“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” “I don’t know, we just send it to them every month.” AHHHHHH! Stop it! When I get that response; it is like fingernails on a chalk board to me. It sends shivers up and down my spine. FP&A needs to add value at every step of the process. Focus on the up- and down-stream impacts of everything you do and make sure you understand the intent behind what you are doing. Without that knowledge, you blindly repeat tasks month to month. Don’t simply be a “doer.” Doers are easily replaced. Make your voice known and focus on those tasks which connect data to strategy and action.
Challenge the status quo. At a minimum, question it. Take the initiative to speak with your CFO or manager about something that doesn’t make sense to you. Ask them how they use the data you provide to drive the company. Worst case? They blow you off, but now they know you are interested in learning more to try and help them. Best case? You get an advocate who can help you drive change. Give it shot. Don’t just do. Think and understand.
One day, I was at my wits’ end. It was going to be yet another long night pulling data together and validating/manipulating numbers to create reports. Out of desperation, I went up to the C suite and asked if the CFO was available. I told her that the team worked late (again) and we had not yet created this one particular report that we provided her monthly. “Would it be ok if we didn’t send this until tomorrow?” I asked. This was one of those reports that was a bear. It took a couple of us many hours to pull together data from several other reports (some of which had not yet been created), massage and tweak it, add commentary and validate. Her matter of fact response, “I don’t even open that report any more.” Then she walked in to the conference room and left me there standing in the hallway wondering what to do with all these newfound hours in my week! I actually started to laugh right there in the hallway.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Ask questions. Challenge the status quo.