Dear CFO,

We heard that you put FP&A on your list of top priorities to work on. We understand that you’re not satisfied with the return on investment you’re getting from the department. You told us that there is too much data, reporting, and analysis and too few real insights that change decisions for the better. You also told us that you don’t feel adequately supported by the FP&A department on a strategic level to be a business partner to the CEO.

We want something from you as well. We want meaningful work that drives the business forward. We want to be freed from mechanized, low-value work to interact with our business stakeholders as advisers. We want you to invest in us so that we can deliver on and exceed your expectations.

We have come together as practitioners, consultants, and academics and put together a plan that both defines a vision for FP&A and delivers a concrete plan of what to do next. Here’s our proposal:

A mindset-led transformation

All change management programs start at the top, and you must champion the transformation. Let’s start with an ambitious vision to which the FP&A department can aspire: “Drive the right strategic choices in the company.”

This will help you in your role of supporting the CEO and our daily activities with the business. We need this to become our mantra, for you to set the right expectation in the C-suite and for your staff. We must then repeat it so that it seeps into the finance culture for current employees and attracts the type of people you want to have.

Changing culture and expectations is hard. We must get into people’s perspectives on work and make this a habit. To do this we need to address the mindset, people, processes, and technology that drives FP&A’s actions. Here’s the new mindset we propose for FP&A:

  • Curiosity to develop, challenge, and influence the strategic thoughts of key decision makers
  • Courage to explore historical data and reveal where there is a risk to any of the strategic options
  • Crystal ball to financially model the impact of the strategic options
  • Clarity of the company’s growth environment so that you have awareness and can adapt while navigating to the preferred strategy

Next, we need to upgrade our technology. We cannot fulfill our vision with slow technology that is error-prone, disconnected from the overall corporate road-map, and utilizes untrustworthy data. We can deliver more when we have mastered the new tools available in the market.

And we must challenge our current processes. Why are we doing what we do? We don’t want to simply automate bad habits. There are new management philosophies emerging that require FP&A to change its own processes to stay in sync with the pace and rhythm of our colleagues.

And what about the people? We need a new skills model for FP&A professionals. One that’s linked to the right mindset but drives us to learn concrete skills to deliver on the vision. With a demand to learn new skills comes a need for training and improving existing skills. Fear not the needed investment.

How do I do this?

This is like nothing you’ve ever tried before but luckily, we have a plan. The plan has five steps.

  • Map the current state of your FP&A department combining the mindset attributes with people, process and technology.
  • Map your desired future state i.e. what would you like to gain from this transformation.
  • Write a simple list of up to twelve things your department will do differently post transformation. Note you can start small by listing just one or two things that must be achieved in the short term.
  • Now you broaden out the exercise and run it with the whole department or at a minimum all leaders
  • Lastly, gain commitment from everyone and come up with a range of questions that you’ll be asking yourself post transformation. The answer to the questions should tell you if you’ve been successful.

For a more detailed walk-through of your transformation plan you can read our previous post on FP&A transformation. We understand that this is no small undertaking and that you might need help either from your most trusted leaders or from outside consultants that can help facilitate the process.

The ball is in your corner. We’ve painted the dream by giving the FP&A department a unique purpose and ambition. We’ve described all the details of what needs to change and what should stay the same. We’ve provided a platform for driving the transformation being a new mindset and a transformation plan and we’re ready to get started.

Sincerely,

The FP&A Team