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Controllership transformation: Some keys to simplifying complexity

Developing a successful strategy for digital disruption

Developing a successful strategy is essential to simplifying the complexities of transformation. These key areas to consider can empower your transformation strategy and clarify the road ahead for digital controllership.

October 31, 2019

Digital disruption has dramatically changed the technology landscape, giving finance professionals a wealth of new and enhanced solutions to empower the transformation journey. Transformation can be complicated. The rapid speed of an evolving landscape, an abundance of disrupters, and the easy acquisition of many disruptive technologies push many organizations to adopt a multitude of efforts to achieve digital transformation across their organization. This often may lead to competing priorities, disorganized governance, and no clear vision to guide an organization toward a successful transformation.

In a recent Dbriefs series, Transforming controllership: the keys to simplifying complexity, we spoke with multiple executives to help us understand what leading organizations are doing to help simplify the complexity that may arise with digital disruption.

Whether an organization is just beginning transformation or needs to step back and address competing priorities, it is most important to develop a strategy to simplify the complexities that can or have already been created during this transformation. When preparing for or reevaluating digital transformation, consider these five insights that may help clarify the road ahead to a successful digital controllership.

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Five key areas to consider that help simplify controllership transformation

Prioritize where to start with drivers for change

When your organization starts the accounting transformation journey, it is helpful to envision the ideal future state at the end of that transformation. From the end vision, work backward to identify the drivers for change that may help prioritize which types of solutions can lead to the desired outcome in the time desired to achieve the end goal.

For an organization, there may be a combination of drivers, with some that are unique to that individual company. These drivers help prioritize where to start and what is needed to begin.

Some examples of the main drivers for change are:

  • Stronger insights (historical, predictive, contextual)
  • Decreased human workload
  • Enhanced efficiency of processes
  • Improved accuracy of financial information
  • The desire for real-time data
  • Cost savings

One company deals with high volumes of data and transactions, which often involve consuming large datasets that have historically required manual human interaction. These activities are inherently prone to human error—making automation a driver for transformation that prioritized investments in this space to improve both accuracy and transparency. These efforts were focused on reducing the risk associated with human error, and improving the quality for all, yielding efficiencies and processes, decreasing human workload, and creating capacity.

—Seth Pensgen, manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Develop a roadmap with a clear destination

Creating a game plan for the future of transformation can help align all stakeholders and generate excitement about the future. Once the stakeholders identify desired goals and prioritize the main drivers for change, you can start building out your transformation roadmap to organize and manage ideas, priorities, and initiatives.

As your organization develops a roadmap, it may be helpful first to establish it from a longer-term perspective, and then create incremental or staged milestones along the way. However, it may help to not solely focus on a particular point solution, as that may not be optimal for achieving long-term goals and a strategic vision. The key is a roadmap that balances the long-term vision to provide the roadmap with a final destination with key milestones that can keep things going in the right direction.

It is also significant to also to note that a dizzying number of opportunities for improvement projects may quickly produce a long list of fragmented and unrealistic projects. Prioritize early and aggressively, and only do something if it is clearly part of the overall transformation roadmap.

With the array of emerging technology constantly introduced into the environment, we need to refocus back on the basic tenets of what we need for successful transformations.

—Seth Pensgen, manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Emerging technology is one of the critical components of transformation. It can also be what causes the most confusion and disruption to organizations and accounting professionals. When it comes to planning for and adopting new technology solutions, take inventory of what you have, choose new tools wisely, and focus on small-scale pivots when implementing new technology.

Taking an inventory and reviewing existing technology provides insight into what new systems and new tools may be needed or if there are overlapping capabilities with what your organization already has in its infrastructure. Sometimes, additional modules within systems that already exist can enhance or deliver new capabilities that align with transformation goals.

Once you analyze your existing technology landscape, choose new solutions to implement—but be picky, think small, and choose wisely. The pace of technology is changing at rapid speed, not only with tools that controllership can use but also with technology across an organization. By the time a new solution is understood, it seems three new solutions enter the market. Simplify disruption by not chasing after every new tool out there, even if it looks like something better. There will always be new and innovative tools introduced into the marketplace. Choose which tools to implement and stay the course. Maintaining flexibility for solutions in the future is still possible by making minor pivots and small changes on the transformation journey.

Small-scale pivots and pilot experiments may help with understanding and implementing tools while maintaining existing processes and being flexible to change. Launching a small-scale version of a potential tool may offer proof of concepts and provide real-life production experience to get comfortable with the technology and offer insights into how it would work on a larger scale.

How to experiment with new solutions

  • Pilot–test product in the environment
  • Proof of Concept–test product in a third-party environment
  • Other Exploration–consider discussions with vendors or those who have implemented the product before

Assess and redesign existing processes

The right process and policies are crucial to a successful transformation, so don’t put the cart before the horse—assess and redesign processes before implementing new technologies.

Evaluate and align the end-to-end process to the capabilities of any new technologies you are considering and to the way resources will work in the new paradigm. However, don’t automate poor manual processes that already exist if they will be eliminated or automated in a future state.

It is important to keep the processes front and center with technology as an enabler. Create a partnership by making sure the business owners work in lockstep with information technology. The key is finding the right people who can speak the language of both technology and accounting, so they can translate the processes, challenge existing processes, and find better processes that come with new technology that requires a concentrated change management effort.

—Seth Pensgen, manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Steps to design a transformation process

  • Evaluate existing processes
  • Simplify, standardize, and align with future technology
  • Document and communicate changes to finance

Manage change with commitment and vision

Organizations face tough questions around how to manage day-to-day tasks with the added responsibilities of a finance transformation. It is a unique challenge to manage resources and fill roles during transformation, especially when the transformation is a multi-year endeavor.

Managing change is in large part about the people in an organization. The almost constant waves of transformation and uncertain future of work make change management that much harder to navigate. It starts with a commitment and belief in a vision that an organization is trying to create and then clarifying roles that align with that vision. Resources and roles are unique to each organization, but asking the right questions may help manage both a vision and people during digital transformations.

Some questions to ask to help manage change:

  • Who will do the implementation?
  • How will people’s roles and responsibilities fundamentally change?
  • How do we align key stakeholders?
  • How do we ensure proper change management?
  • What is the expected value of transformation?

Each of these insights can work together to streamline the transformation journey. Changing demands will always introduce new complexities and priorities. However, maintaining a clear vision on desired achievements while governing the process with a back-to-basics strategy is a recipe that can help yield the most value throughout this digital transformation.

For a deeper exploration into the complexities of transformation, listen to the Green Room podcast for insights and examples of how organizations can simplify the transformation journey.

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.

Get in touch

Seth  Pensgen

Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory
Deloitte & Touche LLP

Seth is a manager in Deloitte Risk & Finance Advisory’s Digital Controllership practice, with more than 10 years of experience implementing solutions and strategies to improve operational performance and analyze financial results. He helps clients from all industries to implement improved finance and accounting processes through digital enablement. His background and experience specifically include the delivery of finance transformation services, including data visualization, close acceleration, and accounting process automation.

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