BBA Aviation plc is a FTSE 250 company providing flight support and aftermarket services and systems to the aviation industry. With sales of £1 billion in 2008 and staff of over 10,000 people in eleven countries the company has a significant worldwide presence.

“Gary led the project from day one and put forward a pragmatic and effective plan. He led the process of identifying competencies and fostered a team spirit and an atmosphere of acceptance by key stakeholders. The results were a comprehensive analysis of where the strengths and weaknesses lay within the finance function and what needed to be done to better achieve the objectives we had set down. His role was crucial in identifying how the BBA Group Finance Function should progress.”

Andrew Wood, Finance Director, BBA Group plc

Gary Fisher was invited in by Andrew Wood, the Finance Director, to discuss the issue and put forward a plan that would satisfy this desire for improvement. Gary determined that what was needed was a competencies alignment exercise, aligning the competencies of relevant finance staff with the overall objectives of the Finance Function.

Over the following weeks, Gary worked with senior finance management in BBA Group HQ and the two major divisions in the US to prepare a plan to carry out a gap analysis, identifying the competencies needed by the Finance Function to achieve it’s objectives and comparing these with the competencies and associated levels of competence of staff. Having established the gaps between the need and the actual, it would then be necessary to agree what action was required to close them.

The Finance Function had eight key objectives, which included producing timely, accurate and relevant financial reports, producing forecasts of profitability and cash flow and implementing and maintaining financial systems to create a robust control environment. Gary set up a project team which included the Finance Director, Financial Controller and Head of Audit. It was decided this exercise should apply only to people within the finance function who could really influence performance in achieving these objectives. Consequently, out of the 295 people working in finance roles around the world, fifty-one people were identified within the function that were in such roles.

The project team identified the leadership and technical competencies needed for staff to achieve the eight objectives and developed competency definitions and associated levels of proficiency against which the relevant finance staff would be assessed.

For the project to succeed, it was important that all areas of the Finance Function understood and accepted the need for the analysis and Gary put in place a communications plan to raise awareness of the exercise and create a message that it was being carried out to help the finance function achieve its objectives, rather than as a threat to people’s jobs. The assessment and analysis was to be consistent across the company and the communication emphasised that training and not discipline would be the resultant action if it was found that staff didn’t have the competencies required or did not meet the desired level of proficiency.

Gary prepared a competency assessment pro forma which was passed to the divisional Chief Finance Officers, who were asked to take responsibility for the completion of the assessments. Relevant staff were then assessed using the agreed competencies and measured against the four proficiency levels of “development needed”, “proficient”, “strength” or “not applicable”.

The results produced significant data that showed that whilst the Finance Function was, overall, very competent in meeting its objectives, there was room for improvement and a need to move the finance function forward. This was to be achieved by putting in place a plan of action to include external and internal training, coaching and mentoring.

Andrew Wood commented: “Gary led the project from day one and put forward a pragmatic and effective plan. He led the process of identifying competencies and fostered a team spirit and an atmosphere of acceptance by key stakeholders. The results were a comprehensive analysis of where the strengths and weaknesses lay within the finance function and what needed to be done to better achieve the objectives we had set down. His role was crucial in identifying how the BBA Group Finance Function should progress.”