I think to become a real partner to the businesses you really need finance professionals that are gregarious, that are outgoing, and extremely intellectually curious. It’s very easy to plop yourself behind a desk and stare at the data all day, but my role is very nontraditional for a CPA, CGMA. I am literally in the business operations, helping underwriting and risk. That role came about because of networking and dialoguing to understand what were some of the critical initiatives or strategic gaps that the CEO, CFO, and the head of our division had as it related to business operations. So you really have to be intellectually curious, understand the business and what the drivers are—more on the front end rather than on lagging indicators and financial reporting. I think when you show that level of intellectual curiosity, that’s when you start adding sort of a holistic view to really the “A” in FP&A, which is the analytics side.
I think one of the biggest obstacles with, I would say, an actionable financial plan and FP&A’s role in preparing that is they tend to mix up goals and objectives—“I want to double sales”—and defining that as the plan. That’s really not a plan, that’s just where you define great to be. An actionable plan is what I would call a driver-based model using data that actually assists leaders in knowing here’s the levers we need to pull and the earlier we can pull these levers and manage the plan the better. So it’s really the how and the why. FP&A needs to really get into what are the key driver-based metrics to hit the plan, and when you are off the plan and it can be good and bad, providing recommendations to leadership if you’re doing better, how to sustain it, and if you’re doing worse, what are the top three levers we can pull to get it back on track; it gets back to being the advisor not just the reporting of the weather.