Balancing the scales: Compliance & Strategic leadership
In any organization, CFOs are the megastar as they deal with financial decisions that impact the company. But do CFOs do all of this on their own? Meet the controller - the ‘right hand’ of a CFO. While CFOs are responsible for investments and future financial performance, controllers are responsible for regulatory compliance and reporting. CFOs are long-term vision-oriented and controllers rely on short-term goals to impact the long term vision of the company. While both CFOs and controllers play very significant roles in the success of an organization, they need to strike the right balance between compliance and strategic leadership to be the best at their jobs.
In the modern workplace, controllers need to balance compliance and strategic leadership effectively in order to focus on higher value-added activities. The expertise and talents of controllers to demonstrate their leadership in new ways and help derive success for businesses have become the need of the hour. Having a strategic outlook not only solves most of the business problems but also helps in the analysis and formulation of solutions, that go a long way in making controllers good decision-makers.
The future’s call: Expectations from top Controllers
The role of controllers has adapted to become much more strategic because of the presence of real-time information. So how have controllers evolved? controllers are managing more responsibilities other than being historians of the company but over the years, they have grown to become a strategic business partner within the organization, kind of a wingman- the CFO’s “right-hand person.” Controllers who are looking forward to advancing their role in an organization are expected to have the following qualities:
- Be forward-thinking: With the role shifting from hardcore ‘number crunching’ to the role of ‘financial operating officer’, they are expected to have a forward-thinking mindset in order to ensure smooth functioning of finance and avoid any surprises at quarter-end or on audit day.
- Navigating and removing the financial obstacle course: An outdated, disparate financial system can’t provide you with the real-time information your organization needs to adapt quickly to market changes. Therefore, your reporting systems also need to evolve. It’s not enough to provide pages of numbers.
- Understanding the company’s vision: One of the key roles of a Controller includes understanding the long term strategy of the CEO and CFO and helping to translate that down to the operations leaders of the organization.
Controllers need to work with service level managers (operations) to:
- Understand challenges
- Brainstorm ideas to improve productivity
- Control cost
- Understand the numbers and how their unit fits into the overall picture
By doing so, they are becoming business partners with operational managers to provide and use financial data effectively in making better business decisions.
The way ahead: 6 best practices for assisting compliance & leadership
Expectations of any kind cannot be met without a proper plan of action. So what should a controller do? To help controllers meet the required expectations, the following strategies can be put to use:-
- Automating the manual processes: Replacing the use of manual effort with technology helps to eliminate repetitive tasks and save time. Automation helps in the seamless integration of multiple ERP systems and reduces the paper trail of processes.
- Streamlining the data: Having information organized and consolidated assists the CFO’s and CEO’s of a company to make the right business decisions and thus makes it important for a controller to make precise and updated data available to them.
- Turning data into insight: The use of common language for reporting across the enterprise makes data easier to control and understand which improves responsiveness. Moreover, when mere reports are presented in the form of dashboards, it makes interpretation of data easier.
- Providing self-service for all: Catering to individual information requests takes away the controller’s time from higher value and strategic tasks. Controllers are enabling key stakeholders and business users with self-service reporting and dashboards.
- Unifying the data: Using an integrated platform that serves as a single source of truth for data helps to have a high-level point of reference. The availability of this platform on all levels of business provides better visibility and eliminates confusion.
- Collaborating with the operations department: Inter-team collaboration within an organization helps in bridging the gap between numbers and decision-makers. CFOs are long term vision and strategy-oriented which leaves controllers to be responsible for the operations.
The spectrum of responsibilities that come under a controller is no longer limited to being historians of a company. They are needed to be willing to take on the role of a change agent in addition to maintaining financial controls. It is important to recognize the needs and expectations of a top controller and actively work towards meeting them. Using these best practices opens doors for contributing to the organization’s success while playing the ideal wingman to the CFO.