Completed by 660 senior finance professionals, this survey found whilst 88% of senior finance professionals consider themselves to be business partners, there are profoundly different views of what business partnering entails.
Definitions range from the traditional financial management tasks all the way through to prompting change and innovation in core financial processes. Although the vast majority of finance professionals remain mired in their traditional roles, around a quarter point the way forward to a new era of business partnering centered on top line growth, strategic alignment and encouraging process change and innovation. We call this new generation of business partner BP Squared to illustrate the step-change that is involved in migrating from current thinking to the leading edge of business partner delivery.
“Data mastery” is revealed as crucial to effective business partnering. Finance organizations that have mastered their data have the time and space to devote to innovation and change, whereas those whose data is not comprehensive and well managed find themselves bogged down in traditional finance activities.
The quality and effectiveness of business partnering varies with the size of organization. The survey finds that business partners from small organizations (with less than 500 employees) are the most appreciated. The smaller scale of the organization and lower levels of transactions help finance professionals keep their finger on the pulse more easily and promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing. At the other extreme, large organizations, (more than 3,500 employees) tend to have a more formal and mature business partnering model yet they tend to be hampered by lack of process standardization and automation that holds them back from delivering business partner excellence.
Mid-sized organizations are literally caught in the middle. They do not have the advantages of operating on a small scale and neither do they have the well-defined and resourced organizational structures of larger competitors. Business partners in the middle of the size spectrum are, by their own assessment, least well regarded and make the smallest contribution to profitability compared to their peers.
The area where the most developmental work is required is around the measurement of business partnering success. While more than 90% of business partners assert that their activities contribute to profitability, 57% of organizations say that have no agreed way of measuring the success of their endeavors. Despite these challenges our research has been able to identify three models of assessment that go some way to measuring the success of business partnering activity. Nevertheless, the difficulty in quantifying the contribution of business partnering should not be underestimated.
We hope that you find the survey’s findings set out in this document thought-provoking and interesting. But above all we hope that the contents of this report together with FSN’s “Innovation Showcase” to be released later this year which describes the latest innovations in the vendor community, will inspire you to explore and discuss business partnering and innovation in your own organization with your colleagues.