Our Being Planful podcast has become a great forum for conversations about the people, processes, and purpose of finance, accounting, and FP&A. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can scan our growing list of episodes here and subscribe using your podcast app of choice.
One of my favorite aspects of Being Planful is the fun and entertaining FP&A Fridays. It’s a recurring show where I’m joined by Glenn Snyder, a recognized industry expert with over 25 years of FP&A and corporate strategy experience, and Chris Ortega, Sr. Director, Global Finance at Emarsys. Our topics have included everything from driving back-office transformation to building a high-performing culture in FP&A.
In a recent episode (listen here), Chris, Glenn, and I discuss the different personas within finance and accounting. It’s not something many of us think about as we’re in the day-to-day cycle of work. But understanding your persona, where it fits within your organization, and which persona works in different situations can really change how you and your team add value. It also provides a framework for changing your persona and building a well-rounded team.
Here are a few highlights of this episode.
The 4 FP&A Personas
Finance is fundamentally about numbers. So, being the “numbers person” is where most folks in FP&A begin. Unfortunately, it’s easy to be limited by the rest of the organization if they share that perception. Getting out of that numbers-only role and into the role of a strategic advisor then falls back on you.
“People in finance tend to gravitate towards the numbers, the data analysis, let me sit in from my computer and build my Excel models,” explained Glenn. “The persona most people in finance don’t have is one of a strategic partner, a thought partner who says to an executive, ‘Hey I could help advise you from not just the financial side but from a bigger picture side.’ That takes time to build out and you have to work at changing your persona.”
So what are the 4 personas in FP&A? Chris explained them well but I’ll paraphrase here:
- Constraint operators
- Constraint advisors
- Valued advisors
Scorekeeper is the more technical, numbers oriented persona. As you gain more financial efficiency and effectiveness, and tie financial insights to business strategies, your persona moves up through operator, advisor, and then to valued advisor.
“How you look at financial efficiency, how you deliver business insights through knowledge, partnership, and collaboration, that’s really going to identify what your persona is to the organization,” said Chris. “When you’re high on financial efficiency and high on business insights, those are the valued advisors. That is the Holy Grail persona you want inside the business.”
FP&A Needs Every Persona
Back to being the numbers person, it’s a role finance and accounting professionals are committed to playing. Many times, being a scorekeeper is how you can add the most value. You get to play the bad cop. FP&A needs scorekeepers, whether that’s one of multiple personas you possess or it’s the domain of someone on your team.
So what do you do if you want to change your persona? Or, what if you’re on a small team and need to play multiple roles across different personas? You learn.
“You can be proactive and you can change where you are and how you are perceived,” said Glenn. “That’s one of the things people don’t recognize. They think, ‘Oh well, I’m viewed this way therefore I have to be like this.’ And no, you don’t. You can really change how you’re perceived, what your reputation is, and what value you bring. You just have to be proactive and put a little more effort into it.”
Start by understanding your current persona from the four mentioned above. Be honest with yourself in your strengths and weaknesses. Where you’re strong, be confident. Where you’re weaker, do the work to bolster your capabilities. But always consider how FP&A is currently viewed within your organization.
“You don’t go from not having a relationship with someone to a trusted advisor overnight,” Glenn added. “It takes time to build up to that, but you have to start taking those steps. Find a mentor, find a coach who’s really good at it. Maybe someone who has migrated themselves into that higher level. Ask them how to go about doing it, what tips they can provide, and then practice it.”
Glenn suggested a straightforward yet helpful tactic for framing meetings around the persona you want to bring to the table: color-code your calendar. For meetings that need you to be the scorekeeper, make them one color. For meetings that require you to be an advisor or thought partner, make those a different color. It helps you quickly see how you’re either pigeonholed into one persona or where you can change the conversation by bringing different personas to the table.
Show the Value of Different FP&A Personas
Before you start changing your persona, remember that some organizations may have always just looked to finance and accounting teams for scorekeeping. Leaders across the business may not realize the value FP&A can add in other ways. They may not have encountered a valued advisor or even know what a high-performing FP&A team looks like. It’s up to you to show them.
“There are times when someone says, ‘I’m not interested so just send me the numbers,’” Chris said. “In that case, you just need to start there and deliver exactly what they’re asking for. And every once in a while throw in a little tidbit. Maybe it helps them tell the story a little bit better. You need to build that trust.”
Of course, it’s not an overnight process. Changing the perception of FP&A within your organization will take time. Changing your persona will take time. But understanding the personas and leveraging them in different situations helps you add more value to your organization. It also helps you grow in your career, whether you want to become the best at a single persona or move into different roles.
Subscribe to Being Planful
To hear more insights from Chris and Glenn on FP&A personas and how you can use them to your advantage, listen to this episode of Being Planful.
This podcast series explores the benefits of adopting a “Planful” mindset by inviting your FP&A, finance, and accounting peers, analysts, industry experts, and more to share their experiences and insights. To subscribe, click on your podcast platform of choice (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify), or just search for “Planful” wherever you listen. We release new episodes often, so be sure to subscribe. And, if you have any comments, questions, or think you’d make a great guest, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org