should be highlighted when working with audit teams or investor relations. Hiring a few accountants to join your FP&A team will benefit all your team members, who may not have a CPA or strong accounting background.
- Go-to-market (“GTM”) experts: Former operations experts with sales, marketing and product experience can round out your technical finance and accounting team members. These GTM experts, of course, will need to ramp up the finance and accounting skills needed to become FP&A professionals, but do not underestimate what these general management teammates can do. Often transitioning from MBA school or management consulting positions, GTM experts have experience tackling quantitative and analytical business problems that have cross-functional impact beyond budgeting, forecasting and reporting—pricing models, country planning, post-merger integration, sales productivity, etc. They also often come with strong cross-functional collaboration skills that can be leveraged when partnering with the business.
- Systems specialists: Depending on your access to your IT team and their experience with finance solutions, your FP&A roster may need a systems specialist, or at least a FP&A professional with systems know-how. Today’s FP&A team needs to understand where data is being pulled, how the data is being structured, and how frequently the data is being updated to be able to understand the impact to their business models. It is not enough to just trust your Excel models were built with calculations that are correct. FP&A teams need to ensure the data being pulled is optimized from the source systems. And, those source systems will be varied—enterprise resource planning (your general ledger system), enterprise performance management (your planning system), customer relationship management (your sales system), your human resource information system (your headcount and compensation source), etc.
- Data scientists: Why would a FP&A team need a data scientist? Recruiting a data scientist may not make sense for your FP&A team if you’re not on a Fortune 2000 roster. However, the more systems your company relies on and the larger your organization is, the more data—both structured and unstructured—your company is ingesting and relying upon to make business decisions. Go to LinkedIn and search for “data scientist” and you will see that more finance and operations teams are recruiting data scientists to join. According to a LinkedIn study published in Forbes last year, data scientist roles have grown over 650 percent since 2012, but currently only 35K people in the US are qualified data scientists, while hundreds of companies are recruiting for these roles.
Very rarely can one player be an all-star and cover multiple positions equally on a given team. Training can help broaden a player’s capabilities to cover different positions, but in the end, a smart coach will recruit players with diverse skillsets to form an all-star team. Always ensure you have a strong core of FP&A professionals, but do not forget to recruit your special team members. Accountants, GTM experts, systems specialists and data scientists are needed on FP&A teams that are tackling cross-functional business problems and dealing with accelerating digital transformation technology trends.
Good luck with your FP&A draft picks!
Meredith Hobik is a former director and finance transformation specialist with Anaplan and Salesforce. Reach her at Meredith.firstname.lastname@example.org.