BlackLine Blog

August 23, 2019

How to Actually Achieve Successful Business Partnering

Digital Transformation
2 Minute Read

Mark Partin

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For years, business partnering has been on the agenda for finance organizations. But double checking the financial statements, tracking down reconciliations, and chasing down intercompany document trails have all rightly taken precedence—as these tasks require substantial, if not all-encompassing effort.

So it's no surprise that, according to FSN’s 2017 Future of the Finance Function Survey, 37% of CFOs still say they struggle to make a board-level strategic planning and decision-making contribution. Over half shared that they simply couldn’t find the time or resources to invest in business partnering.

But the business is looking to Finance to help in times of change—as stewards of data and business support, and also to deliver more strategic value.

Rebalancing Priorities Using Process & Technology

While the need for heightened business savvy and stronger collaboration skills has been an increasingly sought-after talent profile to acquire or nurture, it’s remained tricky for teams to balance the needs of today: getting the numbers out while reshaping the direction of the function.

This is one of the many reasons accounting process automation has become such an essential part of the finance landscape.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is already delivering substantial efficiency gains for routine and increasingly sophisticated accounting tasks. Cloud computing enables accountants to more easily deliver transactional automation and analysis applications, therefore increasing efficiency and aid decision support.

Continuous Accounting, a new methodology that is replacing record-to-report processes, is chipping away at the financial close blackout window that often throttles and frustrates business partnering initiatives.

The increased shift in expectation, from number cruncher to value-creator, is driven by a real need from stakeholders who are attempting to plan for change in a rapidly moving business environment.

This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for accounting organizations to realign skills, free time, and rethink traditional ways of conducting accounting and finance work.

Moving From Scorekeeper to Change Agent

Technologies like RPA take the manual effort out of many accounting processes and can enable a move to exception-based accounting―an essential upgrade that creates the time accountants need to be more business focused. Cloud computing enables this technology to be deployed quickly and makes it easy for Finance to control.

But achieving effective business partnering is not just about using technology to driving efficiency. A larger challenge remains the financial close itself.

When the business looks to Accounting and Finance for support and to provide timely insight into business decisions, they need that data now―not after the month-end crunch is over and the reporting is complete.

Continuous Accounting is a way to apply technology to improve efficiency and create a process that delivers powerful results for business partnering initiatives. By moving automation to real-time, month-end tasks like reconciliations can be processed as they happen, rather than at the close.

According to Ventana Research, “Rather than merely automating existing practices to increase efficiency, Continuous Accounting recognizes that longstanding processes may no longer be the best processes. By eliminating the constraints of traditional, linear record-to-report processes, Continuous Accounting typically is more responsive, forward-looking, and agile than outdated legacy ways of working.”

Big Business Partnering Benefits

Applying technology to facilitate this small change leads to big business partnering benefits. By automating routine tasks and taking them out of the close crunch, it can shrink the close window by as much as 70% or more at enterprises like eBay and mid-size brands like Griffin Technology.

It also provides a real-time picture of financials, rather than limiting visibility until month-end. By applying intercompany eliminations and reconciliations, account balance reconciliations, and other processes as they happen, the financial picture is always up-to-date and ready for analysis.

Read the CFO Playbook: Finance Business Partnering to learn more about the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to achieve business partnering success.

About the Author


Mark Partin