The role of finance professionals is undergoing a paradigm shift.
They can no longer rely on success as a result of efficient transaction processing and report writing. Stakeholders are increasingly looking for added value from the finance team, expecting them to perform as strategic business partners.
But this transformation cannot happen automatically. It requires determination and a changed mindset.
What business partnership looks like for accountants
For finance professionals, having a strong business partnership involves a change of focus, away from goals like reducing month-end processing time or improving reports, towards having an impact on the organisation’s strategic objectives.
They need to discover how they can truly add value for stakeholders, participate in problem-solving and decision-making, and earn ‘a seat at the table’.
Avoiding common assumptions that inhibit business partnership
Don’t expect everyone in the organisation to appreciate the importance of your work – the timely and accurate financial results, the vital reports… But do you, in fact, know how managers in other areas actually use your reports, and whether they find them useful?
Job titles and designations can discourage development.
You don’t need to have the words ‘business partner’ in your title – you’re still a business partner or should aim to be. The days are gone when an accountant had to choose between the technical financial control route and the more commercial analytical stream. Financial roles are more blurred now, so you should always be an analyst and strategist – a business partner – even if it’s not your official role. So, you need to set yourself up to succeed in this sphere.
Setting up a business partnership culture in the finance stream.
Business partnership is not something that can be taught in a two-day training course.
It involves a change in behaviour that’s going to take a conscious and deliberate culture shift, executed over a relatively long period.
Steps to achieve this should include:
- Maximising process efficiency, to free up time for working on higher-value strategic tasks.
- Setting milestones, a road map to cover six or nine months of your journey towards becoming a serious contributor to the strategic direction of the business.
- Seeking experiential learning across different business functions. Cultivate empathy, be curious, ask questions about other managers’ goals and problems, and what they do with the financial information you provide.
- Choosing one or more key stakeholders that you have regular involvement with, and shadowing them for a day. You’ll learn a lot, possibly change their mindset about you, and build a useful relationship.
- Trying to build a network with the seven or eight people you interact with each day. They are going to help you grow as a business partner because their problems and achievements will become your problems and achievements.
- Taking responsibility for your own career. It’s no good just continuing with technical accounting, and expecting success to come from doing it better, or faster. Automation technology will take care of that, and you need to avoid ending up in a situation where your relevance is questioned because reports can be created by a robot or with the click of a button. So spend your energy in moving forward and developing your role as a value-adding business partner.
FutureYou can help you develop your value-adding skills.
Do you need to move into a new finance role where you will have the opportunity to spread your wings as a business partner contributing to strategic direction? Take a look at these senior finance job opportunities or speak to one of our specialist Finance consultants.