Common Barriers to Finance Business Partnering

Uncategorized Jun 14, 2024

I have been working in this space of Finance Business Partnering for over 10-15 years now. Some doing it in an organisation, but over the last 6-7 researching it and teaching and developing finance teams to do it effectively.

And having run over 1,000 workshops here are the top three things I hear as barriers, and a more detailed breakdown of how to solve them:
- I don't have time for FBP
- The perception of finance
- Systems and processes

Barrier 1: I don't have time

This is the one I hear the most - and its pretty common across nearly every role in every organisation, not just finance.

First thing first is you will never have time for everything. No person does and no to do list is ever empty.

For Finance and business partnering this "lack of time" concept often comes down to your FBPs not being setup and structured correctly to allow them to work on the things that matter.

Just rebadging your finance team FBPs won't help if they are still doing the same work they were previously. In fact it hinders business partnering.

You have signalled to everyone else in the organisation your finance team will partner them.

But if they are still doing month ends, budgets and forecasts then they will not have time to business partner.

You have actually destroyed all assistance, value and credibility you were trying to create. Business Partnering is over and above those standard tasks of any finance team. It's taking those things and leveraging them to help solve problems and achieve the strategic goals of the organisation.

And if you can't help the business for 2-3 days a month because of month end, then another 2-3 to do a new forecast, and then 3-4 months later in the year to build a budget, then when can you help them.

They will work around you if you are not available.

To fix it consideration has to be given to how you can structure your best finance team members to not have that burden.

Unfortunately that is situational and every place is different and this year will be different to next year. Automation helps, but so does prioritisation, planning and clarity of role

If you need guidance reach out we can identify where the problem is fairly quickly by showing us your org structure and roles and responsibilities.

Barrier 2: Perception of Finance

"Non Finance has a poor perception of finance and they work around us"

This sounds so hard to fix - yet is so quick and easy to fix.

Firstly non finance want to work with finance if they see some benefit to it (or it moves them away from a problem)

So you have to paint that picture for them.

If you are turning up creating problems, confusing them, or being combative then unfortunately - people will have a poor perception of you.

Nobody likes problem creators, people who confuse them and people who are looking for a fight.

For non finance this may be related to their dealings with you, it may be previous team members, it may be their experience in another company.

But that's the past - if nothing changes nothing changes.

To fix this position yourself as the opposite. Someone who is there to help them. Someone who will distill the complexity and simplify it for them. And someone who is on their side.

"How" you show up and the approach you take changes perceptions very quickly.

And if they have poor perceptions of you it should be even easier to change - as comparatively speaking anything you do is going to be upside to what they have had in the past that creates that perception.

Their bad perception is drawn from their bad experiences. Make their experiences good and their perception will be good.

Barrier 3: Systems and Processes

Our systems and processes are, in a general sense, for backward looking capture of information.

But business partnering is a forward looking exercise.

Sure there is an element of collecting some data to see what is going on and why right now.

But the real action is in developing strategies around what does this mean for us and what to do next.

And that doesn't come from systems and processes, that comes from conversations and relationships.

If you are aligned to business partnering being about helping the other functions achieve their strategic objectives, then you can conceptually do that without the need for a system. Or a process

Most FBP tasks are not repetitive and are ambiguous. Systems and processes are for the 80% that is repetitive and replicable.

To fix this get away from your desk and have more conversations before you dive into the system and wrap a process around something that may not be needed.

Lean on your relationships to gather information that is "directionally right". Then navigate your business partners working through a consensus of what this means for us. And what are we going to do about it - through conversation.

Toward the end of my time as a senior FBP I was spending way less time in "the system" and way more time navigating through discussion.





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