Finance teams are a critical element of any organization's success.
In today's fast-moving world, finance team structures have become more and more complex. There are three main categories of finance teams: the consolidation & close team, the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team, and, in recent years, a new type of finance team has emerged — the strategic finance team.
While each of these teams serves a unique purpose, there are distinct differences between them that organizations need to understand.
Consolidation teams vs FP&A and Strategic Finance teams
It is important for organizations to understand the differences between these teams. Companies need to balance the needs of traditional reporting-centric teams with forward-looking teams.
The Consolidation & Close function ensures the accuracy and completeness of financial data, while FP&A manages budgeting, forecasting, and management reporting. Strategic Finance focuses on long-term strategic planning and investment decisions.
Consolidation & Close teams
Consolidation & Close teams are responsible for accounting and reporting financial information, ensuring accuracy and compliance with accounting standards.
This hierarchical team has a director or manager who oversees a team of accountants. Their work has a significant impact on the business, providing accurate and reliable financial information that facilitates informed decision-making.
Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team
FP&A teams are responsible for budgeting, forecasting, and management reporting.
They analyze financial data, provide insights, and collaborate with other departments to forecast financial results and identify opportunities for improvement. The team is structured flat with managers and analysts. The FP&A teams provide strategic guidance to drive growth and profitability, making their impact on the organization significant.
Strategic Finance teams
Strategic Finance teams focus on long-term financial planning and work with senior management to develop financial strategies aligned with the company's goals.
This flat team of managers and analysts provides financial insights to drive growth and profitability. Their impact on the business is significant as they shape the organization's strategic direction by providing strategic guidance.
One team, one challenge: Uniting finance for success
Consolidation & Close, FP&A, and Strategic Finance are all part of the finance function, working to support financial management and decision-making. Although there are similarities between these teams, they face unique challenges and must collaborate to overcome them.
- Data Accuracy and Completeness. All three teams require accurate and complete data to make informed decisions.
- Timeliness of Reporting. All three teams face the challenge of producing timely and relevant financial reports. So they can support senior management in decision-making.
- Communication. Communication between these teams and with business partners is crucial. This is to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and objectives.
How FP&A, Strategic Finance, and Consolidation teams work together
- Collaboration. All three teams must collaborate. And ensure that the financial information produced is accurate, timely, and relevant.
- Data Sharing. These teams must share data with each other. And ensure that everyone has access to the same information. So that senior management can make informed decisions.
- Common Goals. They all work towards the common goal. Which is improving the financial health of the organization and supporting management decision-making.
- Continuous Improvement. They are all committed to improving the financial management and reporting processes. And ensure that the organization operates effectively.
These teams must communicate, share data, and work towards common goals, committing to continuous improvement and ensuring effective financial management and reporting processes. Together, they support the organization's success.
The evolution of finance team structures
The finance function has always been essential to any business, with finance teams serving as the gatekeepers of a company's financial data and ensuring accurate accounting records and regulatory compliance.
In recent years, with the rise of technology and data analytics, finance teams have evolved into strategic partners to business leaders, providing valuable insights and guidance on financial decisions.
The future of finance teams is likely to involve greater integration of functions, leading to more efficient and effective finance organizations better positioned to support a business's strategic objectives.
As we look towards the future, the trend towards integration of finance functions is growing, supported by the need for greater efficiency, agility, and collaboration.
This trend can lead to the integration of the three teams, with finance professionals working together and leveraging the strengths of different functions to drive better outcomes. This streamlined organization with integrated but well-defined roles and responsibilities would better support a business's strategic objectives, providing insights into financial performance and identifying opportunities for growth.
To achieve success, finance professionals will need to develop new skills to meet the demands of the evolving finance landscape.
This includes data analytics, technology, communication, and collaboration. Advances in automation and AI will enable finance professionals to automate routine tasks, leading to faster and more informed decision-making.
The future of finance teams involves more collaboration across functions, requiring finance professionals to work with other business functions and align objectives with teams such as marketing, operations, and sales. Those who embrace change and adapt to new technologies and evolving demands will be well-positioned for success.
Best Practices in using FP&A Tools for Consolidation and Planning
In many organizations, FP&A teams use different tools for planning and consolidation.
Planning is often performed using tools such as scenario planning or predictive analytics. While consolidation uses more traditional financial reporting or accounting software.
The use of different tools for different purposes can be beneficial in some ways. For example, it may enable greater focus and specialization in specific areas. Allowing teams to develop expertise in the tools they use. It enables teams to use tools that are designed for a particular need. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all solution.
There are also some potential drawbacks to using different tools for planning and consolidation.
Data inconsistencies and inaccuracies
There is a risk of data being entered differently in different systems. This leads to inconsistencies in reporting and analysis. This makes it difficult to get a clear view of the organization's performance.
Duplication of effort
If teams are using different tools for different purposes. There may be a need to re-enter or transfer data between systems. This can be time-consuming and may also increase the risk of errors.
If you use different tools for planning and consolidation. It may be difficult to perform an analysis that spans both areas. This makes it difficult to perform integrated analysis across the business, limiting the ability of FP&A teams to provide strategic insights.
Given these potential drawbacks. It may be best practice for FP&A teams to use a single, integrated tool for both planning and consolidation.
An integrated tool helps ensure consistency and accuracy of data across the organization, enabling teams to provide more accurate and reliable financial analysis while reducing duplication of efforts. It also enables teams to perform integrated analysis across different areas of the business.
It is important to note that choosing the right tool is only one part of the equation. To leverage the capabilities of an integrated tool, organizations must also ensure that they have the right processes in place. This may include clear data standards and governance policies, as well as processes for data validation and quality control. In addition, organizations must ensure that they have the right skills and expertise to use the tool, which may involve providing training and development opportunities for FP&A teams to leverage its full capabilities.
While using different tools for planning versus consolidation is common and may offer some benefits, there are many drawbacks, including the potential for data inconsistencies and duplication of effort.
Other factors to consider when choosing an FP&A tool are:
As organizations grow and their financial analysis becomes more complex, it is important to ensure that the FP&A tool can scale up to meet their evolving needs. Hence, it is important to select a tool with robust modeling and forecasting capabilities, as well as the ability to handle large amounts of data.
Ease of use
The tool should be intuitive, allowing FP&A teams to perform complex financial analysis with ease. This can help reduce the risk of errors and increase the efficiency of the FP&A team.
The FP&A tool should be able to integrate with other systems, such as accounting or ERP systems, and provide a comprehensive view of financial performance across the organization. This helps reduce duplication of effort and ensures that data is consistent and accurate.
The best practice is to use a single, integrated tool for both planning and consolidation, provided that the organization has the right processes, governance structures, and skills in place. However, the right approach will depend on the specific needs of each organization. It is important to consider the pros and cons of different options before making a decision.
Embracing integration and innovation: the future of finance teams
Consolidation and close teams ensure accurate and complete financial information, while FP&A teams are responsible for budgeting, forecasting, and management reporting. Strategic finance teams focus on long-term financial planning, but all teams face similar challenges, including data accuracy, timely reporting, and communication. Collaboration, data sharing, and continuous improvement are necessary to overcome these challenges.
Looking to the future, finance teams will evolve into a more integrated function where professionals will work together and leverage the strengths of each function to drive better outcomes and allow for a more streamlined finance organization. The role of finance has evolved, with technology and data analytics enabling finance to become strategic partners to business leaders. Finance teams will be better positioned to support the business's strategic objectives by providing insights into financial performance and identifying opportunities for growth.
To succeed in the evolving nature of finance teams, finance professionals need to continuously learn, adapt, and be flexible. It is crucial to ensure that finance teams are structured effectively, equipped with the necessary tools, skills, and technology to support the business's objectives. Organizations must ensure that their finance teams remain agile, efficient, and effective, driving growth and profitability in the years to come.