Business Controlling: a fast-changing function

Engaged in an increased rationalization dynamic, most companies see their Finance function evolve: investments in ERP to better integrate and accelerate processing, development of shared service centers, outsourcing of services considered “low added value,” etc.


These rationalization efforts enable Chief Financial Officers to rely on a solid system to make strategic decisions, ensure project control and lead cost reduction programs.

The arrival of professionals from other cultures makes it possible to quickly establish a “surprise report” and offer a new vision on the performance levers to be activated.

In the long term, a clearly stated ambition: to develop their role as “Business Partners” with the Executive Board and operational functions. However, and in a rather paradoxical way, these changes still have too little impact on the Business Controlling function, even within certain large corporations.

New Business Controlling Challenges

Subject to an acceleration of reporting and repricing cycles and an increasing volume of data to be processed, the Business Controller must make the “big gap” between an ever better controlled transactional world and a less mature analysis system. A position that risks locking it into “data crunching,” reprocessing management, and post-processing missions, to the detriment of its role as an analyst and “scout” for decision-making.

The first lever to accelerate reporting tasks is the automation of production.

This trend can be explained for several reasons: on the one hand, management appreciates finding “its” reporting statements and only accepts new ones if they complete this well-managed base, regardless of the associated workload; it remains reluctant to invest in real analysis tools in addition to ERPs; on the other hand, controllers themselves tend to perpetuate a status quo that enhances their control of figures and history.

Thus, to take a decisive step forward in improving Business Control's effectiveness, many companies are now developing new strategies.

Challenging habits: a new strategy for cross-industry mobility

Regardless of their sector, the recruitment of experienced controllers from competitors or partners has always enabled companies to integrate best practices while limiting culture shock risk.

In parallel with this classic approach, a new and much broader form of mobility seems to be emerging, with a completely different strategy, which consists of taking advantage of different paths, seeking experiences in more mature sectors in terms of efficiency and rigor analytical mesh.

Indeed, the arrival of professionals from other cultures makes it possible to quickly establish a “surprise report” and offer a new vision on the performance levers to be activated.

Controllers themselves tend to perpetuate a status quo that enhances their control of figures and history.

These movements are mainly illustrated by the transfer of very competitive environments (production, transport, automotive) to sectors more recently put under tension (pharmaceutical industry, public sector, luxury, etc.).

Companies' objective is to appropriate the reflexes acquired elsewhere quickly: more relevant indicators, “lean” approaches, systematic evaluation of the return on investment, etc. These are all elements that can offer new career opportunities for experienced Business Controllers.

Exploiting technological opportunities: power, flexibility, and mobility of solutions

Compared to accounting teams, Business Controllers remain, on average, relatively poorly equipped to deal with the challenges they face.

Lack of knowledge of market offers, difficulty in transposing the models developed over time in a structured way, and finding the “right time” between closures and budgetary processes: there are many obstacles to adopting new tools. The spreadsheet remains king, and the consolidation system — often the only true common language of the group — is widely used to collect management data.

The second lever consists in freeing the Business Controller from standardized analysis, to dedicate him to investigation and the search for solutions.

To be more responsive to this changing environment, both small and medium companies and international groups as well are increasingly interested in analytical cubes, agile business intelligence, interactive budgeting, real-time access to the site or country data on a tablet or phone: there are many technological possibilities and various integration methods when it comes to defining the right solution according to needs.

Dissociate the 1st-degree analysis from the operational review: towards reporting in a shared services center?

The first lever to accelerate reporting tasks is the automation of production. To go further, the second lever consists in freeing the Business Controller from standardized analysis, in dedicating him to investigation and the search for solutions.

Given that the new generations of shared service centers tend to expand their initial vocation as back-offices, it seems appropriate to integrate production and even standard reporting analysis. The service is thus better valued by the operating entities and provides new opportunities for teams to develop.

Less execution, more agility, and initiative, a better ability to anticipate and adapt to the challenges of the company’s various business lines: these are the areas on which the Management Control function must evolve to focus on its core business, namely interpretation, the search for causes and the proposal of solutions.

Undoubtedly in this new state of mind, will he be able to give the full measure of his strategic dimension for the company?

In Sum…

  • The Finance function must develop their role as “Business Partners” with the Executive Board and operational functions.
  • It remains reluctant to invest in real analysis tools in addition to ERPs.
  • Seek experiences in sectors that are more mature in terms of efficiency, rigor, and analytical mesh.
  • To be more responsive to this changing environment, there are many technological possibilities and various integration methods for defining the right solution according to needs.
  • The first lever to accelerate reporting tasks is the automation of production.
  • The second level consists of freeing the Business Controller from standardized analysis, dedicating him to the investigation, and searching for solutions.

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