Perspectives

Build a competitive edge with Finance Business Partnering

Robust business decisions in challenging times

Finance has great potential to take a more active role in the business decision process and become a partner in building a competitive edge. In a close-knit collaboration with business leads, Finance Business Partners can provide actionable insight and improve performance all-round.

Finance is an indispensable partner of the business in today’s world

Businesses are facing an ever more demanding environment. Critical decisions are often required rapidly in response to unforeseen changes in what is now a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. At the same time, the sheer amount of internal and external data, multiplying on a daily basis, has become, paradoxically, both an opportunity and an ordeal.

The Finance team is in an ideal position to support the business in its search for sound decisions, as it traditionally owns and provides essential decision-making information. CFOs are looking to go beyond timely financial reporting of historical performance and are putting financial experts in the front line.

In today’s world, the pursuit of high value opportunities by Finance teams working side-by-side with the business provides a competitive edge.

Finance Business Partnering is an all-round effort to create value

Finance Business Partners (FBP) improve the performance of a business across the board by identifying levers to optimise current operations or pursuing high value opportunities jointly with the business.

A continuing conversation between FBP and with the business revolves around understanding and anticipating the impact of underlying drivers on business value, which is far more actionable than reiterating forecast variances on a monthly basis.

The role of FBP pairs strong communication and influencing skills with technical and analytical sophistication. Equipped with financial knowledge and a deep understanding of the business, and with insights generated through techniques and technologies such as advanced visualization, scenario modelling and predictive analytics, FBPs can enhance the business decision-making process.

Organisations can maximise the potential of their FBPs when they move up the maturity curve. Once FBPs learn to walk in the shoes of the business and become highly experienced sparring partners, they are truly indispensable to robust decision-making in challenging times.

An experiment at the periphery may be a promising start

Organisations are often absorbed with in-flight transformation and have hurdles to clear for FBP, such as technology limitations, inefficient processes or a lack of appropriate skills and behaviours. It is inadvisable, however, to wait until the perfect ecosystem is in place.

A promising way forward is a pilot or “experiment” with an FBP team at the perimeter of the organisation. Once successful for a select product line or geographic area, FBP is scaled up to other parts of the organisation. FBP can therefore act as a stabilising factor for other ongoing transformation initiatives by providing financial stewardship in the midst of organisational change, helping to drive strategy execution.

For high effectiveness at scale, FBP should eventually be enabled by centralised planning support, report generation and analytics, and through process optimisation and digitisation, so that time can be freed up for value-added activities.

Five steps for successful FBP implementation

We hope this article has inspired you to implement or build out Finance Business Partnering in your organisation. Here are five things leading organisations do:

  1. Prove the concept with a pilot team of FBP – for example, dedicated to a certain country or product, then scale up and adjust your operating model
  2. Identify drivers and levers of value, to define FBP activities and interactions with the Business
  3. Free up time for the FBPs for value-added activities on the frontline, for example with the support of a Centre of Excellence and technology
  4. Develop capabilities, for example by deploying a learning curriculum for communication and influencing, as well as technical and analytical skills
  5. Celebrate team wins and create a buzz in the organisation with stories of jointly created value

Author

Luut de Haan
Deloitte Consulting AG

Luut is a Manager in Deloitte’s Finance & Performance team. He helps clients to prepare for the future of Finance and make robust business decisions in challenging times. Luut has led Finance transformations with an emphasis on Finance strategy, Finance Business Partnering and Centres of Excellence as well as finance process design. Prior to his consulting career, Luut served for 15+ years in finance management positions at life sciences and consumer goods companies.

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