The role of the strategic thinker and business partner
The role of the strategic thinker and business partner

The role of the strategic thinker and business partner

Cultivating a staff with strategic partnering capabilities can help drive better business outcomes

In today’s strong U.S. economy, unemployment continues to trend down. Many companies are already feeling the pressure of the demand and supply challenge—finding it difficult to acquire the right talent for their teams since it is a very competitive market. Once a company finds and recruits that talent, they must focus on training and retaining them. Part of that nurturing involves expanding beyond the traditional role. For example, employees in back-office functions such as finance and human resources are beginning to move from purely transactional activities to strategic partnering, helping their organization to identify opportunities that drive value and enhance decision making.

Strategic partnering includes the ability to anticipate changes, process high volumes of information, and align day-to-day activities to the leading drivers of business success. While this skill has been historically viewed as a single competency applicable in only certain cases, today’s organizations are creating entire roles and functions dedicated to strategic partnering across multiple disciplines.

These strategic partnerships will be aided by automation, creating employee capacity and maturity for the continued support of transactional work. As development continues in the digital space, this role will be increasingly critical in navigating the new technology landscape.

In short, organizations will need employees with skills, experience, and expertise to develop insights and identify opportunities for future business growth, new efficiencies, and future technology investments.

Cultivating a strategic staff

In many cases, simply appointing a team member to a role that requires strategic business partner skills may not be enough. Organizations need to take a close look at the structural and talent elements they need to cultivate a culture where employees play a strategic partnering role across the enterprise. This means that organizations must consider not just what they require in the role, but how the organization itself may need to change to enable this new skill set.

Understanding business context is key. To effectively partner with the business, team members must understand the industry value chain and how the organization drives value within that chain. They also need the right technology, tools, and centers of excellence aligned to the business model. With this infrastructure in place, strategic business partners can leverage data and analytics to support insights and provide advice.

A critical success factor for strategic business partnering is the team members’ ability to articulate the kind of support they can offer and how this support aligns to the organization’s needs. Ongoing development and evaluation of the skills and behaviors required to effectively partner helps to ensure the value of the partnership.

Finally, the business partners need to evolve along with the business as a whole, responding to feedback and continually refocusing their activities to better align with business priorities.

Key questions to consider

  • How are we investing in the development of strategic business partnering for our employees?
  • What does good partnering look like in our organization?
  • What should it look like in the future?
  • Do we help employees develop strategic partnering skills?
  • How does our technology strategy support strategic partnering?
  • How are we addressing the structural and talent elements that enable better business partnering?
  • Do we need to reconsider our traditional sourcing channels to identify the required skills and behaviors?

Access more business insights, analysis, and perspectives from KPMG’s Future of Work series here. And learn more about how to seize new opportunities to empower your people here.

This blog is one of a series highlighting KPMG’s talent insight series, The future of work, which explores these new realities and how companies can leverage them to unlock value from its greatest asset—their people. To read all the papers in KPMG’s talent insight series, go to