The Controller’s Playbook

Balancing Process and Strategy as the Role Evolves 

Due to ongoing challenges and rapid changes in the economy, roles in the finance department have evolved to match the pace, specifically the CFO and the financial controller. As documented in detail in our last blog post and white paper, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs,” the responsibilities of a CFO have expanded to a focus on corporate strategy, business transformation, and long-term growth. As a result, controllers have to shoulder some of the CFO’s traditional duties.

In this business guide, the spotlight is on financial controllers. Controllers, in addition to maintaining accurate financial records, ensuring compliance, and producing quarterly financial statements, are involved in financial planning and analysis, risk management, and technology selection. As this list of responsibilities increases, there has been a recent priority on skills such as leadership, effective communication, and relationship building. Instead of solely focusing on the numbers, controllers are tasked with improving the skills of their teams, supporting corporate strategy and decision-making, analyzing business performance, and using technology to increase efficiency and accelerate growth.

The information in this white paper, jointly created by Oracle NetSuite and Paapri, will help controllers navigate not only their traditional tasks in finance but also master the soft skills necessary for today’s world.

Key Takeaways

Continuous Accounting

Leading controllers are replacing the outdated and labor-intensive traditional accounting cycle with continuous accounting. Continuous, or proactive, accounting, allows for more frequent completion of close-related tasks. Automation plays a critical role by making reconciliation processes faster and easier and reducing manual data entry, which is one of the most common sources of errors.

Training and Development

In order to retain top performers and boost low morale, it is important to fund continuing education, help employees develop soft skills (such as effective communication and time management), and emphasize the overlap between financial accounting and managerial accounting.

“Analyzing business performance must be a priority for controllers; it’s important for career development.”

Remote Workforce

More and more people are preferring to work from home. This trend is likely to continue. To improve performance and make working remotely easier, many controllers have moved to cloud-based accounting systems that can be accessed anytime from anywhere via the internet. Leading cloud solutions incorporate automation that supports the continuous accounting approach.

Risk Management

Outdated accounting software can increase the success rate for malware and ransomware. Controllers need to stress the importance of following security protocols and must ensure team members receive training to help them recognize and avoid phishing scams, email spoofing attempts and other security threats.

Internal Controls

In order to minimize temptation and make it more difficult to commit fraud, best practices for finance leaders include regular audits and establishing accountability by making managers and supervisors aware of the organization’s policies and, in turn, holding their teams responsible for following them.


Flawed assumptions, insufficient rigor and limited data inputs all contribute to forecasting errors. The first step in improving the process is to identify the assumptions, especially those that are unstated, followed by testing and retesting to confirm their validity.

“Effective controllers are leveraging financial modeling tools to improve accuracy. By modeling cash flow, burn rate, liquidity and other outcomes under different conditions, business leaders are forced to rethink and defend those all-important assumptions.”

Embracing the Latest Technology

Current and emerging technologies will fundamentally change how finance and accounting professionals do their jobs. Those at the forefront are using technologies like robotic process automation, machine learning and advanced analytics to change their organizations.

“While controllers have always exhibited logic, attention to detail and a process-centric mindset, their expanded role requires soft skills around leadership, collaboration and communication, both with their teams and with others throughout the company.”

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