Creeping Roles in Finance
Nancy Wu, Head of Client Service
The Controller's job is increasingly broadening. As more and more CFOs find themselves playing key decision-making roles in the front office, the Controller’s duties are creeping into what used to be traditional CFO roles: Strategic directives, forward looking analysis and an increased departure from hands on tactical work.
The good news is that this trend presents golden opportunities for the Accounting department to engage in a variety of interesting projects. The problem, however, is that as workload increases and diversifies, working hours do not. And challenges arise when Controllers take on more executive-level responsibilities, while at the same time, continue to let the day-to-day accounting dominate their time.
While it’s simply not prudent (or realistic!) to disengage from the “bread and butter” of the Accounting function, Controllers do have tools in their arsenal to best position themselves for the evolving role. Here are two:
Create Timely Analytics
A big reason Controllers are unable to remove themselves from operational details is the dread of getting blind-sighted by slip-ups and errors when they’re not personally at the helm. This can be reasonably mitigated by proper oversight that comes from timely analytics and key performance indicators. The ability to become emancipated from the details of the Accounting operation (and hence reduce workload) is heavily dependent upon the strength of the analytics that can be developed to help Controllers monitor key recurring processes, such as the monthly close.
Replace Manual Processes with System Processes
The most sustainable way to create extra bandwidth for special projects is to minimize lower level busy work across the board, for the whole team. No matter how hardworking and skilled, the staff must be supplemented by automated processes, so that they are not burdened with administration. Managers shouldn't spend time on activities like gathering documentation and performing manual review, when their efforts can be better allocated to value-added initiatives such as solution design and project execution.