How Can I Be an FP&A Change Agent?

FP&A Expert Kerman Lau

Change doesn’t always come easy in the FP&A world—and I think there are a couple of reasons why.

For starters, we’re often a change-averse lot in the workplace. Because of the nature of our work and because it’s so important that our generated numbers, data, and reports are accurate, we tend to be creatures of habit. We rely on familiar tools and techniques, even when at times we know they may be outdated or limiting.

Beyond that is the challenge of the fierce time crunch most FP&A teams face. We’re often buried in time-consuming data updates and report requests. While we know there are faster and more efficient ways to get things done, the prospect of finding time to actually change the way we work can seem daunting. As a result, we get stuck in what we here at Adaptive Insights call static planning.

Your catalyst is coming

Yet, the business world is changing, and we need to change with it. That’s reality. In my many conversations with our customers as well as in my own experience as an FP&A pro, I find there’s often a key catalyst that ultimately initiates change. In a sense, you hit the wall and know it’s time to find a better way to climb over it—or blast through it.

For FP&A, that wall may be that your team has simply been maxed out, working too many nights and weekends, and you need to find ways to free their time for more strategic and meaningful tasks.

Or it could be a glaring spreadsheet error that caused trouble at a board meeting or with business leaders.

Or maybe it’s simply that you can no longer keep up with the demands of the business and are starting to miss more deadlines than you hit.

Whatever the catalyst, it’s time to take action and find ways to work more efficiently. Generally, that means moving away from an Excel-dominant environment into one in which Excel becomes a tool that can be integrated into a cloud FP&A solution that facilitates active planning.

As the saying goes, the first and often most challenging step is admitting you have a problem. From there you can go about creating a solution. Here are some key steps to making it happen:

Step #1: Define your goals

So, you’ve identified the pain point that proved a change is necessary. From there, it makes sense to clearly define what you are trying to achieve and your specific goals. For instance, if the primary goal is to free up time to be more strategic, then identify the types of analysis your team will be able to do after integrating a cloud-based FP&A system. Your goals will undoubtedly shift over time. Yet establishing what your future state will look like helps keep you focused and will allow you to choose a solution that meets your current and anticipated needs.

Step #2: Get buy-in

Establishing goals also helps accomplish another critical step—gaining buy-in for a new solution or approach. That means gaining financial support as well as a commitment from leadership that the time and resources will be available to make lasting change. Make sure leadership knows that they will have ready access to data and insights via customizable dashboards. Buy-in also helps make the change real, creating expectations that help keep your team from falling back on old habits.

Step #3: Leverage technology

At the core of working more efficiently and strategically is making the most of technology. Cloud FP&A solutions can help you automate, eliminating much of the manual work that’s bogging down your team. It can also help you create a central repository for data, known as a single source of truth, to help you speed up the process of collecting and disseminating information. Once you establish that single source of truth, it’s much easier to pivot to more high-value strategic tasks.

Step #4: Build your team—and community

Whenever there is change, there are challenges. It’s key that you have the right team in place to make sure you can navigate the inevitable obstacles. Make sure your existing team is on board, and look for new talent that brings experience working with cloud solutions or other analytical or strategic skills that will add value. Also, reach out beyond to the broader FP&A community to get new ideas and share best practices.

Step #5: Celebrate success

You are not going to get to the finish line overnight. Create benchmarks and achievable targets, and recognize when your team hits them. Share the success outside your team, making senior leaders aware of the progress and the value of their investment in both talent and technology.

Prepare to pivot

You and your FP&A team may very well be hitting the wall now—or maybe a couple of walls. And if you’re not, it’s inevitable that the day will come.

By preparing yourself to pivot to an active planning approach, you will ensure that your team adds significant value to the organization, while doing more engaging and satisfying work.

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