The controllership function in any company is ultimately responsible for the integrity of its financial systems, processes, and data. Once upon a time, it was enough to keep score. But that is no longer the case, as a recent Deloitte report, Controllership and disruptive technologies, highlights.
Line-of-business managers are increasingly expecting controllership functions to add the role of strategist to their traditional responsibilities. And the currency of this new role is bits and bytes rather than debits and credits.
Underpinning this change of role are a number of disruptive technologies that are allowing controllerships to deliver operational improvements while providing access to new insights that drive improved business performance. Here are some examples:
In-memory computing is enabling controllerships to accelerate traditional linear processes and even eliminate many of the steps involved. With a single universal ledger, for example, a financial close involves only one integrated system with a harmonized data structure, allowing real-time closing and reporting. Month-end close becomes anytime close.
Accounting departments are full of labor-intensive, repetitive tasks such as preparing an invoice, keying in journal entries, reporting, or initiating a workflow. The technology is now available to automate tasks like these and in the process, drive significant efficiency gains and cost reductions. In addition to these gains, automation enables processes to be invoked and followed 24×7, supporting initiatives like outsourcing or global shared services.
Cognitive computing takes automation one step further. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, organizations can develop applications that either allow humans to make smarter decisions or, in some cases, even make decisions on behalf of humans. For example, these techniques can be used to mine structured and unstructured data (emails, images, Internet of Things, and so on) to deliver detailed insights that simply cannot be obtained with traditional analytics.
As the volume and complexity of data grows, it becomes more and more difficult to understand using traditional static reporting techniques. As a result, insights within the data can be lost. Visual analytics offer controllerships a more natural way of absorbing information by structuring data in a visually attractive way and allowing it to be sliced and diced intuitively to unlock its secrets.
Mobile platforms have freed employees from their desktops, allowing them to access tools and data at the point of need. Integrated with back-office systems, mobile applications can drive greater efficiency and faster decision making. By providing real-time reporting on mobile devices, controllerships can also deliver “in-the-moment” analytics throughout the organization to improve decision making.
Blockchain technology may be new and changing rapidly, but with its ability to securely and verifiably capture data throughout a decentralized network of participants, it has the potential to revolutionize many accounting processes. These could include existing processes such as payment processing and back-office accounting. But blockchain could equally well drive new innovations, such as “smart contracts,” automated auditing, and improved cybersecurity.
As the controllership role changes from guardian of financials and controls to strategist and insight provider, its position within the organization will naturally become more influential.
Leading controllerships recognize that being tech-savvy is becoming a core competency. The key to their future success will be understanding and exploring how disruptive technologies can be used in practice to help them achieve their goals.
Read the full Deloitte report, “Controllership and disruptive technologies from debits and credits to bits and bytes,” and discover three key aspects controllerships need to consider when evaluating disruptive technologies.
Read the two first blogs in the series about disruption in the digital age: Digital Disruption: A Four-Step Approach and Beyond Robotic Process Automation In Finance And IT.