The finance platform-driven process transformation of FP&A
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Ask not what’s possible, but how to make it happen. It’s time we change that mantra for financial planning and analysis professionals. Because if you can imagine it, then technology makes it possible. Let’s make that clear with a few examples.
Imagine you want to have a fully automated forecast of your financials. That’s already possible with today’s technology using machine learning. Imagine you want a management report that writes itself. That’s also possible through natural language processing.
Considering these examples could make us think of a completely different way to transform the finance function and the FP&A team. Instead of incremental process and technology changes look at the leading finance platforms and ask what possibilities they enable.
From “we want to” to “how do we implement”
It’s unlikely that any single finance or FP&A team can think of the greatest solution to any challenges faced. Instead, leadership teams should reach out to those that see these challenges across industries and geographies. These advisors have historically been consulting companies like the Big 4 and similar who are in sync with the main challenges facing finance teams.
However, as work in businesses and the finance function becomes more technology-driven an alternative is emerging. Instead of looking solely towards the consultants, you should look to the platform providers. They are at the leading edge of technology and can not only tell you what’s possible but also how to make this happen.
Traditionally, finance leaders would make statements like “we want to shorten the month-end close process by two days” or “we want to create a data warehouse and make data easily available to all stakeholders”. Those are of course good aspirations to have. However, these aspirations may not make you significantly better vs. the competition or satisfy the requirements of the business you support.
Rather than trying to pre-define your goal why not ask the platform provider “what’s the shortest possible month-end process we could run” or “what’s the most efficient way of making data available to all stakeholders”. They know the answer for sure and it will be a much better starting point for any finance transformation.
Our processes are not geared toward a step-change
I know already what question or objection you’d add to this proposal. “Our processes are not geared to such a step- change”. From my point of view, it’s the wrong question though. Instead, ask “what would have to be true to realize the best possible outcome from a technological perspective?” This would leave you with many questions to answer but nonetheless a practical plan for moving forward. The questions could be like below.
- What investments would be required to upgrade the platform?
- How many resources (time and specific people) would be we need to dedicate to the project
- How will we transition from the old process landscape to a new one?
- How must our people act to enable a successful transformation
- How will we keep the business running while we enable the transformation?
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but indeed tangible questions to answer. It’s a tangible way forward to a technology and finance platform-driven process transformation of Finance and FP&A. It should be clear to you now that anything is possible and that your job is to remove barriers to making it happen rather than standing in the way of the change.
What’s your approach to transforming planning and analysis? Are you asking “we want to” or “how do we implement” questions? The difference between the two can be, well, transformative. Change your perspective on process transformation in Finance today and make your transformation much more successful!
Credits: This blog is written by Anders Liu-Lindberg.
Anders Liu-Lindberg is the co-founder and a partner at the Business Partnering Institute and the owner of the largest group dedicated to Finance Business Partnering on LinkedIn with more than 11,000 members. I have ten years of experience as a business partner at the global transport and logistics company Maersk. I am the co-author of the book “Create Value as a Finance Business Partner” and a long-time Finance Blogger on LinkedIn with 120,000+ followers and 200,000+ subscribers to my blog. I am also an advisory board member at Born Capital where I help identify and grow the next big thing in #CFOTech. Finally, I’m a member of the board of directors at PACE – Profitability Analytics Center of Excellence where I support the development of new analytics frameworks that can improve profitability in companies around the world.