McKinsey Expert: How to Build the Best Team to Support the CFO
There’s little doubt that CFOs are increasingly being asked to tackle more than just their organizations’ numbers. Today’s finance leaders are juggling challenges, from recruiting and retaining talent, supply chain disruptions, planning and deploying smart technology solutions, defining and leading ESG efforts (environmental, social, and governance), and evolving their role to create more value for their organizations.
“FP&A is in a unique position to be able to bring all of the data and all of the analysis together and think about that from a financial mindset as far as what is going to create the most value for the organization.”
Michele Tam Expert Associate Partner McKinsey & Co
At a recent LinkedIn Live event sponsored by Workday, Fortune Media Senior Writer Sheryl Estrada spoke with Michele Tam, expert associate partner at McKinsey & Co., about how CFOs can enable their financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams to work with greater collaboration and efficiencies, and bring value across the enterprise.
“We see that CFOs are being asked to wear multiple hats,” Tam said. “We often say that the role of the CFO is sometimes 10 roles in one.”
Enriching Scenario Planning
Tam said she’s witnessed organizations ramp up their scenario planning efforts over the past couple of years, so Finance can better respond in moments of volatility. Yet better planning requires more data that organizations can use to respond to future disruptions.
“That might be different than the set of actions that we thought were the right actions a quarter ago,” Tam said. “In order to be able to do more frequent planning, we are seeing organizations have to think about the systems, the data, and the automated tools that they need to actually support [planning].”
But just ‘more planning’ won’t cut it. Organizations must also understand “the drivers that move the needle on your business results,” Tam said. “Traditional FP&A processes really need to evolve to be able to keep up with some of the volatile, uncertain times we’ve been experiencing the past two years.”
Creating Next-Level FP&A Teams
The next generation of FP&A teams think about having the right processes to drive performance, Tam said. “In order to do this effectively, companies should carefully consider the right types of technology that can best drive insights,” she added. “You’ve got to be able to have data at your fingertips.”
“It’s important to seize the right technology to drive insights and the right focus on talent to really be a next-level FP&A team.”
Michele Tam Expert Associate Partner McKinsey & Co
Not only does data need to be accessible in real time, it also needs to be visualized and ready to use in decision-making, Tam said. Gone are the days of spending hours manually manipulating and cleaning data to prepare for analysis.
“We see next-level FP&A teams being able to leverage technology to have that data ready to use,” she added.
And to use the data means organizations will need talent with skills that go beyond core knowledge like accounting and technical financial skills. FP&A teams also need to become strategic thought partners and, ultimately, value creators.
“It’s important to seize the right technology to drive insights and an acute focus on talent to really be a next-level FP&A team,” Tam said.
Tackling the Talent Equation
Filling next-generation FP&A teams with the right talent demands creative CFOs, especially as more traditional finance tasks become automated.
Insight generation, deep analysis, and problem-solving skills are some of the traits finance leaders should focus on, Tam said. Such roles will only increase in importance amid environments growing in complexity.
“There’s definitely a role on FP&A teams for both breadth and depth of experience,” she said.
In a tight labor market, having the right people could also mean investment in developing existing talent, and as leveraging team members with non-traditional backgrounds, Tam added. “CFOs are going to need to take some creative steps to think about how to solve for those skills in the future.”
Visualizing the Role of Technology
While next-level FP&A requires investment in technology, the road to digital transformation isn’t as simple as adding a budget line. A well thought-out roadmap is essential to understand what parts of finance make sense to automate, Tam said. “We often recommend organizations start, particularly within finance, with some of the more transactional, more routine areas—such as accounts payable, general ledger accounting—because those are activities that tend to be easier to automate.”
There are opportunities in Finance to drive digital transformation and automation, primarily via reporting tools and under-pinning platforms to support planning and forecasting.
“The challenge oftentimes is making sure that the backbone of your data is set up in such a way that allows you to be able to gather data from multiple places, sometimes multiple systems, in such a way that is able to be both effective and efficient,” Tam said.
Establishing the CFO’s Vision
Ultimately, CFOs must set the vision of how they want the finance function to look and how they want FP&A teams to interact with the business and its partners, Tam said. “CFOs and finance leaders need to be empowered by first setting the aspiration of what it is they want to aim for.”
Collaboration is key she said. Next-level FP&A teams are effective business partners, but that requires them to break out of their silos and work alongside marketing, research & development, and supply chain departments.
“Then they need the skill sets and the actual business acumen to be able to step beyond just theoretical numbers and analysis to understand the implications of the actions they might recommend,” she added. “Credibility to influence their partners to take action is also a key component.”
Tam said such abilities might involve effective communication of FP&A insights or help address decision-making biases that hinder the process. “But FP&A is in a unique position to be able to bring all of the data and all of the analysis together and think about that from a financial mindset as far as what is going to create the most value for the organization.”
Watch the entire LinkedIn Live discussion or get to know Workday Adaptive Planning at the following links and turn your FP&A aspirations into reality.
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