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As a controller, one of your strengths is execution. You lead a team that’s counted on to efficiently close the books, produce accurate and timely financial reports and support financial and regulatory compliance, among other core functions. Delivering on this is now more difficult as a result of evolving and expanding regulatory and reporting requirements, ongoing talent shortages and a changing business environment. By analyzing reports across markets, finance executives can help identify areas where operational and risk management efforts can be improved, potentially reducing costs and enhancing profitability.
Continuing to move the controller function forward in 2024 may require flexing more strengths — including being a strategic advisor, technology implementer, talent recruiter and risk mitigator, skilled at preventing fires before they happen.
Sitting at the intersection of multiple stakeholders means it’s essential to confidently navigate key relationships across the business, including with your CFO, board and audit committee. This includes bringing valuable insights to the table and presenting the right information at the right time with the right level of due diligence. Also, because so many regulatory changes and strategic business decisions have accounting and reporting implications, they may attract close attention from auditors, regulators and the public. Controllers are often called to step in and resolve issues, offer essential guidance around complex accounting and reporting, as well as interpret technical accounting details for other leaders.
The more connected you are to the business, the easier it can be to build a roadmap that helps you avoid last-minute fire drills and position the controllership as a proactive and strategic advisor. Earn a seat at the table for broader business discussions by consistently providing valuable insights that help your stakeholders better understand changes in financials, implications of new regulations and how to strengthen the business.
While demands on the controller function continue to grow, your resources may not. With the increasing complexity of business transactions — and greater scrutiny from investors, regulators and the public — you may be looking to automation and technology to create efficiencies, streamline processes and derive greater insights. This could include improving the last mile, the critical steps in the close cycle or allowing your people to focus on the highest-value tasks. For instance, some are exploring how artificial intelligence can help by reviewing financial statements to identify anomalies or explain variances. Because the time and budget for this is limited, you want the right technology at the right time.
Take steps toward building a tech agenda with clearly defined goals that support critical objectives and help unlock opportunities. This goes beyond making sure resource and planning implementation or system consolidation improves your accounting and reporting environment. It means building a strategic game plan for the controller function that’s inclusive of your technology needs and people. It also means connecting with your colleagues to identify scalable and self-reinforcing benefits across the enterprise.
Today’s controllers face a uniquely complex regulatory environment, as a new era of transparency begins. From new cybersecurity disclosures to enacted and proposed environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting rules, controllers should proactively plan how to better equip their teams and their companies to address new requirements. Compounding this outlook are ongoing tensions in Washington, sweeping Pillar Two requirements for multinationals and possible new guardrails for the responsible adoption of AI.
You’re likely working through how evolving regulations may broaden the landscape for what’s traditionally in the controller’s wheelhouse: oversight, controls and reasonable analysis. The scope of change calls for cross-functional teams — from finance and accounting to operations and sustainability — to be a part of the solution.
Start with the end in mind and take a crawl-walk-run approach to implementation. This can mean looking at in-flight investments, such as an ERP upgrade, to determine whether it can better support detailed reporting requirements. Build a digital foundation that can support multiple initiatives, such as calculating Scope 3 emissions, creating responsible sourcing programs or addressing local laws for Pillar Two compliance. By prioritizing simple, robust solutions, you can identify gaps — and make sure your tech isn’t too complex to protect.
Attracting the right talent — with the financial skills to support your team’s multiple roles and responsibilities — can be challenging. How can you enhance the accuracy of reporting and controls when the number of certified public accountants continues to decline? You’ll need people with experience to untangle increasingly complex financials.
With personnel costs — including retaining and attracting employees — among your largest expenses, technology can help reduce time spent on manual tasks and free up capacity for strategic priorities.
Do what you can to build a strong culture so the employees you have want to stay and others you need want to join. Having a strong tech agenda and building an external network with other tech-savvy finance professionals can help close your talent gap as well. Highly sought-after recruits often want opportunities to grow in new directions — by working with the latest technology in an innovative culture with a shared purpose.