This article was written by Josh Starr, a Senior FP&A Consultant at DataRails.
My professional choice to work in FP&A makes a lot of sense for me- I love numbers, analysis and finance. Yet for some weird reason, I always found the day to day routine unfulfilling. One might want to attribute this to poor work ethic or other personality related reasons, but after speaking with many FP&A analysts and experts, I discovered that many share the same sentiment as me- FP&A professionals feel overworked and disengaged.
The State of FP&A
There is a very clear divergence between what FP&A is and what FP&A is supposed to be.
There is a French culinary phrase called mise en place, which essentially means putting everything in its place. In cooking, this refers to the setup and arrangement of all ingredients and components required for cooking. This includes arranging the spices, cutting up the vegetables, and organizing all the equipment. In short, all the preparatory material that a chef needs to work his/her magic. The chef’s value is their ability to blend and cook ingredients. It is a waste of their talents to participate in the mise en place.
So much of FP&A has become mise en place and not financial planning nor financial analysis. The best FP&A experts are utilizing their quantitative skills creating fancy Excel formulas to connect data that is structured in a convoluted fashion. This leaves little time to invest in analyzing data and gaining meaningful insights into the data. And guess what? Next month- you will have to do the same thing!
In addition to creating reports, the organization of files takes a lot of time. It’s very common for an FP&A professional to have an overloaded computer drive. The drive often consists of many folders filled with tons of data and financial reports. An FP&A professional needs to be highly organized and know where everything should be allocated so the files can be easily retrieved. Consequently, a large portion of work is downloading and saving files in their correct location.
FP&A professionals provide the most value when they analyze trends, create forecasts and provide insights regarding the financial and operational standing of the organization. FP&A professionals want to use data to guide strategy and leverage the data available to guide an organization. In short, FP&A professionals want to be the chef and not just prepare the food for the chef. Yet, most of the work is spent creating reports or organizing financial files- in other words, mise en place.
DataRails- Revolutionizing FP&A
Think of DataRails as your mise en place. You become the chef and DataRails sets everything up for you. DataRails will provide instant benefit in three areas:
- File organization– all financial and operational data gets stored in the cloud. Your workflow becomes uploading your financial and operational data into the system, and everything is then stored within folders and file boxes. Using versioning and tags, the filebox significantly reduces the noise of spreadsheets overflowing your computer drive.
- Reporting processes– From file uploads to management reporting, all your repetitive processes are automated. So instead of multistep processes, reports are now instantly ready. These processes are repeatable.
- Insights– Once you have all your data in one place, you can unlock it using the DataRails BI interface. The Insights are multi-layered and have tools for in-depth analysis.
FP&A is exciting, it’s just that most FP&A professionals are not actually doing FP&A. Cutting vegetables and setting up spices are not cooking. It’s a means to cook, but it’s just setting up. Organizing files and writing fancy Excel formulas is not FP&A, it’s just a means to an end goal. The end goal is leveraging your data to make smart business decisions that will cultivate business growth. Ultimately, FP&A professionals will find it very rewarding to be a key stakeholder in their business.
Tal Goori and Yuval Cohen contributed to this article.