How Cross-Functional Planning Enhances Collaboration with FP&A

Operating in silos is the old way of doing business. For FP&A teams to deliver the most value to today’s organisations, they need to embrace cross-functional collaboration with key company functions.


Today’s FP&A teams can’t operate in silos. To have a holistic, current picture of an organisation's financial health—and deliver the strategic insights these teams are increasingly expected to produce—they need data, knowledge, and feedback from departments company-wide. Which takes communication and collaboration with multiple functions—not an easy task.

More and more organisations are relying on cross-functional collaboration to ensure company-wide collaboration. Advancing technologies and evolving views on the role of finance make it easier than ever for FP&A to collaborate with other departments.

Making the effort is more than just worthwhile—it’s imperative. Cross-functional planning enhances collaboration with FP&A by infusing data and insights from other functions into the FP&A process while also giving each department a better understanding of its own financial performance. In turn, the C-suite can then develop a more insightful corporate strategy.

Here’s how FP&A can generate better insights, more enthusiasm, and greater innovation with cross-functional collaboration.


What Is Cross-Functional Collaboration?

Cross-functional collaboration is a strategic approach to boost cooperation, innovation, and efficiency in an organisation. 

Rather than an organisation comprising siloed departments, cross-functional teams work collectively on the same project or goal. These teams include employees from different functions who bring varying skills and experiences to the table—encouraging the exchange of pain points, information, and ideas.

The U.S. insurance giant Northwestern Mutual pioneered the practice in the 1950s by creating an inter-departmental team to study the potential effects of computers on the business world. However cross-functional collaboration didn’t fully take off until the 1980s when earnings and efficiency became top priorities for competitive CEOs. 

These days, cross-functional planning is the go-to operating model for most organisations. 

By 2024, two-thirds of employees in high-performing G2000 companies are expected to be part of cross-functional teams, according to global market intelligence provider IDC.

Organisations apply cross-functional collaboration in a variety of ways. You can create teams that include representatives from marketing, sales, finance, and engineering to launch a new SaaS product—or to create a temporary, pop-up team to address immediate goals such as executing a new business pitch. In other cases, these teams might be an enduring part of your organisation’s operating fabric.  

Such is the case for auto retailer CarMax. As part of their transformation strategy, they switched from siloed teams to cross-functional teams, including a product manager (who leads the team), a user experience expert, and a developer or engineer. Because of this strategy, CarMax has achieved faster business results and improved the customer experience.


The Benefits Of Cross-Functional Collaboration  

When done right, cross-functional teams can improve the employee experience, boost collaboration, and reduce duplication.  

Cross-functional planning allows FP&A teams to move beyond solely a financial reporting role to help organisations make better operational decisions. When FP&A partners with marketing, for example, insights into market trends and customer behaviour can improve financial models and pinpoint opportunities for organisation growth.  

Other benefits of cross-functional collaboration include:

Boosted innovation. Due to a focus on skill-sharing and brainstorming and a diversity of insights, cross-functional collaboration can create enormous innovation gains for organisations, Deloitte research shows.

Higher employee engagement. Cross-functional collaboration improves employee engagement—and retention. Why? Employees enjoy developing new skills in areas outside their expertise and contributing to a common goal.

According to a Gallup survey, improving employee engagement is critical, considering that just 23% of global teams say they are engaged.

Increased agility. Cross-functional teams and continuous planning make organisations more agile and versatile. When the unexpected happens, cross-functional teams can respond more quickly and nimbly because they have more autonomy and access to well-rounded skills.  

That compares to 67% of European organisations that are slow to respond to a changing business environment because their organisations are hierarchical and operate in silos, according to IDC research.

More accurate forecasting. Better and more regular input from other functions improves 

FP&A forecasts for revenue, expenses, and other key financial metrics.

Better alignment. When departments are siloed, they can lose track of the overall organisational strategy—resulting in goals, directives, and budgets that don’t support the organisation’s strategic direction. Cross-functional collaboration helps ensure better company-wide alignment on goals.


Common Challenges of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross-functional teams can quickly become dysfunctional if not properly created and managed.  

The most common challenges these teams face include:

  • Lack of support. According to a Deloitte survey, more than half of organisations with cross-functional teams cite a lack of cultural support as a reason their teams struggle. Many organisations don’t devote the necessary resources—or make the necessary cultural changes—to operate these teams at a high level.

  • Fuzzy governance. Because members of cross-functional teams represent various functions, confusion can pop up about who’s in charge. Above all else, make sure your team has a designated leader—someone to right the ship if and when collaboration gives way to chaos.  

  • Poor communication. Subpar communication is sometimes a human problem (employees still operate in silos despite being on a cross-functional team) or a tech problem (teams lack the right digital tools to communicate and share information).  

Digital tools such as Slack, Zoom, and LucidChart a contemporary, cloud-based operating system foster open communication among disparate employees and are essential for cross-collaboration.

  • Standing meetings, team-building activities, and feedback sessions can also help boost trust and collaboration.  

  • Unclear goals. Differing work styles or opinions on team priorities can derail collaborative teams. Cross-functional teams must start with a compelling vision that orients the team toward a unique set of goals. Tether the goals to a complimentary set of KPIs to emphasise the importance of collaboration and ensure that team members can measure their success as distinct from their departmental performance. 


The Importance of FP&A Collaboration

When organisations embrace company-wide cross-functional collaboration, they bring previously siloed functions like FP&A more into the mix of everyday business. FP&A has better visibility to valuable data across the organisation, which is crucial for building realistic budgets and accurate financial forecasts.  

At Rubrik, a global provider of cloud-based data management and protection solutions, adopting Workday Adaptive Planning helped the organisation slash their quarterly closings process from three months to seven days and stop strategic planning by spreadsheet. It also unlocked cross-functional collaboration and greater planning automation across multiple functions.  

Today, Rubrik can access data across the entire organisation. They can react more quickly to market trends and make faster decisions supported by up-to-the-minute data.  

Rubrik is not alone. When FP&A has a holistic view of company-wide finances and access to modern financial planning software, individual teams can identify revenue-generating opportunities or resource-sapping initiatives. 


How To Ensure Cross-Functional Collaboration With FP&A Teams  

Often, a spreadsheet is the biggest barrier to cross-functional collaboration with FP&A. Excel spreadsheets prevent real-time, universal access.  

When only one person can access and edit a spreadsheet’s data at a time, changes are difficult to track—making spreadsheet updates a tedious and error-prone process.  

You can also forget about access to real-time insights and what-if scenario planning models. That sophisticated analysis requires cloud-based tools that enable collaborative reporting and are outfitted with responsive, customizable data dashboards.  

Workday’s Adaptive Planning gives organisations the ability to quickly model what-if scenarios, automate time-consuming manual data entry, pull data from disparate systems to provide a single source of truth, and plan collaboratively across the entire organisation.

In fact, several companies have already found success using Adaptive Planning to enhance cross-functional collaboration.  

Maritz, a global sales and marketing services organisation with multiple subsidiaries, relied on Adaptive Planning to centralise data from 11 separate systems across multiple companies into a single, cloud-based location that collaborators could easily access. Their new system automatically imports data from multiple sources, enabling faster, more reliable reporting.  

At the real estate investment firm Fairfield Residential, financial analysts needed a simple method for viewing multiple revenue streams simultaneously. Adaptive Planning’s performance management solution delivered what they were looking for in a single click, freeing the analysts to do what they do best: analyse.  

Finally, SS&C, the global healthcare tech company, needed to improve collaboration among organisation stakeholders. Workday provided their leaders with the tools and data they needed to manage their resources better. As a result, department heads have expanded their teams’ capabilities and improved client offerings.  

Any organisation worth its salt wants its FP&A function to be more collaborative. But actually, making it happen requires the right technology and plan in place. In today’s disruptive business environment, where potential crises can flare up unexpectedly, your planning solutions must deliver timely insights that make it easy to find and follow the right path.

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