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Understanding the value of finance business partnering
Automation and further tech changes means the role of the finance professional is rapidly evolving into one of an insights-driven business partner and adviser. When understood and executed successfully, business partnering gives finance people a seat at the table, where their expertise is highly sought after by stakeholders to drive better business decisions.
Deloitte’s “Changing the focus: Finance business partnering” report found 39% of Australian finance organisations already invest more than 30% of their time delivering finance business partnering.
In addition, 94% of organisations want to increase the time spent on finance business partnering over the next three years.
The paper also identified that finance business partnering requires advanced skills and behaviours, and developing and retaining a high talent pool is critical. Yet 30% of surveyed respondents felt they lacked the necessary capabilities within their finance function.
At a recent Michael Page Finance Business Partnering workshop held in Sydney, Brad Eisenhuth, Founder and CEO of The Outperformer said despite the finance profession communicating the need to be a better business partner, they still weren’t certain about how to define it.
“It’s interesting to point out what business partnering is not, in isolation: a list of tasks for a finance person to do with non-finance leaders, soft skills, giving out the title to staff, or going out for more coffees and reading less emails,” Eisenhuth said.
“But in its purest definition, business partnering is the ongoing consultation with stakeholders and others in the business to navigate and achieve their highest value priorities.”
This consultative role must also be underpinned with the right set of engagement, tools, assets and tasks to bring that desired outcome to life for optimal performance, all within the context the business is operating in.
What do stakeholders value from finance business partners?
According to Glin Bayley, Partner and Facilitator at The Outperformer, value is in the eye of the stakeholder, which is key for finance people to understand and get right.
She noted: “Value is going to be very contextual to the problem the stakeholder seeking to solve and the impact they’re seeking to make. However, the issue is the stakeholder doesn’t always have clarity on what the core issue is.
“So a good business partner is someone who consistently asks questions around all the pain points the stakeholder has, and seeks to solve problems that the stakeholder didn’t know existed.”
Eisenhuth reiterated the importance of understanding the business from a “stakeholder-centric” stance, in order to achieve value creation beyond standard output reporting.
Because when it came to the most desired value-add stakeholders want from business partners, systems and processes do not make the list, he said.
“When you look at what non-finance people value, the two biggest things they’re after is a person to help them make decisions using their finance lens, and for that person to truly understand them and the business. If the stakeholder feels like you truly get and understand them, they will trust you more in that role,” he shared.
Stakeholders should return the favour
As finance teams feel the pressure of the challenges business partnering presents, the responsibility of developing these relationships should be shared.
Peter Smith, Lead Facilitator at The Outperformer underscored the importance of stakeholders returning the favour to finance.
He said strong partnering occurs when stakeholders appreciate and are more attuned to finance’s challenges, particularly at certain times of the year like month-end.
“We’ve seen fantastic examples of finance business partnerships that are trusted and engaged by the business in decision-making and genuine partnership. The shift in focus from finance often encourages the business to want to learn more from their finance counterparts,” he said.
“From where the business isn’t engaging with finance or curious to learn more from their capability, there needs to be an exploration of the culture in finance and the business, or consideration from the approach finance are taking as ‘partners’.”
Ross McLelland, Associate Director of Finance at Michael Page said hosting the finance business partnering workshop with The Outperformer aligns strongly with PageGroup’s purpose of changing lives, and demonstrates how it is providing opportunities for its clients and partners to reach their potential.
“This program has a key role to play in achieving our business mission – being at the heart of the important conversations happening in finance is important to us. Truly understanding our clients’ challenges and needs inform how we can add value and be an effective recruitment partner to them,” McLelland said.
“This workshop, in particular, is a great way for us to give back to our most valued clients. We will continue to strive to offer professionals and their teams with unique learning opportunities that will benefit both themselves as leaders and also their organisations.”
The Outperformer is a leading Australian career and performance advisory group, specialising in the accounting and finance community.