Business Partnering


Currently an in vogue phrase and one which begs the question about organisational design.

It is heartening to see that traditional ‘support’ (and silo) functions such as Finance, HR and IT are now looking at their wider role in business support. A review of recent job adverts will see a proliferation of the term ‘business partner’ or ‘partnering skills,’ and this is a welcome departure from the boxy mentality which is still prevalent in business today.

Add the current business zeitgeist to be flexible, lean etc, you can see why these roles, or at leat the role requirements are becoming more focussed on transferring knowledge at every level in business from board to boiler room.

Structures and management decision making are coming under the spotlight.

IT, ERP and cloud based systems in particular are making data much more widely accessible and transparent and no longer the exclusive domain of the Finance, IT or HR professional. Many organisations have been slow to realise the democratisation of data and how it is being used throughout the business. This resonates also with current thinking about hierarchical structures, the role of (scientific) management and how businesses survive.

Hence these movements are influencing personnel selection and an emphasis on the softer skills of communication, empathy and constructive appraisal.

This leads to a new breed of employees who don’t particularly want to enjoy old fashioned managerial benevolence or motivation initiatives but would rather look at the role of business in society and their own role in that business, thus reinforcing the idea that we are all in this together, and if we quote game theory and the prisoners dilemma then collaboration is the only way forward based on better knowledge of what other people are doing- hence the business partnering trend.

Not so long ago the buzz phrases would have been ‘team building’ or ‘synergy’ the message is the same- collaboration is the key.

When we take away the drudge from accountancy for example ( via digital technology ) and we see disintermediation in areas such as Financial services and better service to customers, then we can almost predict the end of ‘management’ because eventually knowledge will become equalised and analysis and synthesis will be where time is spent, so having ‘managers’ direct resources when IT can do this for them means a whole layer of supervision is being made obsolete and we will all become ( equal) partners . Whilst organisational infrastructure may be continuously improved by empowering business partnering it is encouraging that this bottom up movement means also that the superstructures of power become disassembled and that direction becomes more democratic.

The first casualty of business partnering will be structural.