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