When I was working as a Finance Director, I felt it was vitally important that the Finance function was at the ‘heart’ of my business. Did I mean that Finance should be literally pumping the life blood of the business? Certainly not, but it‘s interesting to reflect a little on what is meant by being at the heart of business and whether the finance function has any right to claim to be there.
Taking the most instinctive reaction to being at the heart of something, means that I wanted my Finance team to work at the centre of the business. They were not to be peripheral onlookers but active at where the action took place. They had to be participants in devising strategies, implementing them with secure processes and monitoring the output and results.
If I then consider how a heart works, it is the engine of the body providing vital blood flow and nutrients to all parts of the body. To make the blood flow it has to beat and pump the blood out and bring in the blood that has just been circulated. There is a function of taking input and pushing out new refreshed oxygenated output. What nutrients could a Finance team at the heart of business offer? Offering the application of Finance technical knowledge but also combining that with essential business knowledge. By combining both, the Finance function can provide challenge, insight and strategy for decision making.
Could Finance at the heart of business also have in depth knowledge of all the parts of the organisation (the body) by travelling through the systems of the business (arteries and veins)? This extensive knowledge would certainly be helpful to making sure that all the relevant information was being captured and nothing was being ignored.
It’s interesting that I chose the heart as my metaphor rather than the brain. For a Finance function devoted to such cerebral analytical activities a substantial part of the time, why did I not choose this? Maybe, it was the distancing effect of the brain being at the top, purely analytical, calculating and not having the emotional connection to the rest of the organisation (body). Or it could have been that the most vital organ in the body is the heart, without it the body cannot live.
How do you see your role or that of your team? What’s a good description of how you want Finance to be in your organisation? To get a clearer picture just ask ‘the way I and my team work in my organisation is like what’?