Finance Needs A 20/20 Vision On The Business
In order 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.
Finance needs to have a full overview of the business
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 on supporting the business and the CEO, in particular, on 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 to not only have a full overview of the business but more importantly be able to have a performance dialogue in a business context rather than a pure numbers context.
If you only know the numbers you won’t get a seat at the table
I’ve previously described how simply knowing the numbers is no longer enough to get you a seat at the table. Here I’m then 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. This is especially true if you’re a finance business partner and tasked with supporting a specific function. Then it’s not uncommon to encounter an expectation that you need to develop a better than 20/20 vision on this function. Only then will you be able to become a true sparring partner to the business leaders in the function.
There are many things you need to do and can do to develop a 20/20 vision on the business but here I will refer you to past and future articles where this has and will be covered extensively. For now, I 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 actually improve this vision and if Finance should truly help create value this is a must!
To stay updated on this topic and in particular on how Finance can help the business create value I would encourage you to follow my “value-series” where you can find past articles below. To be sure to stay informed about future articles you can either connect with me or join my group Finance Business Partner Forum. Last but not least you can also follow me on Twitter.
Anders Liu-Lindberg is the Senior Finance Business Partner for Maersk LineEurope Region and is working with the transformation of Finance and business on a daily basis. I have participated in several transformation processes among others helping Maersk Drilling to go Beyond Budgeting and transformed a finance team from Bean-counters to Business Partners. I would love the chance to collaborate with you on your own transformation processes to help you stay out of disruption. If you are looking for more advice on how to get the most of LinkedIn I also have a few tips to share as well as if you want help in your job search. Don’t be shy! Let’s get in touch and start helping each other.