Over the course of decades of scientific study, Stephen Hawking’s ‘simple’ quest for cosmic understanding inspired us all. How it could it not? In our own lives, many of us spend our days trying to create order and meaning from complex unknowns, too.
Across the enterprise, some functions need to provide more order and meaning than others.
Finance and accounting (F&A) is one of those. Many CFOs are under pressure to empower their organizations with a ‘complete understanding’ (as one physicist might say) of how expenses, accounts, and budgets serve the company.
As a result, accounting is growing into a multidisciplinary function that demands strategic focus.
Overhead controllers, for example, are no longer just custodians of the company numbers. Instead, they fill four roles at once:
- Strategic partner – a major shift away from the role of an accountant, controllers must skillfully communicate financial results, co-pilot efficiency or cost-reduction efforts, and build relationships between finance and other functions that extend beyond tracking costs
- Cost optimization advisor – continuously assess the way budgets are allocated and used, and advise the business on changes that can improve results or lower costs. Professionals need new perspectives and talent to offer such consulting
- Insight provider – deliver intelligence that helps the organization plan, execute, analyze, and forecast performance, or understand variances that help it act differently and generate greater value. This includes new ways to visually show results beyond Excel
- Market insight – with access to more data, including competitor information, controllers help business teams monitor and better understand market conditions and the competitive landscape, and guide strategy based on the changing environment
Delivering on all those responsibilities is almost impossible with traditional technology and processes. For controllers to execute in any efficient way, CFOs need to reimagine the models behind F&A.
A digital finance function is key to the future of controllership. This more structured, digital approach injects agility and intelligence into accounting – helping controllers make transactional activities invisible with automation, and delivering insights that support decision-making across the company.