Agile ways of working in Finance Business Partnering

Coming up on the 4th May 2020, CA ANZ will be hosting a very different Accounting Conference for the first time – it will be pre-recorded with Live Q&A to follow each talk with any speaker you choose. This kind of intimate approach is exactly what I’d call an agile way to working through our current challenges with COVID-19. And what a pleasure it is to be part of this whole iterative process.   

Unlike previous conferences where I’ve pitched a presentation, I’ve been given a topic: “Agile approaches to project accounting, business partnering and value creation”. Initial reaction was wow that’s a big topic to cover in 40 minutes. But the more I’ve been preparing for the upcoming event, the more distracted I’m getting by the excitement that our industry is open to talking about this. 

I think back to the days of the Dilbert cartoons of “Accounting Trolls” that hide away from their stakeholders in caves crunching out the numbers. But now as businesses adopt more collaborative ways of working, stakeholders are expecting involvement from their Accounting and Finance professionals too. There are changing expectations on us, as finance professionals, to be partnering on business strategy and projects to help deliver value and not just number crunch. 

Personally, the fact that there is this collaboration and a group sense of ownership for a deliverable is exciting, but for many this is new territory and can be confusing. So I’m focusing my presentation on what it means to:

  • Speak “Agile”, especially when giving advice
  • Become cross-functional team members
  • Define and partner with stakeholders on value creation

Agile ways of working have redefined the way many companies/divisions work. You’ll know if that’s your organisation by all the post-it notes taking over walls in your building. To be included, we need to learn the Agile language and techniques, even if just the basic principles.

Photo by İrfan Simsar

Secondly, think about your organisation’s project investment into activities that are not its core or are beginning to form around the core. Like a bank investing in IT projects. Quite often project teams are formed and it brings together roles from various departments together to ensure the necessary skills are in the team to deliver the project. Chances are your organisation may expect an Accounting or Finance resource to join the project team and help guide the project’s financial implications. This requires project accounting techniques that do differ to management accounting and BAU type finance. There is an immense amount of complexity and with it – value, that you can add by understanding project accounting techniques.

Going further, if you become a finance business partner to deliver not just project outcomes, but also determine the value of the project and any in future of the departments or teams you partner with – the expectation on your skillset and involvement is changing vastly and fast. And in order to succeed in this expected value creation role, we, as Finance professionals, need to understand the required skills and appreciate that it’s not ‘one size fits all’ approach when working in this environment.  

As you can see I’m incredibly excited to get to talk about how our role is changing with the business needs, and these are some of my initial points that I am looking to cover at the CA ANZ Accounting Conference to be aired across Australia in a couple of weeks time. I would love to hear your thoughts, so come say a “virtual” hello and bring your thinking hats and questions.