The finance profession is going through an intensive mutation as a result of the markets dynamics that western corporations are facing. From the de-localization of the transactional finance functions (Bookkeeping, billing, AP , AR etc..) to various shared services across the globe to the aggressive competition into various mature or growing industries and the pressure to keep the overall organizational costs structure at his lowest, Finance Business Partners are becoming the key enablers of the decision making process in the companies.
Their roles range from assessing and shedding a crystal clear visibility on the current situation of the company to formulating sound recommendations to support the strategy and the growth agenda. In order to deliver effectively and efficiently in that role, Finance Business Partners must act as « moderators » between the respective functions of the organization (marketing, sales, supply, procurement, HR, Finance…. as deem fit the company structure and size) and the finance department. Simply put, their role is to assess and mitigate the impact of operational decisions on the company P&L and to support the resources allocation to those functions during budgeting discussions.
But what is the role of a Moderator?
The name moderator include the verb « moderate » and it is define in the Larousse Dictionary as « Thing or person who, by his action, tends to temper what may be excessive«
It might seem inappropriate to use the expression « Excessive » to describe the commitment, the determination of a competent professional in contributing or delivering efficiently toward the achievement of the business objectives but for the purpose of this publication that word carry a positive meaning and it stresses the assumption that every competent professional, at any level of the hierarchy, will always defend and support choices, decisions and resources allocations that are in the best interests of the company and support systematically the attainment of the shareholders expectations.
As matter of consequence, in order to efficiently moderate the apparent conflicting views that usually exist between the operational functions of the business and the P&L bottom-line and cash-flow improvement objectives, the finance business Partner must be able to understand the operational challenges faced by that part of the business in order to be able to support and formulate sound recommendations toward more efficient (not the cheapest) alternatives.
For example, a Finance Business Partner supporting a commercial function must not have only a good knowledge of sale, marketing and commercial planning in general but he must also have a strong understanding of the market dynamics in the industry in which the company is operating, an excellent understanding of the Route-To-Market and the key market enablers, a robust understanding of the market remuneration structure and above all, be aware of the thinking governing the commercial agreements in force in the industry and the benchmark with his company.
In order to keep this reading short and to-the-point I will not list all the elements of the competitive analysis, pricing and monitoring which should be taken into considerations while assessing strategic initiatives.
Therefore, a finance business partner must be able to speak the same language as the function he is supporting in order to translate and explain the financial impact of operational decisions with words that are familiars to his stakeholders.
In order to reach that level of polyvalence, internet have provided thousands of resources that can help any finance professional to become a competent Finance Business Partner in a relatively record period of time, MOOC courses are cheap and free options beside sitting for a specialized courses or short program in an educational institution.