The impacts of Covid-19 have stretched right across the globe and seen the need for various businesses and professionals to adapt in order to survive. Currently, the main challenge facing financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams is to explain why things are happening.
At the recent Digital FP&A Circle, Jonathan Firth, Director at Michael Page, along with six other key speaks and facilitators, discussed team roles, how to build synergistic teams, and how technology can enhance FP&A teams. Adapting to the ‘new normal’ as well as how to motivate remote and multicultural teams were also key topics for the conversation.
In this article, we highlight the key trends in the sector, how you can help your FP&A team to adapt to the new normal, and how technology can enhance your team.
Emerging trends in the sector
At Michael Page, we have seen four key trends emerging in the sector. During his presentation at the FP&A Circle, Jonathan Firth revealed the following insights:
- Two-tiered departments made up of accountants and data analysts who produce models, dashboards etc.
- Qualified accountants are still required to interpret the data, to present back to, and influence, the business. These accountants are expected to understand data structures and how to handle big data, but they still seem to need to come from that accounting background. Even someone with an MBA is very rarely chosen by departments at the moment.
- Some big companies are building data analysis teams that go across the organisation, however, IT often have the biggest influence on these teams and so, it's not always the perfect solution for FP&A.
- Some SMEs tend to go for a junior data professional, but then have the problem of needing them to take an accounting qualification in order to keep their career going.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
Lockdown restrictions led to more remote working, mainly from home, meaning people have been spending more time with their families, which of course can lead to happier more productive employees. However, there are a number of new challenges that arise when working remotely and managing FP&A teams virtually.
At the Digital FP&A Circle, Justine O’Toole, VP Global FP&A at Beam Suntory, explained what has changed for FP&A and how teams can adapt to these changes.
In a market that has been constantly needing to adapt and evolve, it is clear that there are two constants in the ‘new normal’ - uncertainty and volatility in business performance. Scenario planning has become essential. From an FP&A perspective, this means that what has been done in the past might not necessarily work right now. Organisations need to think about:
- Business processes – reconsider how you plan
- Business indicators – look at new indicators driven by consumer shifts
- Resources – change the way you allocate resources
- Analytics – understand that history is not necessarily a good guide for the future
Adapting teams to the “new normal” means prioritising what we were already planning to do:
- Creativity in rethinking your planning processes and understanding different business drivers with the constantly changing customer and consumer needs.
- Commercial curiosity and business acumen, when looking at things like resource allocations and doing things fundamentally different from how you have done them in the past.
- Commitment and resilience – the “new normal” has increased workload. We need strong commitment teams who are resilient. Consider getting outside resilience training for teams.
- Trust. There are some really tough, trade-off decisions to be made, so the integrity of the team and trust in all areas is vital.
The current situation has revealed some stars and hidden talents, although some have found it challenging.
How can technology enhance your FP&A team?
Without technology, many of us would not be able to do our job. Therefore, you need to look at what you already have available and see what you need to make your teams more efficient. FP&A should aim for a unified data set. In his presentation, Alistair Gurney, Group FP&A Director at Unit4, shared some benefits of technology in the function:
- Easier collaboration
- More trust
- Quick answers
- More time to spend on higher-value things
By using the same version of the truth at any one time, you save a lot of time and you don’t get involved in protracted conversations as to who has the right numbers. Steps in getting there are:
- Define your needs
- Keep the applications simple – don’t overload with functionality
- Enforce adoption – systems get ‘rusty’ if under-utilised; more users means more ideas for future developments
If you would like to discuss how we can support you in finding the right FP&A talent for your business, please get in touch for a confidential, non-obligatory discussion.
Alternatively, why not explore the power of our Page Insights bespoke market reports?
Managing Director, Michael Page
You can see a full outline of the content discussed here from FP&A Trends: Building Winning FP&A Teams in Time of Great Challenges.