While today’s financial controller remains integral to ensuring effective business operations, the role is changing quickly across companies, industries, and management structures. Controllers often have traditional core responsibilities, such as managing accounting, monitoring internal controls, assuming responsibility for banking, finance and reporting activities, and so on.
As the role evolves, many of the responsibilities are even more finely defined:
- Some organizations have multiple financial controllers for different duties or responsibilities.
- Other organizations employ their financial controllers for oversight of a specific division or business area.
- All companies rely on their financial controllers to move beyond simply uncovering and analyzing business data to interpreting and presenting data to other key stakeholders in the organization.
- By automating many functions, financial controllers spend more time on planning and analysis, strategic analysis, and increasing productivity.
How a financial controller becomes a strategic asset
Clearly, this demands a finely tuned machine. Companies doing business across multiple product lines or locations, or those who need access to better demand data or better reports to ensure quicker, more-efficient responses often struggle with outdated manual processes or silos of information. These silos bedevil intra-company collaboration.
The data locked up in disconnected processes do not support the needs of an organization, which can benefit from cross-managing governance, compliance, risk management, and internal controls. Untapped data is useful for implementing business process and best practices for planning and budgeting, forecasting and financial closing, performance management, and achieving process improvement through automation and technology. All of these functions and processes are part of the financial controller’s leadership role.
A few rules of thumb for enabling the financial controller to rise to the challenge:
- Improve processes through automation and technology: It’s not a given that firms can close their books within a week, a month, or even a year. Instead of using manual processes or spreadsheets, successful financial controllers automate processing and recurring tasks where they can: building workflows; automating reconciliations, allocations, intra-company eliminations; and importing data from multiple ERP systems. Most companies remain far from what’s known as a virtual close, where fully integrated systems enable real-time financial statements on demand. Current best practices dictate that the controller transform processes altogether, making use of technology and people to maximize efficiency. Skilled controllers can further streamline and automate key closing tasks such as consolidation and reporting with cloud-based applications. These are easier than ever to deploy, use, and manage, leaving controllers and staff with more time to devote to strategic activities.
- Deploy/employ a single, integrated system for a “single truth:” Integrating budgeting, planning, consolidation, reporting, and analytics into a single application provides companies with a central repository for financial performance data. With the same data in play throughout the organization, it’s easier to move from closing to planning and analysis.
- Enable collaboration among decentralized or fragmented teams: Whether the team is scattered or the company has multiple financial controllers or some other issue impacts collaboration success, the financial controller helps the team, constituents, and company succeed by serving as both a project manager and a leader who can manage distributed activities. This mix of soft and hard skills enables better processes and communications, ensuring better scheduling and results.
Is the financial controller in your organization merging into a strategic leadership role? Realize that access to data will become an increasingly strategic part of his or her role in helping your organization move from mediocre to stellar results.
Read more about how Vanguard IBP Finance enables financial controllers to easily automate and integrate on a single platform that handles budgeting, planning, forecasting, financial consolidation, reporting, visualization, what-if testing, and risk analysis to increase forecast accuracy, close the books faster, improve reporting and compliance, and simulate hundreds of business scenarios in seconds.