Becoming The FP&A Business Partner – What To Consider Beforehand
Becoming a business partner is usually a choice. There are several areas to consider when preparing for your new way of working:
- People you care about
- Your team
- Your peers and future partners
Everything starts with you, and the understanding of what you want and why. Then follows how.
What is the purpose of you becoming the business partner, why do you want that to happen?
What do you expect from the role?
How realistic are those expectations?
How else could you achieve the same purpose/goal and meet your expectations if not by becoming the business partner?
What are your motivators?
How does your role of the business partner fit into the existing organizational culture?
What will be the implications (both positive and negative) of you becoming the business partner for you, your family, team, company?
Where do you see the biggest challenges?
What are the tools that you need in order to overcome them?
What kind of support do you need?
What do you require from your (future) partners in order for your role to add the most value to the organization?
How is best to obtain the necessary tools and support?
It is crucial to understand your own primary drivers and assess whether business partnering is the way forward for you.
If you decide to work towards becoming a business partner, it would be helpful to anticipate the main changes which will occur once your journey starts. Planning how to address these changes will be very important.
At the same time, it is necessary to accept that you will not have all the answers and that some of your views will change as the learning evolves. Staying open, connected to the reality and flexible will enable you to timely adjust.
Focus on the big picture will keep your priorities straight.
Although this assessment is about you, it does not mean that you should do it alone – feedback from the others will help you get the additional perspective. It is people who know you well, those in your organization and in your network you can trust, people who have been/are going through the similar process who can give you the relevant inputs. The more realistic picture you have, the clearer your next steps would be.
People you care about
Adequate support at home would make it easier for you to focus on what needs to be done at work. Open conversations about the following topics will help you prepare:
- Decreased availability at times – longer hours in the office, more meetings to attend, more business trips
- Concerns which your partner/spouse/rest of the family/friends have about the new situation
- How to manage the additional stress – what each of you would need
Talking in advance about how the life outside of the office will change once the workload increases would make you and everyone impacted more ready. Going through the agenda of an ordinary day under the new circumstances would help arrive at a realistic plan of who can do what and where the bottlenecks are. If, for example, it turns necessary to hire someone to help with children/household/pets etc., it is better to start the search early.
For you to succeed as a business partner, it is critical to have your team on board. Discuss with your team members what becoming a business partner would mean for them, benefits that it would bring, challenges they would they face, what expectations and concerns they might have and how to manage those.
- Professional development (strengthening the existing skills and developing the new ones)
- Learning more about the business/company/industry
- Broadening the knowledge about the work done by the other departments
- Internal networking and visibility across the company
- Wider opportunities for the future career, both internally and externally as the skill set of the individual enhances and his/her network enlarges
- More pressure as the scope would be increasing and changing
- Conflicting deadlines
- Lack of skills
- Limited resources
- Balance between the professional and private life
Your team members should conduct the assessment similar to the one you have done for yourself. If the expectations and the motivation are aligned, it would provide a solid ground.
After identifying the challenges, next step would be to design a plan to overcome them.
Prioritization is important in this process to define the optimal path. Ensuring some quick wins will help motivate and encourage the team.
The discussion will also contribute to the assessment if you already have the right people or you need the team to change/increase. In order for you to succeed, it is essential to have a strong team who shares the same vision and values.
Your peers and future partners
The model of working should be designed in a way that helps everyone, instead of loading your department with the additional projects to work on. That is why it is important for everyone to understands and agree that you and your team will provide the support where relevant and that you will get the adequate support from the rest of the company.
However, is the company ready for this? How has the organization considered people in finance so far? It would be your role to demonstrate the importance and the benefits of bringing finance to the table while protecting your team.
Remember that this would be a long process and your role will evolve. Requirements from your partners are not always going to be obvious, sometimes your biggest contribution would be to identify the areas for the others to focus on. And there would be cases when it would be necessary for you not to get involved.
Being a business partner will increase your scope and you will be more dependent on others. Learning to delegate, choosing the battles to fight for, saying no without compromising the relationship, continuing to expand your knowledge, surrounding yourself with the right people and supporting them would be the keys to success.
Planning will help you get prepared, although it would not provide all the answers. Situations will evolve over time and you will be adapting together with the rest of the company.
It might also happen that you come to the realization that the overall price for you to pay to become a business partner is going to be too high. There is nothing wrong with that. Actually, the earlier you understand that, the better you can prepare for the alternatives.
Becoming the business partner is only the beginning; the main challenge would be to remain a relevant party at the table. The journey would be dynamic and you will learn a lot. Enjoy!