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Perspectives

The future of financial controllership is now a present-day reality

The time to serve as strategic partner is here

Welcome to the fast-paced, complex, and increasingly digital age. How do you think the financial controllership is prepared to meet future business demands? The IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and Deloitte’s Center for Controllership aimed to better understand the current state of controllership and expectations of future demands for controllers and accounting professionals. Here’s what we found.

The pandemic exacerbated gaps that already existed between financial controllership offerings and business needs. Despite challenging circumstances and market uncertainty, controllers were met with increased demand for elevated strategic insights, supporting leading real-time data and analytics tool integration, and more efficient and agile operations. This increased demand prompted considerable investment in people, processes, data, and technology.

In fall 2021, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and Deloitte’s Center for Controllership conducted a global survey of more than 1,300 finance and accounting analysts, managers, directors, controllers, and CFOs. Following the survey, a series of interviews were conducted with experienced finance and accounting leaders. The research aimed at assessing how prepared controllership is to meet future business demands and highlight some insights for leaders to consider that may increase their preparedness. This report offers insights into the current state of controllership and expectations for the role of the controller to meet of future demands.

Stepping into the future of controllership

The current state of controllership’s evolving landscape

The rapid pace of change and ever-evolving technological landscape has prompted the acceptance of a new reality in which accountants and financial professionals refocus attention on strategy and modernize their roles to leverage digital technology. Strengthened demand for infusing flexibility into finance cycles and enabling real-time reporting and insights are transforming the work that controllership function members perform, particularly as it relates to analytics and predictive forecasting.

The impact of accelerated transformation: While there was a heavy initial focus on enabling remote working environments and closing the books from a distance, the pandemic also gradually led companies to recognize single points of failure and the need for greater resiliency and agility in their processes. Controllers can begin reaping the benefits today of the adoption of transformative technology and governance needed for survival.

Controllership in the GreenTM (CiG): Deloitte’s CiG is a framework for the future state that focuses on core areas of controllership that drive maximum value. The CiG framework serves as a benchmark of where controllers want to be (“in the green”)—reflecting financial health, business growth, and sustainability in this era of technological advancement. While most controllership functions have begun a transformation journey by strengthening core competencies and abilities through key enablers, there is a long road ahead to a controllership destination that is “in the green.”

Our findings reveal that the current state of controllership is characterized by a broad recognition of the impetus for transformation, acceptance of the need to evolve, and commencement of transformation journeys.

Envisioning a controllership of the future

To assess preparedness for the future, we compared readiness between the current state of controllership and the vision for the future.

Preparing to meet future demands: Each controllership role has a mix of strategic and tactical responsibilities. The challenge is striking a balance between both responsibilities when real-world circumstances tip the scales in favor of strategic activities and reducing the focus on traditional core tasks might increase risk, compromise assurance, or weaken the control environment. Effective business partnering requires multidisciplinary, cross-functional team collaboration; stronger business acumen; and ensuring controllers have a seat at the table.

Enablers to meet demands of controllership: Based on current maturity levels, responding controllers feel they are only somewhat prepared to meet the demands of the controllership function over the next three to five years.

The journey to a new controllership

Transformation journeys are underway, but controllers and finance professionals who participated in our survey report their functions are not ready to shift their primary focus to serve their organizations as strategic business partners—even as the need to do so continues to increase. Whether ready or not, controllership of the future is here. Closing the gap between where many organizations perceive they are and where they need to be can lay a foundation for driving transformation.

Propelling forward toward transformation

Leading organizations recognize the competitive advantage of having a controllership function that has an influential seat at the decision-making table. The onus is on controllers, CFOs, and VPs of finance, as well as directors, managers, and analysts, to take action to propel their function’s transformation journey forward. Elevating controllership into this new paradigm can present the undeniable value of the function’s role and drive a more resilient, efficient, and agile controllership into the future.

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