Becoming a Strategic Business Partner: The New Financial Analyst Skillset

The Stratify Team

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Welcome to the brave new world of finance, where your role as a financial analyst is not just about crunching numbers. You are now a strategic partner to the business, shaping the future of your organization. Let's explore the financial analyst skills you’ll need to master to expand your career potential as a strategic finance partner.

Understanding the Role of a Strategic Finance Partner

Strategic finance partners serve as the connective tissue within an organization, fostering a culture of collaboration across departments. They don't just bridge the gap between finance and other units. They align strategies and goals to drive collective progress. 

Their role transcends traditional number-crunching. As financial maestros, they adeptly navigate complex data, extracting clear, actionable insights that illuminate the path to strategic decision-making.

These analysts are not mere spectators on the company's journey. They are influential players, leveraging their financial expertise and deep understanding of the business to shape a strategy that's ambitious yet grounded in financial reality. They link financial plans intrinsically with the company's overarching goals. 

This alignment ensures that every financial decision and forecast contributes directly to achieving the company's objectives, keeping the organization's pulse strong, steady, and focused on its trajectory.

The Role of Real-time Data in Strategic Decision-Making

At Stratify, we understand the pivotal role that accurate, timely, and accessible data play in strategic decision-making for our customers. This is especially crucial for financial analysts working to provide actionable insights quickly.

Our FP&A tool furnishes real-time, accurate data from your ERP, HRIS & CRMsystems, and automates the collection of plan inputs and processing reporting tasks. Budget owners are able to directly access reports and contribute to scenarios themselves. This reduces admin burden that financial analysts currently bear and also makes Finance less of a gatekeeper.  This shift allows our users to focus on insightful analysis and strategic conversations, confidently developing informed plans and delivering lasting value to their organizations.

Financial Analyst Skills to Master 

As the role of financial analysts develops, so does the skill set. To truly excel as a strategic business partner, there are several financial analyst skills to master.

1. Business Acumen: Understanding the broader business context is crucial. This means being familiar with the company's financials and understanding its operations, industry trends, and competitive landscape. For example, when Quy Dong, former strategic finance partner to Sales and current Head of Customer Success at Stratify,  worked closely with the sales team at a previous organization, she had to understand their challenges and metrics beyond just the financials. By understanding the ripple effects of attrition within the sales team, she was able to proactively pull forward hiring plans and help manage the situation effectively.

2. Data Analysis: The ability to interpret complex data and extract actionable insights is a fundamental skill for any financial analyst. FP&A tools like Stratify can automate data collection and processing tasks, allowing you to focus on drawing meaningful conclusions from the data and guiding strategic decisions. While you already have a solid foundation in financial analysis, further hone your ability to interpret complex financial data, forecast trends, and understand their impact on business strategy.

3. Communication: As strategic business partners, we often must present our findings and recommendations to non-financial stakeholders. This requires excellent communication and storytelling skills. We need to convey complex financial information clearly, concisely, and engagingly, which takes practice. For instance, when presenting a budget analysis to the marketing team, lean into KPIs that measure the impact of their spending and their capacity to drive growth, using plain language and visual aids to make the information more digestible. 

4. Collaboration: Strong collaboration skills are essential as you work closely with various team and organization stakeholders. Building strong relationships, understanding others' challenges and perspectives, and working together towards common goals are all part of this skill set.

Another practical example comes from Quy, “ I physically relocated my desk to sit with the sales team at a prior company. This helped me better understand their daily operations and fostered a stronger relationship between finance and sales.” As a finance business partner, you'll need to foster strong relationships with various departments, becoming a trusted advisor who aligns finance with the broader business goals.

5. Strategic Thinking: You need to look beyond the numbers and understand what it means for the company's strategic direction. Identifying trends, opportunities, and potential risks is essential. You should align financial plans with the organization's overall strategy. For example, spotting an increase in operational costs may lead to a strategic initiative focused on improving efficiency. Remember, as a finance business partner, you'll be expected to provide solutions, not just identify issues, so always enhance your problem-solving skills.

Key Strategies for Advancing Your Finance Career

As your company's strategic financial partner, equipped with enhanced skills and a new mindset, below are the strategies needed to continue your professional growth.

  1. Continuous Learning: Stay updated with the latest financial tools, technologies, and best practices. Consider advanced certifications or courses that focus on strategic financial management.
  2. Networking: Network with other finance professionals and business partners. This can give you a broader perspective, new ideas, and potential mentors to guide your transition.
  3. Leadership: Develop leadership qualities. You must influence others, drive change, and contribute to strategic planning and decision-making.

The Mind-Shift of the Finance Business Partner

Transitioning from a financial analyst to a finance business partner role involves a mindset shift as well as enhancing skills. Expanding your perspective from 'us vs them' to simply ‘we the company’ embraces the collaborative spirit needed to work together towards shared objectives. 

Your new role changes your focus from analyzing numbers to transforming data into actionable insights that solve business problems, influence strategy, and drive business performance. And once you develop a deep understanding of the business, its challenges, and opportunities, you can ask the right questions, provide relevant insights, and become a valued voice in the decision-making process. 

As you transition into a strategic partner, Stratify is here to help. We empower financial professionals to meet the challenge by harnessing data, streamlining processes, and fostering the collaboration you need to influence strategy and drive growth .

Explore what the Stratify platform can do for you. Talk with an expert today!

Last Updated:
July 4, 2024

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