What Is Finance Business Partnering?

Uncategorized May 31, 2024

Having researched and studied the best, and trained thousands of finance professionals over the years I am always surprised at the breadth of definition of Finance Business Partnering.

And accordingly the confusion it provides people. At worst we over complicate it. Or make it sound like this wonderful magic elixir that's going to fix all of the finance teams problems. Well it's not and it doesn't

The reality is it's really quite simple.

So here is my definition in 500 words or less. Finance Business Partnering is:

Finance working cohesively with other functions to help solve real business problems that achieve the organisation's strategic goals

Bit of a mouthful I will admit so let's break down the components and hone in on the important areas.

Firstly "Finance working cohesively". One of the biggest barriers finance professionals struggle with moving into this space is their style. The shift from a compliance type, challenge everyone, criticise under performance type individual to one the other functions want to work with.

Your relationships with your peers and senior stakeholders is massively important the more senior you get. 

With great relationships things move quickly. It means less work trying to convince people because they trust you and they feel safe and comfortable with your input. 

Without it things move slowly and need rework and there is a vale of suspicion in your work.

Other functions will avoid you if you are brash, abrasive and combative.

Sure you need to provide input and challenge when needed but it needs to be balanced with the other functions agenda and done in a way that is more graceful. Otherwise things just slow right down.

It also hints at a skillset and set of techniques that few in finance ever really learn ie negotiation, persuasion, influence, presenting. Sure your technical skills are important but without these other ones they mean nothing.

Secondly "help solve real business problems", what does this mean.

This is the emphasis on the fact that month ends, budgets, and less so forecasts are not FBP tasks. They are the domain of the traditional finance professional and occupy a vast portion of their role

If you are an FBP doing these things you simply won't have the time to do anything else. Especially helping the business solve real problems that need a finance lens over.

And let's be honest they are traditional finance roles. Just changing your title to FBP and still doing them doesn't make you an FBP. In fact, it is over promising and under delivering to your customer. And that ends poorly every time.

This is why I am a true believer in the structure of 1 or 2 super FBPs who roam the organisation solving problems. And to do that you need to have very broad experience across the landscape of the organisation you do it in.

If you are stuck doing month ends and budgets, you won't have time to do this. And if you have great experience ready to be a super FBP, nor should you be doing month ends and budgets.

The final part is "achieve the organisation's strategic goals". What does this mean?

This means you are working on the things that are a H2 or H3 horizon, not a H1 horizon.

Sure you will dip in and provide your expertise on things that are short term. But fundamentally you are shaping the organisation on the big issues it is facing and finding solution to them.

And your role as the FBP is to facilitate and manage the path toward those solutions, which is often executed by other functions. You are the conduit of the strategy and who is doing what by when.

So there we have it - a definition of FBP in 500 words or less. Hopefully this has helped and if you would to discuss (agree or disagree) just message me.


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