British American Tobacco (BAT), the UK-based global tobacco Group, is making strong efficiency gains through shared service centres and working increasingly closely with the end markets. This has enabled the finance business partners to focus on helping those markets to deliver better business outcomes.
Shifting transactional work to shared service centres is central to the finance transformation—and a key objective is to bring the size and cost of finance in line with benchmark performance.
As transactional work has been centralized, business partners from the finance function have been better able to offer a broad perspective to the operating managers. Most operating managers welcome the business partners’ involvement. In fact, some tell us, “I wish the business partners would challenge us more,” Pablo says. “They would like to have more of that because that prepares them better for other conversations.” Such conversations aren’t always easy, but they’re productive because the business partners tend to have accumulated experience in multiple markets and regions and have formed relationships throughout the company.
For example, finance business partners have been key players in the transformation of BAT’s supply chain. Leaf procurement and 90 percent of wrapping materials purchasing is done globally to standardize pricing. Logistics and planning, once done locally, were moved first into regional service centres and are now in the process of moving to a global centre based mainly in UK.
More effective business partnering, and a more effective and efficient finance function in general, don’t come about on their own. Enablers such as process standardization, the implementation of a single version of an ERP platform, and sophisticated analytics help produce gains in efficiency and free up time for deeper analysis. And what are the key factors for success in business partnering? “You have to act as part of the commercial team, not think of yourself as just a support function” says Pablo. Tim adds: “Your success should be measured on the business outcome you achieve together, not just your input to it. If you don’t commit to that, you’re not part of the team.”
“Your success should be measured on the business outcome you achieve together, not just your input to it. If you don’t commit to that, you’re not part of the team.”