5 Ways to Develop a More Collaborative Finance Team

Multi-Ethnic Group of Business People Planning--financial collaboration.

Remember “Who Moved My Cheese?” the classic business book that used some mice to exemplify the challenges and opportunities presented by change in the workplace?

Well, when it comes to FP&A in recent years, the cheese has not only moved. You could make a sound argument that it’s been eaten as well.

Put another way, CFOs and finance pros are dealing with a double-whammy spawned by swift and unprecedented change. For starters, the amount and complexity of data to be managed and analyzed has grown exponentially. Yet beyond that lies another seismic shift in the expectations of FP&A—the increasing demand to effectively collaborate with internal partners on an ongoing basis to improve planning and decision making, and, ultimately, drive better business results.

Key to that effort is moving away from static approaches to planning and toward an active planning model. Active planning involves generating broad and deep engagement of the planning process across the organization.

Here are five actions that can help you get started on the path to better collaboration.

Watch the webcast “Building a Collaborative Budgeting and Planning Process”

1. Rethink collaboration
Because collaboration has become such a well-worn buzzword, people too often dismiss it as a feel-good corporate initiative rather than a tool for getting better results and improving performance. When done right, experts say, collaboration resembles more of a structured, methodical, and goal-oriented process as opposed to colleagues simply cooperating with one another. For example, a successful collaboration might entail sitting down with the heads of product development and sales to figure out how to deploy capital and resources so the company can launch a new product six months faster than originally planned.

2. Conduct a collaboration audit
So what stands in the way of greater collaboration at your organization? Are there physical or geographic barriers? Communication disconnects? Siloed departments or turf battles? Does excessive focus on process create logjams or drain the momentum of collaborative efforts? If collaboration is happening in pockets, then how and why? By stepping back and conducting a clear-eyed assessment, you can raise greater awareness of the barriers to collaboration and propose some targeted training and process improvements.

3. Create shared purpose
Reminding your finance colleagues and business partners of the larger mission helps them see how their contributions support and align with the broader strategic goals of the company. The key first step is to define the specific goal you are trying to achieve and then map out end-to-end work needed to get there. Through this process, participants begin to see the unique role their team will play in the collaboration.

4. Leverage tools and technology
Colleagues in other departments will be more apt to collaborate with finance if they see the benefits of doing so. The tools that finance executives have come to rely on can help make that happen. For instance, dashboards can provide real-time insights and analytics into past, current, and future performance of teams or track metrics that are related to specific projects and also aligned with broader corporate objectives. When managers begin to see the value of tracking their results and the performance of their teams, they will be far more open to collaboration.

5. Provide positive feedback.
One great aspect of collaboration is that it provides opportunities to praise and highlight the success of both your team and their collaborators throughout the organization. Make sure to highlight even small victories and give credit to those collaborators who made a difference. The next time you need their partnership, odds are they will be more than happy to collaborate for better results.

Our CFO Indicator Q4 2016 report reveals that while 85% of CFOs say their teams have direct access to the financial and operational data needed to generate accurate reports, it is the non-value-added tasks—like data gathering, verifying accuracy, and formatting reports—that take time away from the strategic analysis desired by top management and other stakeholders. Most CFOs also cite data integration as the biggest technology hurdle to gaining actionable reporting information, given the increasing need to report on both financial and operational data typically housed in disparate, unconnected systems. Read our other CFO Indicator reports here.

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