The Top Three Challenges to Becoming a Strategic Finance Team

Stratify Team

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What stands in the way of your FP&A team becoming more strategic? 

Most finance teams desire to use their time to add value to the business, find a smarter workflow, and get other departments to actively participate in the planning process. But getting there is a complex and unique journey. Every team is somewhere on the spectrum from being less to more strategic with their own challenges to face.

Strategic finance requires alignment and clarity in data analysis and the planning process. And it’s impossible to achieve without meaningful collaboration with business units. To move to the next stage of finance maturity, let’s get honest about the top three challenges standing in the way and tackle them head-on with practical solutions.

The Top Three Roadblocks on Your Journey 

  1. Messy Manual Processes 

The way you’ve always done things may feel safe, but is it monopolizing your time and energy? Lots of FP&A teams operate in layers of spreadsheets managed by Excel wizard analysts who are spread too thin. 

These teams are gathering siloed data from multiple sources, organizing it into disconnected spreadsheets, generating multiple reports, all while managing communications and version control. Sound familiar? 

This process is so time-consuming, and it leaves the door open for human error and oversights leading to wrong calculations or conclusions. The process must be simplified if you’re going to gain back time to build your informed perspective before sharing with stakeholders.

Strategic Solution:
Streamline the reporting and modeling process with effective technology. 

Data gathering and modeling eat up the time you need for higher-value activities. Investigate FP&A SaaS options that offer fully integrated, configurable models based on drivers and assumptions. Then you can shift your focus to understand the deeper operational forces in your organization and deliver strategic insights. 

These tools also provide a secure and intuitive way for all stakeholders to share data and take ownership of their own department’s budget and spending as it relates to the overall annual plan. 

  1. Stale, Inconsistent Data 

Because of the time lag in requesting and receiving data from other departments, you’re fighting an uphill battle against stale data. Disconnected data not only wastes time, it also leads to incorrect reporting and modeling. Sometimes, it even results in blind decision-making and choices that benefit a single team instead of the whole organization. 

Let’s say you’ve asked HR to share the latest employee headcount data from your HRIS system on Friday. You upload it into your spreadsheet on Monday and complete reconciliation on Thursday. But – surprise! – two engineers quit on Tuesday and a new salesperson joined on Wednesday. Now stakeholders are reading a report based on stale data. 

The disconnect prevents you from being the functioning heart of the organization that drives success with accurate analysis built from real-time data. 

Strategic Solution:
Unlock access to real-time data.

With access to real-time data, your analysis and forecasts are exponentially more valuable to the business. An FP&A SaaS tool joins up ERP, HRIS, and CRM data so you can hit refresh to see the latest numbers and generate reports – no time lag. 

This real-time capability offers two big benefits:

  • Gives you a vital big-picture view of operations, including the campaigns, events, and staffing changes that will impact your budget and business performance. 
  • Helps you support all business units to make data-informed decisions when it’s crunch time or a new opportunity presents itself. 

  1. Lack of Collaboration & Partnership

Finance leaders are often functionally sidelined from the rest of the business in terms of data visibility, collaboration, and a shared understanding of pain points. This lack of partnership limits your FP&A team from driving the business to greater success. 

How often are you left out of the discussions when big decisions are being made? Typically this is because other stakeholders don’t see the practical value of insights you can offer, or how you can help improve their own plans. Ultimately, the struggle to collaborate will slow down business growth and leave everyone feeling frustrated and misunderstood. 

Strategic Solution:
Increase operational engagement and partnership. 

Operational insight is often the missing link that holds FP&A teams back from becoming more strategic. A solid grasp of operational drivers and enhanced partnership will completely change your finance function. 

Increase your communication and collaboration with other stakeholders to get better context and understanding of their plans. Show other stakeholders that you can provide data-backed ideas and solutions that will benefit them and help solve their biggest problems. The right technology, access to data, and operational insight, and strong partnerships will help your team of analysts to consistently bring valuable insights to the table.

From Roadblocks to Roadmap

Do these challenges sound familiar? It’s good to be aware of these roadblocks, but it’s even more important to move past them by achieving concrete goals and benchmarks. 

Our free guide, The CFO’s Guide to Scaling Strategic Finance, dives into the strategic solutions we’ve described here, and more. Plus, recommendations are tailored to your stage in the strategic finance journey to help you get laser-focused on your next steps with confidence and clarity.

The guide provides practical inventory questions and tips sourced from finance professionals to equip you to overcome the challenges of messy manual processes, stale data, and a lack of partnership.

Download your copy today
and see the vision for your mature, strategic FP&A function. 

Last Updated:
January 26, 2024

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