Building a Better Finance Strategy

Finance strategy combines financial planning with strategic planning to create a roadmap aligned to enterprise goals.

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Use this template to communicate key elements of your strategic plan for finance.

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Turn Your Finance Strategy into Action

Effective finance strategic planning connects your enterprise strategy to specific initiatives for your function. Done well, your finance strategic plan should provide a clear roadmap to deliver on your business goals.

Use this one‑page finance strategic planning template to:

  • Build a clear, measurable finance strategic plan aligned to your organizational goals 
  • Combat 7 costly planning mistakes to develop a robust and agile strategy for your finance department 
  • Capture and communicate your finance strategy to stakeholders with an exclusive one-page template

The core components of finance strategy

Economic volatility, digital acceleration and rapidly evolving finance technology are fundamentally reshaping finance’s opportunities for unique value creation.

Create a plan to manage, transform and monitor the corporate finance function

Finance strategy requires a balance of financial planning and strategic planning. The finance strategy should assess current resources, costs and budget; define the long-term direction of the corporate finance function; and articulate what finance will do to deliver on goals for growth and innovation. Ultimately, the finance strategy must set priorities and manage costs and resource trade-offs to support enterprise success.

A solid finance strategy must also take new technologies, capabilities and efficiencies into account. AI, machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA), for example, allow traditional finance tasks to be performed faster and more accurately, and for finance to provide deep organizational insights to stakeholders. These technologies are fundamentally changing the way finance staff work and the skills they need to thrive.

As organizations progress along the path to autonomous finance, CFOs and finance transformation leaders are thinking differently about organizational structures, roles, activity locations and the people-technology balance across all finance functions. The finance strategy must unlock value from technology as well as talent by recognizing the unique value proposition each component brings to the operating model. To that end, a comprehensive finance strategy should answer questions such as:

  • What new roles are required for an autonomous finance function?

  • How do emerging technologies factor into the strategy?

  • What are the best ways to engage all staff in digital efforts across the finance function?

Translate finance transformation goals and plans into a clear, concise roadmap

Rapid advancements in technology, a shortage of increasingly expensive talent and pressure from stakeholders to provide faster, deeper insights are all reshaping finance organizations’ structure and strategy.

The strategic plan for the finance function must capture the priorities and trade-offs outlined in the finance strategy and translate them into priority initiatives that will make the function more effective. ​The outcome is a roadmap for executing the choices and actions required to meet strategic goals — which reflect finance’s contribution to the enterprise business model and goals.

Today’s disrupted conditions make it even more important for strategic plans to be clear, measurable and communicable. Key components include:

  • Metrics that will define and measure your stated outcomes and the timelines to achieve them

  • Critical assumptions that underpin chosen objectives and initiatives, highlight cause-and-effect relationships and interdependencies, and provide a basis for course correction in the event an assumption is breached

  • Key initiatives and milestones that represent finance’s agenda to change the business, not just run the business, and create value beyond the existing business trajectory

  • A concise statement that summarizes the core elements of the finance strategy in a single, aspirational sentence

Determine the metrics to track finance’s progress and performance

Goals and metrics are an essential part of a viable finance strategy. But as digital transformation takes hold in the finance function, finance leaders often struggle to determine the finance KPIs and metrics they should use to evaluate their performance and progress. They focus on process-specific metrics and time saved as success measures — and without the proper guardrails in place, some fall into the trap of delivering too much information in their reporting and analysis, which can overwhelm stakeholders and create noise.

Including the right finance analytics in the finance strategy helps organizations recognize when leaders need to intervene (including approving additional resources), motivate progress and celebrate successes when metrics determine that an initiative is complete.

As finance teams continue to make efforts to shift from reporting data and information to delivering insights, they must include the right set of performance measures in the overall strategy — and then use those metrics to craft powerful stories and deliver insights that business leaders understand, trust and use in their decision making.

Improve critical decision making through effective finance business partnering

Operational decisions are increasing in speed, volume and complexity. Effective finance business partnering can improve the speed and quality of decisions that impact the organization’s bottom line and ultimately drive business value.

Recent research reveals that 61% of business decision makers saw an increase in the volume of operational decisions in the last three years — and 57% of decision makers said operational decisions materially impact profitability. As finance’s mandate continues to expand and economic pressures increase, CFOs and their teams are expected to act as key partners, applying their strategic planning and decision-making expertise to enable leaders across the business to run their teams more efficiently and at lower costs. 

Many CFOs already align finance business partners (FBPs) to discrete operating units to support decision makers, but few FBPs maximize their impact. For many organizations, FBPs have become business generalists who can’t handle the growing volume of decisions and lack the expertise to effectively support individual decision types, because they are expected to support such a wide range of decisions.

Progressive CFOs are modernizing the FBP role, adopting a finance business partnering model that better leverages the acumen of finance — and exerts that influence earlier in the decision-making process.

FBPs as “decision experts” support many different business managers across a defined set of operational decisions and develop expertise in a decision type (pricing, inventory, renewals analysis, etc.), rather than focusing on general knowledge of a particular business. The result is scalable decision support and an opportunity to create value in a way that’s not possible for business generalists.

To implement this model as part of your overall finance strategy, redefine (versus reorganize) the role of finance business partners. Start by freeing as little as 20% of the team from traditional FP&A activities, and then, as the use of FBP decision experts becomes more widespread, begin to institutionalize learning from past decisions to build expertise and improve future decisions.

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Frequently asked questions

To create an effective finance strategy, an organization must define its financial goals and objectives clearly in the context of broader enterprise objectives as well as historical data, trends, opportunities and risks. Once goals are established, the finance strategy should prioritize the financial resources and skill sets needed to achieve them.

A finance strategy defines how the finance organization will be successful in its mission. It outlines the organization’s financial goals as they relate to business goals; sets priorities; and addresses how the organization will manage costs and resources effectively. The finance strategy should be evaluated regularly to ensure it remains relevant and aligned to evolving business needs.

Finance business partnering is essential because finance strategy defines the long-term direction of finance as it relates to the enterprise strategy. By communicating openly and effectively and building strong partnerships with stakeholders across the business, finance business partners (FBPs) can not only ensure that all parts of the business remain aligned, but also influence key decisions that impact the organization’s bottom line and drive business value.

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