Controllership's response to crisis: COVID-19 and beyond has been saved
Controllership's response to crisis: COVID-19 and beyond
A catalyst for stability in an unstable environment
Controllership has an opportunity to use changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic to serve as a catalyst for stability in this ongoing time of uncertainty.
July 1, 2020
A blog post by Beth Kaplan, managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP
The controllership function is in the middle of navigating many of the challenges resulting from the pandemic, the economic pause, and the current aftermath. There is an increased workload due to incremental financial reporting requirements, new information requests to support business and leadership decisions and the need to continue to close the books in a remote and virtual environment accurately—and all these changes seemingly happened overnight.
Controllership has a chance to use these changes and serve as a catalyst, working with the broader organization and business partners in times of crisis to help stabilize the company’s economic situation.
Understanding the pandemic’s impact on controllership—including accounting and reporting considerations, operational changes, cash flow, and liquidity, as well as workforce changes during and after the crisis—is essential to organize and enable controllership as a catalyst for stability in this ongoing time of uncertainty. From a place of understanding, we may formulate leading practices to help controllership serve as a catalyst for stability as we look beyond the pandemic into the next normal.
Understanding accounting and reporting impact of this crisis on controllership
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to evolve through today’s business environment, the workforce is continuing to adapt to social and physical distancing, new work environments, and economic change. Accounting and finance professionals should strive to remain productive in this environment, recognizing that management’s need to understand the financial impact and financial reporting requirements remains in place to support the integrity of the markets.
Financial close impacts to consider and toolkits for a new environment
The volume of people accessing corporate systems that enable the close and financial reporting is significantly higher now. Companies may have run into VPN capacity issues, trouble with user permissions and general bandwidth problems, and even licensing issues with financial software where companies exceeded concurrent user limits.
The necessity of a central and accessible close schedule will continue into the next normal. Team members will have a continued need to be able to collaborate online, share an understanding of task assignments and sequencing, and access the systems and data they needed to complete the close.
The impact on internal controls and leading practices to consider
With the complexities associated with any business-as-usual internal controls program coupled with the challenges of a remote workforce, organizations saw many internal controls challenges. They had to adjust their programs to quickly enable strong internal controls for both short-term effectiveness and long-term optimization.
Turning the impact on cash flow and liquidity into a benefit
The pandemic, and the unintended consequences that stemmed from it, created a rapidly changing and unpredictable economic environment. The constant changes, coupled with a likely impact on debt and cash flow, put the spotlight on the need to focus more on cash flow and liquidity, especially a need to up the frequency and process for short-term cash flow forecasting. What evolved from this may benefit finance professionals and controllers by bringing transparency into liquidity through predictive and frequent cash flow management to support timely and effective decision-making that is more resilient during varying economic cycles
Benefits of more short-term, frequent, predictive cash flow forecasting may include:
- Savings and cash generation
- Accessing incremental cash benefits
- Planning for future funding requirements
- Enhanced reporting and stakeholder management
- Optimized decision-making
Talent and workforce changes and leading practices for leaders overseeing virtual teams
Aside from a sudden change in workforce environment and workforce interaction, the pandemic and its aftermath will challenge "the way it’s always been done," accelerate shifts in sought-after skills and introduce additional leading practices for leadership overseeing virtual teams.
In the next normal, traditional skills in the workforce will likely remain necessary, including analytics, systems, transactions, and numbers-oriented capabilities. Critical skills in the new environment that may benefit a virtual workforce and the overall work environment post-crisis include advanced data visualization, data science, business modeling and forecasting, future-focused skills, and emerging technology competence.
For leaders overseeing teams, who will likely be overseeing virtual or partially virtual teams for the foreseeable future, consider some leading practices that may help managers navigate the next normal and enable their teams to serve as a catalyst for strategic transformation.
Communicate expectations and follow them
- Recognize that a relationship of trust, open communication, and clearly defined deliverables is essential for team success.
- Communicate working norms and expectations with your team, answering FAQs and providing leading practices for additional clarity.
Use available collaboration technology
- Assess available technology options, and discuss which ones are expected for each purpose.
- Use video to reinforce the sense of team collaboration and enable nonverbal cues.
Check in, make adjustments, and help prioritize
- Touch base with teams to assess how being remote is working. As adjustments are needed, have a conversation first, as ambiguity is inherent with remote work.
- Prioritization is hard. Be clear about how to identify "urgent and important" while still addressing "non-urgent and important."
Promote virtual teaming
- Emphasize personal interactions to build trust and camaraderie—it may be tempting to be task-focused in a virtual environment to ensure projects stay on track.
- If a pet or child happens to appear on the screen, roll with it. This new environment is new for everyone. Not everything will go as planned, and everyone is in the same boat. Let the dog say "hi," and introduce the kids to the team.
Lead by example
- Take the time to familiarize yourself with any new tools and technologies. Support effective communication, and use technology regularly.
- As a leader, hold yourself accountable to the team’s principles and expectations.
- Celebrate the wins, and quickly correct where there may be challenges.
Moving to recover and thrive
The pandemic affected finance professionals and controllership—changing the work, the workforce, and the workplace—seemingly overnight. While the crisis required rapid transformation to survive through the uncertainty, it may also be a catalyst for strategic transformation that enables finance organizations and controllership to recover and thrive.
To gain insights on changes likely to come out of the crisis and explore benefits of using transformation initiatives to drive a more strategic controllership function, listen to our full Dbriefs webcast: Controllership's measured response to a crisis.
This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.