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Eight ways controllers can evolve into strategic business partners in 2019

Perhaps now more than ever, controllers have the opportunity to influence and help drive the execution of their organizations' strategic objectives. We explore eight imperatives to help controllers evolve into strategic business partners across three main themes: elevating the brand, leveraging the digital transformation, and embracing the workforce of the future.

March 8, 2019

A blog post by David Cutbill, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP and Beth Kaplan, managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP

In the rapidly changing corporate and financial environment, controllers are increasingly expected to contribute to shaping and executing business strategy while continuing to deliver on traditional mandates and core competencies of the function.

Corporate controllers now often play four diverse and challenging roles within the organization:

  • Steward: Managing risk and preserving assets
  • Operator: Running an efficient and effective finance operation
  • Strategist: Influencing the future direction of the company
  • Catalyst: Helping to drive execution

While the steward and operator are defined within a more traditional role, the strategist and catalyst roles provide a value-add opportunity for controllers within an organization. The transformation of controllership, driven by rapid change fueled by new technology and the workforce of the future, is a watershed moment and opportunity for controllers to elevate their roles, find a seat at the executive table as a strategic business partner, and become a catalyst to drive the vision of an organization.

To further explore this dynamic, the Center for Controllership™ hosted a Dbriefs webcast to hear perspectives about the changing role of the controller from Sue D’Emic, former CFO of Time Inc., and Scott Hurley, global controller of Converse Inc. In the webcast, participants discussed specific insights to help controllers navigate the challenges, leverage new opportunities, and identify the following priorities that can help evolve and elevate the careers of controllers.

Eight imperatives to help evolve the role of controller

The more the controllership function can truly understand the strategic objectives of the overall organization, and how their individual pieces can help support the company on that journey, the more controllership can be perceived as a strategic partner.

—Sue D’Emic, former CFO of Time Inc.

Elevate your brand

  • Get involved in the organization. To elevate your brand, as a controller and strategic business partner, it is crucial to understand the vision and goals of the company. Prioritize time with other executives to gain insights into specific objectives from each function or division, and work with your team to figure out how controllership fits into those objectives and the overall vision.
  • Communicate with transparency. Transparent and regular communication of controllership’s role and value drivers can help control perceptions and elevate the strategic importance that controllers bring to the table. Transparency can help senior leaders understand accounting and controlling applications, the anticipated financial impact of business discussions, and how a strategic controller contributes to the shared vision of an organization.
  • Allocate time to influence strategy. Activate resources that provide relief, and allocate time for priority initiatives that affect strategy and contribute to the realization of a shared corporate vision. These more strategic resources can be developed if controllers grow the competencies and capabilities of their team by leveraging the digital transformation and embracing the workforce of the future.

Leverage the digital transformation

  • Improve performance with new technology. Leveraging new technology for core functions can improve operational performance, data insight, productivity, and risk intelligence across the enterprise.
  • Utilize data. Improve organizational intelligence by uncovering and harnessing insights from data that benefits from better contextual analysis with new technology. With proper data governance around analytics platforms, controllers can better serve precise, reliable, and insightful data throughout the organization.
  • Champion innovation to transform controllership. Innovative technologies are transforming the controllership function and will continue to do so. Be a champion for these disruptive solutions. Adopting innovative technologies can allow a controller to move from transaction processing to driving real business value, from simply executing operational duties to providing financial leadership and driving change.

Embrace the workforce of the future

  • Move forward with technology disruption. Technology and demographic changes are ushering in the future of work by disrupting work and the way it is delivered.
  • Understand forces transforming the controllership workforce.
    • Accounting processing jobs are vulnerable to automation.
    • Generational differences are visible in the new workforce.
    • Life spans are changing career life cycles and retirement.
    • There is a rapid expansion of contingent work and the “gig economy.”
    • There is a growing tsunami of data that demands in-depth analysis.
    • Artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, and robotics are transforming how human capital is leveraged.

If controllers understand the impact of these forces and embrace the changing workforce, they can benefit from the opportunities found in the future of work. Rather than just prepare data, professionals will need to interpret data. Automation and cognitive computing are positioned to disrupt traditional jobs but drive a growing need for employees who specialize in predictive analytics and data intelligence. With bots beginning to augment routine transaction processing, the new workforce will need humans who can build and connect systems, specialists who can leverage robotics and cognitive technologies, and creative minds who offer out-of-the-box thinking during rapid change.

Listen to the on-demand webcast, “From controller to strategic partner: A growing imperative,” to hear the full perspectives about the changing role of the controller from Sue D’Emic, former CFO of Time Inc., and Scott Hurley, global controller of Converse Inc.

Visit the Controllership Insights blog for additional blog posts.

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.

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