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Is this the brutal truth about FP&A and FBP?

80-90% plus of what FBPs do is not finance business partnering.

Why?

Because it’s reporting, forecasting or budgeting.

Which are FP&A activities.

Soon to be largely taken over by robots.

The future of FP&A is not business partnering.

The future of FP&A is automation, significant job losses and falling wages as supply outweighs demand.

Finance business partnering is about building relationships, turning data into insights and bringing numbers to life.

The brutal truth of almost all finance transformations promising to deliver FBP is that what most of them really do is outsource accounting and rename FP&A as business partnering.

People’s job titles change but the activities don’t.

They are still spending 80-90% of their time reporting, budgeting and forecasting.

Meaning they are left with almost no time to build relationships, turn the data into insights and bring numbers to life. The ingredients of influence.

What qualifies me to say this?

For the last 5 years I’ve earned my living travelling the World helping companies with this problem.

Typically a CFO calls me in 12-18 months after the transformation consultants leave.

They say something like:

We’ve set up a FBP team, but they still aren’t really involved in decision making.

Why?

Because if you spend 80-90% of your time reporting, budgeting and forecasting (like most ‘FBPs’ do), you have no time left to build relationships, turn the data into insights, or bring the numbers to life.

So what’s the answer?

You actually probably don’t want a large team of finance business partners now, or in the future.

Many businesses probably only need 1.

When I was FD of a £700m turnover business, with 2,000+ employees, a total finance team of 80 people on-shore and another 200+ off-shore, I had four genuine business partners in my team.

One for sales.

One for marketing.

One for supply chain.

And one for our retail business.

That was more than enough because those people had the time and head space to get stuck into the big issues.

You do however want a large team of FP&A people doing the budgeting, forecasting and reporting.

And you want to make that team’s processes as slick as possible.

You’ll only need them temporarily though.

The robots will do it soon.

Almost all of it.

So what’s the future of finance?

The future of FP&A is not business partnering.

The future of FP&A is automation.

Month end no longer exists, as transactions are live time.

Forecasts are automated, continuous, rolling, as far out as you want (you don’t need robots for that, you can do it now if you want to).

With a rolling forecast the annual budget process is totally eliminated.

That in itself removes 40-50% of the finance effort in most finance teams.

The future of finance is robots, a small number of exception ‘fixers’, and a small number of dedicated commercially-focussed people with financial expertise.

These pure business partners will be in demand and highly paid. Some will be very, very highly paid.

I call then Super-BPs.

No problem, I’ll just get one of those jobs

There are 2 big problems with that:

One: There will be intense competition for those jobs – partly because there will be 1 to every 5-10 FP&A jobs that is automated; and

Two: because the skills of FP&A do not translate very well at all into business partnering. Numerate people with sales, marketing and operational experience will be way more suited to those roles than accountants.

The good news is you still have time to get yourself ready.

But that doesn’t mean getting involved in the automation of FP&A.

At best that will just buy you time while the robots are developed and rolled out.

It means learning how to build relationships, turn data into insights, and bring numbers to life.

And it means learning how to communicate clear messages.

How to position your ideas so people buy-in to them.

How to challenge elegantly without p*ssing people off and creating resistance.

How to avoid conflict and dissolve it if you find yourself in it by accident.

How to negotiate for win-win outcomes.

And how to present with confidence and gravitas.

That’s the future of finance.

So what does it mean for me?

Well that’s for you to decide.

This is just my opinion.

I don’t actually have a crystal ball, and so I don’t actually know what will happen.

But if I still worked in finance, I’d leave the robots for others to play around with.

I’d be getting myself in the best position I could to land one of those genuine super-BP jobs.

And if I was still a CFO, what would I be doing?

I’d be putting all month-end processes into a shared service centre, on a single ERP, ready to be automated ASAP.

I’d be putting reporting, budgeting and forecasting into one place, and streamlining the processes, ready to automate them ASAP.

And I’d pick a handful of people with the right kind of mindset and I’d take away the burden of any finance processes like reporting, budgets and forecasts.

Then I’d send them out into sales, marketing and operations to build relationships and really get under the skin of decisions.

But I wouldn’t be waiting for automation to happen to do it. I’d do it now. Well actually I did it 10 years ago when I was FD.

The future of FP&A is not business partnering.

The future of FP&A is automation.

The future of finance as a whole is robots, and a small number of dedicated commercially-focussed people with financial expertise.

Will you be one of them?

And by the way, the future of finance is here, now.

About Andy Shambrook

Hi I'm Andy. I used to be a finance director, then I became a sales director, and I'll show you everything I learned in sales that I wish I'd know when I worked in finance.

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