Finance Business Partnering: How To Set Your Finance Team As A Business Partner?

Written by
Nilotpal Chanda
December 19, 2023

Today, finance is expected to flexibly adjust to changing dynamics while consistently furnishing the organization with pertinent guidance. Moreover, it must continually enhance its capabilities to effectively address any forthcoming queries.

This underscores the significance of the 'Finance Business Partnering' paradigm. A finance business partner (FBP), closely aligned with the business, possesses an acute awareness of ongoing operations and possesses the competence to respond adeptly.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

- Defining finance business partner (FBP)

- Why should you set finance as the proactive business partner?

- What’s the role of a finance business partner (FBP)?

- The values that FBPs bring in

- Steps to establishing your finance team as a business partner

- Final thoughts

Let’s dive right in.

Defining finance business partner (FBP)

Finance business partners encompass financial and accounting experts collaborating with the business to monitor financial performance. They offer financial data, forecasts, and analyses to steer decision-making and strategic development.

These partners offer both assistance and constructive scrutiny, ensuring ongoing alignment of business strategies with financial objectives.

Why should you set finance as the proactive business partner?

Whether it is FP&A, control, or compliance, the finance team has long focused on these traditional areas. Today, they increasingly partner with business functions to spearhead strategic decision-making and enterprise-wide transformation. As a true business partner, finance teams generate value by helping other departments make data-backed decisions.

💡 According to PWC, some characteristics that make finance the essential business partner include analytical skills, communication, relation management skills, and business knowledge.

What’s the role of a finance business partner (FBP)?

Focus on value-add activities

Organizations that excel beyond their counterparts allocate a significant portion (23%) of their time to business partners. Flourishing finance departments collaborate more closely with the wider organization, highlighting the significance of the business partner role. Forward-thinking organizations recognize finance's importance in contributing to the achievement of the organization's commercial objectives.

Convert opportunities and threats into business drivers

Effective financial business partners, characterized by their ability to optimize costs, ensure dependability, and generate superior insights, can transform external opportunities and threats into catalysts for business collaboration.

Make use of enablers and predict constraints

Finance business partners need to possess the skill to leverage appropriate facilitators (like maintaining consistent and up-to-the-minute data) while foreseeing limitations (such as excessive emphasis on activities with limited value addition).

Look into the future

Effective FBPs should seek opportunities to generate fresh insights through thorough analysis and skillfully convey them to stakeholders. This enables a comprehensive evaluation of business performance.

The values that FBPs bring in

What makes finance professionals excel in a business partner role? Let's delve into the key reasons why they are particularly effective in fulfilling this role.

Data-driven decision-making: The foundation of solid decision-making is data, not assumptions. Data offers a transparent look into a company's performance, enabling executives to make informed choices. Finance business partners eliminate guesswork, replacing it with concrete evidence that lends credibility to decisions. By harnessing their expertise, organizations streamline decision-making, enhance clarity, and reduce uncertainty.

Comprehensive insight into operations: Progress assessment is contingent upon a holistic understanding of a company's financial landscape. Without this overview, steering an organization in the right direction becomes challenging. A finance business partner provides a panoramic view of financials, a perspective vital for effective navigation. These partners effectively communicate insights to all sectors, fostering strategic thinking and enhancing business planning across teams.

Shaping critical decisions: In a swiftly evolving market, the ability to react promptly and prepare for unforeseen shifts is paramount. Executives often face tight timelines for pivotal choices. Rapid adaptation and market anticipation grant organizations a competitive edge, allowing them to emerge stronger from uncertain periods. Finance business partners aid in swift responses and market foresight, contributing to resilient decision-making.

Enhanced operational efficiency: When heads of business units spend less time dissecting raw data, they can dedicate more effort to strategic endeavors. By realigning focus toward strategy, management allocates resources to projects that truly drive progress. Collaborative interactions among teams nurture productive relationships, concurrently enabling each function to enhance efficiency and productivity within their respective domains.

Steps to establishing your finance team as a business partner

#1 Automate manual processes

Finance teams have undergone a transformation that has engendered a demand for real-time, top-notch, and auditable data. The manual collection of external data, pivotal for identifying the forces propelling the organization forward, is challenging and prone to errors.

This is where the automation of finance processes, including tasks like data preparation, importing data from various business sources and integrations, and conducting comprehensive what-if scenarios, comes into play. This automation saves time and empowers teams to concentrate on tasks that generate value.

#2 Standardize data and definitions of data

If finance relies on spreadsheets to gather data for ad hoc analysis, it will consume a big chunk of time. Subsequently, standardizing the data collection and analysis becomes a challenge.

To address this, organizations are adopting cloud-based financial observability tools like Bluecopa. These tools consolidate data from various sources, establishing a singular source of truth that uncovers trends between diverse data types, which might have been overlooked or previously considered uncorrelated.

#3 Augment cross-functional collaboration

For finance to truly serve as a value-driven entity and a genuine partner for all functions, immediate access to information and analysis is indispensable.

This ensures seamless alignment with departments like sales, IT, HR, and tech, enabling finance to act as a strategic counterpart rather than learning about decisions after implementation. Achieving this requires finance to adopt cross-functional collaboration, eradicating decision silos.

Final thoughts

Effective finance business partners bring strong leadership qualities to the table and possess the ability to navigate complex financial processes with finesse. If you're looking to streamline your internal operations and elevate your business to new heights, consider incorporating a finance business partner into your cadre of business leaders.

This leader can serve as a guiding hand in managing the intricacies of a successful business while also providing invaluable financial insights that contribute to informed decision-making. Their expertise can be the bridge between operational excellence and financial soundness, helping your business thrive in a competitive landscape.

If you're looking to build a forward-looking finance function, we should talk! Sign up for a demo.