Business partners: shaping the future

by Clive Webb

28 November 2019

The role of finance business partner is important for future success of NHS

Business partnering is seen by many as the elixir for the future of finance.  Done well it can be fundamental to improving the success of an organisation.  Performed ineffectively it adds little direct value.  How do we make it a success?  And why does it matter?

The role of finance is changing and, with the access to improved data and technology, it can support decision making in ways that we have not seen before.  The demand for insight from our internal customers is also growing. No longer do we have the luxury of time. The month-end seems a long way away in this rapidly changing world. Decisions are taken faster.

The role of the finance team in supporting informed decision making is one of the key reasons why we have seen a growth in business partnering across organisations in recent years. Much has been written about the subject. There is a challenge that it has become a catch-all term applied to many people working across the back office in organisations, without clarity of the true purpose and benefit that it can bring.

Being an effective business partner in organisations involves a series of personal and professional attributes that enable the individual to provide real value and insight. In addition to deep technical skills it requires the ability to frame a problem or issue in the context of the organisation, its strategy and business model.

It means being able to understand the data available to be able to categorise the problem and perform an analysis of the story that this tells. Being able to communicate this narrative to stakeholders effectively is also essential. In essence it is the ability to look forward through the windscreen, rather than behind through the more limited rear view mirror.

A new report – Exploring the role of the NHS finance business partner – has just been published by ACCA, the HFMA and Future-Focused Finance. It references a series of professional quotients – skills and attributes – that ACCA identified as a result of extensive research in 2016.

These are at the heart of what you need to master to be an effective business partner; to play that vital role in the organisation. Combined with the stories of those who have learned their own lessons in their journey to be the effective business partner, this new report provides a compelling view of why the role is so important to the success of the NHS going forwards.