Business partnering is a hot topic in the FP&A community nowadays. Why? Because FP&A needs to increase its value for the business, and the way to do it is through business partnering.
In this article, I would rather like to address a few practical challenges, the following two in particular:
- who are FP&A business partners
- how we, FP&A professionals, can build such a partnering.
For this article’s purpose, let us take one of the FP&A key resources as an example: data and information. So, as a first step, let us identify your data and information partners.
Specifying your data and information partners
Each group of partners has its own concerns and needs. Therefore, you will need to invent a matching communication style for each group to reach your business partnering goals.
Let’s first look at ‘information.’ Information is one of the main resources that would deliver the FP&A value proposition. It is the foundation for the support you offer your company’s decision-makers in the process of decision making.
To get meaningful information, you need reliable data from your ‘key suppliers’. Your key data suppliers are the major business departments. To process this data into information, you might need to reach out to the data management, and IT functions for their support.
So, basically, you play a key balancing role in the ‘supply and demand’ data-information chain.
So far, we identified three groups of your business partners that play different roles in the data-information chain: business decision-makers, business functions that deliver information, and IT function.
Tips for building your partnering with the specified partner groups
BUSINESS DECISION MAKERS
Your key goal is to ‘sell’ your expertise and knowledge to this group and position yourself as a trustworthy advisor.
Tip 1. Specify your concerns.
The key concern regarding information is: to provide the decision-makers with reliable information relevant to their decisions. The information should be understandable, its amount should be just right and should be delivered at the right place and at the right time.
Tip 2. Clarify the relationships between decisions and information
There should be a clear relationship between the decisions to be made and the information required for making these decisions. You can imagine a sort of matrix that maps the business decisions with the supporting information. Of course, such an analysis might take time, but still, it could be worth doing.
Tip 3. Specify requirements regarding information deliverable
There are a few key points that you might want to discuss with your business partner:
- what information they need
- what they actually mean, i.e., their definition of this information
- the delivery frequency
- the form and place of delivery
- the requirements for the quality of the information.
As soon as you have such information in your hands, you are ready to start the deep analysis, develop a clear perspective and deliver your professional opinion and advice.
Here, your key goal is to communicate your requirements and establish an efficient collaboration clearly.
Tip 4. Specify your data requirements
The business functions that deliver data are data owners. The data owners are responsible for the quality of data they deliver. You are mainly a data user. Your only accountability is to specify your data requirements. Therefore, you need to find answers to several questions.
What is the meaning of data? It means that you have to start speaking the same language as your partners. From my experience, this is one of the biggest challenges. The easiest way to address this issue is to develop a company business glossary or agree on data definitions with your business partners.
Where is your data? Sometimes it might take a business analyst 4-6 weeks to find the location of a certain data unit. So, it means that you should initiate documenting the sources of the key data and the functions that own it.
What happens to data along the way? Very often, you get data that is already processed. It would help if you had at least a high-level overview of what happens to data on their way to you. And again, you should require to document the transformation path of key data.
What is the required level of data quality? To avoid tasks of manual data cleansing, you should clearly specify your quality requirements.
Tip 5. Deliver your requirements to data owners
Usually, data owners are considered accountable for the data they own, their quality, and the way it is processed. So, your task is to deliver your requirements. The task of data owners is to organize the process.
DATA MANAGEMENT & IT
Tip 6. Delegate tasks for data and information delivery to professionals
In Tip 4, I have mentioned that you should initiate documenting data sources and data transformation paths. To ensure the delivery of data of required quality, somebody needs to specify and build data checks and controls. For these tasks, you should establish business partnering with IT and data management function, if such exists in your organization.
It should be clearly understood. IT is never accountable for the data or information. They only enable all processes around data delivery.
Tip 7. Become a sponsor for the optimization of the ‘supply and demand’ data – information chain
Getting the ‘supply and demand’ data – information chain in order is a resource-consuming process. It costs a lot of time and effort of a lot of many people in your company. You are one of the key data and information stakeholders in your company. Data and information are your key resources. To become an influential business partner within your organization, you should grab your chance and initiate data and information delivery improvements.