Blog Home > Executive Perspective > How High-Functioning Finance Teams Become Strategic Business Partners

How High-Functioning Finance Teams Become Strategic Business Partners

Table of Contents

The role of finance has expanded. It's not just about looking at financial data anymore. Finance teams are wearing multiple hats.

Thats what Delbridge Solutions Co-Founder and COO Harjot Ghai said at Excelerate Summit 2023 during the panel discussion, Strategies for High-Functioning Finance Teams. With Jack Mahoney, Director of FP&A at BetMGM, David Cornfield, VP of Finance and Planning and me, Vena CFO, as the moderator, we talked about how high-functioning finance teams can become strategic business partners.

In this blog, I share the highlights from my hour-long conversation with Harjot, Jack and David. Learn from our panelists how to unlock your finance teams power as a strategic business partner with communication, agility and technology.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hire curious, flexible and thoughtful professionals who can contribute both strategically and tactically.
  • Invest in a solution that provides a single source of truth for decision makers.
  • Over communicate, explain and emphasize KPIs when implementing business process changes.

How To Deal With Economic Uncertainty

WWF Canada

We're relying more and more on our rolling forecast.

David is leaning on his rolling forecast to anticipate and respond to future conditions. Theyre prioritizing resource allocation, which could include delaying hiring or deferring other expenses.

Delbridge Solutions

They need to have access to data The role of finance has expanded. It's not just about looking at financial data anymore. Finance teams are wearing multiple hats.

Harjot recognizes finance teams needing quick access to data to make decisions and provide meaningful insights to their business partners in other departments faster. He believes any solution implemented, with todays hybrid working environment and renewed focus on profitability, should include features for collaboration, cash flow forecasting and what-if modeling.

How To Create an Agile Team


Hiring for lack of a better term athletes people that can be easily cross-trained across different responsibilities. They're curious, they're flexible, they're thoughtful and have the intellectual horsepower.

Jack recommends hiring people who can easily move between the 30,000-foot view and really digging in the weeds. As a new organization with little institutional knowledge, he is fostering a culture of open and continuous learning.

Delbridge Solutions

Management is hiring and training people who can wear multiple hats they're investing a lot more in technology and hiring people who embrace it.

Harjot sees management teams looking for professionals who are versatile and welcoming new technologies. He feels finance professionals have never been more technically skilled and never had their role expanded this widely. He believes they're becoming change agents and working more with business partners to identify issues and implement solutions.

WWF Canada

Being insightful and creative.

David recognizes the value of creative adaptability. He wants people who can adjust stories and presentations by report and by audience. He wants leaders who can recognize individual employees strengths and maximize their respective contributions.

How To Work in an Agile Work Environment

Delbridge Solutions

Embrace the hybrid model. I think it's here to stay. It's not something that was just a fad with COVID It's very important now, with the type of environment we work in, to collaborate. So they can have an environment or a CPM solution where everybody can have access to the same data in a centralized repository.

Harjot feels the hybrid working environment is permanent and recommends investing in a solution that provides a confident single source of truth for decision makers.


What enabled all of the hybrid and remote-first environment was communication almost over communication to a point We still do three times a week all-hands calls. Sounds like overkill, but there's honestly no better way for us to all always be on the same page.

Jack recognizes the value of having a single source of truth for financial data. He feels the ability to speak the same language makes virtual communication smoother.

How To Communicate Change to Employees

WWF Canada

The technology may change, but in terms of communicatingcertainly all-staff meetings, leadership team meetings you have to repeat it multiple times, over and over again, and continue to nudge people, explaining what the goals are.

David stresses the importance of recurring explanatory overcommunication and emphasizing KPIs.


Saying things multiple times and having that communication aligned as well across different forums In terms of decisions being data driven, the ability to communicate data to the right audience, using the right language has been really impactful.

Jack also believes in the importance of repeated, aligned overcommunication and the ability to customize presentations and stories by audience.

How To Become a Strategic Partner

Delbridge Solutions

Communicating change management needs to be clear. You need to give your people time to adjust to these changes Employee retentionit's harder and harder to train and retain good employees. And so there's a huge opportunity cost when somebody leaves and you have to take time to rehire somebody and train them again.

Harjot feels business process changes are more difficult in a hybrid working environment, which requires allowing more time for change. He also recommends empowering employees to make their own meeting attendance choices.


Knowing our audience in terms of communicating insights and analysis adding value to the businessdelivering insights that are unique to your viewpoint and understanding where you may be seeing blind spots that others can't see and trying to illuminate those.

Jack believes finance professionals need to understand their business partners knowledge levels. He feels finance teams must have the ability to distill their massive volume of complex datathats added to their forecasts and analysisto much smaller, digestible stories with a unique perspective.

WWF Canada

Having more ideas and new initiatives and then having to choose which initiative to move forward There seems to be more ideas than what you can actually handle sometimes.

David highlights strategic prioritization choosing which projects that are the best allocation of your resources and which to block or defer.

Strategic Business Partnering

High-functioning finance teams can become strategic business partnersonly when they communicate business process changes, work with agility and have the technology they need.

Want to see how technology can help your finance team become strategic partners to your business? Try Venas Intelligent Platform for Complete Planning to preview Vena's features for saving time and connecting data.

To learn more about high-functioning finance teams and becoming strategic business partners, watch the full panel discussion, Strategies for High-Functioning Finance Teams, on demand.

graphics of a rocket
Strategies for High-Functioning Finance Teams

Learn how to unlock your finance team's power as a strategic business partner with agile FP&A methods, automation and tactics for data-driven decision making.


Like this content?

Get resources curated just for you and your department.

Learn More

About the Author

Melissa Howatson, Chief Financial Officer, Vena

Melissa Howatson, Chief Financial Officer at Vena, has a wealth of experience in financial and consulting roles, ranging from EdTech, automotive and Big Four accounting firms. She was CFO and board member at D2L—a global learning technology company—and led its successful initial public offering in 2021. Prior to that, she held finance leadership positions at Bend All Automotive, Qwalify and Primal. Melissa is a CPA-CA, having obtained her designation while working in KPMG's assurance practice. With her combination of scale-up and start-up experience, Melissa has an impressive track record of building and leading successful finance teams that drive the business forward.

Read More