Building an FP&A function in the age of Artificial Intelligence | Dan Dizon, Pipedrive

In this episode, Daniel Yubi interviews Dan Dizon, the VP of FP&A at Pipedrive. They discuss Dan's transition from engineering to finance, the role of FP&A in organisations, and the future of FP&A with AI.

Please tell us more about yourself and your role at Pipedrive.
I work in FP&A at Pipedrive, which stands for Financial Planning and Analysis. It's an intriguing function within Pipedrive that provide insights and support decision-making. My role covers many activities, including periodic forecasting, budgeting, and providing analysis and insights into financial performance. I work very closely with different departments within the organisation to help them make informed financial decisions based on data.

How has the FP&A function evolved? 
The FP&A field has seen dramatic changes in recent years. Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, and automation are transforming the way FP&A professionals do their jobs. At the same time, global events like the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of resilience and adaptability within organisations.

The specific processes and tools used in FP&A can vary depending on the organisation. However, it typically involves leveraging financial data from various sources, such as bank transactions, bills, accounts payable, and charts of accounts. We then blend this internal data with external data to ensure that the analysis reflects reality and provides a comprehensive understanding of our financial performance.

An example of that would be how FP&A works with the HR department. An FP&A team might analyse wage inflation and how that would impact salaries. They would gather external data on wage trends and blend it with internal data to assess the situation and provide recommendations on how the organisation should respond to wage inflation.

How have you built your FP&A function within Pipderive? 
Collaboration is central to the FP&A function. Speaking from experience as an FP&A leader, I understand how vital teamwork is for success. When I joined one company, there was no dedicated FP&A structure - we had to change that.

I created dedicated "finance partners" paired one-on-one with each C-suite member. This allows deeper insights through ongoing budgeting, forecasting and analysis. My team acts as "mini-CFOs" embedded throughout the organization. Seeing financial management as a team sport helps navigate complexity. FP&A thrives on partnership - it's how we deliver the best guidance and solutions for sustainable success.

How has the rise of Big Data and AI affected your role? 
As data has become more abundant and accessible, the demand for data skills within FP&A has surged. We are now expected to leverage big data, perform sophisticated analytics, and generate insights that support strategic decision making. AI is also taking on an increasingly integral role.

Forward-thinking companies are utilising AI to improve forecasting accuracy, enhance narrative storytelling around financials, and anticipate stakeholders' next best actions. AI shows great potential to act as an assistant that analyzes trends, identifies anomalies, and recommends optimized paths forward. However, its full disruption of FP&A is still emerging - the key will be identifying high-value use cases and directing AI appropriately through change.

We see data and AI transform FP&A from a retrospective function focused on reporting to a prospectively-minded driver of strategic guidance. We must cultivate data literacy and an openness to technological evolution in order to stay relevant in this shifting landscape.

How can finance teams support their businesses through uncertain times?
Uncertainties will always remain part of our professional reality. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a stark lesson in resilience for businesses worldwide. However, out of crises often emerge valuable insights.

Through my own experiences of relocating abroad just before worldwide lockdown, I've learned to take a balanced, long-term view. Black swan events will occur, but focusing on process over goals and adapting solutions for changing environments allows organisations to weather disruption. The global economy, too, has consistently proven its ability to recover through resilience and innovation.

For FP&A professionals, cultivating resilience means few things: 

  • maintaining a long-term, balanced outlook even when short-term goals are disrupted
  • embracing challenges as opportunities for innovation and growth
  • detaching from short-term disappointments and enjoying problem-solving in the long term

How will the role of FP&A evolve in the coming years? 
The FP&A role has transformed tremendously in recent years and will surely continue to evolve at a rapid pace. By staying attuned to technological advancement, developing data fluency, and fostering organisational resilience, everyone in this field can maximise their impact. I'm excited about the future for FP&A, especially in the era of AI.

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