Within any organisation, you’ll find some groups of people who are the most well-known and highly valued. Given there are many functions, groups, roles & people within our organisations today how can finance business partners become, and be seen to be more valued?
We can find the answer by distinguishing how these organisations distinguish between the people who they consider as vital as opposed to functional. In fact Daniel Priestly in his book Key Person of Influence summarises it well when he notes:
Vitality is more valuable than functionality. You can’t get the results you want without a vital person because they add something a functional person doesn’t have.
The Difference between Functional & Vital
Generally, if you begin to look around Finance organisations today you can quickly start to see the functional areas, they’re the ones being downsized, off-shored or gradually replaced by robotics. In effect they’re easily replaceable, a functional person is one possible solution to the performance of a process; if there’s a cheaper, more efficient or effective way of getting it done, the organisation will assign a lesser value to that person. Harsh but true!
How many colleagues do you recall within General Accounting, Payables, Receivables, even some analysts that have been great at what they do but regardless have either been replaced by one of the options above or not backfilled at all? They’re also likely to be the first people to be let go following a merger or business transformation. Functional does the job, but functional is still interchangeable.
On the other hand, you can recognise vital people in these organisation’s, they’re generally the ones who have roles created for them, perhaps crossing more than one function, with objectives expressed in terms of key success factors as opposed to a generic job description. They’re there to deliver specific results as opposed to being aligned with any particular process. A lot of (but not all) finance business partners, FP&A analysts, commercial finance managers, and finance directors tend to fall into these categories. The job requisitions for vital people are increasingly the ones that are getting signed off for recruitment, offer relatively higher compensation plus more flexible benefits.
I also suggest there are two useful definitions for vital as they apply to people in organisations:
One definition means ‘hard to replace’ and the other means ‘life-force’. Vital people see themselves as being the ‘hard to replace life-force’ of a project or initiative.
So how do we ensure that we either stay vital or even become considered as vital to our organisations?
Steps to Becoming Vital
Look around your organisation and identify who you regard as a vital person, what is it about them that you feel makes them so vital?
Now identify someone who you consider as functional. Similarly, why do you think of them as such?
Draw a simple T-account, and list out your thoughts to Step 1 on the Credit (Vital) side and do likewise for Step 2 (Functional). Here’s my attempt below:
Finally, compare and contrast your answers, if you wish to become more valued what could you be doing more of to be considered as vital and increase the credit side of the account. And on the other hand what could you be doing to be less functional and so lower your debits?
What do you choose?
Naturally, a useful outcome from drawing these comparisons is that now, having read this article, you can choose to decide whether you want to become a more functional person or a vital person. You can focus on being busy or on getting results. You can choose either to take a stand for the way things are done or the way things could be done. Only you can decide what you choose to do & how you show up, and only you can be the judge of your own decision.
For those of you who want to move more in the vital direction, I strongly encourage you to examine finance business partnering as a platform as it offers a great opportunity to drive better outcomes for organisations. Valued finance business partners are those who help managers by asking thoughtful questions of all the necessary stakeholders, brokering and linking up points, adding a considered commercial overview and financial angle, to ultimately drive better outcomes for them and their businesses.
So what’re your recommendations for becoming a more valued finance business partner? Let’s all contribute to make this another resource for other aspiring finance business partners so please like or add your comments below.