How Effective Are You As Finance Business Partner?

Finance has evolved a lot in the 40 years since I started out in accounting.

Back then engagement between Finance and the rest of the organisation was minimal.

Now Finance Business Partnering is becoming more and more common.

Not just in big organisations but in smaller growing organisations.  Indeed some might say that those working in smaller organisations have been adopting the business partner approach for a long time.

From discussions I’ve had and learning I’ve done, what’s clear is that business partnering is still evolving.

Yes there may be organisations where it’s totally embedded.  But these are the minority.

The vast majority are still in work in progress.

Wherever you are on the Finance Business Partner journey, one thing you will want to be is effective.

But what exactly does that mean?

How do you measure it?

What else might you need to do to be effective?

Let’s look at each of these.

What exactly does effective mean in the context of Finance Business Partnering?

At a very simple level it’s about meeting and ideally exceeding the expectations of your internal customer.

Just seeing those that you work with as customers or clients is the starting point.

Next you need to understand the expectations of those that you support.

All of this requires great questioning and listening.

There may even be a need to do a bit of education around what you can bring to the customer, not least because many have pre-conceived ideas about what accountants do.

I would also add that as part of the role it’s about keeping the area you support on the right track as well as contributing to the success of the areas you support.

How do you measure?

If you are an accountant, you may think primarily in terms of hard numbers.

In the role of finance business partner you are going to need a much wider focus on measurement when it comes to your effectiveness.

For me having some sort of balanced scorecard where effectiveness is measured across a number of domains works well.

This might include domains like, for example:

  • Contributing to gaining new business.
  • Improving financial capability
  • Influencing strategic choices
  • Supporting decision making
  • Facilitating change and improve
  • Providing expert advice
  • Client satisfaction.

What else might you need to do to be an effective finance business partner?

Every finance business partner has a different skill set.

Every finance business partner has different qualities.

Every finance business partner has different qualities.

At the same time, continuing to grow and develop is always necessary.

From workshops I’ve done over the years, some of the common areas people highlight that they need to work on include:

  • Broadening their understanding of business
  • Better understanding the problems, issues and challenges faced by their internal clients
  • Being better at listening
  • Offering options rather than solutions
  • Believing in themselves and the contribution they can make.
In reality being an effective finance business partner is really continual work in progress rather than a destination in my experience.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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