By Anders Liu-Lindberg, The Business Partnering Institute
It is 10 AM Monday morning and agile teams within a financial services company are about to start their fortnightly sprint planning meetings. Preparing for the meeting, the product owner of one agile team spent an hour with his finance business partner. The business partner had reviewed the sprint backlog and made a financial assessment of each of the items in the backlog.
They discussed the pro’s and con’s of each item considering the benefits for the customer into the discussion. In preparation for the meeting, the business partner had assessed how each item could positively impact the customer experience and brand reputation of the company. Utilizing this input, they jointly did a holistic scoring of each item considering both financial and non-financial metrics and prioritized what items should go into the next sprint.
Back to the sprint planning meeting and the product owner presents the initial view on the prioritized pipeline of items to be included in the next sprint. The business partner then shares some further reflections on the scoring and opens the floor for input. The team shares some good points that lead to a finetuning of the items to be included in the sprint. Everyone leaves the meeting feeling they have made some good decisions and with an in-depth understanding of how delivering on the agreed items will significantly move forward the project.
Does this sound like a realistic scenario for a day in the life of a finance business partner in an organization that has moved to an Enterprise Agile operating model? It is certainly one activity that would be value-adding to the agile team and the product owner. A neutral sparring partner that can help with an impact-scoring of which items to work on. In this article, we will share further views on what are the key activities of a business partner in an Enterprise Agile organization.
The activities of a business partner in an Enterprise Agile operating model
In an Enterprise Agile operating model, most finance resources have been centralized in Global Business Services or Centers of Excellence. Here resides deep subject-matter expertise within areas of tax, M&A, risk management, compliance, and FP&A. The only decentralized resources are business partners who are assigned to a tribe (a group of a few squads) that has responsibility for certain parts of the business. The business partner will work mostly with supporting the product owners in each squad as well as work with managing the overall effectiveness of the tribe. Here is an outline of what they could be working on.
This is a fundamentally different way of working compared to how most finance professionals and even business partners work today. Hence, it will be a significant change where we need to upskill business partners to be prepared for the change and excelling in this new operating model.
What skills are needed to excel as a finance business partner in an Enterprise Agile operating model?
For business partners to succeed in an Enterprise Agile operating model you need four key skill areas: analytical skills, partnering skills, business skills, and leadership skills. Here is why they are important to succeeding in this new operating model.
All these skills are on top of the standard professional toolbox that finance professionals get from university and studying for most designations. That means we have a massive challenge at hand to upskill finance professionals and even those working as business partners today to succeed in the Agile Enterprise.
How do you see the role of the finance business partner in an Enterprise Agile organization? What will be different from the role they play today? Do you think it is possible for business partners to become a part of the tribe and the individual squads or will they always be outsiders?
One key change for Finance to make is to transform at speed and create the Agile finance function as we discussed last week. However, with most finance transformation programs being five-year-long journeys how are we ever going to get there? The answer we believe is an Agile Finance Transformation.