To drive value creation in a business, it’s important that all employees and functions focus on doing what they do best. Sales should focus on meeting customers, explaining the value proposition and closing deals, operations should focus on delivering the product as agreed, procurement needs to secure the lowest possible price from the vendors etc. No frontline function that’s involved in running the business will have an in-depth view of what’s going on in other functions and how they’re performing. Their view is so to speak limited to any handover points they might have. Now does that mean that it’s only the CEO that has the full overview of what goes on in the business? No, of course not, and here we enter the support functions. Support functions like HR, IT and Finance support all parts of the business having a focus on people, digitalization and business performance to name a few. They are, however, doing it from their own point of view and despite supporting the whole business their view could be limited too.
If we then zoom in on Finance and discuss how good a view the function has on the business it’s clear that without having a 20/20 vision on the business, Finance will fall short in supporting the business and the CEO in driving business performance and value creation. By 20/20 vision is meant the following starting with the official definition.
”20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.”
To translate it into the current context it’s not asking for something superhuman when wanting Finance to have a 20/20 vision on the business. Essentially, Finance should see what goes on in each part of the business like a normal person but not like a specialist who would see things even clearer (and yes, it’s possible to have a better vision than 20/20). By having this vision into the business, Finance would be able not only to have a full overview of the business but more importantly have a performance dialogue in a business context rather than a pure numbers context.
We’ve previously described how simply knowing the numbers is no longer enough to get you a seat at the table. Here we’re making it clear that without having a view on the business and being able to contextualize the numbers you will get stuck outside the door. It’s important to note the essential point about the 20/20 vision again. As a finance professional supporting the business, you’re not supposed to see what goes on in each function as well as those that work there. You’re not asked to become as good as the specialist although naturally the more you understand of a given function the better you will be able to support it.
There are many things you need to do and can do to develop a 20/20 vision on the business but for now, we will leave it by asking how good is your vision into the business and what are you doing to improve that vision? Luckily, unlike your eyesight, in most cases, you can improve this vision and if Finance should truly help create value this is a must!