What Pathologists and Financial Controllers have in common

A job specification in a state of flux

Those who enjoy reading crime fiction or are partial to TV series will have already encountered the likes of them: Dr. Jenny Cooper aka Serinda Swan from the TV series “Coroner”, the medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh, or the forensic anthropologist David Hunter. Unlike earlier generations, this new breed of pathologist doesn’t merely perform post mortem examinations and pass on the results.

Instead, these pathologists move the plot forward, conduct their own investigations and attempt to bring light into the darkness – and in most cases they succeed. Financial controllers, too, must do more today if they are to succeed. Looking back on historical business figures is no longer good enough. Digital transformation requires them to take a forward-looking approach.

Financial controllers as forecasters

“The analysis of historical data is no longer suitable for delivering reliable predictions of the future,” the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany (IDW) emphasised in a position paper on the “Impact of Digital Transformation on Financial Reporting and Business Valuations” in 2017. The consequence of this for financial controllers is that they need to relate more strongly to the present.

The focus on the present and future has changed the financial controller’s key question as well. Rather than being concerned with “what have we achieved?”, businesses are now asking “what can we achieve?” or “what if…?”

Financial controllers as pace-setters

The answers to key business questions can only be as close to reality as the financial controller’s data, reports and analyses. Access to data across departments and applications is therefore an essential basis on which the financial controller works, and software solutions that automate manual tasks and speed up processes serve as tools for this purpose.

With real-time reporting, rolling forecasts and scenario analyses, the financial controller enables rapid responses to unexpected results and makes it possible to prepare for future scenarios. Self-service approaches and visualisations bring speed and agility to the entire business.

Financial controllers as management consultants

In a survey of CFOs as part of a PWC study, “Hunter or the hunted: the new role of the CFO in SMEs”, the financial controller is seen as a consultant to the executive management. By 2025, according to the respondents, the heads of finance and corporate performance management will have taken on data-driven strategic consulting for the executive management. In the financial controller’s job specification, delivering data in real time and providing support in decisions on capital expenditure will be more important than day-to-day business operations.

The new financial controllers look ahead and think strategically. They make sure that their company can hold the upper hand in a world characterised by digitisation and globalisation. They speed up decisions, just as the television pathologists move the plot forward, except without screenplays or directors.

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