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Apliqo Insights: Frankfurt FP&A Board meeting 2019

The seventh FP&A Board Meeting was held in Frankfurt this week. The event brought together 30 Financial Planning and Analytics specialists to discuss some of the biggest trends in the industry.

This week’s meeting focused on FP&A Business Partnering and the key criteria companies need to focus on to establish a proper Business Partnering Team. The meeting began with a general introduction in which the participants shared their own personal experiences with Business Partnering and the best attribute the participants have ever seen of a Business Partner. The results are summarized below:

New ImpressionsTrustful
Business MindsetChallenger
Curious BusinessUnderstanding
ProactiveOpen Minded
CollaborativeValue Creation
ComprehensiveConscious
CompliantEnabling
EntrepreneurTransparency

The outcome of this week’s roundtable showed that a good FP&A Business Partner needs to have a various skillset and that many companies are facing challenges to find all of these in one employee. Due to this it is very important to find the right balance in your FP&A Team.

What are the most critical attributes of an FP&A Business Partner?

Following the introduction, the group clustered the most critical attributes of a Business Partner. The wide variety of critical attributes underlines the fact that companies need to find employees for different roles.

There are multiple examples of the different FP&A Business Partner Roles and during the meeting we discussed the critical roles which were defined by Mark Gandi, Free Agent CFO. This gives a pretty good overview of the challenges companies have to balance the FP&A Team to fulfill the various Business Partnering Requirements.

FP&A Board Business Partnering Maturity Model:

Following the FP&A Roles discussion, Hans Gobin (FP&A Board Facilitator) also shared the Business Partnering Maturity Model which was developed during FP&A Board Meetings around the globe:

Two Practical Examples of Business Partnering:

This week’s board meeting also featured two inspiring presentations about the FP&A Business Partnering experiences from Johan Martinsson, Finance Director, Allergan and Tim Adolphs, CFO Technical Operations, Stada Arzneimittel.

Johan talked about his Business Partnering experience in different roles and highlighted that the setup of the company is an important element of how to best build the Business Partnering Team. He also summarized the characteristic of strong Business Partner (Curious, Good with numbers, Excel and PPT, Good at storytelling, External focus, Earn their seat at the table). At the end of his presentation he talked about what Business Partnering requires from Line Managers (Recognize that it is expensive, Provide right tools, Provide coaching, Allow for BP to shine, give credit where credit is due, Set clear goals and objectives, Frequent development discussions).

Tim talked about his understanding of the drivers for good FP&A Business Partnering. In his view it starts with Business Understanding and Relationship Building to generate Trust (Credibility and Reliability). Once the Business partnering Team is successful in this process, they can reach the goal of value creation in the organization. The main Business Partnering focus areas at Stada are: Strengthening the Business Partner Concept, Introduction of a new reporting system, Upskilling/ Talent-upgrade ongoing.

Group Work

Following these presentations, the meeting’s participants partook in group workshops where they worked on the following questions:

The key barriers to effective FP&A Business Partnering ModelThe key steps in implementing effective FP&A Business Partnering Model
Organization – Lack of commitment from organizationVision to implement Business Partnering
Organization – Missing link to top managementStakeholder (Management Support)
Organization – Communication and TransparencySystem (Evaluation and Implementation – Reporting and Planning)
People / Organization – Development barriers (individuals or missing programs)Funding (Commitment to investments)
People – People not open to moveTarget Model (Define Reporting and Planning Model)
People – Missing Business KnowledgeMindset Organization (Open to Change)
People – Right people (intern or extern) 
People – Lack of passion 
People – Finance Experts missing Business Language 
People – Mindset (Number cruncher) 
System – System barriers (BI and Planning Tool, Clean Data) 

Apliqo’s Experience with Customers: A Practical Way To Implement Business Partnering

To conclude the meeting, Apliqo shared its experience and tips on practical ways for businesses to implement Business Partnering:

Awareness: Requires a deliverable and intentional effort – Companies and their Finance Departments need to be aware that the change to a Business Partnering culture requires a deliverable and intentional effort and commitment from the top management.

Awareness: Individual Responsible for development – For many Finance employees the change to Business Partnering is a challenge because of various reasons. Once a company wants to change the culture the Finance Management needs to make the team aware of their responsibility to further develop during their career. Following areas are important for everyone: become a Student of Analysis, maintain a portfolio/library of Analytical Works, Credibility and Objectivity, Volunteer to Work on Analytical Projects, become a better communicator/presenter and develop a business perspective.

Assessment: Talent and Organizations – Despite the fact that many organizations struggle to find internally all resources for a Business Partnering Team, the company should assess at the beginning the skillset of their talents in the organization and identify the skillset gap.

Assessment: Client Survey – Additionally to the personal review with potential Business Partnering team members, it is also helpful to get feedback from the organization (internal clients) of the FP&A Department. Ask your internal clients about the strengths and weaknesses of the FP&A Department and use this feedback to build a proper team.

Improve Mindset: Business vs Finance – One of the most important targets is to push the Finance Team to a more business-oriented mindset. One of the key success criteria is, that the team can translate Finance into Business Language. People outside of finance – despite the management level – struggle with Finance terminology and there is a duty to explain results in a Business Jargon.

Improve Team: Communication and Delivery Skills – The Business Partner Team need to understand that 80% of the Value of Analysis is in the delivery. A good Business Partner needs to put effort into effective communication results (know your audience, use business vs. accounting jargon, data visualization – a picture is worth a thousand words, summarize key findings, future implications and takeaways, offer recommended actions and alternatives).

Build Team: Acquire or develop skills for effective Business Partnering – After a company finishes the assessment process a decision is required on how to best build the team. Are there enough internal resources that are fulfilling the different roles like Architect, Analyst, Storyteller, Influencer or do the company need to acquire the skillset from outside of the company?

Review: Track progress monitor and adapt – Similar to many other business areas once a company defined the Business Partnering Team it is important to track the progress and adapt if agreed targets are not achieved.

This week’s event was hosted and sponsored by FP&A partners Apliqo and Robert Half.

Here is the link to the next FP&A Board Meeting in London: FP&A Board Meeting in London


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