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The Missing Link in Finance Business Partnering Assignment
The concept of business partnering is more than two decades old and till now employees, at all levels, have not fully understood the fundamental point of Business Partnering roles. Even the companies which consider themselves ahead of the curve on implementing business partnering and have produced tons of reading material & presentations to make business partnering more effective have only thought of the functional and operational elements of business partnering role. At the end of the day, our business partners are the ultimate judge of the quality of finance business partnering and just a confidential feedback will help to understand the variation in expectations and delivery.
Usually, Finance personnel are assigned Business Partnering roles with Marketing, Sales and Supply Chain functions. The nature of Finance people, from their education to their job, is very process, system, guideline, principals, ordinances and standards driven, while their business partners rarely have this expertise, as they carry a very different skill set.
The core point which most of the finance people miss out in a Finance Business Partnering assignment is to take off their FINANCE HAT and wear their BUSINESS PARTNER’S HAT. In a Finance Business Partnering assignment finance people should not consider themselves as part of the Finance department, but part of their business partner’s department. Finance people should take their business partner’s agenda, as their own agenda and their business partner’s targets as their own targets. Using their financial skills, training and development, they should support their business partner to meet their agenda & targets. The only care, Finance person needs to have is, whenever their business partner goes off the track of financial discipline, they should politely bring them back on track. Business partners would certainly have the tendency to go off their budgets, execute contracts without timely or proper documentation, do non-strategic business activities, etc. Yes, whenever they do any act which could trigger an audit point, certainly, it is Finance business partner’s responsibility to help their business partner understand the consequences and drive governance in that area. It really helps when business partners are trained by finance to understand and follow finance disciplines.
On the other hand, a significant number of finance people carry an enormous tendency to kill unconventional business plans, creativity and ambitions of their business partners. Mind you, all of these are very dear to our business partners. Business Partners are always looking for new innovations, breakthrough technologies and unconventional products and whenever business partners come with a business plan of their creative work, their finance business partner is the first person who is unable to digest their business partner’s efforts. The key here is always to come up with ideas how to make it happen, rather than giving reasons of why their business plan cannot materialize.
The next important point is connectivity and communication with business partners. As soon as, finance business partnering role is assigned to an individual, the first advice I give, is to be seated along their business partners. For some reason, finance people like to sit within finance department and tries to find all the reasons not to sit with their business partners. This results in the lack of connectivity, communication and more importantly, a personal rapport with the business partner are never developed. Due to this, finance person neither understands the ways of working, personality and behaviors of their business partners nor they are part of their team buildings, off the corridor chat and in some cases, departmental meetings. Here, the advice is to involve in business activities just as your business partner does, as an example finance business partner of marketing should get involved in advertising campaigns, meet consumers and understand marketing innovations, finance business partner of sales, should do customer and trade visits, similarly finance business partner of supply chain should do production factory visits and understand product and manufacturing processes in detail.
The missing link in finance business partnering is very personal and individual based. It starts with finance person becoming part of their business partner’s department, sitting with them on a daily basis and developing a personal a rapport, official understanding and it reaches to the level, where finance owns their business partner’s agenda as their own and works with them to make it happen, while following financial disciplines. This way of business partnering will transform finance managers into business managers, which will later become their differentiation factor from rest of the finance community at large and for that we all should be thankful to our business partners.