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The times they are a-changin’: Finding opportunities for the future of Controllership in the year ahead

Rapid transformation, adapting to the next normal, and what to expect this year and beyond

Last year ushered in rapid transformation for Controllership. We look at a year of change; expectations for the year ahead; and opportunities for Controllership to elevate work, the workforce, and the workplace this year.

February 18, 2021

A blog post by Beth Kaplan, managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP

From virtual everything, remote meetings, and closed down office buildings, to unintended consequences on mental health, work life balance, and underrepresented demographics, to volatile global economies, US elections, and unpredictable business outcomes.

COVID-19 accelerated the future of work as it ushered in a cacophony of change agents to business environments and all facets of personal and professional lives. Sudden disruptors empowered rapid transformation. Adapting to this transformation and the next normal is an ongoing process that will continue throughout this year, with a continuous assessment of these changes. As the vaccine becomes more widely distributed and businesses continue to step into what’s next, the only real certainty may be that work, the workforce, and the workplace will be fundamentally changed.

While many organizations and professionals will continue to play catch-up and adapt to these changes, there may be opportunities in the transformation to align Controllership with a future of work that elevates the business, empowers a dynamic workforce, and creates a more resilient and visionary workplace. We took a deep dive into the year of change and discussed what Controllership can expect this year in our Dbriefs webcast, Controllership year in review: The times they are a-changin’, and now we’re looking further into the impacts of transformation and opportunities for controllership in the year ahead.

The year ahead: The transformation of work, the workforce, and the workplace and new opportunities for Controllership

Finance professionals and organizations may successfully adapt to transformation while strategically planning for the future. However, it requires consideration of three deeply interconnected dimensions at the core of the future of work continuously transforming business:

  • Work: The fundamental nature of activities performed to achieve business outcomes
  • Workforce: The portfolio of skills, jobs, and talent pools tapped to perform the work
  • Workplace: The environment and policies that increase collaboration, productivity, and consistency of the talent experience

These are not independent factors. Changes to one dimension affect the others, and these changes are going to rearchitect work and present new opportunities for Controllership this year.

Consider this example: Increased automation of work should enable more aligned capabilities of the workforce, which empowers elevated business outcomes.

Finding new opportunities for work, the workforce, and the workplace

Elevate work with automation
While professionals often perceive automation as a mirage due to foundational issues, the accelerated transformation of finance has created a digital environment where automation can become a reality for organizations that exploit digital technology’s emergence to implement new foundational systems.

While technology has influenced how people conduct business, financial personnel continue to face manually intensive processes. In a recent survey from the Deloitte and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®) report, From mirage to reality: Bringing finance into focus in a digital world, 75% of respondents said their company’s accounting processes are largely manual or still a considerable manual effort.

The rapid transformation into digital finance, both during COVID-19 and into the next normal, creates the opportunity to make automation a reality this year. How? Consider creating a comprehensive digital finance strategy, prioritizing a resilient and consistent data infrastructure. Beyond infrastructure, go beyond automation to enhance and align technology and human capabilities, both of which may be utilized with automation, enabling a realignment around a finance capability spectrum that elevates business decisions.

Unleash the workforce of the future
The workforce has been evolving, but last year accelerated changes to the makeup of the workforce at warp speed. This year, and well into the near future, expect an increasingly diverse workforce that is more dynamic and highly empowered. Take advantage of the evolving workforce and enable professionals to succeed.

Empower workers with resilience to adapt and evolve with transformation. Make the empowerment of workers to adapt and grow for an ever-changing future the foundation of workforce strategy. Other foundations of workforce strategies for a workforce of the future include career development; internal mobility; well-being; and making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority.

Train for skills, but nurture human capabilities. Skills are tactical knowledge or expertise needed to achieve work outcomes within a specific context. Human capabilities are observable attributes that humans demonstrate independent of context.

See the workplace through a new lens

The year ahead will see an adapted workplace for Controllership, with many recent changes becoming permanent as organizations continue to maintain them or adopt some aspects of the changed workplace model. Some specific areas to expect changes that should continue, either fully or partially, include:

Highly distributed workplaces using digital technologies that create effective digital meeting environments when physical environments may not be unavailable. According to a recent global survey of more than 7,000 professionals, 20% or respondents noted improved collaboration thanks to digital technologies1. Leveraging technologies in the workplace should continue to offer professionals more opportunities for growth, as they enable more connection and bypass any unplanned obstacles to the physical environment that may emerge in the future.

Hybrid workplace models for professionals that adopt varying percentages of time allotted to working from home, remote work environments, and working in a more traditional office are likely permanent. Even in a postvaccine world, the workplace will be fundamentally different.

According to From mirage to reality, 25% to 30% of the nearly 800 finance and accounting professionals surveyed will be working from home multiple days a week through the end of 2021. Other research shows that three in four CEOs intend to shift at least 20% of employees to permanently remote positions post–COVID-192.

Many organizations may leverage learnings from the masses working from home to incorporate more progressive and visionary approaches into more traditional workplace designs. These designs offer more flexibility, more diversity and collaboration, and a move from the “traditional” office experience to a more “visionary” workplace.



Here are some examples of what a new workplace model may look like:

  • Activity-based workplaces where the company manages real estate sites that include a mixture of varied space types and functions
  • More flexible and dynamic offices, which may include coworking and virtual engagement and contain a mix of open spaces and more traditional and focused areas
  • A visionary ecosystem of places and spaces where coworking is the norm and digital collaboration tools enhance in-person experiences
  • Continued periodical full or partial work-from-home mandates using digital collaboration tools

To dive deeper into a review of the year of change and what to expect in the year ahead, listen to insights about this ongoing transformation and explore expectations for the new year and future of controllership in the Dbriefs series: Controllership year in review: The times they are a-changin’.


End notes

Sarah Goodwin and Lori Hultin, “Beyond Productivity: The Human Side of the Digital Workplace Quantified,” Business Wire, June 4, 2018.

Bill Chappell, “4 of 5 Workers are affected by COVID-19 worldwide, UN agency says,” NPR, September 25, 2020.

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