It’s time for a controllership reboot

Elevating controllership to provide strategic value

Few events in recent history have challenged controllership on the scale of the pandemic, testing the ability of strategic controllers to provide value to their organizations amid significant change and uncertainty. Disruption also presented an opportunity for leaders to reimagine how they function and reprioritize activities—deciding what to eliminate, initiate, automate, or amplify—to give controllership a reboot.

September 22, 2021

A blog post by David Cutbill, principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Few events in recent history have challenged controllership on the scale of the pandemic. The unprecedented circumstances over the past 18 months have tested controllers aiming to provide value to their organizations amid significant finance transformation and uncertainty. While disruption introduced many challenges, it also presented a unique opportunity for strategic controllers and finance leaders to examine the lessons learned through the experience of rapid transformation and rethink many aspects of how they function in order to elevate controllership and provide more value in a post-pandemic world.

Now is a great time to reboot the controllership franchise. By reflecting on the evolution of the function brought on by disruption and the lessons learned over the past year, controllers can shape a new strategy around key insights—deciding what to eliminate, what to begin, and what to accelerate—to refresh and reposition controllership for the future.

What controllership has learned over the past year

At the outset of the pandemic, controllership had to evolve as it reprioritized resources and adjusted operations to maintain the function throughout a rapidly evolving environment with many unknown variables. While in the thick of daily execution, it was often difficult to see beyond the videoconferencing meeting window. More than a year on, we have some breathing room to ascertain potential lessons from the experience that may prove valuable for the controllership refresh.

What we learned by doing work differently

Lockdowns, pausing in-person collaboration, and a shift to virtual work environments changed the way organizations work and conduct businesses. The sudden shift taught us more than how to use videoconferencing applications. We learned that innovation and new technology made collaboration possible and an effective remote close process a reality. Technology allowed us to work differently, but it also showed us that innovation makes it possible to get the job done in different environments. Taking it a step further, it was even possible to continue key transformation activities and broader strategic initiatives amid all the disruption. Perhaps the key lesson we can take from doing work differently is that we can still do the work in many environments with innovation, so we shouldn’t lose focus on the bigger picture.

What we learned by adapting and changing

Through this period of significant change and disruption, the business and how we work wasn’t the only thing that changed; the workforce also met a challenging transformation. Changes in the workforce highlight important lessons learned from this period. As teams adapted to remote work environments, we saw the lines between home and work blurring. Virtual team engagement effectively brought us into the homes of our team members. While the collision of the personal and impersonal may have been an adjustment, it highlighted the importance of the human side of work, including team members’ well-being, work-life balance, empathy, and diversity and inclusion. With physical proximity limited, team collaboration and communication became as important as ever for teams to remain resilient.

What we learned by seeing beyond the numbers

The pandemic brought with it an unpredictable global environment and uncertain future. This decreased the value of historical financial reporting while increasing the need for real-time reporting, including data analysis and predictive forecasting. Finding new ways to leverage real-time data and new forecast models, controllership could manage against multiple views and plausible scenarios to remain agile and resilient against an unpredictable future.
Improving data and the value of information to inform better decisions against multiple scenarios also meant moving beyond just ledger-based information into more meaningful insights, with curated data from additional sources.

Tactical insights for a controllership reboot

Organizations can reprioritize activities by taking the many lessons learned throughout the pandemic—deciding what to eliminate, what to begin, what to automate, and what to amplify—to optimize the controllership function. For example, one organization decided to keep its adopted technology to manage a virtual close process, but moved toward fully automating its close process management and a modern risk and controls program. Another organization is developing ways to improve data and insights to create better information models that focus on scenario planning.

Here are some examples of what an organization may want to initiate, automate, amplify, or eliminate in a controllership reboot:


To further optimize a new and refreshed controllership and prepare for the future with more informed decisions today, we will soon look at the trends reshaping the finance function and eight predictions about the future of finance.

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