In 2014, many financial planners and analysts (FP&A) are filling leadership and trusted-advisor roles as partners to the business. This is a great opportunity for professional growth as they play a major role in making sense out of the increasing flood of data bombarding C-level and other decision makers. The importance of this new role was highlighted at a recent FP&A event where GE Healthcare CFO Michael Everson coined a new phrase for the FP&A profession, “Financial Business Partnering,” creating new challenges and opportunities for financial planners and analysts.
Challenges and Responses to the FP&A Professional
1) FP&A professionals are often viewed as being number-crunchers and report producers. The new end game is business partnership. To move into this new, important role FP&A practitioners will need to hone their skills to facilitate the needs of modern business, expand their horizons, take on new challenges, and increase value to their organizations.
2) The goal: become a “decision-support superhero“. Successful planner/analysts already possess the skills that businesses need to analyze data. But, there is a real need to hone the tools and communication skills required to deliver meaningful analysis, quickly and accurately to senior management.
3) Because C-level executives and other decision makers need today’s information today, there is a pressing need to put their fingers on critical information instantaneously. It is not surprising that many senior decision makers use iPads or other devices to gain quick access to data.
4) Decision makers often need to make decisions that have a major impact on future revenues, costs and profits where historic and current data, while helpful, cannot adequately support decisions clouded by uncertainty. In a world of on-demand information, “current” is already old news. What happens next? What happens in five minutes, a month from now, or five years from now?
5) The challenge to planners/analysts as advisors to the business is to develop and adopt processes and tools that turn large amounts of data into information – even when the future is cloudy – that management can understand and deal with, when and where they need it.
FP&A pros often rely on Excel spreadsheets to support many analysis needs – and are probably comfortable with their models. Like many Excel users, however, many users find that dealing with multiple spreadsheets, maintaining consistency, version control and deploying them for use by others is time consuming and adds additional layers of work when preparing analyses, reports and recommendations to your internal customers.