After spending almost 13 years in various global, domestic and corporate FP&A roles at Hertz Rent-a-Car, I’m nearly one year into my position as a managing consultant at Revelwood. The turning of the year, if you will, into year two at Revelwood, gives me an opportunity to reflect on the state of FP&A in many organizations today.
When I first started at Hertz, I was a participant in the company’s Advanced Management Development Program. This was a six-to-nine month rotational “fast track” program that had me doing assignments with city managers, fleet operations, back office management, employee relations and customer service. The goal was that when I ultimately ended up working in the finance department, I’d have a “bigger” view of the organization than one that was just comprised of “numbers.” That experience helped shape my career, as it gave me a true appreciation of the importance of people and process. Throughout my FP&A career, I focused on the upstream and downstream impacts of my actions. It is difficult to add value without an understanding of the entire process. This is the essence of a FP&A professional.
At the beginning of my career, FP&A (then Business Planning) was all about numbers. It was largely reactive and, while many hours were (are) consumed working on it, the value it added, and still adds, could, and can, sometimes be questioned. After you gather the data, create/format/validate the fancy Excel charts, and complete multiple iterations, it is too late to enact change in any meaningful way. But that’s changing, and changing drastically, in many organizations.
What’s really exciting today is that FP&A is emerging as a proactive team that is an integral part of the business. As they gather data from all the siloed departments and units, they are being recognized as the single source of a potentially complete view of what’s going on in the organization, what the cause and effects of various actions are, and where strategic changes can be made for maximum impact. In fact, according to research from The Hackett Group, “more than 90 percent of finance organizations believe that digital transformation will fundamentally change the way finance services are delivered, including the way it serves internal and external customers, suppliers and partners, as well as the talent and leadership roles it must develop.”
That probably sounds very lofty and hard to achieve in many places – especially in established businesses with codified processes. But I believe it is achievable, and that it starts with examining, understanding, and changing (where needed) processes. Not simply for the sake of change itself, but because of the importance of continuous improvement and its impact on the business and the team.
I believe the FP&A group can and should be the most empowered group within an organization. When they have access to analyze the right data, they can uncover the root cause of not just finance issues, but operational issues and stumbling blocks. They are able to do this since they understand the synergies between various aspects of operations, and how process changes or process inertia create ripple effects or institutional bottlenecks. Armed with this knowledge, they can create and execute corrective action plans.
So you might ask, why would this passion lead me to a company known for its stellar reputation as an implementation and consulting firm for IBM analytics technology? After all, I’ve not said a single thing about technology.
Analytics technology is the enabler for the transformation of FP&A. Here at Revelwood, we’re working with our clients to help them make this transformation. And it’s certainly an exciting time for all of us. I look forward to speaking with you about your processes and how Revelwood can help.