The role of a financial controller has evolved significantly over the last few decades.
CFOs and CEOs now rely on financial controllers for critical information and strategic guidance. The financial controller is often a key person within the company who consistently has their eye on the finances to ensure there are no surprises at the end of the quarter.
One of the biggest shifts for financial controllers is the variety of tools available to them. Technology has made their lives a lot smoother and enhanced their ability to make a positive impact on their organizations. But though finance tools may individually add some value, financial controllers truly excel when they use these tools in combination. In the book Nine Keys to World-Class Business Process Outsourcing, authors Mary Lacity and Leslie Willcocks adeptly describe the role of tools:
“The value is in the integrated toolkit, not any individual tool”
This integrated toolkit it what often differentiates the best financial controllers from the rest. In this piece, we’re going to talk about some of the tools that allow controllers to excel in their work.
Full-Service Accounting Software
One tool that has been important to financial controllers for years is Excel.
The spreadsheet program created by Microsoft has offered financial controllers flexibility and reliability for keeping track of the numbers and managing complex calculations. But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Adobe’s finance chief Mark Garrett explained that he was working on cutting Excel out of the picture:
I don’t want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us.
Garrett recognizes that financial controllers can do more than gather data and press buttons that pump out new reports. They can use this information to better understand operations, reduce costs, increase profits and identify strategic opportunities for the company.
One of the primary tasks of a financial controller is ensuring that all company transactions are properly recorded and maintained. For some businesses that’s thousands, or even millions, of transactions a year—and keeping track of it all in Excel could be a nightmare.
That is why full-service accounting programs have become a financial controller’s best friend. These software packages combine a variety of accounting processes all into one user interface. The goal of services like QuickBooks, Sage Intacct and Xero is to eliminate the need for all the tables, spreadsheets and tracking sheets that were once necessary to manage a company’s important finance tasks.
Automated Accounting Solutions
While full-service software has certainly replaced a lot of the work that was once done on Excel, financial controllers still use Excel as their primary solution for plenty of tasks that rely on manual input, from record keeping to the preparation and interpretation of financial statements. Yet we’re now witnessing the rise of automated solutions that integrate with the software solutions mentioned above, leading to an unbundling of Excel functions:
The threat to Excel is not so much cheaper alternatives as is is unbundling the underlying enterprise tasks and moving them to dedicated tools. Don’t move hire tracking from Excel to GDocs: move it to a hiring tool. https://t.co/9Raw1UTuzy— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) November 22, 2017
Technology is automating manual tasks and pushing Excel to the side. Financial controllers who don’t embrace these automated solutions are often the ones who get left behind.
Datamolino is an example of an automated accounting solution that has the potential to save financial controllers hours and hours. Finance controllers who use Datamolino can upload their bills, invoices and receipts (scanned paper documents, PDFs or photos), and the tool will extract all the information from the files and put it into a searchable, scannable format. No more data entry, and no more filing:
Another tool making the lives of financial controllers 10 times easier is our very own Teampay. Teampay can save financial controllers and their teams hours each month by making procurement processes, payment reconciliation and spend management automated and easy. No more fumbling over Excel spreadsheets for expenses and purchase orders. Teampay issues virtual credit cards that sync directly with accounting services, making sure financial controllers know who spent how much and what they purchased.
Another great automation tool is InvoiceSherpa, which automates the accounts receivable process to ensure that invoices are paid quickly and on time. InvoiceSherpa automatically follows up with clients whose invoices are past due and offers clients the ability to pay online. It syncs directly with full-service accounting software to ensure there’s no loss of data—always a danger if you are manually inputting payment information.
Visual Scorecards & Business KPIs
For financial controllers, dashboards are crucial for tracking KPIs and keeping tabs on the pulse of the company. In many organizations, the controller is expected to sound the alarm when the numbers are off or something looks amiss with the data. Today, Finance controllers can use a visual dashboard that integrates with a wide range of services and data to identify when something needs to be flagged at the operational level, the management level or even at the stakeholder level.
Services like Klipfolio make it easy for organizations to connect with everything from Quickbooks and Salesforce to Google Analytics and Hubspot. This dashboard pulls in business KPIs from existing data to showcase things like departmental performance, account status, expenses, cash, burn, MRR, conversion rates and human resource related topics.
Here’s an example of an executive dashboard that could be created in Klipfolio:
Another example of a great service for seeing exactly how well your business is performing in terms of profitability, growth and cash flow is Fathom. It’s a similar service to Klipfolio in the visualization sense but it offers a more robust Financial analysis offering. Here’s a quick snapshot of what their product offers.
Cross Company Communications & Collaboration Tools
A financial controller’s role and responsibilities are largely determined by the size of the company. And while it’s common practice for controllers to be responsible for managing data, they are sometimes also responsible for running an effective and efficient department and establishing the organization’s finance culture.
An organization’s finance culture is established from the top down, and one of the most important components is communication and collaboration. Email, shared folders and services like Slack have made it easy to embrace collaboration. Now, email plugins and Slack apps let organizations build on these tools to further enhance their ability to communicate.
Within the Slack ecosystem, there are plenty of finance-related apps that can streamline processes, approve expenses and much more. Teampay is one such Slack app that can be rolled out company-wide to manage purchasing approvals.
Wrapping Things Up
While many of these tools have been around for a number of years, the rise of new apps and automation services is changing the way financial controllers do their jobs. Identifying the right finance tools and embracing automation is an important step for any controller who wants to maximize their impact on their organization.
If you’re interested in learning more about the role of automation in accounting and how it has the potential to further shake up this industry, check out our piece: 4 Reasons Why Automating Accounting Functions Is The Future.