Evolving competencies in FP&A

Author: Ashish Kalyanpur

The scope of traditional Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) has evolved to be more than just analyzing financial data. The current buzzword discussed in industry webinars in the financial domain is ‘extended planning & analysis’ or xP&A. For efficient and informed decision making, xP&A is the future for organizations. Most organizations are now focusing to build this capability to have a competitive edge over others. But as this function is still in its evolution, it is critical to bring in the right set of people to build excellence in xP&A.

Going beyond the boundaries with xP&A
xP&A goes beyond the boundaries of traditional FP&A and connects it other departments like supply chain, human resources, or sales. It reinstates the idea that finance professionals must run scenarios in real-time collaboratively, multi-dimensionally and at different levels of the organization, creating a symbiotic approach. With this new capability, FP&A connects financial insights with strategic operational planning, thus adding agility to the decision-making process.

Bringing diverse skillsets to build capability
The expanded scope of FP&A also opens new career opportunities for professionals across domains. Traditionally, some of the biggest skill gaps between traditional management accounting and modern xP&A are competencies such as technology & data savviness, analytics & data modeling, communication and storytelling skills, business acumen and critical thinking. However, the new scope of xP&A demands diverse skillsets to build a high performing team.

To build best-in-class finance processes and maximize the potential in xP&A, there are seven key roles which have emerged as xP&A specialists – the architect, the analyst, the data scientist, the storyteller, the influencer, the connector, and the interpreter. Here’s how they help in enhancing the capabilities.

The architect and the connector in the team bring in the ability to bridge the start and the end points, understand the problem statement, connect the dots within the data landscape to know what questions to ask, where to look for the financial & non-financial insights etc. It is important for them to have the knowledge of organizational structures & domain, understanding of the systems and data flow among others.

The data scientist role has emerged recently in this domain considering the vast amount of customer, product, operations, supplier and other data that needs to be analyzed and is a big contributor to the ‘extended’ element. Expertise in SQL, relational databases, big data systems along with other organization specific systems is critical to bring the right data together for analysis.

The analyst & interpreter roles make data meaningful by converting information to insight using business acumen, statistical tools, and MS Excel to generate ideas, prescribe opportunities and solutions for business problems. This requires understanding of business operations, financial modeling techniques to run multiple scenarios of financial and other outcomes.

Arguably the most important of all are the business partnering roles of the storyteller and the influencer that help gain commitment on what is being presented. Knowing your audience, sharing anecdotes with clarity, evidence and connectivity are what create the AHA! moments. Emotional intelligence and empathy have never taken center stage in FP&A and that’s what stands out as the differentiating skill.

At Lowe’s India, the Finance Decision Support & Analytics team has been evolving in competencies and outcomes. From humble beginnings few years ago, today we are a 100+ member team with finance, technology & analytics professionals. This mix of skills has helped us expand our offerings and add value to our partners in the US & Canada across all business verticals by identifying opportunities and solving problems.

About the author:
Ashish Kalyanpur is Associate Director – FDS&A leading the Merchandising Finance operations for Lowe’s India. As a Business Intelligence expert, Ashish has led reporting, insights and analytics operations and has help set up Reporting & Analytics COE for major retail organizations. In his career he has led Merchandising FP&A teams and managed change programs, transitions and CI initiatives across Merchandising, Procurement and Finance teams.