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The Management Controller: from a man of figures to a man of data

Le 13 July 2022

The pressure exerted on Finance Department professionals has increased sharply as the demand for analyses and indicators from general management has increased drastically. Management controllers in particular, who are responsible for the quality of the company’s economic and financial management, have seen their job take on an unprecedented dimension. Between the acceleration of demands and changes, the increase in specific skills and the mastery of technological tools, this profession is undergoing a complete transformation.

The key to this transformation is obviously an ever greater knowledge of the company’s performance levers in the markets it serves. It also lies in the ability to integrate the new requirements of management, but also those of the company’s customers and financial partners or those caused by changes in the economic context.

It is clear that the majority of management controllers have adapted very well to the changes brought by the new practices. They have been learning for a long time to deal with the notions of control, performance, agility, speed, automation and operational while ensuring the rigour and coherence of the economic information disseminated. However, not all of them are yet at the same level when new technologies appear.


Data vs. Numbers: a change of paradigm for the management controller

At the heart of the many technological innovations available on the market today, there is a basic concept: the availability and processing of an ever-increasing volume of data. For the management controller, the meteoric evolution of the expectations of general management with regard to this data has completely changed the way in which he carries out his work.

Recently, they were able to manipulate figures, i.e. concrete information for well-defined and almost individual use, recorded on more or less elaborate spreadsheets. From now on, he has to deal with a much broader, collaborative environment, in which information – in the form of data – is used by a large number of players.

It must not only analyse the company’s internal information and figures, but increasingly cross-reference them with external data: market data, environmental data, etc.

This implies an ability to master a series of specific tools to perform these tasks, including solutions dedicated to performance (EPM)*, business intelligence (BI) or data visualization (DATAVIZ), to name but a few.

Tools must be quickly integrated in order to understand the way in which data is collected, modelled and structured. They will always have to know the origin and destination of the data and ensure that it is fresh, reliable and consistent in real time. In particular, he/she must be particularly vigilant about the quality of the data feeds of the tools he/she uses.

Above all, the modern management controller is required to share his or her data, in complete transparency, by means of reports, ad hoc analyses, indicators, etc. The benefits of data go far beyond the scope of the controller’s job and are intended to benefit all departments in the company. The Human Resources or Supply Chain functions, for example, rely heavily on this type of shared data.


* Performance management under the microscope

The economic and financial performance of a company is obviously the main element examined by the company manager. Profit and loss accounts, WCR, cash flow, margins and cost of goods sold are the key steering tools of which the management controller is the main architect.

But these tools are still too often static. Focused on taking a snapshot of the past and achieving an annual budget, they are not very relevant when the context changes abruptly, as we are seeing today.

The need is therefore not only to rely on reliable and consistent data from traditional tools - ERP - but increasingly to be able to carry out ad-hoc analyses, simulate the impact of changing market conditions, make assumptions and evaluate different scenarios. 

The solutions dedicated to these needs are increasingly favoured by the CFOs of companies who see in their predictive and automation capacities in particular, opportunities that their general management can seize.

For example, they can be used to simulate in real time the economic impact of a disruption in the supply chain or a sudden change in paradigm: an increase in purchase prices or a shortage of raw materials, an embargo on imports/exports, a pandemic, an increase in taxes or freight rates, etc.

Combining these functions with the task automation capabilities of these tools also allows finance professionals to improve their daily work. Freed from low value-added tasks, they can focus on data analysis and even scenario building to better serve their organisation's interests.


The need for progressive change management

« It is often said that tools are only as good as the people who use them», says Alain Richard, co-director of the Business At Work (BAW) Consulting & Transformation division. « This is undoubtedly true, but in order for them to be comfortable and efficient with these tools, it is essential that management controllers benefit from a progressive, rational and intelligent support programme », he states

The challenge of support is crucial for the company. Providing management controllers with cutting-edge tools should in no instance put them in difficulty. On the contrary, this natural evolution should enable them to increase their skills in terms of management and thus enhance the value of their profession with strategic repercussions at the top of the company.

« That said, even though they have to demonstrate a certain appetite for technology and a strong capacity to adapt to the most effective tools on the market, the core of their job remains finance and the economic modelling of the challenges and characteristics of the company and its market, » adds Alain Richard. « This is why the support we offer at BAW is provided by real specialists in accounting and management control. Men and women in the field, capable of understanding practical day-to-day problems and proposing concrete solutions based on technology and not replacing their profession», he concludes.


Are you looking for a solution to support your teams?

Business at Work is the ideal partner for supporting financial professionals through change. BAW relies on the agreement between good business practices and the company’s information system as a lever for high value-added transformation, while guaranteeing that the employees of large companies and ETIs have the necessary skills to use the tools dedicated to their business.

Its professionals are committed to implement sustainable changes and agile solutions to improve business performance.

BAW has a team of consultants in the field, formed according to the specificities of each project. This is done in full accordance with the absorption capacity of the companies in the various transformation processes they aim to implement.

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