The Start Button for World Class Strategic PartnerIng
In this, the third of four articles, we shall explore the Mindset or the “start button” for how to advance towards a World Class Strategic Partner
The Finance group is the bedrock of a business. It offers control and on-going financial measurement to assist defining and meeting plan. It is the trusted score-keeper. However, this should only be a stepping-stone to the broad value Finance can bring to its business if it aspires to be world class and become the strategic partner of the business.
Going from trusted score-keeper to strategic partner begins with an aspirational Mindset on how Finance perceives its contribution to the business’ decision process.
The trusted-scorekeeper focus is on reporting numbers timely and accurately to the business and do basic variance analysis commentary. The strategic partner use data to provide analytical insight to influence decisions makers and impact the strategic direction.
As presented on the figure below, the path from the “average” trusted score-keeper to the world class strategic partner goes through four types of personas: Reporter, Commentator, Advisor, and Strategist. The journey involves understanding how to innovate Finance by improving the analytical skillset and systems toolbox to provide insightful and predictive information.
The Reporter supports the business by providing reports containing hindsight information. This Persona has demonstrated expertise with spreadsheets and spends much time capturing data from different BI data cubes/spreadsheets/transactional sources to consolidate into other spreadsheets. The Reporters are focused on providing the business with timely, accurate, and accessible financial information.
The Commentator adds visualization to reporting to explain trends and movements in the performance. This persona has automated the standard reporting by using Center of Excellence thinking and data visualization tools. The Commentator contributes by turning data into information beyond high-level variance analysis through detail explanation of the historical trends and deviations.
The Advisor identifies issues and opportunities by using complete knowledge of internal data, competitors, and the market to provide insight to business leaders that influence their decision making. Insight is information that the business does not know; e.g. correlating between the current performance and other financial or non-financial data. The Advisor use multi-source data and analytics to explain why things have happened and not just what and where things happened.
The Strategist impact business decisions, as the Strategist is capable of generating the most advanced forms of analytics; e.g. predictive and prescriptive analytics to explain what is likely to happen and how to make it happen. Strategist use analytics tools combined with a detailed understand of competitors, customers, and vendor’s strength and weaknesses and use that insight to predict future events and performance.
Finance organizations that understand how to advance through the four personas are said to be on the journey towards world class strategic partners. Note, if Finance only understand how to operate as a Strategist but cannot get the Reporter persona done correct it will not have a persona as a Strategist. In other words, a business leader will not trust the powerful prediction from Finance (Strategist) if Finance cannot report historical information timely, accurate and accessible (Reporter). The only way to become a strategist is to work through one persona at a time starting with the Reporter and perfect the Commentator and Advisor before reaching the end goal as a Strategist who perfect all personas as a world class strategic partner
In the last article in this article series, we will look into a empirical study of where Finance is today on its journey towards world class strategic partnering.