Direktør: ”Vi har fået ny dynamik i vores virksomhed”

Alarmklokkerne gik i gang, da implementeringen af et nyt system til økonomistyring gik i stå. Efter et halvt års samarbejde med ProcOpt Management er der nu styr på situationen… og mere til.

Af Henrik Kastoft, journalist

Vejen til succes er samarbejde og forståelse.

Der er mindre end to måneder til afslutningen af regnskabsåret for virksomheden ILS i Allerød. Tallene ser lovende ud. Faktisk tyder prognoserne på det største overskud i virksomhedens 27 år lange historie.

Ni måneder tidligere – ved årsskiftet 2018-2019 – var udsigterne noget dystre på grund af problemer med implementering af nyt økonomisystem, beretter virksomhedens grundlægger, direktør Kim Saksager:

”Firmaet voksede hurtigere end vores bogholderi. Der var behov for et nyt økonomistyringssystem”.

Det gav sved på panden for den daglige ledelse… også Peter Nygaard, som er salg- og marketingchef hos ILS:

”Situationen var alvorlig. Ved nytårsskiftet 2018-2019 stod vi midt i implementeringen af et nyt system til økonomistyring, men havde ikke ressourcerne til at føre den ud i livet”.

Styrket ud af krise

ILS sælger og servicerer laboratorieudstyr i Danmark. I alle årene har direktør Kim Saksager lagt vægt på stabil vækst præget af jysk sindighed.

”Virksomheden er ikke så stor, at det kan lønne sig for os at have en medarbejder på fuld tid til at stå for vores økonomistyring. Derfor gjorde jeg, som jeg har gjort så ofte før… brugte mit netværk. Jeg henvendte mig til en god ven, Torben Winther, som gennem årerne har hjulpet mig med at rekruttere 2/3 af medarbejderne i ILS. Det har han gjort godt, for ansatte i ILS er kompetente og vellidte, og en del har været hos ILS i 10-15-25 år,” fortæller Kim Saksager.

Vennen nævnte, at han er i netværksgruppe med Thomas Laden Nørgaard fra ProcOpt Management, som er eksperter i økonomistyring. Og det var det rigtige match: For økonomistyringssystemet er stort set implementeret og alt kører efter den plan, som blev lagt, da ProcOpt Management blev hyret ind som ekstern hjælp og fik ansvaret for at færdiggøre implementeringen.

”Vi har lagt udfordringerne bag os, men vi er nået længere end det: Med Thomas har vi fået en dyb forståelse for økonomistyring. Tidligere kunne vi ”kun” bogholderi, men nu kan vi læse dybt i regnskabstal. Det har gavnet vores forretning… og har givet mig frihed til som direktør at tage vare på andre dele af virksomheden,” fortæller Kim Saksager.

Fra mavefornemmelser til præcision

Salg- og marketingchef Peter Nygaard er meget enig:

”Vi har fået data, statistikker og indsigt. Thomas har givet os nogle værktøjer, som er til stor glæde og gavn for salgsteamet. Vi bliver nu – meget tidligere end før – gjort opmærksomme på forhold, vi skal tage vare på. Det giver os bedre tid til at handle”.

Indsigten skyldes ikke mindst værktøjet Power BI, som blev koblet på Allerød-virksomhedens nye økonomistyringssystem. Det skete på anbefaling fra Thomas. Power BI er et værktøj fra Microsoft og bruges til at visualisere og dele data på tværs i en organisation eller til implementering i apps og på hjemmesider.

”De mange nye tal er motiverende for os. Nu kan vi tydeligere end før se, hvad effekten af vores arbejde er. Systemet er så fint kalibreret, at vi kan se på graferne i dag, hvad vi solgte i går. Hvis der er svigtende salg et sted i forretningen, opdager vi det langt tidligere end førhen,” siger Peter Nygaard.

Som salg- og marketingchef er han mere end fornøjet med den nye virkelighed:

”Det er blevet markant lettere at følge forretningen og det er godt for en virksomhed som ILS. Som distributør af laboratorieudstyr for 7-8 store producenter, har vi en række opdragsgivere. Vi skal gerne være på omgangshøjde med producenternes data… helst lidt foran. Vi er gået fra at arbejde med tal på månedsbasis, som gav os en mavefornemmelse til daglige tal, der giver os et meget præcist billede af situationen lige nu,” fortæller Peter Nygaard.

En gave for virksomheden

”Med vores forretningsmodel er det oplagt, at vi gerne vil have online adgang til fuldt opdaterede tal, så vi ved, præcist hvor vi er og med meget nøjagtige beregninger af, hvorhen pilen peger,” siger salg- og marketingchef Peter Nygaard.

Eller som direktør Kim Saksager sammenfatter det:

”Kombinationen af Thomas og den nye software har været en gave for os. En del af Thomas’ arbejde har bestået i at tilpasse denne software til vores nye økonomistyringssystem. Lige nu ser det ud til, at vi styrer mod det bedste resultat i virksomhedens 27 år lange historie”.

Og netop regnskabet er en ny opgave, som er lagt i hænderne på ProcOpt Management. Thomas Laden Nørgaard er også inviteret indenfor i bestyrelseslokalet.

”Vi har en professionel bestyrelse. Den mødes to gange om året. Thomas har haft foretræde, hvor han præsenterede sig selv og vores nye system. Bestyrelsen er begejstret for, at virksomheden nu har fået en deltids-regnskabschef. Set i bagspejlet har bestyrelsesmedlemmerne nok båret over med mig i ny og næ. Efter næsten 30 år var det næppe nogen stor hemmelighed for bestyrelsen, at jeg ikke har den nødvendige regnskabsmæssige baggrund, der kræves til den størrelse virksomhed, som ILS har udviklet sig til,” siger Kim Saksager med et smil.

”Med Thomas har jeg fået en god sparringspartner. Thomas er tæt på forretningen. Både for bestyrelsen og mig er det lettere at tolke hans råd og omsætte til handling,” forklarer Kim Saksager.

Og en god investering

På spørgsmålet om det kan betale sig for en mindre virksomhed som ILS at hyre ekstern hjælp til økonomistyring, peger både direktør og salg- og marketingschef på, at virksomheden tidligere har haft lønudgifter til en bogholder og betalt konsulenthonorar til Deloitte. De udgifter var samlet set større end samarbejdet med ProcOpt Management.

”Spørgsmålet er vel snarere, om vi har råd til at lade være? Økonomistyring er et tungt område. Thomas er yderst kompetent og besidder stor faglighed. Vi er i dag i stand til at lede virksomheden bedre… i kraft af tal, som Thomas har lagt i hænderne på os,” siger salg- og marketingchef Peter Nygaard, som også giver ProcOpt Managementet godt skudsmål på det mere personlige plan:

”Thomas er en god og omgængelig fyr. Jeg har mødt mange bedrevidende økonomifolk… sådan er Thomas ikke. Han træder ind ad døren på bedste vis og deler ud af sin viden uden løftede pegefingre. Alle forandringer kræver tilvænning, men medarbejderne i salgsteamet er glade for samarbejdet med Thomas,” lyder det fra Peter Nygaard.

Nu er der ro på igen

Kim Saksager, som grundlagde ILS for snart tre årtier siden, runder af med at konkludere, at samarbejdet med Thomas Laden Nørgaard og ProcOpt Managementer en investering, der skaber gennemsigtighed.

”Den nye indsigt i forretningen har bragt meget motivation og dynamik ind i vores salgsarbejde. Og på det mere personlige plan har samarbejdet løftet en tung byrde af mine skuldre. Det er en stor lettelse, at jeg ikke længere skal bruge tid og energi på at tolke en masse data. Nu får jeg nogle få tal, som jeg ved, at Thomas har læst korrektur på”.

”Ja, jeg har fået bedre tid til at tænke over alt muligt andet end tal og økonomistyring. Men jeg behøver ikke tænke så meget over nye veje for ILS. Vi skal bare vokse støt og roligt, akkurat som vi har gjort i de foregående 27 år,” smiler Kim Saksager og ligner en mand, der nok skal nå sit mål.

”Jeg har fået natteroen tilbage. Usikkerheden er væk. Vi var i en situation, hvor advarselslamperne blinkede. Nu er der ro på, og vi er klar til nye udfordringer”.

Moderne økonomiledelse

Alle virksomheder, store som små, har en økonomiafdeling i et eller andet omfang. Naturligvis, fristes man til at sige, da man er forpligtiget til at levere et regnskab hvert år.

”Moderne økonomistyring handler om at skabe værdi til forretningen ved at tænke i fremtid og ikke i datid”

Små virksomheder har måske tilknyttet en bogholder til at hjælpe med det daglige eller gør det selv. I visse tilfælde har man også tilknyttet en revisor fordi det hele er lidt mere besværligt. Lidt større virksomheder har måske en controller, da det bedre kan betale sig end at revisoren skal være inde over alle detaljer og man også godt vil have en person, der kan hjælpe med at sikre økonomien hænger sammen i dagligdagen og man ikke selv kan eller vil. Mange større virksomheder har flere controllere af forskellig art til at hjælpe med forståelse af hvordan forretningen egentlig går og ikke kun regnskabet i sig selv.

Fælles for alle disse løsninger er, at det er med formål at leve op til regnskabslovgivningen og give et billede af hvordan virksomheden HAR præsteret.

Det som mange virksomheder ikke bruger penge på og investerer i, er moderne økonomistyring, som også går under konceptnavnet: ”Finance Business Partnering”. Det går i al sin enkelhed ud på, gennem særlige økonomiske og ledelsesmæssige kompetencer, at hjælpe forretningen med at forudsige den økonomiske situation fremadrettet på hhv. kort og langt sigte. Det være sig, at man gennem tæt samarbejde, forståelse for forretningen og sparring omkring vision, strategi og særlige tiltag, at man kan analysere og vurdere hvad betydningen er ved at træffe specifikke beslutninger eller sandsynlige scenarier op for hvad der kommer til at ske hvis man vælger ikke at ændre noget.

Det kan være gennem en helhedsvurdering hvor kompetencer indenfor ledelsesøkonomi bruges til bl.a. markedsanalyser, prisevalueringer, lovgivningsændringer, evaluering af effekt fra nye produkter, konceptændringer eller sågar hvad der vil ske hvis man ikke ændrer noget sammenholdt med de økonomiske kompetencer, som en Finance Business Partner skal besidde.

”Business Partnering tilgangen betyder også et opgør med den klassiske økonomiske tankegang om at kontrollere alt”

I bund og grund handler konceptet om at fokus for økonomiafdelingen skal flyttes fra kontroltankegangen: ”Hvordan sikrer jeg at…?” til en visionær tankegang hvor man hver gang man sætter noget i gang starter med at tænke: ”Danner det mere værdi til virksomheden, at jeg…?”.

For at kunne gøre det, kræves særlige kompetencer indenfor økonomistyring og forretningsforståelse. Det er det nye ”sort” indenfor økonomistyring, men som er overset af mange da man ikke kender værdien af denne resurse og eksemplerne er få og primært anerkendt i større virksomheder. Ny forskning fra Aalborg Universitet tyder dog på, at de virksomheder der har dette fokus og løfter flere opgaver i økonomifunktionen generelt får mere ud af virksomheden. Dette bakkes op af Lektor ved Aarhus Erhvervsakademi, Jan Valdbo, der også har udgivet 10 gode råd til at få en mere værdiskabende økonomifunktion.

Se de 10 gode råd her.

Find din løsning

Der er masser af muligheder derude for at komme i gang med Finance Business Partnering. Se mere om vores outsourcing løsning eller kontakt mig på telefon 2134 6062 eller tln@procopt.dk for nærmere information eller book et møde hvor vi kan tale om dine behov.

Forudsætninger

En Finance Business Partner kan på kort sigte hjælpe med at optimere de administrative processer, så man sparer tid på opgaverne og i øvrigt i mange tilfælde også kan forøge kvaliteten af de rapporterede økonomiske tal gennem en systematisk tilgang til procedurer og automatisering. Som virksomhedsansvarlig vil du på den måde bevare overblikket over økonomien for færre penge og samtidig opleve en mere præcis information hver måned.

”Med konceptet om Business Partnering er det en markant del af økonomiafdelingens ansvar at byde ind med sparring og rådgivning omkring virksomhedens strategi”

Et andet punkt, der er nødvendigt, er at få styr på er hvilke prioriteter, der betyder noget for forretningen. Business Partnering tilgangen betyder også et opgør med den klassiske økonomiske tankegang om at kontrollere alt. I udgangspunktet giver det god mening at kontrollere en masse detaljer fordi man vil sikre at alt er håndteret korrekt, men man skal huske på at hver gang man kontrollerer noget, så går der tid væk fra at fokusere på hvad der skaber værdi for forretningen. Som oftest besidder denne opgave en højere økonomisk værdi end de besparelser man kan få ved at opdage fejl. Ikke mindst fordi en opdaget fejl også koster tid at tilrette, men ofte også skaber konflikter eller mindsket motivation.

I stedet kunne den samme tid være blevet brugt på at undersøge effekten ved at introducere et nyt produkt eller vurdere om der er et potentiale for generelt at spare nogle penge på de større leverandører.

Strategisk planlægning af forretningen og kommunikation har historisk set ikke været en af de opgaver hvor finansafdelingen har haft indflydelse, men med konceptet om Business Partnering er det en markant del af økonomiafdelingens ansvar at byde ind med sparring og rådgivning omkring virksomhedens strategi. Den kompetence, man kan bidrage med i sin faglighed på økonomi og strukturfacisme sammenholdt med forretningsforståelse vurderes at betyde man som virksomhed bliver markant bedre til at træffe rigtige beslutninger om hvor man skal satse sine investeringer i fremtiden.

Finansiering og Transformation

Som man forstår af konceptet, skal man bruge mennesker, som har den rette tilgang, men også nogle særlige kompetencer, som man oftest ikke har i forvejen. Derfor kan en transformation være vanskelig at se foran sig uden det koster penge. Traditionel økonomi er jo et nødvendigt onde hvorimod Finance Business Partnering er en investering, som kan undværes, men hvor du derimod får udnyttet muligheden for at få det fulde potentiale ud af virksomheden.

Der er i øvrigt store forskelle på virksomheder ift. dette koncept.

Små og mellemstørrelse virksomheder har ofte ikke kapital til at lave en sådan investering. Man kan være ”heldig”, at få en opsigelse fra en medarbejder i økonomiafdelingen hvor man kan sætte en konsulent på i en periode i den pågældende rolle til at optimere forretningsgangene imens de bliver udført uden det vil koste så meget da en del af budgettet er blevet frigivet. Den mulighed er der dog ikke altid og da skal man istedet søge om kapital og lave en investeringsplan inden man kan sætte det i søen.

Det er nu heller ikke alle virksomheder hvor det giver mening at investere. Hvis man har en forretning hvor man ikke har ambitioner om at vækste eller markant forøge forretningen, så er der ingen grund til at investere. Dog er det en god idé, at få lagt en klar forretningsplan på plads fra starten, men hvis den ikke ændrer sig undervejs, er der jo ikke mange beslutninger at tage.

For øvrige virksomheder, der ønsker at vækste, er der dog absolut en god idé at investere. Her er det vigtigt at man har en sparringspartner der kan hjælpe en med at forstå den rejse man er på og hjælpe med at lægge plan og budget for den rejse for at minimere de risici der måtte være ift. personalehåndtering, erhvervsansvar, kontraktstyring, timepriser osv.

”Man kan være ”heldig”, at få en opsigelse fra en person, så man får frigivet budget til at kortvarigt at få en konsulent til at hjælpe med at planlægge en transformation”

For mindre virksomheder kan det være et dilemma, at man simpelthen ikke har kapital til at tilknytte en ekstra resurse til at hjælpe med med strategisk optimering. Man bør i det tilfælde lave en investeringsplan for gevinsten på sigt af en investering i en ekstra support over en periode.

Små virksomheder med et meget lille budget kræver investeringskapital eller man kan begrænse support til det mest givende for at supplere sine egne kompetencer. Her er konsulentbranchen en meget fleksibel mulighed hvor man let kan tilpasse sit behov og nøjes med at betale for det, men det kan klart anbefales at man får en sparringspartner udefra, der får mulighed for at sætte sig ind i din forretning.

Store virksomheder har gode muligheder for at finansiere i en sådan model og har derfor en umiddelbar konkurrencefordel.

En konsulent vil også kunne hjælpe med at lave en investeringsplan for dette, som kan præsenteres for evt. investorer eller blot til eget overblik, som kan hjælpe med at prioritere hvordan din virksomhed kan drage nytte af en sådan resurse og finde ud af hvad dit behov er i virksomheden format tilpasse investeringens størrelse. Her vil man som en naturlig del også se på hvordan dette har indflydelse på din økonomi på kort sigte, men også på længere sigt hvor det gerne skulle give en gavnlig effekt.

Konkurrencefordele for store virksomheder eller ej?

Som tidligere nævnt har store virksomheder en umiddelbar konkurrencefordel da de har nemmere ved at rejse kapital til dette, men jeg vil vove den påstand, at som verden ser ud i dag, så forspilder størstedelen af de større virksomheder denne fordel ved at prioritere forkert. Der bliver ansat Finance Business Partnere i stor stil, men det arbejde de bliver sat til at lave er oftest ikke afstemt med det egentlige koncept fordi man ikke helt forstår det eller ikke har lavet en klar plan for hvad man vil med den rolle. Som oftest er det bare en dygtig controller eller regnskabschef med en anden titel og ikke en person, der bidrager til virksomhedens værdiskabelse fordi deres arbejde hele tiden prioriteres for dem til brandslukning.

Der er derfor masser af muligheder derude for at komme i gang med Finance Business Partnering. Se mere om vores løsning på siden eller kontakt mig på telefon 2134 6062 eller tln@procopt.dk nærmere information eller book et møde hvor vi kan tale om dine behov.

How Basic Accounting Supports Business Partnering

Business Partnering is optimal when you can adapt to changes and are able to convert new information into intelligence specially created for decision making. In a world of flexibility, you would therefore often feel it is a good idea to make changes to the basic accounting setup to support your business analytics and ability to get more information at hand automatically. Though, it does not really work if no one listen to your analysis. Many people experience that their work is not being taken seriously even when it is very well executed and the intelligence that has been created is very systematic, logic and correct. The question to be raised here is why and how can this trust be build for the partners to trust the numbers?

In my experience, non-finance professionals do not view things the same way and do not understand the logic in the same way as finance professionals. They need to have something comparable and experience repeated and uniform reports to build the trust for them to believe that nothing has been missed in the analysis. Therefore, it is a good idea to define and agree a basic setup of accounting, reporting and processes that works in a standardized and well-structured environment, preferably setup with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and that you will not change this for a long period. Though, you should of course adapt to issues on data quality and not neglect this along the way.

This will ensure a repeated uniform set of data and reporting.

To establish the trusted partner environment, it is also important that you create the feeling of “one truth” to all the reports. If business leaders see different reports that indicate different numbers, even from other parties, they will start to distrust your numbers. Therefore, it is important to manage the data access carefully but also to be on top of any discussions ongoing anywhere in the business concerning financials to ensure that the numbers that will be presented are aligned with the information you are reporting.

If you get this right, you are off to a good start on Business Partnering as the fundamentals for creating the trusted environment will have great conditions.

The but you may have in mind is, what about customized reporting that matches the current needs for the business? If you have the basics in order, you can always build on this and perform your analysis on a deeper level in subsystems or excel but the final conclusions that you are to present shall match with the basic accounting and reporting to ensure that the business stakeholders understand the meaning of your conclusions as they can easily compare to what they normally see.

Another great thing about a standardized environment with good systematic processes, is that you will enable a “privilege of focus” from looking at all the processes around numbers, controlling the data quality and use a lot of time on standard reporting, you will be able to focus your time more on value creation analysis and reporting.

Good luck on creating your environment.

 

See more inspiration on my previous blog posts or follow my company ProcOpt Management:

Competencies of the Business Partner

How to be a Chief Value Officer?

Do your IT systems support your business?

Professionals Should Not Talk Together

Create Value with Relationship Management

Does Standardization and Business Partnering go Hand in Hand?

Does CEO’s enjoy feeling alone?

Professionals Should Not Talk Together

As the work environment has developed over the past many years, it has become more common that people on the job looks at an e-mail inbox full of expectations of actions with short deadlines. It is important that we are efficient and can handle many tasks at the same time and close issues that has come to awareness. In a world where the markets become more competitive every day and costs need to be saved, efficiency is more important than ever. The question to be raised here is: Are we really that efficient as we are working with a higher pace?

E-mails can become a catalog of ideas. I have seen many people in the situation where they get an idea and then straightaway forming this into an e-mail requiring some or a lot of people to do a lot of things that satisfy a “need for information” which does not really create value that is worth more than the cost to produce it. This leads me to say that in the specific tasks that we undertake, we are definitely doing it quicker and sometimes also more efficiently but as we do not stop to create a clear picture of what we are really doing, we are spending a lot of time on doing work that does not create any value. What we really need to do is to prioritize those tasks that will create the most value to the business.

When we are in a hurry, we also tend to not make ends meet by discussing the tasks with other interested parties along the way getting the best insights and evaluations on the direction. To be successful, we need to understand what the implications are of a specific decision to our surroundings in order is to understand if an idea is in fact good. There are mainly three questions that you need to discuss:

  1. Which value does the decision bring to the company (short-term and long-term)?
  2. What are the costs (including both time and money) to do this (short-term and long-term)?
  3. Who in the organization will gain and who will lose (in order to prepare proper communications)?

Some would say you can get the answers on above by sending an e-mail to the interested parties and getting a proper reply, but I dare to say you will not. Do you recognize receiving an e-mail from a person and then talking to the person later, realizing that you completely misunderstood the context of the e-mail. I believe most people have. Therefore, I say people need to talk in order to truly understand what the implications on a business decision are.

Often, a change will lead to something good overall but some people will see what hits them seems to a the opposite. Therefore, it is very important that those people (or the leader of those) are included in the decision making process and understand that there are negative (or negative looking) implications to their part of the business, so that they can also feel motivated to do the change.

Imagine the example that you need an extra resource to do admin work that is already being performed to create space for other employees to utilize their competences better. Some people will feel a relief that they can handover some tasks, some people will feel threatened by this new and some people will feel the urge to say naturally create more value. The leader can help pointing people into the right set of feelings by involving the people in the project and letting them know how they should reflect on their own tasks contra the additional value that is expected. This will improve the motivation of the people.

Prepare for Decision Making

A bad business decision, even the small ones, can cost the company a lot of money in wasted time and materials as we do not always understand all layers of the business. Therefore, it is important to invest time in taking the right decisions. Please remember, that talk and understanding require preparation. If people need to be able to answer, they also need to know what you are going to ask. Therefore, meeting invitations should always include an agenda and expectations on what the people invited should bring to the table. Many people tend to take this more laissez faire and pop the important questions when they meet. If you do this, please do expect that the people answering the questions did not have time to check what is important and might forget important details. In this case you risk getting poor information that will lead to the wrong decision.

Optimal Value on Implementation

If you let people in on business decisions and talk to people during the decision phase you are also more likely that those people feel that the decision will help the company and they would be eager to support a great implementation of the change at hand. Communication is much easier when people do not have the chance up front to say: “Is this really good for the company?” and their manager are not able to come up with a prompt answer of “Yes, because…”. Through involvement you get a big motivation from the people in your organization and you will also be more likely to receive feedback on what is working well and what is not so that you can adjust along the way.

Do not forget that talk and evaluations does not end as a decision is made. You need to continue this until the change is fully implemented and tested.

Celebrate Your Success

Another important element that is often forgotten is to celebrate the success at hand.

Often, we finalize a task just to start directly on the next one. This means that you started off on a good hand and everyone has been very motivated by getting things done but when we finalized this exciting project, we just fell back into business doing what we normally do or start on a new exciting project and almost forget what we have actually accomplished. To keep up the motivation in people, we should take a breathe and say: “Well done”. Even you, as the custodian, should clap yourself on your shoulder and be proud of your accomplishment.

My conclusion therefore is: E-mail is a good tool but you need to remember to slow down on e-mail communication, spend time to talk to each other, listen and become a team that celebrate your successes. Remember the good old team spirit and do not lose this in the digital space.

 

See more inspiration on my previous blog posts or follow my company ProcOpt Management:

Competencies of the Business Partner

How to be a Chief Value Officer?

Do your IT systems support your business?

Create Value with Relationship Management

Does Standardization and Business Partnering go Hand in Hand?

Does CEO’s enjoy feeling alone?

Does the Finance Business Partner report to the CFO?

More often, you see job ads popping up with the title of Finance Business Partner but who does this really relate to and where does this person sit in the Finance Organization?

My perception is that a Finance Business Partner should not be a position but a nature of how you do finance. The CFO, Business Controllers, Accountants and analysts should all have a mindset of Business Partnering of some kind. Some, more dedicated to this than others.

The nature of Business Partnering consists as the wording says of two parts:

Business: This part relates to not only focusing on finance but on the business as a whole. You need to understand the business from marketing, staffing, supply chain, cost structures, vision and so on to create a perspective on how to best utilize each aspect of the business to optimize the final outcome that can be measured and controlled through finance reporting.

Partnering: For this part, you need to focus on establishing and maintaining partner relations in the organization through your knowledge and understanding around the business. You need to work closely together with the rest of the organization to strategize on how to perform at the best and create your own opinions on how to achieve optimal results from the business.

This may sound easy but in real life this has not really been implemented at many places. The great question is how you actually do implement this? I would dare to say that it is easier to implement the concept of Business Partnering in a small company than it is in a large company as it is really about people and changing the mindset of those people. In a small organization you have a small number of people that you need to influence with this mindset but not all people can adapt to this at the same pace. In a small company you will be able to follow the people’s development better. You will therefore also see that a bigger company will have additional challenges as it is very hard to follow up on all employees which means you should influence as many as possible through local training and appeal to the interests of the employee as a kind of internal marketing. Local training is also important as you often also have language barriers and cultures.

Benefits at all levels

At a local level you will see that your Business Controllers will focus not only on doing finance reports but also investigate how the processes work around them and come up with ideas and suggestions of how departments can work more efficiently together. But getting around in the business and asking the right questions they will be able to influence people to consider if what they do is actually the best thing for the business instead of just falling in to bad routines. Sometimes they figure that someone is doing tasks that are overlapping with other people where time could be saved and often they also see tasks that could have been simply automated by engaging other people with the right skills. This can therefore lead to better time utilization and thereby better quality or lower unit costs. You thereby improve the competitiveness for the business but will most likely not be able to see how these improvements were initiated on a corporate level unless you look specifically for this. Your Finance employees will also be able to create better Business Intelligence Reporting as they are not only reporting on numbers but on Business Performance and improvement.

If you implement this at a higher organizational level you have more focus best practices and improvement. You are again very dependent on Business Intelligence and understanding what can be improved. If you start from the top, it will be very difficult to really understand what you can benefit from. You will probably be able to look at initiatives from other companies that is creating value and from past experiences, but the true value will show if you enable a good reporting scheme to get the valuable information and create a structured environment for collecting and spreading this information to the rest of the organization. The information will by no doubt be more useful if you first implement Business Partnering locally but the leadership team should endorse this and enable the potential for sharing and networking across the company to gain the best results possible.

If you want to start your journey, you are welcome to contact me and start planning for your business. You are also welcome to seek further inspiration on my previous blog posts:

Competencies of the Business Partner

How to be a Chief Value Officer?

Do your IT systems support your business?

Create Value with Relationship Management

Does Standardization and Business Partnering go Hand in Hand?

Does CEO’s enjoy feeling alone?

Read more about my company on my company site: ProcOpt Management

Do your IT systems support your business?

It has become quite common that the IT systems that are used in businesses are seen as a burden rather than an asset. Are this because it really is a burden or does people not really understand the value of the systems? Or does the system simply become a burden as people do not see the value of the system?

Companies spend millions of dollars on implementing IT Systems that does not seem to have any actual value. If the systems do not add value to a company, then why do businesses keep investing in these systems? These are all very interesting questions you might ask yourself as you see examples of such systems.

Companies have very different approaches to IT systems and how to work with them. Often, you will experience that small business will have a higher success rate on their IT setup than larger companies. This is most probably because the small businesses have a very clear and straightforward set of processes and ways of working so they can easily have an overview of how the processes fit together. On the opposite hands, big global companies have many different cultures of working and goes for a one-fit-all solution, but it does not fit all. Further, it become more difficult to actually understand how the processes work together as you have many people with each their expertise area and no one to see the full picture.

The big question is: “Is it then worth investing in new IT systems?”. My short answer is “Yes”.

Value cannot only be measured in time spent but also considers perception in the market on quality. I.e. if your competitor has an IT system to manage their portfolio, they may appear more professional if you don’t. Even if the system does not work. It is all about keeping up appearances and therefore helping your ability to compete in your market. Also, you will most probably get value from information stored in your system that will make things easier for you afterwards and save time that you do not really see.

On top of this, I would say if you approach your IT implementation with good analysis on your processes and how to optimize the relations between systems and people, you will gain many more upsides from a system implementation that will also help your bottom line. I would recommend having a Finance Business Partner take the role of IT implementation as a middle man binding the processes together. A Finance Business Partner is not anyone from a finance department but a person with a specific mindset for value creation and the ability to see the full picture and none the least a person that can really listen. One thing is for sure. You need to have a person responsible for this who is independent from the IT provider and who will represent your interests. This could be a person on your wage list or an external consultant dependent on your needs and size of business.

See also my article around “Competencies of the Business Partner” for more inspiration on this person.

One thing is to implement a new IT system but another important thing is to identify the system that will actually fit the purpose of your business and create the value that will get you ahead of the game. This is as well a task for the Finance Business Partner who will be able to review what you need to get ahead of the game and compare that to different IT solutions to match where you will see the most benefit, also keeping in mind the total cost-benefit analysis.

I wish you all a great IT hunt and a great summer which is ahead of us.

Create Value with Relationship Management

Finance Business Partnering is only possible if you are great in communication and able to create an environment of trust and comfort with your closest relations. This is not easy as finance is often viewed as a specialty and a support function doing bookkeeping and standardized reporting based on requirements from the operations and executives. Your relations shall therefore be managed carefully to build a relationship that sets a perception on Finance as a Business Partner that can actively create value without instructions but through open dialogue and for your relations having an open mind on suggestions and ideas. On long-term having the opportunity to dispose better on how to utilize the finance resources.

The aim for relationship management should be to reach the state where all parties will see you as “one team” that drive the business in a positive direction. The major question is: “How do you get to this state of mind?”

Relationship mapping
First, you should know the people you should partner up with. My suggestion is to write down a summary for each of your relations containing:

1. Name and title
2. What is this person’s primary interests?
3. What can this person benefit from your input?
4. How does this person tackle your input and how do you tackle their input?
5. How can you improve the way you work together and create a two-way relationship?
6. What dialogue do you need with this partner to make you a preferred advisor?
7. What will be a success from your partnership?
8. What can you do to get there?

You will most probably discover in the process that all the people you work with should be tackled differently as everyone is different and have various interpretations of the business.

Dialogue with your partner
With basis in your relationship mapping, you should be able to figure out going forward how you should focus in your daily dialogue with your “partner to be” and build an environment of trust. Trust comes from people understanding each other and the feeling of being understood so it works two ways. It also is created from believing that your word counts. Further, trust comes from seeing that other people enable you to perform better.

You need to communicate input in a way that create a positive perception from that specific person and you need as well to act on input you receive and advise/analyze how this can be transformed into value. Remember that the purpose of the dialogue is to create the environment of trust. When you have achieved this state, I would suggest that you start building the partnership by discussing with your partner how you can actually benefit from each other by approaching the partnership in the same way and building the goals you want to achieve together as “one team”.

Maintain your partnership
A good partnership doesn’t stop as you have created it. You must maintain the partnership as the time passes and not fall back into separated routines. It is therefore important that you evaluate “on-the-go” to ensure you stay on the same page of the partnership and work as “one team”. If you start to neglect or not use each other on a continuous basis you will start to pull in different directions, so you need to be able to adjust your common goals and align on your partnership. Most important, you should never stop creating more value together.

If you update your relationship mapping after doing this, you will know you are successful as your answers to the questions should have changed especially on how both of you take input from each other. You will now be working as “one team”.

Value creation
To create value together you need to understand that you should not grow to be the same person but “one team” that see and use each other’s competences, experience and point of view.

It is important that you get out into the business and make your own impressions of what is good and bad and not only listen to your partner but as well be able to open a discussion of approach on your own. You need to ensure that the dialogue is not only started from one side of the partnership but from both sides.

See also my posts around Competencies of the Business Partner and How to be a Chief Value Officer.

How to be a Chief Value Officer?

During the past weeks, I have been introduced to a new title of Chief Value Officer (CVO).

The discussions have been that this is the major subject on transformation of finance to replace the CFO role with the modern expression of CVO but I am not sure if this brings the right perception in a business with this title as I believe “Value” can be many things. It is obviously though to be the monetary value that is expressed but what about the value that are created from human resources, IT development, operational quality etc.? Where are the boundaries for the value creation that should be included in the finance value creation? I believe there are many opinions on this subject but personally, I think the boundaries should follow one simple principle:

If any subject impact financial performance (both long-term and short-term), the Finance Business Partner should actively evaluate his/her perspective on the subject.

Following are a couple of examples focusing on HR works which will not naturally fall under finance responsibility but will create a management discussion to provide value to the company:

  1. If the operations department discuss opening a new staff position, finance should proactively evaluate benefits and risks of such action to the company and provide their opinion on the setup to create a more precise environment around the decision.
  2. Finance make specific suggestions on new positions anywhere in the company that would actually create value to the company.

What happens to the CFO?

I understand that automation is the future and will remove many jobs in the future but still someone should be responsible for ensuring that this automation works and is adapted to any change in markets, IT developments, accounting regulations etc. If the CFO role is to be taken off the table, who will then be responsible for this as it is not a value add?

In fact, I find this title to be quite provoking and not covering the scope of responsibilities that are required from finance. Anyway, I do agree with the basic idea that the CFO role should have a more modern approach to Business Partnering and should have a lot more focus on creating value to the business instead of focusing mainly on ensuring requirements of support and that the business is profitable as it is expressed within the word “controlling”. I therefore see the newly expressed title as a clear statement of the primary focus area but it will in fact be a CFO with a modern view on value creation. Though, we are not to forget to be responsible for the governance and quality of the “basic” finance work and this may still be part of the role.

Would CVO be a new added role to the organization splitting Finance in 2 different sectors. I truly doubt that this will function but should we be open to the idea? I think that creating a divided sector will increase the complexity of the organization and decision making in a way that will devaluate the value creation that is the purpose for adding the new role as decision making (especially in large companies) will be conflicting and time consuming as the roles will not share the same interests.

What is “Value”?

With reference to my previous article: Does CEO’s enjoy feeling alone?, I am also touching on this point with the value creation that I believe should come from the finance function as an area of further focus to the CFO’s. Though, I would also like to discuss what is real “Value” to a company. When you think about the word, it is most commonly used to describe the overall company values such as “integrity” or “green environment leader”. Some companies go to market to make investor earning but also a few non-profit organizations host a CFO role but where the value driven are quite different. Additionally, you see companies with the main purpose of creating profits but have a clear focus on social responsibility. This leads me to say that the value to be brought on the table by the CFO is very dependent on which company you work for and what are the value that you should focus on. Not only profits.

I believe, business partnering is all about really understanding the business you work in and how you can add/create value that is beneficial for that specific company. You should ensure that the finance organization as well gets under the skin of their respective areas, adding value on all levels to optimize either cost spend in full scale or the bottom line but also to focus on the core values of the company’s wishes for clients, society or employees.

This brings me back to some of the core competencies, I believe is important for a Business Partner who is ready to adapt to the situation he/she is in. I say: “Capture the moment and add value where it makes sense.” See my article: Competencies of the Business Partner

Does CEO’s enjoy feeling alone?

I recently read a post from Human Capital Group telling about new statistics saying that 60% of CEO’ s in Denmark is feeling alone when defining company long-term strategies reviewing the environment in top positions. Another interesting conclusion is that most of these are very happy about their job because of the relation to the board chairman. I am wondering a few questions:

Source: Human Capital Group – Er der koldt på toppen?

Does CEO’s not want Finance to be part of the long-term strategizing?

It can easily be read as a fact that the CEO’s are very independent people that mostly likes to work alone and get their own agenda on running their company but I believe myself that the many CEO’s who enjoy their role and defining long-term strategies on their own are only doing this because they do not really see the proactiveness from their Finance Business Partners that is actually required. If the finance function were to succeed in actually being a true Business Partner they would be able to add more complimentary information to the discussions on long-term strategy as finance would be able to understand the combination of all areas of the business a lot better. In the more traditional company structure this has been the task of the CEO’s but much information is hidden as the intelligence is simply not good enough. I do believe that most CEO’s would really appreciate any input as they see the additional value this will bring to the table.

Should Finance Business Partners take stronger part in defining long-term strategies?

Personally, I strongly feel that is the duty of a CFO to be able to come up with own suggestions on how the long-term strategy should be. By doing this, you enable a really beneficial dialogue with the CEO on strategic values and highlight the differences on opinion (or agreements, of course) which will better support the business finding a strategy that will create common grounds further down in the organization and thereby create better results.

What can we do as Finance Business Partners to influence the long-term strategy?

To enable the finance function to be more proactive, you should ensure the that the information that reaches the top of the hierarchy is also value adding in terms of understanding the true business. I would suggest to look at strategizing to get to know the business better by investing in training programmes on “True Reporting”. How many organizations intelligence data do you think gets corrupted by middle leaders that are trying to save face because they are afraid of the consequences if things are not as expected? My guess is “many”, and one manager doing this leads to the next also doing it. I believe that a great amount of value will come from creating an openminded organization mindset. Another great place to start would be defining the framework of collaboration between the company functions. Many people say: “Finance should be closer to the Business”. I say: “Finance needs to be part of the Business” as it works both ways in collaboration. Not only collecting data and information and understand the business but also create the environment where the remaining parts of the business understands the finance perspectives and is supported in the way they can also perform at their best.

Does Standardization and Business Partnering go Hand in Hand?

In many years the finance function has been focusing on standardization and centralization as a method for cost efficiency and creation of organizational competence centers. With the recent start of the Business Partnering Institute, the question that comes to mind is whether standardization and centralization is aligned with the value creation from business partnering.

Standardization is in many areas focusing on the principles of LEAN management but can also be viewed for adding some basic principles that standardize the quality of specific reporting. Often, we see businesses only working with one or the other of these setups and not combining these to the optimal mix of processes.

In example, many large companies have had a focus on creating Shared Service Centers that covers a large region based on LEAN management. Some of these projects has been cancelled and is returning to a decentralized solution as it did not match the expected value proposition but is this really the right call? This is where a true business partner could start creating great value: Instead of wasting big investments, the true business partner would be able to function as a project manager, analyzing the non-value adds in the process and figure how these can be optimized by applying more quality instead of LEAN approach or decentralize part of the scope to start adding value.

An opposite example is a decentralized solution where focus is on highly standardized quality. A set of principles are applied that everyone in all geographies/areas need to adhere to ensuring a standardized approach with high quality. Experience is that these tasks are often including some steps that could be centralized as basic standards and which adds demotivation to the people locally as they are required to span over too many different competences: Accounting, preparation, analysis and reporting. In many cases, the local organizations are often too small to split the competencies into people with the right motivation areas. Again, a true business partner will be able to find a solution that would add the right mix of decentralization/centralization and LEAN/quality.

So answering the question, I believe that what we often see in that business partnering are not going hand in hand with standardization and centralization but it can do if the business partnering approach will be the basis of implementing the principles of standardization and centralization.