How burnt out do you feel when yet another random piece of internet wisdom tells you you’re doing FP&A all wrong?
As an FP&A practitioner, you’ve heard it all — panic-filled requests for obscure financial data that is always key to solving the latest crisis, or unsolicited, lofty advice on how to best bolster the company’s financial health.
On the flip side, there’s very limited time to ruminate on how you’re getting things done and if it’s the most optimal way to do it.
This article is your cheat-sheet to crank your FP&A machine to 11 — to take what you do best and supercharge it with useful best practices vetted from reputable, no-nonsense sources.
Why does my smoothly running FP&A function need to adopt best practices?
In other words, you’re a little worried about fixing what isn’t broken.
But best practices, when implemented correctly, don’t necessarily fix anything. Instead, you take what’s relevant to your scenario and use it to prune out practices, routines, or processes that are actively preventing you from reaching your mission faster, with more confidence, or in a sustainable, repeatable way.
To rephrase in plain terms, adopting customized FP&A best practices give you these benefits:
- High standards that are easy to achieve and maintain
- Increased job satisfaction and employee retention
- Less time on boring, manual tasks
- Lower scope for mistakes and human error
- Fast, confident decisions with positive outcomes you can repeat
What are the FP&A best practices that all forward-looking teams should know?
If you’re a CFO or someone on the FP&A team, you’re likely looking for ways to move your organization's financial strategy forward. And you're not alone — FP&A teams are at the crux of the rising role of Finance, especially given our struggling economy.
Just know that there are no one-size-fits-all best practices out there — these are merely a starting point to get your strategic mind running.
Having an understanding of core principles and essential strategies can go a long way towards getting everyone up to speed and paving the way for success. That said, let’s dive into the best practices that awesome FP&A teams follow to extract their highest potential.
Maximize your FP&A team's efficiency for optimal results
At times, even the best FP&A teams struggle to balance efficiency with quality deliverables.
Sadly, the consequences of inefficient FP&A processes are well known to cause billions of dollars in damage.
Imagine having to deal with a high-urgency project without a formal delivery process. An unstructured, chaotic workflow is bound to ensue.
FP&A professionals shouldn't have to choose between timely insights and accuracy; you shouldn't have to sacrifice fast, efficient processes to meet your team goals. SO what should you and your team do?
Prioritize efficiency. Challenge yourself and other departments in your organization to deliberately choose every action with efficiency in mind. The current economy rewards leaders with the foresight to work smarter, faster, and better, rather than to pause risks and spend all together.
How to be an efficient FP&A team
As a key member or leader of an FP&A team, maximize your efficiency by putting in place the right tools, processes, and techniques to work smarter instead of harder. Try:
- Building flexibility and scalability into your financial models
- Automating workflows such as budget approvals
- Using integrations to collate and aggregate data
- Gathering inputs from planning partners through a single platform
- Centralizing and democratizing data to make superior decisions as a cross-functional org
Craft a well-defined career ladder for your FP&A team
Attaining career goals is more than just having a clear-cut roadmap.
For FP&A teams, having a career ladder that is achievable and engaging can be the difference between stagnation and growth.
From Analyst to CFO, setting benchmarks and expectations provide team members with the guidance they need to reach their full potential while also connecting them to the wider organization.
By offering pathways of upward mobility and tangible rewards, FP&A teams are more likely to stay driven and invest in their job satisfaction. With the right steps in place, this journey towards professional fulfillment will become one of rewarding challenges and continued success.
What’s more, your organization also stands to benefit from motivated employees and lowered employee turnover.
Steps to map out the FP&A career growth ladder
- Define clear goals and expectations for each position
- Provide pathways of upward mobility
- Offer tangible rewards to incentivize team members
- Tailor milestones to reward progress and job satisfaction
- Connect individual roles with the wider organization’s success
- Ensure commitment and motivation by fostering a culture of growth
Drive success together with a powerful CEO-CFO partnership
Building a successful relationship between the CEO and CFO is essential for any organization interested in sustainable success.
It starts with mutual respect, open communication and a shared vision of the company's future direction. With understanding and collaboration, the CFO and CEO can set a great example for the rest of the team to follow. This will allow them to propel the organization towards success through innovative solutions and proactive processes.
Trust and understanding are key components that you need to nurture in order to be able to move quickly when difficult decisions arise. By working together, you can gain insight into how the organization functions as a whole, leading to better-informed decision making
When both parties come together with appreciation and open dialogue, you start noticing these benefits:
Here are the advantages of having a strong CEO-CFO relationship:
- Mutual respect and trust: By respecting each other’s ideas and positions, both parties can work together more harmoniously.
- Open communication: Both the CEO and CFO need to stay up-to-date on key decisions and developments within the organization.
- Shared vision: With a common understanding of the company's objectives and goals, strategic planning is easier to execute.
- Enhanced innovation: The collaborative working environment encourages team members to come up with innovative solutions that optimize operations.
- Speedier decision making: Difficult decisions can be made faster when both parties have an appreciation for one another’s perspectives on the issue at hand.
- Organizational insights: A successful pairing of a CEO and CFO allows for greater understanding of how the organization works as a whole which leads to better informed decision making.
Improve communication and presentation to deliver crucial messages with impact
As an FP&A team, one of your most crucial responsibilities is to anticipate the future of your company. You do this by analyzing data to ensure that your early warnings and insights are easily understood for quick decisions.
However, it’s no secret that people remember only around 20% of what they hear.
This is why your team should adopt the best practice of leading with the key message to get your insights understood. Here are a few top tips you should follow as an FP&A team looking to drive impact with your analyses and presentations:
- Use storytelling to share key financial information in a more engaging and meaningful way.
- Present data visually, such as through graphs or diagrams to make complex concepts easier to comprehend.
- Practice active listening by taking the time to understand what’s being said rather than just hearing it. This will help ensure you are accurately conveying information to your leadership team.
- Learn how to answer questions quickly and concisely without rambling or filling your answer with unnecessary details.
- Utilize technology tools such as live streaming and video conferencing so that all members of the team are able to participate in the discussion regardless of their geographical location.
- Invite feedback from team members throughout the presentation process to prevent any potential misunderstandings or mistakes when communicating with leaders or other stakeholders outside the team.
Pro tip: check out our guide to creating flawless board-ready presentations.