Controllers are number crunchers – aren‘t they? A controller is the person who comes to you with a long table, filled with numbers, and uses a red pen to highlight differences.
Unfortunately, not anymore. Business or sparring partner (a term used often in recruiting finance managers) means more than that. To be brutally honest, C-level managers rarely care how much time spent a controller crunching the data and coming up with a deviation analysis. But the C-level bosses will very quickly (matter of minutes) point to a graph bar and mention that there is a problem… Well, I guess in most cases the controller did not spot the issue and needs to follow up. And this re-iteration process goes on and on… tiring up the financial wizards.
What can be done about it? Well, in the knowedge economy, the name of the game is „simplicient data presentation“. Of course I borrowe the title of my professional blog! But what do I mean about simplicient data presentation?:
• Forget tables-only presentations – include some graphs;
• Insigthful comments to be added;
• Focus on smartly using the BI or ERP tools and de-focus from number-crunching.
Below an example on how a good controller could summarize a budget exercise outcome:
The third bullet point is actually quite important – most of the controllers we discussed or surveyed indicated they spend 40-60% of their working time in putting together the numbers. Business Intelligence (BI) solutions are not yet mature enough to do all the heavy lifting in number crunching. Sure, they automate efforts, but they also require massive implementation efforts – which put controllers often at a dilemma on spending their time. Are the controller‘s supposed to focus on delivering the month end closing business reviews on time or should they focus on upgrading the tools?
Tough question, especially with the ever increasing demands on the finance leaders. Naturally, the companies should help the controllers become more simplicient – with know-how, people, budgets and cross-experience sharing. Yet, few are doing so good enough. So one of the few avenues still left is applying marginal efforts to improving the tools, whenever a few smart hours are available. Still on the controller‘s table as tasks, unfortunately. But hey, why don‘t we reach out to our CFOs for some support?