…thoughts on optimization of the FP&A value proposition.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Albert Einstein

Imagine you have 3 minutes to explain to a six-year-old what FP&A is and what place it takes in a business ecosystem. Tricky, isn’t it? What are things that a six-year-old would understand? For example, animals, right?

Once, I came up with an analogy of a three-headed serpent. Later, this mythical being evolved into a new ‘species’: a four-headed dragon. This legendary serpent doesn’t live in a fairy tale, though; this story is about the real business world. If you have read the first story about this being, you might remember its biggest problem: deciding which of the three heads is the master. In business, it is also so often the case: there are so many different components involved, so which is the most important, how do they interact, and how can this interaction be optimized?

FP&A delivers value to the business

Let’s start with the following two (rather philosophical) questions:

  1. Why does FP&A exist?
  2. Who are the main customers of FP&A services?

I hope that we all agree that the main customers of FP&A services are management on different organizational levels. And the key value that you deliver to them is decision-making support. That’s it. That is why FP&A exists. Your daily tasks, like budgeting, planning, forecasting, analysis, etc., focus on delivering the key value: supporting decision-making in the short-, medium-, and long term.

How to perform the optimization of the FP&A value proposition?

Step 1. Limit information to the required level and the scope of the decisions to be made.

Let’s take a look at this picture. The answer to the question, ‘how can I optimize FP&A value?’ lies there.

You support decision-making by providing insights into the information that forms the basis for the decision-making. How many reports does your department deliver to management? How much is information from these reports read and used for making decisions?

Once, I heard of an assignment to optimize 11.000 reports. You might be a champion at what you do, but still…Maybe it is time to go and ask your company’s management: which information do they need for which kind of decisions? This is the first step in the optimization of your FP&A function. Another benefit you can get here is improving your business by partnering with such stakeholders as management, company owners, regulators, etc.

Step 2. Ask for data that is limited to information needs.

To satisfy your optimized information requirements, you need optimized data delivery. The action will reduce costs on data processing and storage as well as maintenance of software systems. To get make your task done, you need to develop your business by partnering with a business, which owns data, and with a data management function that is responsible for the optimization of the whole chain of data delivery from the source to the final destination and set up a data quality framework. Building FP&A architecture together with data architects is also an example of business collaboration. When you get data, it must be processed and analyzed. Especially the last part is part of FP&A duties. Which optimization can you implement here?

Step 3. Optimize FP&A business processes.

A while ago, I talked to a CFO of a large international company, and I remember him saying: ‘Finance is data.’ These words sounded so true to me, and I think this is the real essence of what is going on in business and FP&A. Do you agree? How much of your daily tasks revolve around data? If you have managed to optimize data delivery, including improving the quality of data, now you might be spending a bit of your time trying to make sense of your data and investigating different business scenarios. You might start experimenting with new FP&A techniques like driver-based modeling, rolling forecasts, and zero-based budgeting. Your business partnering efforts, again, focus on business stakeholders.

Step 4. Implement only those systems that fit your company’s purpose, culture, and resources.

It is a widespread delusion: a new system will solve old problems. No way. A new system can deliver value only when the entered data is clean, and the right processes are chosen. Furthermore, a new system must fit your business’s purpose, culture, and resources. You should consider any system only as a supporting capability that enables the execution of your core tasks. Here you can build a solid partnership with IT and data management colleagues. Now data scientists also form a part of the FP&A environment. So, be prepared to work together if you want to optimize your analysis techniques.


Now let’s get back to our serpent. I believe its four heads are four masters that cannot be separated from each other. Each head plays an essential role in FP&A development. They must work together towards a common goal corresponding to the company’s resources and ambitions. Only then can they conquer the world.

So, I hope that by now, you got ideas about optimizing the FP&A value proposition.

For more insights, visit the Data Crossroads Academy site: //academy.datacrossroads.nl/courses/how-to-bring-data-management-into-finance-practices/lesson/data-management-fundamentals-for-finance/