Teamwork Works Both Ways: How Finance Can Encourage Business Collaboration

It’s no wonder finance struggles with collaboration; they don’t have the necessary time, direction, or clarity around KPIs to build the cross-functional relationships required to improve forecasting and reporting.

When it comes to business, collaboration is vital After all, no single department can do its job for long without the other departments pulling their own weight. Sales is no good if shipping can’t deliver; marketing falls flat if customer service keeps alienating users; everything grinds to a halt if human resources doesn’t provide the appropriate staffing.

But for some reason, when it comes to the numbers, it can feel like every department is on its own. Data is often stuck in silos, making it difficult or even impossible for other departments to get the information they need to do their jobs well.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the department that makes numbers its business: finance.

It’s lonesome in finance

According to the Adaptive Insights CFO Indicator Q4 2015 report, nearly 50% of CFOs cited the inability to align with other departments on key metrics as a top issue, while 70% said improving collaboration with other parts of the business was a top priority for the upcoming year.

What makes collaboration with others such a struggle for the finance team? According to the report, 79% said lack of time was one of their most challenging collaboration issues, while 55% cited lack of clarity about who has decision-making authority when collaborators disagree.

It’s no wonder teams struggle to achieve collaborative finance; they don’t have the necessary time, direction, or clarity around KPIs to build the cross-functional relationships required to improve forecasting and reporting. So what should be a team effort becomes a finance exercise, and when numbers change, it becomes finance’s fault. In the end, we lose credibility as a business partner.

Make your data everyone’s data

So how do you get other departments to collaborate with finance? Start by empowering your business partners with more ownership and accountability in the data and your process. For example, many businesses still do most of their forecasting and planning with spreadsheets. Not only is this wildly inefficient (not to mention more likely to include errors), but it keeps all the information bottled up on one person’s screen until they’re ready to share. We all have seen an Excel spreadsheet named finalV2 or Final V3, only to find out our business partners are using FinalV6. This is a leading cause of number mismatch. Using modern finance tools, a finance team can collect and report on the numbers without needing to send and receive Excel spreadsheets. Everyone is on the same version and making the changes together. This just makes the business partners a part of the overall process, not part of the problem.

The more you can modernize your process and increase visibility into KPIs across the company, the more others will think of “our numbers” instead of “finance’s numbers.” When you create a single source of truth and share it, collaborators will be able to move past arguing about the numbers and start working together to decide on next steps.

A strategic bonus to collaborative finance

As a bonus, automation and dashboards for self-service collaborative reporting can vastly reduce the amount of transactional work the finance team has to accomplish each day. This frees up our time for both increased collaboration and providing the strategic, high-level analysis that helps move the company forward. I have said many times that we don’t get an MBE (Masters in Business Excel), we get an MBA.

Find out how you can improve cross-team collaboration.

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