Tijana Balotic Truong

Tijana Balotic Truong is a performance management and commercial finance specialist, with 15+ years of international experience in large FMCG companies.

She is strong in risk management and developing business partnering within markets, regions and HQ, and is now helping start-ups and SMEs in the domains of strategy and finance.

Tijana is also active in NGO sector, most recently focusing on enhancing fund raising strategies and programs that improve children well-being. She is a Chartered Global Management Accountant and a Master of Management.

Author's Articles

There are currently no published articles of this author.

Becoming The FP&A Business Partner – What To Consider Beforehand

By Tijana Balotic Truong, Performance Management Professional

Becoming a business partner is usually a choice. There are several areas to consider when preparing for your new way of working:

  • Yourself
  • People you care about
  • Your team
  • Your peers and future partners

Yourself

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. 

Your team  

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. 
 
-    Benefits 

  • 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

-    Challenges 

  • 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.

Conclusion

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!

The full text is available for registered users. Please register to view the rest of the article.

Zurich FP&A Board was held for the 10th time on January 30th 2020. It was the largest event so far, with 38 senior finance practitioners discussing keys to effective FP&A storytelling and sharing best practices. Participants were welcomed in Page Executives / Michael Page office. The meeting was sponsored by CCH Tagetik.

Business Partnering – Change Management Within FP&A

By Tijana Balotic Truong, Commercial Finance and Performance Management Professional

If you are in charge of an FP&A team and want to implement business partnering, it is essential for you to:

  • Be clear and determined about what you want your department to achieve 
  • Have on board your team members, your superior(s) and your key clients (i.e. function heads)

This article focuses on how to ensure that your team adopts business partnering because long-term it is not feasible to maintain quality of the work if you are trying to do it all by yourself. And quality is what makes partnering stick.

Understanding your team members 

When looking at the team, it starts with understanding all of the members individually – what each person wants to accomplish, what topics he/she enjoys working on and what professional interests he or she has. Be ready that some people might not immediately have clear answers to those questions or might not be at ease with talking about them - tailor the approach in a way that makes people comfortable with sharing their thoughts.

The answers will show you how close (or far) you are from the idea of business partnering and will help you prepare for the discussion about that. The purpose of the discussion is to align on what business partnering is and how to ensure that it is implemented within your group. 

Documented frame

It is important to have an open conversation and translate the findings into: 

  • Documented FP&A team vision and mission 
  • Key principles of the way of working 
  • Action plans 

Having everything in writing will make it easier for sharing among the team and using it for progress tracking. It would also be a practical reminder and a reference point in the induction of future members.

Besides reflecting the vision and the mission, action plans should also address identified concerns and reservations which you and the team might have (i.e. relationship with other departments, lack of suitable skills, manual processes, restricted manpower, conflicting deadlines, etc.). That way, the team will not only have a clear idea about what is expected from them but will also see that they are listened to.

When defining the action plans, manage both your expectations and the expectations of others – keep in mind that not all the situations can be covered upfront and that you cannot achieve everything at the same time. There will be challenges which you and the team will become aware of only once you face them, not before. Strong team culture will help you in those moments, and a successful resolution will depend on how well you can listen, communicate, prioritize, organize and follow through. 

Turning the frame into practice

Once everyone agreed on the key principles, the next step is to identify what is required to put them in practice. The success of business partnering starts with your commitment. If you are truly engaged, leading by example will come naturally. Monitor the progress, celebrate success and address cases where either the approach or the outcomes have failed. Be consistent and persistent – although hard at times, keeping the integrity will pay off in the long run. 

Yet, although very important as a catalyst of change, commitment from FP&A lead would rarely be enough. For the partnership between FP&A and the other functions in the company to work it is important to have the right infrastructure in place. And this means a necessity to invest. Still, increased investment in FP&A capacity is not always feasible. Understanding the barriers helps to potentially manage the way around. The strategy is different if the red light is driven by budget constraints or internal politics. In any case, FP&A and CFO should agree on the priorities – if resources are limited, it is inevitable to select projects and initiatives which are to come to life.

Change does not happen overnight and sometimes it is easier to continue with the old practices. Sometimes the colleagues from the other departments will not be fulfilling their partnership role. If this happens, you should stand up for your team. Talk with those colleagues or, if required, involve your boss. It is important to demonstrate to your team that you are there to protect them – it is unrealistic to expect them to work hard and constantly deliver if they see others not respecting the agreement.

Learning and improving is part of the process and involves everyone. Continue working on yourself – acquire new skills, keep up to date with the latest trends and developments both within the industry in which the company operates and in the domain of finance. That will contribute to your credibility in front of the team, and you will want and need them to act in a similar way.

Having the right people

Last but not least, in addition to embedding the approach of continuous learning, your commitment should also reflect the emphasis on having the right people on board. It is important and fair to give your current team members a chance as not everyone can easily adopt the new way of working. However, accept that the approach you are advocating for might actually not be appealing to each person. In addressing this, it would sometimes be possible to still find an adequate role within your team or a suitable alternative for a particular individual will be available in another department. But at times it would actually mean that the person is to look for the right opportunity in another company. 

The earlier this is identified, the better it is for all parties involved and you could normally ask HR to support the transition. The decision to replace some people in the team might not make you a favorite person. Still, remember that business partnership relies on being trusted, not much on being liked. Quality is what makes a difference and you have better chances of ensuring it with a team of strong FP&A professionals. 

The article was first published in Unit 4 Prevero Blog

 
The full text is available for registered users. Please register to view the rest of the article.
FP&A and Risk Management

By Tijana Balotic Truong, Performance Management and Commercial Finance Professional

Running a company, among other things, requires dealing with ambiguity. How this is done depends on the people – some are more open to embrace the challenges, while others prefer to continue with the past practices, thinking that the change is not going to last. The behavior is not exclusive to a specific industry, it is primarily to do with the management style of people leading the company.

FP&A can certainly better support the business in a set-up where persons in charge are open to recognize the uncertainty and to address it. When it comes to planning and performance management, there are two types of cases to deal with – risks and uncertainties.

Risks

Risks are the events which are different compared to the assumptions built in the base plan, but that could be identified under normal circumstances. Those could bring either upsides or downsides to the business. 

Traditionally, risk management has been addressing those, essentially predictable, cases through applying the following principles:

  • focus on the events which are of significance to the specific business
  • assess the impact (i.e. financial, organizational)
  • assess the probability / likelihood of occurrence
  • set priorities (tackling first the risks with the highest multiple of the impact and probability)
  • agree on the action plan 
  • appoint person(s) in charge
  • monitor the development
  • take corrective measures
  • review (i.e. any new elements to consider, changes that happened in the meantime).

Usually, if CFO is given a mandate to drive risk management on behalf of company, he/she normally relies on the support from FP&A professionals, in particular when it comes to the assessment of risk impacts. 

Uncertainties

Uncertainties are cases that could normally not be predicted, but which are creating significant disruption for the company. Nowadays, they are often linked to innovation. 

We have seen how internet and iPhone have changed the business landscape. But breakthroughs are not exclusive to our century. Industrial revolution brought many changes, and businesses did not disappear. Therefore, for a company to continue to be successful, it is not an absolute must to be innovative. Instead, what it has to ensure is to be able to adapt to the new circumstances fast enough. Degree to which a company can adapt mainly depends on its culture and the commitment from the top management towards being open to change. 

When talking about FP&A, the nature of its work requires flexibility. How else would one continue to be enthusiastic about the job and repeatedly start from scratch when working on business scenarios? As such, FP&A can be the advocate in making and keeping the rest of the company comfortable with implementing new ways of working or new projects to focus on.

There are different activities involved in recognizing and responding to the new reality:

  • monitor external environment, identify new trends and innovations with the focus on the changes that those bring
  • determine the significance which identified change / innovation has on the company and its key stakeholders
  • depending on the level of significance, identify and prioritize what the company should and could do differently as a response to those changes
  • define the action plan, including roles and responsibilities of the individuals
  • implement the action plan
  • monitor the execution of the action plan 
  • measure the performance of the outcomes
  • share the update on the progress with relevant parties
  • take corrective actions if needed
  • in parallel, continue monitoring external developments and repeating the process

Identifying significant changes 

In order to respond to a change, it is necessary to first be aware of it. Therefore it is important to keep track of the developments in the outside world, while remembering that not every initially appealing invention automatically represents an exposure for the operations. Polaroid camera was an attractive product, but it did not revolutionize photography. However, digital camera has changed it for good.

Implications for the businesses tend to occur more when a change increases quality and flexibility for the users and/or it goes beyond the experience of an individual. Price has also been a significant factor in many cases, which low-cost airlines and “one-dollar” stores built their models upon.

Depending on the industry, knowledge and experience of colleagues working in other functions is invaluable for having a comprehensive evaluation of potential impacts. As it often comes down to how customers and consumers (will) respond, cooperation with marketing and sales teams is essential. Those departments are normally expected to provide the estimates on the potential developments, such as the movements in demand / consumption, while FP&A contributes by reviewing those estimates and revising them when feasible and complementing the picture by adding a financial dimension to it. 

What-if scenarios

For the top management to make an adequate decision, they should be presented with a clear business case. Still, no prediction is certain when dealing with unknown future. To help with putting the things into perspective, FP&A can provide quantified scenarios and financial impacts of changes in percentages, such as what is the impact on sales and profit if losing 1% share of market; level of investment required to upgrade or set production facilities and payback period for introducing the new product, etc.

Performance management and business continuity 

Once the decision is taken to go ahead with a specific project, FP&A focuses on its performance management, helping project lead with keeping track of the progress and providing early signals for major variances. In order to properly do that, FP&A should have adequate tools, practices and manpower. 

Last but not least, it is up to people leading the FP&A department to ensure a proper structure and task allocation within their own team – strategic projects are important but it should not be forgotten that FP&A also has to prepare many other outputs to secure business continuity.

The article was first published in Unit 4 Prevero Blog

The full text is available for registered users. Please register to view the rest of the article.
to view and submit comments

Pages

Author's Articles

January 30, 2020
FP&A Tags:

Zurich FP&A Board was held for the 10th time on January 30th 2020. It was the largest event so far, with 38 senior finance practitioners discussing keys to effective FP&A storytelling and sharing best practices. Participants were welcomed in Page Executives / Michael Page office. The meeting was sponsored by CCH Tagetik.

December 3, 2019

This article focuses on how to ensure that your team adopts business partnering because long-term it is not feasible to maintain quality of the work if you are trying to do it all by yourself. And quality is what makes partnering stick.

 
 
 
September 11, 2019

Running a company, among other things, requires dealing with ambiguity. How this is done depends on the people – some are more open to embrace the challenges, while others prefer to continue with the past practices, thinking that the change is not going to last. The behavior is not exclusive to a specific industry, it is primarily to do with the management style of people leading the company.

March 5, 2019

In February 2019, the International FP&A Board held two meetings in Switzerland. The ninth Geneva FP&A Board and the eighth Zurich FP&A Board gathered more than 30 senior finance professionals each.

Pages